United Nations Institute for Training and Research

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Acronym: UNITAR

Address: Av, de la Paix 7 bis, Geneva, Switzerland

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisation

UNITAR was created in 1963 to train and equip diplomats from newly independent UN member states with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the diplomatic environment.

Over the years, UNITAR has acquired unique expertise and experience in designing and delivering a variety of training activities. It has become a leading institute in the provision of customized, creative learning solutions to institutions and individuals from both the public and private sectors.

UNITAR provides training and capacity development activities to assist mainly developing countries, with special attention to least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), and other groups and communities who are most vulnerable, including those in conflict situations.

In 2020, UNITAR provided learning, training, and knowledge-sharing services to 322,410 individuals, representing a 142% increase from 2019 figures. This increase is attributed largely to the continued delivery of the introductory e-Learning course on climate change administered in partnership with agencies of the One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership, and due to many programmes turning to online offers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the learning-related beneficiaries, 78% came from developing countries, of which 15% are LDCs and SIDS.

Digital activities

Of UNITAR’s activities, in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic-related travel and physical meeting restrictions, approximately 80% of events were delivered online, as compared to 38% in 2019. Most of UNITAR’s face-to-face activities take place in field locations, and the remainder are conducted from UNITAR’s headquarters in Geneva and through its out-posted offices in New York City and Hiroshima.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

UNITAR’s work is driven by its programmatic divisions, of which some have made extensive use of artificial intelligence (AI). UNITAR’s Satellite Center (UNOSAT) and its Rapid Mapping Service first introduced AI-based methods (UNOSAT FloodAI) during the rainy season in the Asia-Pacific region with a targeted focus on countries affected by the southwest monsoon season from June to September 2020. It was in that context, in July 2020, that an AI algorithm became operational for the first time following a request by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) after heavy monsoon rains around the Brahmaputra River and in the Sylher district in Bangladesh. Going forward, UNOSAT intends to further develop AI applications for rapid mapping by focusing on the user experience and scaling up how it monitors flood-prone areas. This entails further training for the machines and automatic communication between the AI algorithm outputs (disaster maps) and the visualization dashboard developed by UNOSAT.

UNITAR’s Division for Prosperity looks at AI and several emerging technologies such as blockchain and augmented reality, and considers their impact on individuals, societies, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth. One example is its Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development: Unlocking Women’s Entrepreneurship through Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Afghanistan and Iraq course.

Cybersecurity

UNITAR tackles cybersecurity issues through education and training activities, as well as events. Its training and education activities cover areas such as cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, cyber operations and human rights, digital diplomacy, and broader capacity building initiatives (e.g. e-workshops and the ‘in-focus series’). Particular courses and workshops include Digital Diplomacy and Cybersecurity, Diplomacy 4.0, the In-Focus Series on International Humanitarian Law and Cyberwarfare, as well as the Cybersecurity and Information Technology Series.

Intellectual property law and data governance

UNITAR also covers copyright, patent, and trademark issues in courses such as the Introduction to International Intellectual Property Law, which considers the role of intellectual property in the modern economy, while examining the fundamentals of copyright protection and patent law in the international community.

Furthermore, UNITAR tackles issues related more broadly to data governance (e.g. official statistics, data governance, communities and partnerships, and the data value chain) through massive online open courses (MOOCs) such as the Introduction to Data Governance for Monitoring the SDGs, which analyses effective data governance systems for monitoring progress in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and explores how to manage data-related partnerships, capabilities, and resources in the context of the SDGs.

Capacity development

Being one of the UN’s main training organizations, most of UNITAR’s activities fall in the category of capacity development.

UNITAR offers online, face-to-face, and blended-format courses for both institutions and individuals. Since the launch of its 2018–21 strategic framework and extended through its current 2022–25 strategic framework, its work is guided by strategic objectives organized around four thematic pillars of the 2030 Agenda, namely Peace, People, Planet, and Prosperity, in addition to the cross-cutting divisions on Multilateral Diplomacy and Satellite Analysis and Applied Research (UNOSAT) as well as the health-focused Defeat-NCD Partnership. Some of the division’s capacity-building and training programmes cover internet- and digital-policy-related areas, such as privacy and data protection, cybersecurity, and cybercrime, new emerging technologies (blockchain, AI, and augmented reality), and digital diplomacy.

UNITAR also offers a wide range of Master’s programmes and graduate certificates related to diplomacy, peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian interventions.

Furthermore, UNITAR organizes special events such as the Geneva Lecture Series, which consists of open lectures that are held on a regular basis at the Palais des Nations in Geneva to raise awareness of specific global challenges and deepen and broaden the participation of citizens and civil society.

Privacy and data protection

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy, while privacy is a fundamental human right. UNITAR deals with legal mechanisms ensuring data protection and privacy in numerous courses and events. One example is the course on Introduction to Privacy and Data Protection Law (2020), where different legal mechanisms that protect privacy worldwide are analyzed in depth.

Digital Tools

UNITAR offers its training and courses through its e-learning platform as well as a number of different online platforms that provide users with tools and resources in specific thematic areas.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITAR published a number of resources on online learning and online event management addressing how to make online events more inclusive, or to turn face-to-face into online events, designing learning events and online facilitation cards.

Social media channels

Facebook @UNITARHQ

Flickr @UNITAR

Instagram @unitarhq

LinkedIn @UNITARHQ

Twitter @UNITAR

YouTube @UNITAR