The University for Peace (UPEACE) has a unique history and mandate because is the only University created through a UN General Assembly Resolution with the specific mandate of "engaging in teaching, research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge fundamental to the full development of the human person and societies through the interdisciplinary study of all matters relating to peace." As a result, it possesses a unique legal authorization to grant M.A. and Doctorate degrees that comes from the resolution that created it and its Charter..
The UPEACE Charter, in its Article 15.2, states that: “The University shall, inter alia, grant master’s degrees and doctorates under terms and conditions established by the Council”.
Within the UPEACE Charter´s legal mandate, included as an annex of the UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55 of 5 December 1980, there are three different juridical situations that arise from UPEACE’s legal authorization to issue Master and Doctoral degrees:
1. Signatory States to the treaty of UPEACE. In accordance with the UN Legal Office database, 40 states have signed the foundational treaty of the University. These groups of states formally recognize the legal capacity of UPEACE to issue postgraduate degree at the Master and Doctoral level. This legal authorization is part of the internal law of the Signatory States to the UPEACE Charter. As a result, for this particular group of countries, UPEACE degrees are internally legally recognized by the States.
2. Non-Signatory States to the treaty of UPEACE. The resolution that created UPEACE was not voted on at the Assembly; it was accepted by consensus and there were no votes against the proposal. As a result, no country in the world is able to legally reject the legal authorization that UPEACE has as an academic entity with the capacity to issue degrees at a Master and Doctoral level. The legal authorization is part of the soft law that comes from the binding status of General Assembly Resolutions.
4. UPEACE host country. The International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace, Art. 3, states that the host country needs to provide “such legal capacity and facilities and shall enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfilment of its purposes”. On March 29 1982, a Headquarters Agreement was signed between UPEACE and the Government of Costa Rica, recognizing expressly, in its second article, “the juridical personality to enable it to fulfil its purposes and objectives.” This legal authorization allows UPEACE to grant postgraduate degrees and also to become a full member of the National System of Higher Education Accreditation of Costa Rica (SINAES).
Thousands of individuals, from virtually every country in the world, have graduated from UPEACE MA, Ph.D., short courses and individual training programmes over the years, and UPEACE Alumni are now working in government agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, further academic studies, and individual careers to advance worldwide peace.
Since 2008 UPEACE has also been a full member of the National Higher Education Accreditation System of Costa Rica (SINAES), and began the process of accrediting its M.A. Programmes in 2013. It is important to note that accreditation in Costa Rica is not retroactive and applies only to those degrees obtained after the programme was accredited.
Currently, the following UPEACE M.A. Programmes have been accredited before SINAES:
1. Department of Environment and Development. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Environment and Development, with the exception of the M.A. in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development, have been accredited before SINAES (effective date: March 2014).
2. Department of International Law. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of International Law were accredited by SINAES in June 2016.
3. Department of Peace and Conflict Studies: The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies are in the process of preparing the required documentation and will submit its programmes for accreditation in early 2016. SINAES' decision should be forthcoming in 2017 for these M.A. Programmes.
It is important to note that accreditation is NOT retroactive once it is granted and is valid for each programme as of the date in which the National Higher Education Accreditation System (SINAES) announces it.