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Grootseminarie, former Abbey of the Dunes.
UNU-CRIS premises

The United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) is a Research and Training Institute of the United Nations University (UNU). Based in Bruges, (Belgium) since 2001, UNU-CRIS specialises in the comparative study of regional integration, monitoring and assessing regional integration worldwide and in the study of interactions between regional organisations and global institutions.

Its aim is to generate new and policy-relevant knowledge about new forms of governance and co-operation, and to contribute to capacity building on issues of regional integration, particularly in developing countries.

UNU-CRIS is part of several research networks: at present UNU-CRIS is involved in the research project GR:EEN - Global Re-ordening: Evolution through European Networks, which is an EU funded project on the present and future role of the EU in an emerging multipolar world. Earlier, UNU-CRIS coordinated two Jean Monnet Projects on ‘Comparing the EU with Other Regional Organisations’ and on ‘The European Integration Process and its Implications to East Asia’; a European Commission FP7 project entitled ‘Changing Multilateralism. The EU as a Global-Regional Actor in Security and Peace (EU-GRASP)’ and, together with the College of Europe, the Edulink-funded ‘Network for Regional Integration Studies (NETRIS)’. UNU-CRIS is also partner of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate on ‘Globalisation, the EU and multilateralism (GEM)’ and of OBREAL/EULARO, a network set up by 23 academic institutions and research centres in Europe and Latin America with the financial support of the European Commission.


UNU–CRIS core funding is provided by the Flemish Government of the Kingdom of Belgium. With the support of the province of West Flanders, it is located at the Grootseminarie, the former Abbey of the Dunes of Bruges. A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United Nations University and the Flemish Government in 2001 established an institutional cooperation with the College of Europe.


UNU–CRIS is bound to the guidelines of the whole of UNU, set out by the UNU Council. It is led by its Director and Associate Director, responsible for the research and management of the institute and the implementation of the guidelines provided by the Scientific Advisory Committee. The Scientific Advisory Committee consists of internationally renowned scientists and convenes on a yearly basis to evaluate past performance and consults on future developments and strategies. Research is undertaken by resident academics in Bruges and a number of Associate Researchers located at institutions around the globe.


The mission of UNU-CRIS is to contribute towards achieving the universal goals of the UN and UNU through comparative and interdisciplinary research and training for better understanding of the processes and impact of intra- and inter-regional integration. The work of UNU-CRIS focuses upon:

  • Visioning how multi-level governance is being shaped
  • Monitoring the implementation and impact of regional integration
  • Deepening the critical understanding of regional integration as a process of social transformation and of the relations between micro- and macro-regionalisms
  • Strengthening the governance capacities at local, national, regional and global levels for dealing with regional integration
  • Assessing the actual and potential role of regions in the UN system


The research activities aim at realising the guidelines set out by its mission and strategies advised by the Scientififc Advisory Committee. It is organised in four research clusters:

Comparative Regional Integration[edit]

  • Critical evaluation of the modes of governance that are currently observable in the existing regional integration arrangements around the world, and to offer comparative analyses of these distinct governance models.
  • Examining the driving forces and shaping factors that determine the regional governance arrangements, identifying the new pressures that give rise to the emergence of multi-level systems of governance.
  • Developing an inter-disciplinary conceptual understanding and explanation of regional governance models, in order to deepen an awareness and understanding of the political, economic, and social relations inherent in regional cooperation.
  • Consider normative questions related to governance, sovereignty, democratisation and policy-making under the framework of regional integration.
  • Deriving policy-relevant output appropriate to the needs of different actors involved in regional integration processes, and in direct response to specific requests from relevant client groups.
  • Supporting capacity-building activities among diverse actors involved in managing regional integration and cooperation.

Monitoring Regional Integration[edit]

  • Systematically identify and describe the variety and evolution of regional integration agreements that currently exist across the globe, applying different time horizons.
  • Providing the discussion on the role and importance of the (macro-) regional level in global governance with a stronger empirical base.
  • Developing retrospective monitoring and measurement tools and prospective foresight and forecasting tools for regional integration processes.
  • Applying the monitoring tools to specific regional integration processes in support of the activities of regional organisations and communities worldwide.
  • Organising participatory foresight exercises to identify scenarios for regional integration processes and contribute to their sustainability by involving multiple stakeholders in visioning the future of their regions.
  • Supporting policy makers and academics by providing a database with qualitative and quantitative information on regional integration processes via the Regional Integration Knowledge System (RIKS)

Regional Peace and Security[edit]

  • Examining how regional integration can contribute to the achievement of human security;
  • Engaging all relevant stakeholders (using participatory methods) in exploring how they can contribute to forms of cooperation and integration that facilitate peace and human security
  • Building a database of research and educational modules that can contribute to capacity development, particularly for regional organisations, to achieve human security.

Socio-Economic Dimension of Regional Integration[edit]

External links[edit]