CERN’s new seat at the United Nations

At the end of December, the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York granted CERN Observer status. As the only science organisation to acquire this prestigious status in the Assembly, CERN hopes to be able to raise awareness about the importance of fundamental science for society more effectively.


“Both CERN and the United Nations are committed to promoting science as a driving element for society. Both organisations promote dialogue between different cultures and can propose concrete models for peaceful cooperation towards objectives that benefit society as a whole,” says Maurizio Bona, CERN's officer in charge of relations with international organisations. Although the basic motivations are clear, obtaining the prestigious status from the UN was a long process that required negotiations and diplomatic work. Following some preliminary contacts with Switzerland starting in spring 2012, the resolution to grant observer status to CERN was jointly submitted in mid-August 2012 by the Organization's two Host States, Switzerland and France and then co-sponsored by CERN’s eighteen other Member States as well as by several non-Member States. It is worth noting that requests to grant Observer status to intergovernmental organisations cannot be put forward by the organisations concerned, but only by Member States of the United Nations.

CERN already engages in a several relations with the United Nations and several of its agencies. The presence of CERN, an intergovernmental organisation, as a permanent Observer at the UN General Assembly is a natural step forward. “Our presence at the Assembly was felt to be so natural by everybody that the Organization’s sign and seat were prepared before the formal adoption by the General Assembly and were made available as soon as the positive vote actually took place,” says Maurizio Bona, who attended the General Assembly session on 14 December. “The meeting with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and our Director-General on Monday 17 December was extremely friendly and lasted longer than officially planned. Mr Ban Ki-moon encouraged CERN to actively cooperate with the United Nations, in particular on his initiative on science for sustainable development, and expressed a wish to visit CERN soon.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer (Image: Evan Schneider/UN).

To fulfill its mission, the UN and its agencies are involved, in different ways, in many fields of science, technology and innovation, as well as in education. With the recently updated and more effective institutional relationships, CERN hopes to strengthen and broaden its contribution to various ongoing UN initiatives. As an example, in the coming months CERN is planning to contribute to the implementation of ECOSOC's 2013 theme, “science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium development goals”.

“Several of the United Nation’s initiatives are happening in areas where CERN has no Member States,” says Maurizio Bona. He concludes: “The seat at the UN Assembly is not a static throne but a privileged position that will open new doors for us to reach a wider audience and raise awareness about the scientific world and its positive influence on society in a more global community.”

by Antonella Del Rosso