The CERN model as a possible template for global cooperation

CERN’s relationship with the United Nations continues to thrive. We were represented in the UN General Assembly in New York, where the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, structured around 17 Sustainable Development Goals, was formally adopted. This replaces and builds on the millennium development goals, and continues the UN’s long tradition of keeping development in the spotlight through ambitious target setting.


The sustainable development goals cover a range of themes from poverty reduction to sustainable cities. They are the result of an extensive and inclusive process of consultation among UN members and a wide range of stakeholders. CERN played its part in this process, through its participation in events both here in Geneva and in New York. We repeatedly underlined the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for many of the goals. I’m pleased to say that our message was heard: STEM features strongly in the 2030 Agenda, which can be found on the UN’s website. Moreover, CERN is asked to also continue providing its input in the implementation phase of the Agenda.

The latest development in the relationship between CERN and the UN sees the UN taking a close look at the CERN model as a possible template for global cooperation. Just as last year, CERN and the UN organised an event in New York to mark CERN’s 60 years of science for peace, this year there will be a symposium to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UN. To be held at the UN office in Geneva on 2 November, the symposium is supported by the French and Swiss missions. It will discuss the role played by CERN and the UN in providing global public goods.

The CERN model has proven itself extremely effective in our fields of action. Today, we are leading the drive towards open access publishing in science. And the reason we have a single World Wide Web, and not a plethora of proprietary webs, is that CERN made the core web software available to the world royalty-free. These are just two of the immediate societal benefits to come from CERN. They come naturally within the CERN model, accompanying our core mission of fundamental research of whose success I hardly need remind you, just three years after the observation of the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism.

As it celebrates its 70th anniversary, the UN also has much to be proud of in scientific domains. The sustainable development goals build on UN work in many areas of science: climate change, energy supply, access to food and water. Indeed, everything covered by the goals is a global challenge, and so is particle physics. Global challenges require global solutions, and for this reason I believe that working together, CERN and the UN have much to offer.

Please also read the article featuring the CERN-UNOG joint symposium here.

Rolf Heuer