GEST was established in January 2009 as a pilot project through the joint efforts of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the University of Iceland with the aim of becoming a part of the United Nations University.
The overall goal of GEST is to provide training for specialists from developing countries and post-conflict societies to better enable them to work towards gender equality in their home countries. The programme emphasizes the enhancement of gender equality and women's empowerment in the spirit of UN millennium goals Strong emphasis is also placed on how and why women's participation in peace building efforts are important in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Moreover, the programme focuses on integrating gender into environmental issues, such as climate change and sustainable use of natural resources, including fisheries, energy resources and land restoration.
GEST is modeled on Iceland's other UNU programmes, which form a part of Iceland's international development cooperation and include the UNU Geothermal Training Programme, the UNU Fisheries Training Programme, the UNU Land Restoration Training Programme.
An independent evaluation of GEST was conducted in June 2012 as one of the key prerequisites for GEST joining the UNU network. The results showed that the goals, quality and structure of the programme correlate with the requirements of the UNU network. Following the successful evaluation, the three parties began drafting the contract which was signed last Thursday when GEST formally joined the UNU network.
21 students have already graduated from the programme 14 women and seven men from Afghanistan, Palestine, Mozambique and Uganda. On 31 May 2013, three men and five women from Palestine, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda will join the group of GEST graduates.