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Founded in 1987, the Udall Center is an interdisciplinary research unit at the University of Arizona. The Udall Center's primary mission is to facilitate, analyze, and provide evidence-based options for solutions to major policy issues through research, education, and public service. The Center specializes in issues related to environmental policy and Indigenous nations policy, bridging disciplines and connecting backgrounds to create a comprehensive understanding of the determinants, impacts, and further development of public policies. The Center maintains a close and permanent relationship with the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, a federal agency based in Tucson.
The Udall Center’s applied public policy programs date to the Center’s beginning. In 1989 the Udall Center received the first of a series of grants from the Ford Foundation to study binational water policy in the U.S.-Mexico border region. As the Center’s work has expanded across the globe, transboundary water-management governance and policy have remained central topics for the Center’s researchers, spawning related work on such critical issues as the relationship between water and climate, the water-food-energy nexus, water security, vulnerability to environmental change, adaptive capacity, and land use and conservation.
The Center’s environmental efforts feature the importance of institutions, information flows, and public participation in decisionmaking. Projects have examined issues in the U.S. Southwest, the neighboring border area, the length of the Americas, and a number of other countries. Support for the work has been provided by an unusually broad-based and diverse set of external funding organizations—public and private foundations, the federal government, local and state government, and international and multinational organizations.
Since 2012, the Udall Center has hosted AQUASEC, a Center of Excellence for Water Security created by IAI, the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research. AQUASEC represents a partnership among universities in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. The Center also is a partner in a similar enterprise, the International Water Security Network, supported by Lloyd’s Register Foundation of the United Kingdom.
In 2001, the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation and the University of Arizona together founded the Native Nations Institute (NNI), a research and outreach unit of the Udall Center. Located on Tohono O’odham Nation traditional homelands, NNI serves as a self-determination, governance, and development resource for Indigenous nations in North America and around the world.
Current NNI activities include extensive research on how Indigenous nations can build governing institutions that reflect their core values and are capable of realizing their own political, economic, and community development objectives. This effort, termed Native nation building, is a central focus of NNI. Other recent or ongoing projects include work on data sovereignty and governance for Native nations, Native access to capital in the United States, child welfare policies in Native nations, and emerging patterns of Indigenous governance in the so-called CANZUS countries (Canada, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the United States).
NNI also has an active set of educational programs in Indigenous governance designed for working tribal professionals who face the challenge of rebuilding their nations and reclaiming—and exercising—effective self-governing power over their lands and affairs. These programs also incorporate Indigenous solutions to governance challenges as the bases of educational curricula.
NNI’s various programs are funded by grants from foundations, tribes, and the federal government, research and service contracts, tuition revenues, and the University of Arizona.
Between 2006 and 2013 the Udall Center maintained an active program in national immigration policy. Although this program is no longer active, its publications and outputs remain available at Immigration policy publications. These reports, working papers, essays, and briefing sheets continue to be the Udall Center’s most sought-after products.