The Gender Equality Studies and Training programme (GEST) was established in January 2009 through an agreement between the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The GEST programme was piloted from 2009 to 2013, with the goal of becoming accredited as a part of the United Nations University. 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 correlated with the requirements of the UNU network and following the successful evaluation, the three parties concluded a trilateral agreement in May 2013 between the University of Iceland, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and the United Nations University (UNU).

In December 2019, after seven years of collaboration, the United Nations University and the GEST programme parted ways, with GEST joining the other three Icelandic former UNU programmes (Fisheries Training Programme, Geothermal Training Programme and Land Restoration Training Programme) in GRÓ - Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Societal Change. The four programmes and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognised the potential for collaboration based on their strong focus on capacity development and their global presence and GRÓ now operates under the auspices of UNESCO as a category 2 centre. The new partnership was signed on 16 December 2019 by the Icelandic Foreign Minister and the Director General of UNESCO.