The United Nations Information Centres (UNICs), Services (UNIS) and Offices (UNOs), located in 63 countries worldwide, link the United Nations with people around the world, disseminating global UN messages to local audiences. The Centres serve as a reliable source of up-to-date information about the UN, delivering information in their respective countries to a wide range of people, including journalists, government officials, civil society representatives, students, educators and researchers.
UNICs develop and implement a coordinated communications strategy for the country/countries they serve, in consultation with the UN Country Team and local UN partners, to publicize priority issues and major observances and events.
UNICs adapt global UN messages to the local context through a variety of information products aimed at different regional/sub-regional and national audiences in the language(s) spoken in the area.
UNICs maintain contacts with national and regional media in the country/countries where they operate, disseminate background information and press materials to the media, place op-eds and feature articles, arrange interviews and organize press conferences and briefings.
Media outreach is essential to successfully fulfilling the United Nations Information Centres’ core role of communicating information about the work of the United Nations. UNICs are in daily contact with local and national media outlets to ensure the messages of the UN reach as wide an audience as possible and as quickly as possible.
UNIC staff produce press releases, press kits, brochures, posters and background information on various UN-related topics. They also brief journalists on the issues on the United Nations agenda, contribute articles to newspapers and appear on national radio and television programmes. Several Centres produce their own programmes for broadcast by local stations. UNIC offices also translate UN press releases and other information materials into local languages, thereby enabling the dissemination of UN-related information to an even broader audience.
UNICS AND JOURNALISTS
Journalists rely on UNICs as authoritative sources of information about the United Nations. In addition to providing information materials to journalists, UNICs organize press conferences, facilitate field visits for journalists who want to cover UN activities in the area and organize training workshops. UNICs also manage press accreditation for media events, conferences and seminars held in the country and maintain a roster of accredited journalists. They are also responsible for media arrangements for visiting United Nations officials, including the Secretary-General.
A number of centres organize press clubs, or work through existing journalists’ networks and associations, to exchange ideas among media practitioners.
Recognizing that today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders, UNICs involve young people in all their programmes. Educational outreach services provided by UNICs to educators and students around the world promote awareness of the role and work of the United Nations on priority issues. Many centres hold regular briefings for students, both on UNIC premises and in schools or at local libraries. UNICs also work with school administrators to help develop United Nations related-curricula for classroom use by elementary and secondary school teachers.
UN SCHOOL CLUBS
UNICs organize United Nations school clubs, where students plan after-school activities, such as environmental campaigns and essay and poster contests highlighting global problems as seen from the local perspective.
A number of Information Centres have established UN Clubs to engage educational institutions and to enhance students’ awareness of the work of the United Nations.
In coordination with the United Nations Information Centre, a teacher plans and directs the club’s activities, which may include educational workshops, roundtables, video screenings, exhibits, or competitions (essay writing, painting and drawing, photography, etc.). The Information Centre provides guidance and distributes educational material and background information on the issues being addressed. In addition, club members benefit from the collections and audiovisual services of the Information Centre’s library.
These clubs aim to:
- Disseminate information about the activities of the United Nations;
- Enhance education through the teaching of interconnected global and national issues;
- Encourage students to think about their role in an interdependent world;
- Promote and strengthen a new youth conscience, based on mutual respect and shared responsibility;
- Encourage students’ participation in extra-curricular educational activities.
UNICs also provide background information materials and their expertise in the organization of Model United Nations conferences conducted in high schools and universities around the world. Model United Nations programmes offer a simulation of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral bodies. More than 200,000 high school and university students participate every year in 400 Model UN conferences held worldwide. Model United Nations conferences not only give students first-hand knowledge about the work of the United Nations, but also help prepare tomorrow’s leaders to deal with global challenges. At present, some 29 UNICs actively support Model United Nations conferences held in their countries of operation.
UNICs offer products and services such as newsletters, libraries, videos, web sites and internet facilities. At the national/local level, UNICs work with media by providing information and training for journalists and contributing regularly to television and radio programmes and articles in newspapers. The centres often work with civil society in promoting a variety of issues through seminars, exhibits and other activities.
Many UNICs regularly publish newsletters to provide local audiences with information about the work of the United Nations system in the host country and around the world. Some of the newsletters are available online or through subscription services and many are produced in local languages.
Several Information Centres broadcast their own radio/TV programmes which include the latest news about the United Nations and/or news about the activities of the United Nations at the local level. On average, annually, UNICs release over 200 locally-produced radio programmes and approximately 20 TV programmes. The programmes use some selected material from United Nations Radio in New York as well as from other Headquarters offices. UNICs also have collections of films, videos, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and photos available to the public.
Publications in local languages
UNICs contribute to enhancing multilingualism in the work of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) by producing and translating information materials into local languages. UNICs produce various print materials including booklets, brochures, pamphlets and information kits and they also translate UN publications into local languages.
Among the valued services provided by UNICs are their reference libraries, which provide the public with access to a comprehensive collection of United Nations publications, reports and official records. Almost all UNICs have such libraries where UNIC reference assistants provide personalized service and guidance to visitors in accessing the growing volume of information available in the library and on the Internet. The majority of people who visit United Nations Information Centres do so to use the library services. On average, over 200,000 people visit UNIC libraries annually.
Print Information Materials
The following list provides examples of the types of materials that might be found in a UNIC reference library:
- Reference materials of the UN and its funds, programmes and agencies;
- UN documents and publications such as: Charter of the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Yearbook, Basic Facts about the United Nations;
- Books, periodicals, maps and posters.
Online Information Materials
Equipped with modern communications technology and the Internet, UNICs can also obtain documentation electronically from Headquarters. The following list represents some of the online materials available for browsing:
- UNBISNET and other databases of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library;
- Official Documents System of the United Nations (ODS);
- United Nations Publications Catalogue;
- Research Guide to UN Documentation.
UNICs also maintain United Nations film and video collections that are available on loan to local broadcasters, non-governmental organizations and educational institutions
Many UNICs have Internet corners where visitors can research information about the United Nations and its funds, programmes and agencies. These corners provide visitors with tools to access online resources of the United Nations.
Almost all UNICs have reference libraries where UNIC reference assistants provide personalized service and guidance to visitors in accessing the growing volume of information available in the library and on the Internet. Please visit the websites of the UN Information Centres to find out more about their library services.
OBSERVANCES AND ANNIVERSARIES
UNICs also participate in observances of international days, years and decades. Commemorations take many forms and may include presentations involving national or local dignitaries, workshops, seminars, educational programmes, sporting events, and musical performances.