The network of 63 United Nations Information Centres are key to the Organization’s ability to reach the peoples of the world and to share the United Nations story with them in their own languages. These centres, working in coordination with the UN system, reach out to the media and educational institutions, engage in partnerships with governments, local civil society organizations and the private sector, and maintain libraries and electronic information resources.
United Nations Information Centres (UNICs) are the principal sources of information about the United Nations system in the countries where they are located. UNICs are responsible for promoting greater public understanding of and support for the aims and activities of the United Nations by disseminating information on the work of the Organization to people everywhere, especially in developing countries.
By translating information materials into local languages, engaging opinion-makers and placing op-ed articles by senior United Nations officials in the national media, or organizing events to highlight issues or observances, the network of UNICs is one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations tells its story to the world. They give global messages a local accent and help bring the UN closer to the people it serves.
Information Centres are part of the Department of Public Information (DPI). The first two UNICs were established in 1946. At present, there are 62 Information Centres, Services and Offices worldwide. The United Nations Regional Information Centre in Brussels, Belgium, covers 21 countries in Western Europe. In addition, the Information Centres in Cairo, Mexico City, and Pretoria, where there are high concentrations of media outlets, are responsible for working strategically with Centres in neighbouring countries to develop and implement communications plans to promote United Nations priority themes in a way that has special resonance in their respective regions.
The United Nations Information Centres rely on the network of local media outlets, non-governmental organizations, and private sector entities to disseminate the messages of the United Nations, connect with target audiences and implement issue-based communications campaigns. Using the creative energy and collective resources of such groups, the Information Centres are able to organize special events, publish local language materials and connect with new audiences, often in remote areas.
UN Communications Group
The United Nations Communications Group (UNCG), established in 2002 as the global communications platform of the United Nations system, has emerged as a strong unifying platform for dealing with common communications challenges facing the United Nations. With the growing emphasis on system-wide coherence and “Delivering as One” at the country level, the Group helps plan, coordinate and implement joint public information and communications activities at the country level. UNCGs at the country level operate in some 80 countries, in most cases with the active involvement and leadership of UNICs.
The UNCG is the common communications platform of the United Nations system. It comprises the information offices of the United Nations family of organizations, including the Secretariat, specialized agencies, programmes and funds. The Group was formed in January 2002 as a mechanism for inter-agency coordination in the field of public information and communications.
The main purpose of the UNCG at the country level is to strengthen inter-agency cooperation in the field of communications and to increase the media profile of United Nations activities at the national level. UNCGs do this by providing leadership in communications for the UN Country Team (all the UN funds, programmes and agencies located there), identifying new and creative ways to show how UN programmes are delivering results and promoting a coherent image of the United Nations.
Communications Groups have been formed in nearly all of the countries where United Nations Information Centres are based. The Centres often play an important role in the leadership and functioning of these UNCGs at the country level. UNICs serve as secretariat of the Group and in many cases chair it. With their knowledge of the local media and other key constituencies and their ability to address partners in their own language, UNICs can enhance the work of the UNCG.
To reach an even broader audience, UNICs are in daily contact with local and national media outlets. UNIC staff produces press releases, brief journalists on 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. Journalists rely on UNICs as an authoritative source of information about the United Nations.
Media outreach is essential to successfully fulfilling the UNICs’ core role of communicating information about the work of the United Nations. UNICs are in daily contact with local and national media outlets. UNIC staff produce press releases, brief the media on 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. Journalists rely on UNICs as an authoritative source of information about the United Nations.
UNICs facilitate field visits for journalists who want to cover UN activities in the area. UNICs also arrange for production of materials such as press kits, brochures, posters and background information and disseminate relevant news about the UN to the media by e-mail.
UNICs also manage press accreditation on behalf of United Nations entities 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 global network of over 1,600 civil society organizations associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) collaborates with United Nations Information Centres to spread information about the work of the UN to local audiences. Civil society organizations provide a crucial link to ordinary citizens at the grass-roots level.
UNICs work in partnership with members of civil society who are actively involved with issues of concern to the United Nations. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) count on UNICs as partners in organizing seminars, exhibits and commemorative events, focusing on such key issues as the promotion of human rights, the protection of the environment, disease control and the prevention of drug abuse/trafficking. Staffed with communications professionals who understand the concerns of their local communities, UNICs are often catalysts that bring people together to address the world’s toughest challenges.
Non-governmental organizations have worked with the Department of Public Information since 1946 and are indispensable partners for UN efforts at the country level. There are currently over 1,600 NGOs associated with DPI.
From achieving the Millennium Development Goals to working with youth, the private sector is increasingly partnering with United Nations Information Centres to promote the work of the UN.
The Global Compact is an example of unprecedented partnerships among business, Governments, civil society and the United Nations. The Global Compact is a voluntary international corporate citizenship network initiated to support the participation of the private sector and other social actors to advance responsible corporate citizenship and universal social and environmental principles to meet the challenges of globalization. The Global Compact’s operational phase was launched at UN Headquarters in New York in July 2000, bringing together 47 companies. Today, it is the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, counting 4,000 stakeholders in over 100 countries.