Telling the UN story
The UN Information Centre Pretoria is one of 63 UN information centres around the world. We promote greater awareness and understanding of the work of the United Nations in South Africa, the region and globally through outreach, capacity building and campaigns. We work with the media, civil society, educational institutions and governments.
The UNIC office in Pretoria was established in 1995, a year after South Africa’s first democratic elections. UNIC is today one of 16 United Nations agencies, funds and programmes present in South Africa, the majority of them based in the capital, Pretoria.
UNIC is the only UN entity in the country that reports directly to the Secretariat at United Nations Headquarters in New York and, while among the smaller UN offices in size, has a visible and active presence in the country.
As of the 1 January 2007, the office also assumed regional responsibilities to assist other UNICs in sub-Saharan Africa. With South Africa’s well-developed infrastructure, large national and international media presence, relatively well-resourced government departments, established academia, active civil society and an extensive diplomatic corps, Pretoria is a logical choice for such a hub.The new role will include lending substantive support to other UNICs on thematic and logistical issues, as well as, where necessary, policy guidance and information outreach assistance.
UNIC in South Africa
South Africa’s emergence from the isolation of the apartheid years has happened in tandem with the growth of the office, as efforts are made to profile the country’s increasing role in international affairs. On 1 January 2007 South Africa took its seat, for the first time, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
South Africa’s previous chairing of the Group of 77 at the UN in 2006, as well as the country’s extensive involvement in peacekeeping efforts in Africa, has strengthened the relationship between Pretoria and the UN. As such, the need to ensure that information on the UN is communicated as cohesively and effectively to as many people as possible becomes critical.
UNIC’s Daily Tasks
- Clippings with a ‘UN focus’ are selected from a range of South African daily and weekly newspapers. These clippings are then e-mailed to the News Monitoring Unit of the UN Department of Public Information, which uses them for research and reference purposes and in a bi-weekly global Press Review.
- A selection of ‘Morning Headlines’, i.e. succinct extracts from the local press on issues before the UN, is sent to the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General.
- Electronic documents on global issues from the Department of Public Information, including messages from the Secretary-General, are selected and disseminated to media, government, civil society, academic, diplomatic corps and other stakeholders.
The United Nations Information Centre develops, plans and co-ordinates public information activities with government, commissions, non-governmental organizations, the media and public and private institutions within the parameters of national priorities to ensure that there is cooperation among UN development agencies, donor governments and organizations in addressing development concerns.
UNIC also provide newsgathering organizations, government officials, diplomats, the research community and the general public with up-to-date information about the activities of the United Nations on a timely basis.
In addition, UNIC provides substantive and logistical support during visits by the Secretary-General and other high-level officials of the UN, including media monitoring, information dissemination and government liaison.
UN days promoted by UNIC in South Africa are:
International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust – 27 January
International Women’s Day – 8 March
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21 March
World Press Freedom Day – 3 May
International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers – 29 May
World Environment Day – 5 June
International Day of Peace – 21 September
United Nations Day – 24 October
International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – 29 November
World AIDS Day – 1 December
International Human Rights Day – 10 December
These days are usually commemorated in partnership with other UN agencies, government departments, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. Commemorations can include hosting panel discussions, drafting and disseminating press releases as well as messages from the Secretary-General to mark the day, hosting an information outreach event in the UNIC library and conducting interviews with media. The target groups for such commemorations are as varied and extensive as the mandate of the United Nations.
UN Communications Group
In 2001, UNIC Pretoria established and began chairing the UN Communications Group (UNCG), which streamlines a common communications strategy for all UN agencies in the country. Most UN agencies operating in South Africa participate in the UNCG, which is responsible for, among others, developing communication strategies, launching a wide range of joint programming activities and organizing collective commemoration of UN days.
In addition, the UNCG serves as a valuable information-sharing resource for UN agencies in South Africa and is instrumental in leading joint UN initiatives in the country.
Working with the Media
As an information-oriented body, UNIC has ongoing interaction with the media, both print and broadcasting, national and international. The office constantly updates its media databases and is often asked by other UN agencies to assist with information dissemination to the media precisely because of these networks.
Relationships with key media bodies are cultivated by the Director and information officers. UNIC’s success in engaging with media is evident through the numerous requests made to the office by journalists seeking information on specific UN-related subjects.
Interviews are conducted or arranged, press releases are drafted and disseminated and journalists are regularly updated on matters of interest. With information and outreach being the major focus of UNIC’s many activities, it is essential for partnerships with the media to be maintained and strengthened in a manner that is mutually beneficial.