Connecting the UN, NGOs and the World: 46 Countries Join UN Webcast

Article excerpt

As 2,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 100 countries met for the 56th Annual DPI/NGO Conference, hundreds of people also "attended" via a UN webcast, while computer science students in Chicago, Illinois monitored the process By the end of the first day, more than 500 people around the world had logged

The webcast provided live audio and video feed of the plenary sessions of the Conference for the first time; viewers emailed questions to the speakers and participated in a live chat about conference issues More than 2,000 visitors from 46 countries--from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France and Japan to Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Pakistan and South Africa--logged on during the first week of the live broadcast.

The Conference, on "Human Security and Dignity: Fulfilling the Promise of the United Nations", was held at UN Headquarters in New York City from 8 to 10 September 2003. The live webcast covered all plenary sessions of the three-day conference and was archived for future viewing. The UNTV camera from time to time panned the conference room, showing the audience at the united Nations, who were also able to watch the webcast from a large screen A UN intern monitored a computer running the webcast and printed out and submitted questions to each session moderator; NGO representatives were thrilled when they heard, "here's a question from the Internet".

Questions came pouring in During Monday afternoon's session on the Psychological Aspects of Human Security and Dignity, a webcast participant asked: "What can be done to repair the psychological damage done to child soldiers?" The next day, another asked: "Why do you think Governments see peace education as such a threat?"

This historic first webcast of the Annual DPI/NGO Conference was rated a huge success by United Nations staff, NGO representatives and webcast participants. Paul Hoeffel, Chief of the NGO Section in the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), said: "This was a pilot project that worked extremely well--our annual conference was truly international in scope, and it was wonderful that people who could not travel here to UN Headquarters participated through the webcast."

One viewer from North Carolina reported: "One benefit of participating via the Internet was that I could take notes and type commentary and questions on my keyboard as I listened I could also look things up on the Web while listening to the speakers; for example, I looked up the Global Fund site during the Eminent Persons session to understand its mission, goals and methods."

The idea for the webcast began at the February planning committee meeting as members discussed ways to have more people attend the conference. Stephannie Mesrobian of the Armenian Relief Society, Inc. suggested the idea Then wheels were set in motion Mariana Amatullo of the Designmatters@ArtCenter said that perhaps their graduate students could help. The planning committee contacted Dan Utti, webmaster for the DPI/NGO Executive Committee web site and a representative of Lions International who was enthusiastic about the proposal.

Designmatters@Art Center, a college-wide programme at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California that engages faculty and students in art and design projects of social and humanitarian importance, held an open competition at the College for the overall conference graphic image The DPI/NGO Executive Committee selected the winning design: the close-cropped image of a mother-and-child embrace (see page 51), communicating the theme of human security and dignity, designed by Graphic Design Department alumnae Candice Cob and used on all of the conference programmes, posters, banners and reports.

The faculty at the Art Center College created a graduate course and nine students designed the webcast site in spring. A one-minute animated film with soundtrack was also designed and used to introduce the conference and its themes, The colourful work was produced and directed by five Media Design Department graduate students, with original music by Joel Astman (D. …