United Nations Ambassador's Club Video Series: Enhancing Education about the United Nations

Article excerpt

The United Nations accomplishes a great deal of excellent work in solving problems facing the world, but, unfortunately, many people outside UN Headquarters have little idea of what it does. In recent years, educating the public about the work of the United Nations has become a goal that is almost as important as having the actual work done. Particularly in countries like the United States, where the world Organization is often politicized and good information is at a premium, educating the community at large is a key and formidable task. The benefits, however, could be enormous. If people know more about the United Nations, they are more likely to let political leaders know that UN activities are important to ordinary citizens, thus making it more likely that political will and resources would be made available for the Organization to succeed.

The United Nations has recently devoted some resources to enhancing its public image, mainly through its Department of Public Information (DPI) and related groups. In large part, this role falls primarily on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), often in the educational realm. This concept led to the creation of the United Nations Ambassador's Club Video Series, which started with a basic premise that students in the United States do not know enough about the United Nations. Very few students have heard about UN work or even seen its Headquarters due to limited national press coverage, and fewer still have access to the interesting and talented diplomats to the UN or to UN Secretariat staff members. Driven by a belief that the task of educating must fall on those who know more about and value the work of the United Nations, the Ambassador's Club was born. It represents a joint effort by UN Ambassadors, Secretariat staff and educators to inform students, Model UN participants and other interested parties about the work of the United Nations.

Ahmad Kamal, former Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and currently Senior Fellow at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, was interested in enhancing education about the Organization, which led him to bring together diplomats to form the Ambassador's Club. Since 1998, this informal club has been conducting a unique series of video conferences with college campuses in the United States, allowing over 100 ambassadors and senior officials and members of the UN Secretariat to interact with students on several UN-focused topics, such as regulating marine pollution, Internet regulation and UN interventions. Three years after founding the Club. Ambassador Kamal realized that the scope of the project was inherently limited because of the small number of schools that could participate via video conferencing and the short time available to participants. …