Better World Campaign Builds Support, Understanding for UN Efforts

By Cuttino, Phyllis | UN Chronicle, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview
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Better World Campaign Builds Support, Understanding for UN Efforts


Cuttino, Phyllis, UN Chronicle


In September 1997, businessman and philanthropist R. E. (Ted) Turner made an historic gift of $1 billion in support of the United Nations and its global goals. He chose to channel his global commitment toward the United Nations because it remains the primary international forum for peace and progress.

To administer the gift, to be funded in 10 annual installments valued at $100 million each, the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and its sister organization--the Better World Fund (BWF)--were created to support the United Nations goals and objectives, with special emphasis on economic, social, environmental and humanitarian causes, and its efforts on behalf of the environment, population stabilization and children's health. BWF promotes the United Nations and supports activities designed to educate the global public about United Nations work, its importance in the world and its proud record of accomplishments.

During the first 12 months of operation, primary emphasis was placed on the establishment of UNF's grant-making programme in support of UN development assistance efforts on key global challenges--children's health, population and women, and the environment.

In 1999, while the grant-making programme has been expanded and fundraising initiatives have begun, special efforts have been made through BWF to "tell the UN story". Most importantly, the Better World Campaign (BWC), a BWF programmatic initiative, was launched in early 1999 to help educate the public and leaders in the United States about the important work of the United Nations.

Special emphasis and urgency have been given to the issue of United States arrears to the United Nations and the importance of all nations honouring their commitments to the Organization. The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) has been a special partner in the campaign, given its long-standing leadership in grass-roots public education.

Together with UNA-USA and organizations like the Emergency Coalition for Financial Support of the United Nations, BWC worked to bring nationwide attention to the issue of the United States' debt to the United Nations and the vital role played by the United Nations around the world. These efforts included broad-based outreach in various locations across the country, educational efforts aimed at policy makers in the United States Administration and Congress, paid advertising about the UN role and accomplishments, and an array of events highlighting key UN activities. In addition, extensive outreach was done to editorial boards across the United States, led by Tim Wirth, President of UNF/BWF, and Bill Luers, President of UNA-USA.

To help inform campaign efforts, extensive opinion research was conducted in 1998 and 1999 to gauge public attitudes and understanding related to the United Nations. In various focus groups, it was learned that a variety of segments of the United States' public support the basic goals and objectives of the United Nations, but public understanding of UN accomplishments is almost non-existent.

In general, most members of the public do not obtain great deal of information about the United Nations except for crisis situations. Broad national polling that was conducted later in 1999 reinforced these findings. A national survey commissioned by BWC found strong support among American voters for the United Nations-- 72 per cent viewed the United Nations favourably, compared to 78 per cent for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 68 per cent for the United Nations Children's Fund, 65 per cent for the World Health Orga-nization and 54 per cent for the United States Congress. Results of the polling are available from BWC.

Throughout the public education campaign, special efforts have been made to broaden the roster of organizations that work with and support the United Nations. In particular, the campaign put concerted emphasis on outreach to business and academic communities, faith leaders, labour organizations and local political and community leaders.

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