One month in the United Nations Information Service in Vienna

From nuclear energy to political crises and environmental sustainability, from Accra to Yaoundé and from strategic planning to awareness raising events, the United Nations Information Service in Vienna (UNIS) is part of a global network of United Nations Information Centres. It informs the public about the UN’s work, engaging local authorities, civil society organizations, universities, students and UN visitors in its activities. It also acts as secretariat to the United Nations Communications Group (UNCG) in Vienna and promotes the UN goals by reaching out to the media, government entities, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), academia and the private sector.

By Monika Hunjadi

On 8th October 2013 at around 9 a.m., UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon arrived in Budapest, Hungary for a two day event. On the occasion of the Hungarian water summit, he addressed a press conference on his first day in the Hungarian capital. Hours earlier, at around 6 a.m. in Vienna, the media unit of UNIS had already prepared the international and national breaking news feeds for him. Whenever the Secretary-General puts his foot on the Austrian, the Hungarian, the Slovakian or on the Slovenian soil, UNIS has been responsible in keeping the Secretary-General informed about international developments. The UNIS serves these four countries, as the local voice of the United Nations. Therefore, working with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry is an important part of UNIS’ work, so the media unit  is always in touch with the local authorities in Hungary as well as with the Department of Public Information (DPI) at the UN Headquarters in New York.

In Slovakia, days before the Secretary-General’s visit to Budapest, the UNIS outreach unit and its Slovakian Consultant, Jana, had coached the first Bratislava Model UN (BRAMUN), which took place from 3-5 October 2013. The Slovakian and international students had simulated the work of the General Assembly and had deliberated over the Syrian conflict. The outreach unit’s daily duties include organizing events on international days and partnering with various universities, such as the Pan European University (PEU) from Bratislava, with schools, teachers, experts and the Slovakian team.

Meanwhile in Vienna, the outreach unit organized the Ciné-ONU Vienna screening ‘PING-PONG Never too Old for Gold ‘on 28 October to mark the International Day of Older Persons in cooperation with This Humanworld(THW) Film Festival and Topkino in Vienna. This amusing film tells the story of eight players all aged over 80 competing in the Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia. Ciné-ONU is part of a Europe-wide initiative of regular film screenings of UN related topics followed by discussions with a variety of guests such as film-makers, experts, local NGOs and UN organizations who discuss the topics screened in the film.

Simultaneously, the outreach unit conducted its second shadowing programme. From 16 October to 1 November 2013, 43 United Nations staff members from 11 different United Nations Vienna-based organizations and programmes viz. United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV), United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO), shared one day of their ‘UN life’ with university students. Projects like the Shadowing Programme, which make the UN more accessible to the public, can only take place thanks to good partnerships between several UN Vienna-based organizations. Sixty-eight students from various fields of studies, from 12 different universities in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia accompanied a United Nations staff member for one day and had the opportunity to experience what it is really like to work for the UN in Vienna. They started their ‘UN-day’ with a guided tour offered by the Visitor Service, which is also a part of the Information Service in Vienna. In 2013 alone more than 50,000 visitors came to the Vienna International Centre for guided tours and lectures and left with a better understanding of the UN’s work.

After announcing the UN Secretary-General’s visit  to Hungary on the UNIS homepage, the strategic planning unit planned its next meeting of all the communications staff of the different Vienna-based UN organizations – the UN Communications Group (UNCG) meeting held  on the 4 of December 2013 and organized its press breakfast for 2014. The group initiates joint projects, such as the interactive publication called The United Nations in Vienna in Your Daily Life, which showcases the work of the Vienna-based organizations and how their work relates to our everyday lives. The strategic planning unit facilitates internal communication through the bi-monthly meetings of the UNCG in Vienna.

At the end of October, UNIS staff organized a career workshop for law students which took place in Vienna in November 2013 and a seminar about the Young Professional Programme (YPP) in Ljubljana, Slovenia. All in all, a busy month with many challenges still ahead.

Monika Hunjadi has worked as an intern at the UN Information Service for five months. She is writing her masters thesis in Social and Cultural Anthropology and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, both from the University of Vienna. She worked for different Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as the Mauthausen Committee and the Asylum Coordination in Vienna, where she organized various awareness raising events.

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