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UN mobilizes to meet challenges of media attacks

UN mobilizes to meet challenges of media attacks and low public standing

19 April 2005 – Despite efforts to counter attacks in the media, and other successful initiatives to tell the world body’s story to people around the globe, “the United Nations’ standing in many countries has never been lower,” and the organization is mobilizing fully to meet the challenge, according to a top UN information official.

This is “sobering news,” Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor told the opening session Monday of the Committee on Information meeting at the UN’s New York Headquarters, but he stressed that the world at large wanted to see the UN more fully engaged.

The Department of Public Information (DPI) has made measurable progress as a result of its reorientation, which had begun three years ago, he noted. It has devised a new operating model, reorganized to make better use of human and financial resources, and reached out to the media and civil society through new technologies.

“DPI’s task, simply put, is to tell the UN story,” Mr. Tharoor said. The public perception of the UN was the sum total of views held in the public mind. In the past two years, that view had acquired a negative cast, amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement in some of its activities, and the UN's relevance had been persistently challenged.

The UN's image had been badly bruised, he added. Polls had shown less support for the Organization and less understanding about it, but, at the same time, the people around the world wanted a stronger UN that lived up to their expectations.

“In other words, people want to see the UN do more, not less,” he declared.

In response to the challenge of engaging public opinion, he said media monitoring and outreach were reinforced. As a result, no charge against the Organization went unanswered; a “blizzard of public information initiatives” was unleashed to counter attacks in the media and a crisis communications team was mobilized.

The team set a daily strategy, not only on how best to respond to particular media coverage, but also on proactive and preventive action through television, print and the work of UN information centres.


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