RUNIC Press Release
19 May 2004

 

Statement of Hassen M. Fodha, Director of RUNIC
at CONUN (Working Group on the UN of European Council of Ministers)
19 May 2004 at 10 am

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for your kind introduction.

It is Excellencies, a great pleasure and a privilege to address such a prestigious meeting, as this college of Ambassadors to the European Institutions, especially in its present significantly enlarged form.

Allow me, Mr. President to seize this occasion to congratulate, in particular, the new members for joining the ‘European House.’

I shouldn’t also miss the opportunity to thank very warmly the current Chairmanship of the European Union, the Republic of Ireland, which is – as the European Union – a fervent supporter of the UN Charter and of the multilateral issue as a tool for bringing peoples together and achieving peace and development in the world.

Excellencies,

I’m meeting with you today as the Head of RUNIC, the Regional United Nations Information Centre, the first implementation of a new UN information and representation concept which aims to bundle resources and personnel around regional hubs. It replaces the country offices, the UNICS in many European capitals you represent around this table; nine in all which were closed down on 31st December 2003.

In January 2004 (30th) the new RUNIC was officially inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Belgium and the Secretary-General; the creation of the modern and fully resourced Centre, with adequate staff and consequent financial resources will enable the Organization to implement a more robust, coherent and coordinated public information outreach programme in the region.

RUNIC will serve as the principal source of information on the UN for the countries of Western Europe in a triangular relation with the UNIS in Geneva and Vienna which were not affected by the restructuring.

RUNIC Structure and Budget

RUNIC is composed of 23 staff members;
10 - at professional level, including the Director, and the Deputy Director
13 - general staff service, including the administrative, accounting and information staff.

The ten professional staff are in fact covering individually the needs of the Member States of the European Union, in information and in UN documentation; they are nine desk officers; UK and Ireland – who’s also the Deputy Director of RUNIC, France, Benelux and the European Union, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Italy, Nordic countries (Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland).

For those of the desk officers servicing a group of Member States, they are assisted by an information assistant or a research assistant – UK, Benelux and Nordic countries

The information team is assisted by 3 technicians in information and communications technology: Webmaster, Informatics technician and Consultant or informatics.

RUNIC will have a budget of 2.125.000$ for 2005 which represent approximately 1.900.000 € .

In fact, we realize that switching from the national model of UNIC’s, to the regional model of RUNIC will release some funds as administrative functions will be concentrated in one place; it will also save funds as the staff is reduced by 50%.
Furthermore, I should highlight and give a special tribute to the Belgian Government who accepted as a host country to provide RUNIC with rent-free premises and to contribute with an annual cash contribution of 50.000$ to help achieving translation of information material into local languages…. It’s expected also from Portugal to dedicate the former contribution from UNIC Lisbon to RUNIC Brussels as a contribution for translation of UN information material into Portuguese.

Excellencies,

The initiative to establish a regional information centre in Brussels is not meant to be a cost-cutting exercise, it’s an attempt to have a better and more balanced distribution of UN resources for public information.
As was true for the old UNIC’s, the main task of the RUNIC is to spread the message, to raise awareness, to create understanding and to disseminate information about the main organs of the UN.

It is also the role of RUNIC to keep UN Senior Officials at Headquarters posted with major developments in the European Union, and well informed on the important events that take place in the region.
RUNIC is the field voice of the Department of Public Information.

We try to do it in a variety of ways, one of the most important being what we together are doing right now = engaging our Constituency directly, talking to people in the hope that a mutually beneficial dialogue and cooperation will develop.
Being the first regional Centre created within the Department of Public Information, we will be regarded as the pilot project and we should be the example to be expanded to the other regions in the near future.

RUNIC has the intention to benefit from synergies with the European Union and take advantage of the high level of competence connectivity within the region. This allows us to rely more than elsewhere on electronic dissemination of information material and a high presentation of our website, which will eventually contain information in most of the 13 languages of our mandate area.


RUNIC Website

A common RUNIC website was created very early after the establishment of the Centre – early March in fact, in English, French and Spanish. This site, accessible at www.runic-europe.org, is fully operational. It presents information on RUNIC, its staff and its activities. The site also offers majors UN documents, covers important events and provides links to UN-related sites.

The site is going to be developed further. Specially, if it has already functioning links to temporary pages in 10 additional West European languages, full sites in these languages will be available in the coming weeks and months to cover in a comprehensive way RUNIC’s activities in all served countries. This coverage will reflect the strategic nature of RUNIC activities, with for example an accent given to specific events or documents.

I would just like to add that we believe in the importance of the new information and communication technologies, especially for an organization like the UN whose mandate is global and whose reach has to be planetary. These technologies are even more important if we consider that at the UN human and financial resources are very limited. Therefore our goal is to have a lively and user-friendly site, giving a direct and easy access to UN and RUNIC activities. As such the site is updated on a daily basis and is very simple to navigate.

Of course, if we are not in the millions hit per day at the UN or the EU sites, early statistics – in the tens of thousands per week (alexa.com) are very encouraging and I am convince that they progress further with your visits, and the hits will grow in the future.

Through the website RUNIC will do its best to provide the European public with an accurate, impartial, comprehensive and timely information on UN work and responsibilities.

It will also provide access to the internet and all electronic data bases and other resources of the UN.


RUNIC Library

The RUNIC Reference Library will maintain a collection of Official Records of the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Documentation from 1946 onwards in English, French, Spanish and German.

It will also have a collection of Yearbooks of the United Nations, core UN Sales Publications, UN videos, posters and photos, as well as information materials available in the languages of the Western European region.

In addition, the library will provide access to a wide variety of UN databases, e.g. ODS – the Official Documents System, the UN Treaty Database and the UN Statistics Division Common Database.

Several collections which belonged to former UNIC’s are gathered in Brussels and will enrich RUNIC’s library.
I should highlight at this point, that all UN Libraries are also subjected to a programme of modernization and integrated management programmes; the Dag Hammarskjold Library is involved in all the process and a common webpage is available for library products and services including the books and serials acquired by users.

RUNIC will not only use all the classical instruments available like press conferences, briefings, background talks, news letters and website, but also more innovative approaches such as training seminars of journalists, placing public service announcements in the electronic medias, or offer op-eds or topical issues to the press.

It must be clear, however that the nine country officers can not offer the same intensity and complexity of service as those former UNIC’s - how ever weakly staffed they may have been! It is therefore necessary to find new cooperation systems with our traditional civil society partners.Cooperation with the European Union.

Apart from our traditional partners – or you might say ‘clients’ in new ‘UN speak’, RUNIC will engage in an increasing number of common projects with European Institutions located in Brussels.

We know that the Members States of the European Union are among the staunchest supporters of the UN and multilateral approach to the international problem solving. The EU is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world. Between them, the EU and its member states, they provide some 55% of all official development assistance.

This high level of cooperation offers a firm basis for developing positive working relations and a multitude of common projects. We are already working with the Commission on common publication on subjects such as the benefits of multilateralism, RUNIC’s cooperation with EU institutions, the contributions of the EU and its Member States to the UN peacekeeping and development work, as well as a special publication on the UN and EU efforts in Central Africa.

The European Union publication ‘Making Multilateralism Matter’ is in fact a very good and incentive example of communication report that should inspire RUNIC for tailoring a similar communication to show the interaction of UN/EU actions and their impact on international relations.

RUNIC will also have to rely on the input of our 16 UN agencies and offices in Brussels. They cover a wide field of UN activities from all aspects of development, to refugees, population affairs, children’s welfare, labour rights, food security and agriculture, health and environment, and intellectual property.

This provides a rich reservoir of knowledge and experience on which to build success stories not only on the United Nations but also the benefits of interaction with the institutions of the European Union. We certainly intend to use this reservoir.

It is of particular importance that the public of the most important donor region of the international community is aware of the degree of cooperation between the most prominent multilateral actors. It is equally important that this public develops a broader understanding of the magnitude, complexity and relevance of the task of the only truly global Organization.


UNA’s – Civil Society – Medias

RUNIC will also develop the established partnership with UNA’s, universities, schools, medias and all the components of the European Civil Society. In particular the UNA’s and universities could help in commemorations of international days or in hosting forum debates and seminars; educational outreach activities like organization of MUN’s are very useful and efficient.

But it must be clear, however, that UNA’s and NGO’s in general are strong partners of UNO but they certainly do not have an identical mission, nor could they speak on behalf of the United Nations Organization; they have their own mandates and objectives which should be preserved.

Mr. Chairman,

To date RUNIC has only been operating for five months; for the moment we are not fully operational – we are not fully staffed, nor yet fully equipped, and reside in provisional premises. Most of our library material is still in boxes and the development of our data bases must wait for the installation of our electronic equipment.

We have, however, real hope – and here we have to thank the supportive interventions of HE the Belgium Prime Minister – that our permanent premises will be ready and available at the end of June.

May I express the wish and extend to you and to all members of your committee an invitation to come to our Centre and to touch by yourselves the realities and hopefully the achievements that would have been made and the way that we should follow with your support.


For information only - Not an official document


Regional United Nations Information Centre for Western Europe
RUNIC Brussels: Résidence Palace, Block C2, 5th floor- 155, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 155, 1040 Brussels, Belgium,
Tel.: +32 2 289 2890 • Fax: 32 2 502 4061 • E-mail: info@runic-europe.org


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