RUNIC Press Release
19 May 2004
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.
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.
Structure and Budget
RUNIC is composed of 23 staff members;
10 - at professional level, including the Director, and the Deputy
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.