The opening of the Department of Public Information’s (DPI) Fall 2012 NGO Briefing Season at UN Headquarters saw some 150 Non-Governmental Organizational representatives filling the DHL Auditorium to capacity to welcome recently appointedefing, entitled “May I Ask a Question, Mr. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information?” organized by the NGO Relations section within DPI, took place Thursday, 4 October. It not only kicked off DPI’s Briefing Season but also served as Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal’s global introduction to the UN NGO community. Civil society representatives from around the world who were not able to be present at the briefing were able to watch via the live webcast, as well as participate directly via the DPI/NGOsPartners4Change interactive Facebook page.
During this Briefing, NGO representatives and UN staff members had the opportunity to learn about the role of the USG for Communications and Public Information as well as the activities and programmes the NGOs organize on behalf of the Department. Having worked closely in the past with NGOs, the USG explained that he had learnt firsthand their importance in disseminating and supporting the work of the UN, particularly in serving people on the ground around the world. Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal recognized that funding for NGO activities was a problem for everyone, and underlined that the UN could not “make it alone.” “We need to forge alliances with [the NGOs] who seek similar goals and interests […] this sensitivity to causes and to the people behind these causes is what makes you so special,” he said to the NGO community.
Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal also discussed supporting the NGOs’ call for having a regular, permanent meeting place for its Thursday briefing programme as well as their strong interest in organizing the 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference in a part of the world to which the conference has not yet travelled. There was also interest expressed in holding a conference once again at UN Headquarters in New York, particularly for those who may not be able to travel abroad. The USG suggested that using social media would be an effective tool to stay connected for the NGOs unable to travel to an international conference. He added he was open to hearing what was right in the relationship with DPI but also what was lacking.
Following the Briefing, DPI was overwhelmed with positive feedback from civil society representatives, who were struck by Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal’s candid remarks and his warm and open manner. The USG was appointed on 31 May and assumed his post on 14 August. The NGO community was particularly impressed that within his first six weeks in office he took time from his busy schedule during the General Assembly. The USG expressed his enthusiasm for working with the NGOs in the future and his desire to attend as many DPI/NGO briefings as his schedule permits.
DPI NGO Relations has planned a comprehensive schedule of upcoming weekly Thursday Briefings, which you can find listed on the DPI website. Topics are universal and include many issues on the UN agenda.
Among those on this season’s calendar include “The Girl Child: Protection from Harmful Practices, Violence, Exploitation and Abuse”, “The Death Penalty” and “The Impact of Climate Change on People Living in Poverty”. Thursday Briefings are held at UN Headquarters or at the Salvation Army auditorium in New York, and are available via webcast (under Other Meetings/Events) when held in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium.