On 22 February 2007, the UN NGO/DPI Executive Committee, with the intention of increasing the very small representation of Central American NGOs associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), established a Central America Outreach Project to identify and recruit NGOs for association with the DPI/NGO Section at UN Headquarters in New York City. For the past five years graduate students and their professor, Phyllis Lee, from Long Island University’s United Nations Graduate Certificate Program have carried out the Executive Committee’s project in Costa Rica (2007, 2011), Panama (2008), Honduras (2009) and Guatemala (2012). To date, thirty-six students have participated. They have personally paid for their travel expenses.
While in the Central American capitals, the student “ambassadors” presented a carefully crafted program designed to explain the benefits to be derived from the DPI association, both by the applicants and by the United Nations. They hosted a major event in a local hotel with the participation of the heads of 60 or more NGOs. The UN Resident Coordinators (Jose Manuel Hermida, Jose Eguren, Rebeca Arias, Luiza Carvalho) opened the meetings. On occasion, high-level government officials participated (especially in Costa Rica) and media coverage appeared in local newspapers and on local television. All presentations were in Spanish. Following the presentations, students made appointments to visit the offices/sites of NGOs that were interested in completing an application. To achieve the principal objective of their trip, the students assisted these NGOs with their applications. Formal association, through a rigorous application process, ensures that the voices of the NGOs will be heard at the global level, and that conversely the goals and aims of the UN will be spread widely at the local level.
The Central America Project has attracted considerable attention and support at the United Nations Department of Public Information because of the many regional NGOs accepted into association with UNDPI. Following their visit to Honduras in June of 2009, the number of Honduran NGOs associated rose from zero to twelve. Former Under-Secretary General for Public Information, Kiyoko Akasaka, sent a personal letter of thanks to the UN Graduate Certificate Program Director for the efforts of UN Program students to increase the numbers of NGOs associated with the UN Department of Public Information.
Long Island University