It was an eventful and excitingly engaging week that would remain indelible in the minds of partners of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos. That was the week that ended 30th March, 2014, when the United Nations Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Communications and Public Information, Mr Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, visited Abuja to join other senior UN officials to discuss Africa and its development initiatives especially in the context of African Union Agenda 2063.
In addition to his scheduled panel discussion during the just ended conference on the Fifteenth Session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa) of United Nations Agencies and Organisations working in Africa in support of the African Union and its NEPAD programme, the Under-Secretary-General in continuation of his commitment to extending the frontiers of Communication partnership in Nigeria, engaged representatives of the Nigeria Union of journalists; the media, the students, the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and the creative community, to explore new areas of partnership and cooperation with the UN, especially the UN Information Centre.
In his interaction with the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), led by its President, Garba Muhammed, in Abuja, Launsky-Tieffenthal reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of the press anywhere in the world. Press freedom, he explained, ensures government’s accountability to the people as an important component of democratic governance and a thematic area of huge interest to the UN.
Responding, the NUJ President, who is also the President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), commended the Under-Secretary-General for his interest in the development of media institutions and contents in Nigeria. He observed that media independence is dependent on welfare of journalists, and as such, should be taken more seriously by media entrepreneurs.
At the interactive session with the representatives of Non-governmental Organisations (NGO), the USG noted that youths and women remained priority groups for the UN in its interventions to save lives and improve the wellbeing of people around the world. The NGO restated their commitment to working with UNIC and other UN Agencies. However, they requested for training opportunities in their various thematic areas.
In a separate meeting, representatives of the creative community which included Writers, Producers, Movie makers as well as Arts and Theatre workers, commended the USG for convening the meeting and unanimously agreed to explore further opportunities of collaboration with UNIC, especially in the area of creative media training. They had earlier agreed to consider the USG’s proposal requesting them to include UN themes in their works.
The quest for expanding the reach of the UN took the USG to the campus of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), where he had an interactive session with the students, management and faculty members of the Institute and those of the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Abuja. The students were upbeat with their probing questions on the UN activities in Nigeria and around the world.
In a related meeting with the Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (Radio Nigeria), Mr Ladan Salihu, the USG acknowledged the significance of radio as a medium of mass communication in Nigeria and other African countries. UNIC, he said, was ready to partner with Radio Nigeria to develop programmes on good governance, health, literacy, peace, human rights and other areas that of interest to the UN and the Nigerian Government.
Among other issues discussed with the various audiences, Launsky-Tieffenthal also spoke about the Model United Nations; elections monitoring; celebrity advocates; welfare of journalists and media independence; multilingualism and UN communication; collaboration with local Radio/Television stations; and Peace Keeping Operations.