14/08/2002
Press Release
NOTE 5745



                                                                  Note No. 5745

                                                                  14 August 2002


Note to Correspondents


400 FORMER GUIDES TO EXPRESS RENEWED COMMITMENT TO UNITED NATIONS


AS GUIDED TOURS MARK FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY


Official Commemoration on 6 November


The United Nations guided tour operation is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, marking the milestone with special events on 6 November.  Since the first tour took place in November 1952, over 37 million visitors have been guided through United Nations Headquarters by 2,000 highly trained, multilingual guides from more than 100 countries.


The fiftieth anniversary celebration will feature high-profile activities, including the launch of a photo exhibit highlighting five decades of the visitors’ experience at the United Nations.  Secretary-General Kofi Annan and several hundred current and former guides will attend.


“The guided tour operation is central to our outreach to the general public”, says Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI).  “The tour guides -- our ambassadors to the public -- are usually the visitors’ most direct contact with the United Nations and therefore play an important role in shaping people’s perceptions of the work of the Organization.”   Mr. Tharoor notes that there are plans for major changes and upgrades of the visitors’ experience in the coming years.


The guides reflect increasingly diverse academic, cultural and professional backgrounds.  All receive daily in-depth briefings on the history and current activities of the United Nations.  They have excellent public-speaking skills, and are fluent in English and at least one other language.  Many are multilingual, and give tours in three or four languages in the course of a day. 


Many former guides have gone on to achieve prominence in government, academia, media and the arts.  For example, former United States Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole was a guide in 1963.  Other former guides include Princess Wiwan Wariwan of Thailand and best-selling Israeli author Yael Hedaya.


Since 10 young women began giving tours on 3 November 1952, the United Nations has become a major tourist destination in New York City.  The American Association for the United Nations -- now the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) ran the tour operation until 1955, when it was incorporated into the United Nations Office of Public Information.  The first male

guide was hired in 1977.  Today, 52 young people from 32 countries, including seven men, conduct the tours, which are offered in more than 20 languages.


“The anniversary gathering of guides will serve to galvanize this valuable network of former guides and encourage them to continue to promote the United Nations in their own communities,” says Lyutha Al-Mughairy, Chief of the Public Liaison Service.  “They are very creative in their efforts to reconnect and plan for activities beyond the anniversary celebration.”  Nina Miness, who was a guide in 1952, says that they have had a remarkable success in tracking down former guides.  “For most of them, working at the United Nations was a highlight in their careers and they are eager to reconnect”, she says.


The events planned for 6 November include:


-- The official commemoration of the anniversary and opening of a photographic exhibit on 50 years of the visitors’ experience by Secretary-General Annan.  Those invited to the reception for the exhibit opening at 5 p.m. in the Visitors’ Lobby will include special guests, accredited media correspondents and all current and former United Nations guides.


-- A tour for former guides and media representatives immediately following the exhibit opening.


-- A private reunion dinner at 7 p.m. in the Delegates’ Dining Room for current and former guides.


Several partners have joined the Department in its efforts to highlight the anniversary and to increase the visibility of the guided tours.  They include the UNA-USA, the International Photographic Council (IPC) and a number of Permanent Missions to the United Nations. 


The IPC, a non-governmental organization associated with DPI, has mobilized its members in the photo industry to support the photographic exhibit, which will be on display in the Visitors’ Lobby until 6 January 2003.  Kodak is designing and producing the photo exhibit, while Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Olympus are sponsoring the opening reception.


The United Nations suspended its guided tour operation in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, but resumed guided tours one month later.  Guided tours are conducted daily, except on some holidays, weekends in January and February, and during occasional high-level meetings of the General Assembly.  During the hour-long lecture tour, guides answer questions about the role of the United Nations in current events, take visitors into the main meeting rooms and describe the unique collection of artworks on display throughout the tour route.


For more information on the anniversary, to request photos or to interview a current or former United Nations guide, please contact Helene Hoedl, Guided Tours Unit, tel: (1) 212-963-3242, fax: (1) 212-963-0071, e-mail: hoedl@un.org or toursunhq@un.org or visit www.un.org/tours.


Media accreditation:  Interested journalists who are not already accredited to the United Nations, please contact the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, tel: (1) 212-963-6934, fax: (1) 212-963-4642.


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