The RAF Programme was my Highlight of 2019!
Kelesha Williams, 2019 RAF fellow from Jamaica
My UN RAF experience is parallel to none since I started my journalism career. I can unequivocally say it has been my highlight of 2019. Not only did I get to interact with a group of talented journalists from developing countries like Jamaica, but I now have a better understanding of how the United Nations works. It has definitely influenced how I will approach my stories especially when it comes covering issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Moreover, the energy I felt at the United Nations among the staff and member states showed that through multilateralism we can fight some of the most pressing issues of our time. However, my experience showed that advocating for global support on any matter is one of the most difficult tasks especially for the United Nations. This is often seen as a relegation to a “talk-shop” but I have learnt from the UN Deputy Secretary General that nothing is wrong with talking at least the conversation has started and that is a beacon for change. Simply put, the UN has emboldened me, and I hope to continue the conversation on meeting the SDGs among my colleagues, family and friends and throughout my community. Thank you #UNRAF2019 and the United Nations Department of Global Communications for making me a part of the UN family and a part of your story. I am forever grateful.
A deep Inside into the Workings of a World Body
Disha Shetty, 2019 RAF fellow from India
The Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship allowed me to come to the UN right after a year during which I was reporting on the impact of climate change on communities across India. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to scale up my reporting and track global negotiations on climate change as the three weeks I spent at the UN coincided with the climate summit.
One of the crucial things this fellowship offered was the interaction with 14 other journalists from across the world, each with a different set of priorities and viewpoints, which was a learning experience like no other. There were many off the record, honest conversations with high-ranking UN officials, which allowed us to get a deeper insight into the challenges that they encounter.
Access was one of the crucial aspects of the fellowship. We were able to be inside the general assembly when our heads of states were speaking, as well as meet both the UN deputy secretary-general and secretary-general of the UN.
The fellowship didn’t just allow me to expand the coverage of the UN in my home country but also allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the workings of the world body that will inform my reporting in the years to come. The three weeks were packed to the hilt, exciting and overwhelming in parts, in what is considered one of the world’s greatest cities - an experience I would highly recommend for not just early career journalists but even those with a considerable experience.
I walk away with a deeper understanding of the flaws of the UN and respect for the utopian idea of getting the 193 member states, some of who are at war with each other, to sit across the table and talk.
Learning from Journalists around the World
Valeriia Kovtun, 2019 RAF fellow from Ukraine
I am happy to have been chosen for such a mind-blowing program that exposed us to the inside workings of the UN and introduced to the most respectable speakers, from the UN as well as from the media world in New York.
We were privileged to meet the UN Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres, interview the Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, meet with the GA President and share our ideas and experiences with the journalists and editors from the NYTimes, BuzzFeed, CNN!
Moreover, I learned a lot from my fellows. I discovered lands I had never been thinking of visiting before, whereas I was doing my best to convey certain messages about Ukraine.
RAF fellowship showed me what a powerful force lies within each individual with his/her unique background. This is thanks to that united force of multiculturalism that UN is moving forward, despite cruelty, criticism and skepticism all around.
Now when the program is over, I feel truly inspired to improve myself as a journalist and motivated to dive into new topics. I can say without a single hesitation: RAF fellowship at the United Nations headquarter in NY was one of the most fantastic experiences in my life!
Integrating Journalists to Build a Better World
Gabriela Pinasco, 2019 RAF fellow from Ecuador, speaking to the Secretary-General on behalf of the group
Three weeks were enough to take me back home with one of the most important professional experiences of my career as a journalist. Thanks to the Reham Al Farra programme, I was able to know firsthand the dynamics, structure and functions of the United Nations, which led me to understand from a more analytical vision its mission as a multilateral entity.
The first days were crucial. An arduous and enriching training prepared us for what was to come: The United Nations General Assembly and five world summits, including one on which the eyes of the entire world were put: The Climate Action Summit.
With the first week also came the process of getting to know each other among the fellows. This was another wonderful learning. Meeting journalists from different parts of the world, exchanging ideas, thoughts and experiences. This interesting exercise allowed us to consolidate ourselves as a group and begin to work articulately, regardless of the language or the editorial line of the media outlets we work for.
After the inauguration of the Climate Action Summit, work was increasing at an accelerated rate. Interviews, covering conferences, the speeches of our political leaders, Greta's speech, and the great challenge of delivering complete information that shows our audiences the extent of the problem of climate change, according to our particular realities.
The great work of the program coordinators was evident during the almost two weeks of the General Assembly. They organized everything so that we could devote ourselves entirely to reporting, they gave us the necessary tools and guidelines, they contacted our permanent missions, and helped us identify the key points of the great United Nations building, this may not sound important, but it really is.
Another outstanding activity of the program was the visit to different media outlets such as ProPublica, The New York Times and Buzzfeed, allowing us to know and learn about other journalistic techniques and methods.
Throughout the program we had the opportunity to meet important people whose work has contributed to the entire world, such as Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed. People who in some or many ways, inspire our work towards the community.
After three weeks of work and learning, accompanied by wonderful professionals, I highlight the magnificent work of the Reham Al Farra program that integrates journalists from developing countries into the efforts of the United Nations to build a better world.