New York

15 November 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at reception to celebrate Sixty Years of United Nations Guided Tours [as prepared for delivery]

You only get one chance at making a first impression.

For millions of visitors to the United Nations, that first impression is shaped by their tour guide – the first, and often only, United Nations staff member they will interact with.

Many people, including journalists, diplomats and teachers, have shared with us their stories of their first visit to the United Nations.

Some came here as students or schoolchildren.

All remember their guide: where he or she came from; what languages they spoke; the colourful outfit they wore.

The work of United Nations tour guides is invaluable; they truly are our Ambassadors to the public.

Our guides play a pivotal role in providing accurate and timely information about the activities of the UN System.

They help to dispel popular misperceptions, and shape people’s understanding of the work of the United Nations.

They are true all-rounders: multilingual; from all regions; dedicated and professional; able to answer even the trickiest questions diplomatically and with a smile. 

It is no surprise that many guides transition to other jobs within the United Nations and spend their entire careers here.

If I may say so, on your 60th birthday, you all look pretty good for your age!

For many colleagues, 60 means retirement.

I am happy to see that having reached that milestone the Guided Tours programme shows no signs of retiring or even slowing down.

In fact, it seems to be getting younger by the day -- certainly if I look at some of the current guides!.

Visitors Services – the section within the Department of Public Information where the Guided Tours programme is housed – has a lively and interactive website and Facebook page with over 5,000 “friends”.

You can now follow some of the individual tour guides on Twitter.

And we are about to launch our latest exciting project: children's tours featuring a group of specially-designed “UN kids”.

So, as you can see, we are moving with the times.

Sixty years ago, visitors who came on a guided tour marvelled at the innovative and modern new United Nations complex.

These days, of course, the buildings are undergoing a facelift – bringing the latest green technology to augment the inspiring architecture of our home. 

The General Assembly is about to undergo a major renovation starting next year, and we will be able to show the newly refurbished Conference Building hopefully as early as next April.

The United Nations has evolved and adapted over the past 60 years.

The pictures and artefacts in this exhibit tell the story.

One thing, however, remains the same: the quality and dedication of the men and women who spend their days giving four to five tours a day, following in the footsteps of the hundreds who came before.

Dear colleagues and friends,

Let me thank you for your important contribution to the work and mission of the United Nations.

Happy Birthday – and many, many happy returns!

Thank you.