Iran is a founding member of the UN and one of the first countries in the organization to invite the establishment of the UNIC office in Tehran in 1950. United Nations Information Centers are the principal sources of information about the United Nations system and are responsible for promoting greater public understanding of and support for the aims and activities of the United Nations by disseminating information on the work of the Organization to people everywhere. To know more of the objectives and priorities of the UNIC office in Iran, we conducted an interview with Maria Dotsenko, the Director of the center in Iran which is as follows.
AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with Maria Dotsenko, UNIC Director in Iran
You served as the Democracy Projects Manager on the USAID Regional Mission. What was the project mainly about?
USAID provided technical assistance to Ukrainian, Belarusian and Moldovan partners in the area of strengthening civil society and media. We provided various trainings to civil society activists and media professionals.
You cooperated with the OSCE for years. What areas does that cooperation majorly cover?
OSCE stands for Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It’s the biggest regional security organization. The OSCE has a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus. The work of the OSCE spans the globe, encompassing three continents – North America, Europe and Asia – and more than a billion people.
I had a privilege to work for OSCE in the area of media development and press and public information. First I worked in my home country Ukraine with the OSCE Project Co-coordinator Office. That job motivated me to endeavor on my international career. I was seconded by the Ukrainian Government to serve in the OSCE Missions in the post-conflict countries of Balkans: as the Spokesperson in Belgrade and the Deputy Spokesperson/Press and Public Information Officer in Skopje.
When and how did you initiate your collaboration with the UN?
It was always my dream to work for UN and promote UN values. I sincerely believe that our world would be much better place to live, if each of us would do whatever we can to respect and follow UN values: peace, security, human rights and sustainable development. I wanted to make a difference and to be a part of a bigger purpose in the service of humanity. I enjoy this truly international and multi-cultural environment of UN, which respects as well as promotes diversity and functions at its best through the efforts of teams of different people. I like to feel the spirit of dynamic, energetic and flexible teams, which are thinking creatively, and are proactive and responsive.
I started to work for the UN in August 2009, as the Representative of the UN Department of Public Information in Armenia and enjoyed to work with my truly professional, dynamic and enthusiastic team. In Armenia I met many Iranians, who told me about Iranian rich ancient culture, history and its amazing people and beautiful nature. That interest to Iran brought me here.
Since when has the UN Information Center has started operating in Iran? What are its agenda and priorities?
I arrived in Tehran in April 2014 and immediately have fallen in love with your beautiful country, warm and friendly people. I really feel like at home here.
Department of Public Information (DPI) is a part of the UN Secretariat. DPI was established in 1946, by General Assembly resolution, to promote global awareness and understanding of the work of the United Nations. DPI undertakes this goal through radio, television, print, the Internet, and other media tools.
The Department reports annually on its work to the UN General Assembly’s Committee on Information. The Committee, which meets once a year, is responsible for overseeing the work of DPI and for providing it guidance on policies, programs and activities of the Department.
Today UN DPI has 63 UN Information Centers, Offices, Centers and Services around the globe. We are busy informing people in 6 UN official languages and many other languages, including Persian, about UN values and its work. I am really proud that our UNIC Tehran team is considered the most active by our headquarters.
Iran was among first UN Member States to invite UN to open its UN Information Center in Tehran, in 1950. As you know, Iran is one of the founding UN Member States and its people contributed a lot to the establishment and development of the UN. Just one fact: Ambassador Nasrolah Entezam from Iran was unanimously elected as the 5th President of the UN General Assembly.
And for more than 65 years, we are serving Iranian people, informing them about UN values, its agenda, UN Secretary-General’s work and what UN does in Iran.
In beginning of 2016 year, I was appointed by the then UN Secretary-General as the Director of UNIC Tehran and I am privileged to work with my small, but dedicated, creative and hardworking team of professionals as well as with bright and well educated interns.
Agenda and priorities of UNIC:
Together with our other UN colleagues we are focusing on promotion of the recently adopted by all UN Member States Sustainable Development Goals.
We also promote Climate Change Agreement.
Also we are promoting results of implementation of UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) which is a strategic framework document that governs the cooperation between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the UN for the five years.
Together with our partners from the Government, civil society, media and academia, we are promoting UN values, by marking UN observances (for example we celebrated the UN Day with the Government and Azadi University, International Day of Peace with the Tehran Peace Museum and Iranian Association of UN Studies, etc.)
We are maintaining bilingual website and social media serving our audiences with fresh information about UN activities and news (www.unic-ir.org)
We are telling our story of UN cooperation to the Iranians with the help of the exhibition of historic and unique photos and documents highlighting special moments of UN-Iran partnership. This exhibition is organized jointly with the MFA and IRNA.
One of the duties the UNIC is tasked with is to create an active connection between the UN, educational institutes and the civil society. What measures are considered as to realize this goal in Iran?
We are closely cooperating with various educational institutions and civil society. Let me share some examples: Recently we celebrated the UN Day with our partners from the Government, Azadi University, civil society and media. We organized the above mentioned exhibition for our partners at the Majlis, and at Tehran, Alemeh Tabatabaee, Hamedan, Qom Universities. Traditional Model UN Conferences with the International Studies Journal in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are very popular among Iranian youth. Students of various Universities really enjoy these simulations of the work of the UN Security Council. They take seriously their roles of top diplomats of UN Member States and conduct researches and sensitive negotiations in order to decide on the hottest topics and the future of the planet. Participants like to listen to our honorable guests from the MFA and appreciated speeches of Dr. Araghchi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN Resident Coordinator Gary Lewis at one of the Model Conferences.
We conduct outreach briefings for students and members of civil society groups, explaining them about UN history, structure, goals, and functioning. Also we are busy organizing workshops on how to find information and documents on various UN websites. I feel satisfied to see every year growing internet and demand for these workshops and briefings.
What are the UNIC’s plans for realizing and extending human rights and peace-keeping priorities in Iran?
As I have said earlier, we are promoting UN values and marking UN observances together with our Iranian partners.
Recently we commemorated the Human Rights Day jointly with our traditional partners from the Islamic Human Rights Commission. The Day is marked around the globe on December 10. We also translate various UN Secretary General’s messages and UN reports and documents, which are available on our bilingual website www.unic-ir.org
With regards to the peace-keeping, we are marking together with our partners UN observances related to the peace and peace-keeping and translating various UN Secretary-General’s messages and relevant documents. For example, recently we with the Iranian Association of UN Studies organized discussion and screening of the film on UN peacekeepers.
What is the role of the UN in the regional conflicts, esp. in facing the IS in Syria and Iraq?
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is one of the largest, most complex and highly volatile in the world. More than 10 million Iraqis currently require some form of humanitarian assistance, including 3.3 million civilians who are internally displaced, many for the second or third time. Depending on the scale and duration of the Mosul operation, as many 12-13 million Iraqis are expected to require humanitarian assistance.
The UN in Iraq is represented by the United Nations Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Its mandate is as follows:
Through its resolution 2299 (2016), adopted on 29 July 2015, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNAMI, until 31 July 2017. The Mission is mandated “as circumstances permit” and “at the request of the Government of Iraq” to:
- Advise support and assist the Government of Iraq in:
- advancing their inclusive, political dialogue and national reconciliation;
- development of processes for holding elections and referenda;
- constitutional review and the implementation of constitutional provisions;
- development of processes acceptable to the Government of Iraq to resolve disputed internal boundaries;
- facilitating regional dialogue, including on issues of border security, energy, and refugees;
- planning, funding and implementing reintegration programs for former members of illegal armed groups;
- initial planning for the conduct of a comprehensive census;
- Promote, support, and facilitate, in coordination with the Government of Iraq:
- The coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance and the safe, orderly, and voluntary return, as appropriate;
- The implementation of the International Compact with Iraq, including coordination with donors and international financial institutions;
- The coordination and implementation of programs to improve Iraq’s capacity to provide essential services for its people and continue active donor coordination of critical reconstruction and assistance programs through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI);
- Economic reform, capacity-building and the conditions for sustainable development, including through coordination with national and regional organizations and, as appropriate, civil society, donors, and international financial institutions;
- The development of effective civil, social and essential services, including through training and conferences in Iraq when possible;
- The contributions of United Nations agencies, funds, and programs to the objectives outlined in this resolution under a unified leadership of the Secretary-General through his Special Representative for Iraq;
1) And also promote the protection of human rights and judicial and legal reform in order to strengthen the rule of law in Iraq;
More specifically, at the request of the Government of Iraq, UNAMI is providing large-scale humanitarian assistance to persons displaced by the conflict with Da’esh. It is also robustly promoting national reconciliation among all Iraqis.
2) As regards Syria, I would like to refer you to the work of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura, whose job is to: “provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis”.
The talks to strengthen the ceasefire in war-torn Syria ended on January 24, in Astana, Kazakhstan, with agreement on how to monitor the effort started last month and praise from the United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.
“Let me commend Russia, Turkey and Iran for their decision to establish a trilateral mechanism to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire,” Mr. de Mistura said, adding that the agreement is a “concrete step” towards implementation of Security Council resolutions on the issue.
In addition to representatives from the three countries, the two-day talks were the first time that Syrian opposition participated in the discussions alongside representatives of the Syrian Government.
Mr. de Mistura, who was a conduit for many of the discussions, praised the delegations noting that “it has required political courage from them to sit in the same room and listen to their respective demands.”
He added that both Syrian parties had told him that “their immediate priority was and remains to strengthen the ceasefire.”
With more than 650,000 people in besieged areas in Syria, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the ceasefire is expected to allow greater humanitarian aid to areas previously cut off by the fighting.
“The ceasefire can additionally help the fight of the international community against terrorism in Syria and the wider region,” Mr. de Mistura said.
In addition, the ceasefire is expected to help create “a supportive environment” for engagement between the Syrian parties ahead of the 8 February talks in Geneva, the UN Special Envoy noted, adding that he will head to New York to consult with the Secretary-General and brief the Security Council ahead of those talks.
The discussions in Switzerland will be held under the auspices of the UN and include issues of governance, constitution and elections in the context of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), which endorsed a road map for a peace process in Syria.
“We cannot allow another ceasefire to dissolve because of a lack of a political process. Now is the time for the international community in all its dimensions to come together and support one integrated political negotiating process, as provided for in SCR 2254,” he said.
What aren’t the UN statements taken so seriously on the international level?
UN is the biggest inter-Governmental organization, and almost all countries are members of it, now we have 193 of them. All UN decisions and statements represent opinions of the Member States and are taken seriously by UN Member States.
What do the UN’s development Goals seek to obtain? How effective have the adopted policies in Iran been in the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN Sustainable Development Summit took place in New York in September, 2015. The 193 countries of the UN General Assembly, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted a historic document, titled: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
This document contains the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a set of seventeen aspirational “global Goals”.
These Goals were picked up from the successful Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015 and guided international cooperation among governments, business, and civil society towards sustainable development.
These Goals are aimed to make our Planet better and safer to live for us and future generations, exactly as the previous UN Secretary-General said: “there can be no Plan B, because there is no Planet B.”
17 Goals have 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues.
These including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.
The SDG goals are achievable. But the road will not be easy. There will be many difficult trade-offs along the way.
The SDGs and targets are aspirational, and the plan is that ‘each government would set its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances with consideration for how these aspirational and global targets should be incorporated into national planning processes, policies and strategies’.
His Excellency President Dr. Rohauni was among the world leaders who adopted these Goals. And Iran together with other UN Member States works towards achievement of SDGs by 2030.
Sustainable Development Commission was established by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Vice-President and Head of the Department of Environment Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, was appointed as the Chair. And UN is ready to provide support to the efforts of the Government in this area. The SDGs are also incorporated into the draft 6th National Development Plan.
The SDGs were only adopted a year ago and it is too early to talk about results. However, experts believe that Iran will be effective on the implementation of the SDGs, since it was successful with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
What challenges and problems are in the way of realizing the horizons of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?
Human nature is our main challenge, since no any other living creature destroyers the environment where it lives, more than human beings. Each of us should really care about what planet we will leave for our future generations and each of us is responsible. And I remind that “there can be no Plan B, because there is no Planet B.”
A series of long-term trends and challenges, from climate change to demographics, are already reshaping the global landscape for policymakers, just as we all are starting with implementation of the SDGs.
A slowdown in emerging market economies, migration, refugee crisis and consequences of fragile states and societies — ranging from public health crises to terrorism — these challenges have impact on the implementation of SDGs.
The seriousness of these challenges cannot be underestimated, environmental degradation and climate change are the most existential threats.
Other challenges for the SDG process is to ensure that monitoring framework is effective and works, and that there is adequate financing of SDGs implementation processes. It is also important to raise public awareness on SDGs and help general public to understand them and get engaged in the implementation.
You have been closely watching the women’s status in Iran in a way that once the first women was appointed as the news deputy, we saw you hailed it. How do you evaluate the trend of women’s participation in Iran’s society?
Iranian women are well educated, knowledgeable, smart, strong and active. But it’s not within UNIC mandate to watch and evaluate the women’s status in Iran. According to the Iranian official statistics there are around 60 % of females among those who enrolled the universities. Also there are many women among our partners, among journalists. And as you have rightly noticed, I was happy to congratulate Ms. Rafati, as IRNA’s new News Deputy, since I don’t know that many women on high-level managerial posts in the media.
What measures have you considered to make the UNIC office in Iran more active? What are your future plans?
We are quite active, despite our limited human and financial resources: we are providing information on all important UN developments on our bilingual website. We enhanced our presence on social media reaching out to wider audiences, including through Persian speaking Aparat channel. We are regularly organizing round table discussions or briefings on the most interesting and relevant for Iran UN event and marking UN observances. We are also publishing different UN promotional and educational materials and running public awareness campaigns. I am really inspired by our “Together for SDGs” campaign, where we cooperate with famous Iranian movie stars, who advocate on SDGs. Thanks to the support of the management of the Tehran Railway Station, bill-boards educate millions of passengers about SDGs. Also thanks to the support of the Municipality, the SDGs bill-boards were displayed on the streets of Tehran’s districts # 6 and 3.
On the personal note, I am happy that our UNIC family is growing, because every six months we host a new group of the some best and brightest Iranian youth, as our interns.
Our plans are to continue with the public awareness campaign on SDGs, reaching out to wider audiences, including people in the provinces. We also hope to continue bringing to the provinces the exhibition of the historic photos and documents on UN-Iran partnership, which is organized jointly with the MFA and IRNA. We plan to make our bilingual website more dynamic and keep reaching to wider audiences via social media. We plan to further support UN Country Team with the promotion of achievements of UNDAF. We plan to produce more translations of important UN documents and publications. You can learn more by following us on our social media.
Does UNIC have any joint project in progress with Iranian governmental institutes?
Traditionally we celebrate together with the Iranian Government the UN Day, birthday of the UN, which is marked on 24th October. UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter and establishment of the UN. And Iran was among UN founding Member States. We also often mark other UN Observances/Days jointly with our Iranian Government partners. We plan to continue our cooperation with the authorities on promotion of SDGs in Iran.
I was also happy that during my meeting with H. E. Dr. Zarif, among other things, we spoke about our joint work on bilingual photo-album about UN-Iran partnership, where many historic and unique photos and documents will be featured. We also hope to continue to rely on MFA’s support with the Model UN Conferences.
We also are looking forward to continuation of our dialogue with the general public at the annual International Tehran Book Fair, where our participation is also supported by the authorities.
What steps has the UNIC taken as to facilitate the access of ordinary Iranian citizens to the UN documents and statements?
Our virtual and real doors are always open for everyone! We are translating into Persian all relevant UN documents, Secretary-General’s statements and messages and sharing them with the media and posting on our bilingual website and social media. Our team is really proud that we have established and are running the first ever Persian language website of the UN. UN founding document – UN Charter in Persian was again re-printed by us and copies are shared with our audiences, whenever we conduct any event. If the readers of this interview would like to get a copy, please stop by and pick up needed number of copies. Free of charge. Many other useful documents are also translated and distributed by us. For example we translated and are distributing UN System Chart, posters with Sustainable Development Goals and other materials. You can pick up your own free copy from our office.
I am really proud that almost 1,000 people annually are learning more how to access UN documents and information on UN websites and about history and functioning of UN and UNIC at the specially designed workshops and briefing sessions. And there is more demand for these workshops. Anyone is welcomed to call us and my colleagues and I will be happy to answer their questions about UN.