May 2014, Geneva, Switzerland. In partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UNITAR gave Saudi Arabian diplomats the unique opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of Geneva’s multilateral working environment.
Over a period of five days, UNITAR organized visits to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As human rights is one of the key topics in Geneva, participants were furthermore given the opportunity to attend the 19th session of the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group.
In order to prepare participants for the visits, an introductory session on the UN System was organized on the first day of the course. On the same day, a guided tour of the Palais des Nations deepened their understanding of the historical circumstances of the creation of the United Nations.
The objectives of the visits were to provide participants with an overview of the structure, mandate and governance of the organizations and to give them the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with members of the organizations. The briefings were held in either English or Arabic and many of the speakers – senior staff selected by the international organizations – had experience in the Arabic-speaking world which made the visits very interesting for the group and fostered rich discussions.
At the end of the five-day course participants emphasized that visiting the different organizations was an important component of the course as it gave them a better understanding of the organizations’ work and added to the information gained through the briefings. The group also highlighted that they considered the contacts they established with the different representatives of the organizations and among themselves as highly important.
Due to the success of this course on Geneva’s multilateral working environment, UNITAR envisages to organize similar courses in the future.