UN recruits new ‘Ambassadors to the Public’ – its tour guides

16 March 2005

As it prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year with tourists flocking to its New York Headquarters, the United Nations has recruited a new group of 25 multilingual tour guides to supplement the existing team of what have long been considered the world body’s “ambassadors to the public.”

“With the spotlight on the United Nations, our guides play an important role in explaining the work of the Organization to the general public and in shaping their perceptions of the world body,” said Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor.

“As they conclude their intensive training session, our new guides are now ready to join their colleagues in welcoming people from around the world to UN Headquarters and in answering the many questions posed by our visitors every day,” he added of the nearly half a million tourists who visit the complex every year.

Since 1952, 38 million visitors have taken a guided tour of UN Headquarters. The tours are valued for the personal connection to the UN provided by its well-informed, international team. The new guides come from 16 countries, increasing the total number of guides to 58.

The Guided Tours Unit, part of the Department of Public Information, now offers tours in 20 languages, more than any other tour operation in New York. During this 60th anniversary year, when the UN is focused on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of slashing a host of world ills by 2015 as well as reform and its capacity to deal with new international threats and challenges, the tours provide information about the wide range of UN activities around the world.

The recruitment of guides this year reflects the pattern of visitors. The increase in French-speaking visitors to the UN in 2004, for example, has required an additional nine French-speaking guides. The continuously high number of Chinese visitors, which currently make up close to 10 per cent of the total, has required an additional five Mandarin-speaking guides. The tour operation has also added one guide skilled in American Sign Language.

Overall visitors’ attendance increased 11 per cent last year to nearly 400,000 persons, the level reached before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Guided tours are conducted every day, with a few exceptions, with guides presenting the UN’s history and structure, explaining its role in current events, describing its unique collection of artworks on display along the tour route and answering visitors’ questions.

The full complement of guides comes from the following 28 countries: Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Gabon, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Sweden, Turkey, United States, Ukraine, Zambia and Zimbabwe.