Take 50 UN staff and interns, 3,000 visitors, 10 tents including one for refugees, a large cooking pot with rice and beans for 200 people, bicycle bells, flags and MDG memory games, and an angelic choir of children called the Poussières d’étoiles and what have you got? UN Day in Brussels on the Grand Place.
The UN team in Brussels, coordinated by UNRIC, began the discussions, logistics and arrangements with the City of Brussels many weeks before the event, worked over the weekend and arrived early on the Sunday to set everything up, and it was all worth while when the sun shone and thousands of people converged on the Grand Place where they were invited to enjoy everything that was on offer in the UN Village.
Banners explaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in French, Flemish and English were strategically placed and visitors were invited to discuss and learn more about humanitarian assistance, development, human rights as well as peace and security issues and to find out what the UN is doing in Brussels and how they can support its work.
There were speeches in the afternoon from Mr Steven Vanackere, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Antonio Vigilante, Resident Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Belgium and video messages by the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr Ban Ki-moon, and the President of the European Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy.
The ten tents had the following themes: General UN, EU/UN, Work/Food, Women/Human Rights, Environment, Health, UNHCR, Games, UN Associations and Youth.
Children and adults alike flocked to the games tent where they played the memory game (matching a pair of MDG symbols), attempted to place the correct flag for one of the UN’s 192 Member States on a large map of the world and finally wrote their own message to world leaders for UN Day and for MDG 1 – eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. You can see these messages on http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/unric.
Families loved the day out and the freebies – including badges with “I love the UN”, UNRWA t-shirts with the logo “Peace starts here”, UNIFEM highlighters, UNHCR balloons, UNEP bicycle bells, UNDP “We, the peoples” bracelets and lots more. They walked through the UNHCR tent, sampled WFP food rations and UNICEF plumpy nut biscuits, and generally had fun learning more about the work of the UN.
And the staff and interns left with a wonderful, warm glow as a result of spreading the message as a team, a team who had enjoyed every minute of the day and the feeling of working as one UN in Brussels.
Everyone agreed that it had been great to be associated with such a successful event and that we must do it all over again next year.