EDITORIAL: Comms crucial for UN's efforts in Iraq

As the United Nations reviews its entire operation in Iraq - including, as reported this week, its PR strategy - in no way should it underestimate the vital role that communications can play in helping to bring stability to the war-ravaged country.

Given last month's bomb at its Baghdad HQ, which killed at least 23 people - including a PRO - handling media relations for the UN in Baghdad is clearly a tough task, but it is crucial that Iraqis are kept fully abreast of the programmes the UN and others are undertaking to restore services.

Salim Lone, formerly director of comms for the UN in Iraq, tells PRWeek that Iraqis 'believe the worst of all the speculation they hear'.

Anti-Western sentiment is likely to gain further ground unless the UN leads the way in filling the information vacuum with regular updates on the work its relief agencies are undertaking. A ground swell of opinion needs to be generated that the UN is a force for good in the country.

Even if, as Lone points out, the unreliable telecoms infrastructure means delivering press releases by foot or car to scattered locations across Baghdad, such message delivery will be crucial as the UN tries to maintain communication with the disparate indigenous news organs that have sprung up in Baghdad and elsewhere since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Such publications are crucial conduits for the UN to spread its message of how it plans to rebuild the country now and in the future.

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