For World Humanitarian Day this past Tuesday, the United Nations decided to partner with a news organization to help get the message out about the need for humanitarian aid around the globe. It looked to the Huffington Post for help.
During a livestreamed panel, HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski interviewed U.N. chief of peacekeeping operations Ken Payumo, Unicef's Gaza field office chief Pernille Ironside, former South Sudanese child soldier and political activist Emmanuel Jal, and Syrian musician Kinan Azmeh about their efforts in the face of adversity. Minkovski asked crowd-sourced questions from Twitter and shared online comments during the discussion. Meanwhile, opinion pieces from leading U.N. officials ran on the Huffington Post website, while the team promoted the hashtag #humanitarianheroes on its social media accounts.
The U.N. events were only a snapshot of the peacekeeping organization's social media efforts during World Humanitarian Day. Twitter chats were held on topics such as Somalia, South Sudan, and humanitarian worker protection in various time zones. And, during the HuffPost Live panel, several U.N.-produced shorts were played, the perfect length for sharing online. "The whole campaign is very much focused on social media," said Louis Belanger, strategic communications officer at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA).
Belanger explained that using social media is a priority for the organization. It consciously made the shift after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, when it started to see the power online platforms could have when communicating about its efforts and finding out which communities needed help. But social media isn't just effective because it's the way youth talk to one another, he pointed out. He believes it's a better way to hear the public's opinion and inspire them to take action.
"Not everyone has a TV, and not everyone has cable, but everyone is online," HuffPost Live news director Basel Hamdan added. "Streaming and online channels are the way people communicate with each other."