Tuesday, 13 April 2010

UN overhauls Malawi website communications

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Paul with the Agriculture Minister and World Vision representatives, Aug 2002, Lilongwe

At the beginning of this year, I formed the Friends of Malawi Group on the business networking site, LinkedIn. With a real fondness for the country and a love of the wonderful people in such a poor part of Africa I wanted to try and help raise awareness of the potential for investors and demonstrate that business cares about faraway places in a small corner of Africa. Within just a few days the Group was largest of twenty groups on LinkedIn focused on Malawi.

I was taken aback at the long list of UN Internet sources with out of date pages and reports. With the backing of Group, I wrote to the UN Secretary General to urge action.

10th January

Dear Mr Secretary General,

I am the LinkedIn Owner and Manager of the 'Friends of Malawi' Group created just two days ago and already ranked number 2 on the country Group listings. LinkedIn Group - Friends of Malawi

I am a long standing supporter of the work of the UN and I currently sponsor a child in Malawi. As a former UK Member of Parliament (1997 to 2005) and Shadow Health Minister, I have visited the country and I take a great interest in the country and its wonderful people, who are some of the poorest in the world.

My priority is only to inform the wider world of the issues affecting Malawi and how more assistance can be given to the country in a completely non-political manner. Good, up to date communications are vital for business to invest in the country and for volunteers to visit, train and help local people. I appreciate that local UN staff have a very difficult job to do and are no doubt working very hard to provide assistance to Malawi.

Upon checking the United Nations website I was very concerned to see that there is little current information:- 

The latest press release is January 2009 - one year ago:-

The link to the  Road Map to Maternal Mortality seems to be broken:-

The Equity in health and healthcare in Malawi report is now over three years old (Oct 2006):-

Are the Human Development Index Trends up to date (I appreciate there can be a time delay with this sort of data)?

The UN monthly newsletter was last updated in July 2009:-

I can't see any future UN events listed for Malawi, which is greatly concerning:-

I trust the UN communications in Malawi can be reviewed and updated.

As a former MP if I can assist the UN in anyway with the UN development programme in Malawi please contact me. 

Very best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Paul Marsden MIoD, FCMI
United Kingdom


Whilst I receive an acknowledgement and I perfectly understood the very limited resources available for updating the websites, it is critical in the digital age that a country such as Malawi has up to date information for accountability and transparency as to what happens to investment in the UN. More importantly for private business investors, they need to see the current situation in the country and the priority that the UN gives to communicating the opportunities for assisting and creating wealth in the country.

I also wrote to the UN Co-ordinator in Malawi and other key people in the United Nations Development programme, UNDP and UNICEF to urge them to intervene and assist with the updating of the website sources.
I wrote again to the Secretary General on 24th January after receiving no reply and again reminded him of how poor the communications appeared to the outside world, damaging the UN’s image and potentially affecting support for Malawi. On 7th February I received a reply from Nguyen Thi Ngoc Van, Head of the UN Co-ordinator’s Office acknowledging the issue and confirming that work had begun to start to overhaul the systems.

I kept the Friends of Malawi Group informed of the issues and a number of members registered their support for the campaign.

Today I received a welcome letter from Ayman M. Elsheikh in the UN Co-ordinator's Office in Lilongwe, Malawi setting out the real improvements made and updated on the UNDP, UNESCO, and UNDP websites. I have to say they look very impressive with the latest Annual Report, Strategy, Newsletters and many new pages across the family of UN sites.
13th April 2010

Dear Mr. Marsden,

I would like to invite you to visit the updated UN Malawi website at: http://unmalawi.org/

Please note that the following pages have been updated:

the process is ongoing, but we thought of sharing this information at this time and will keep updating the site as priority to benefit all of our site visitors.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to go through the pages and provide us with any further comments.

Thank you and best regards


Ayman M. Elsheikh
Coordination Specialist.
UN Resident Coordinator's Office,
Lilongwe, Malawi
Land Line:  +265-1-773 500 (ext: 236)
Direct Line: +265 1-772 838
Mobile: +265 99 588 2485

This is a success story for Friends of Malawi Group and the wider LinkedIn 'movement'. We can be very proud that now we have a fresh, dynamic image of the positive improvements through the UN in Malawi and highlighting where more assistance is needed in the near future if the country and President Mutharika is to continue to build on that success.

[Malawi national flag]
FOTW Flags Of The World website at http://flagspot.net/flags/
Sometimes, it can seen like creating groups on social media sites is simply a way to network or create a talking shop. Friends of Malawi has demonstrated that they have put words into actions and made a difference. We will continue to back the tremendous hard work by the UN staff in the country and continue to encourage investment to build the Malawi economy so that it can become self sufficient and make further progress in eradicating poverty.

Paul Marsden
Manager, Friends of Malawi LinkedIn Group

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