The objective of this voluntary program of out-reach between ambassadors at the United Nations and universities and interested institutions in the United States is to create a better understanding of what the United Nations is, and what it does. The Ambassador's Club attempts to achieve this objective through frequent video conferences and on-site lectures, which bring students in their respective universities and other interested executives into contact with Ambassadors and senior International Civil Servants at the United Nations, on subjects which fall within the framework of their objectives.
In the three years since this "virtual" club was founded, The Ambassador's Club has organized well over 700 video-conferences, and about 300 Ambassadors and senior International Civil Servants have participated in these sessions.
It is currently working essentially with half a dozen universities in the United States and a few universities and institutions abroad..
The working procedure is for each university or institution to tell The Ambassador's Club what is the framework into which they want the video-conferences to fit. The universities or institutions choose the subjects, usually asking the The Ambassador's Club to come in with a regular video-session every week during a semester, or in other cases on a more topical as-and-when-required basis.
Once the exact subjects are known, The Ambassador's Club sets up a panel of those ambassadors and international civil servants who are known to be particularly competent in the subject. Normally, the panel consists of one or two individuals at the United Nations end. The sessions themselves last between one and two hours each, depending upon the requirements.
In the case of video-conferences, the session itself is divided into two parts, a first part in which each of the panelists at the United Nations end makes a short (5-10 minute) presentation, and a second part, in which the students or executives at the other end have a totally inter-active question and answer session with the panelists.
The key to the exercise is the "anchor" at the receiving end with whom The Ambassador's Club stays in regular pre-session contact. In that way, the anchor knows more or less how the session shall be run. This enables the anchor to prepare the students or executives, in advance, on the questions that they might like to ask of the panelists.
The technical aspects of the dial-up have to be worked out by the respective technicians well in advance of the sessions. The Ambassador's Club uses a PolyCom system, either linked out through three ISDN lines (working on a bandwidth of 384 consequently), or increasingly using Video Over Internet Protocol. The costs per session are minimal, and represent overheads.
Since The Ambassador's Club works with a limited number of institutions, all technical teething problems have been ironed out with them already over the past twelve years. In the case of any new institution, some preliminary technical contact and compatibility tests would inevitably have to be conducted, just to be sure that there are no technical interruptions during the actual video sessions.