Like, Follow, Share, Tweet: OCHA’s Online Advocacy

Since OCHA first added “share” buttons to its websites in 2010, the organization has significantly expanded its social media activities. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now major outlets for OCHA’s humanitarian information products, and its awareness campaigns have reached millions of people worldwide.


“Anybody remotely interested in humanitarian affairs should follow @UNOCHA”

Tweet from a Lebanese student in December 2011 


In 2011, OCHA launched two Twitter profiles: a corporate profile (@UNOCHA) and a dedicated profile for the Emergency Relief Coordinator (@ValerieAmos). Both give OCHA a new way to engage with a diverse audience, including humanitarian partners, journalists, academics and the public.

OCHA also stepped up activities on Facebook and YouTube. In 2011, the number of Facebook followers reached 11,250, and OCHA films were viewed more than 290,000 times on OCHA and partner YouTube channels.

In early 2011, OCHA tapped into its social networks to help sound the alarm for the drought and nutrition crisis that threatened millions of people across the Horn of Africa. It posted over 200 messages about the crisis on Twitter throughout the year. It also liaised with UN and NGO partners to cover the OCHA-managed Horn of Africa ministerial-level mini-summit in September in New York, and live-Tweeted the event. According to Tweetreach, nearly 1.3 million people were reached.

Social media also played a major role in the 2011 World Humanitarian Day (WHD) campaign: more than 11.2 million people were reached via Twitter. The popular singer Justin Bieber promoted the day to his 13 million Twitter followers, who in turn tweeted to millions more. Actress Charlize Theron and singer Craig David added their voices through their personal Twitter accounts. The most popular tweets during the campaign were related to humanitarian workers’ safety. For example, a tweet that read: “In 2010, 242 aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped helping people. Please RT & raise awareness. #WHD2011” was re-tweeted more than 700 times.

The 2011 WHD music video

The WHD music video “If I Could Change” and other campaign films were seen over 100,000 times on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube. The United Nations Citizen Ambassadors social media contest, co-organized by OCHA in observance of WHD, received 649 video entries on how to change the world. Winners from Guatemala, the Philippines and South Sudan travelled to New York in December to pitch their ideas to the UN Secretary-General.

OCHA and the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General collaborated on “The World In A Day”, which tells the story of a day in the life of the Secretary-General. The film has been seen over 33,000 times and remains the top-rated UN YouTube film of all time. Originally a social media product, it has now also been screened at dozens of international events.