31/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SPD/250



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

18th Meeting (PM)


INFORMATION DEPARTMENT'S ONGOING REVIEW, PROGRESS TOWARDS 'EVALUATION CULTURE'


WELCOMED IN DRAFT RESOLUTION APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE


Under-Secretary-General Responds to Issues Raised by Delegates,

Including Department Restructuring, Information Centre Consolidation


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved a

wide-ranging draft resolution this afternoon welcoming the ongoing comprehensive review of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and its progress towards a new "evaluation culture" of increased performance management.


As the Committee concluded its consideration of questions relating to information, it approved two other texts today, also without a vote:  a draft resolution on information in the service of humanity, which sought to ensure journalists the free and effective performance of their duties; and a decision on increasing the membership of the Committee on Information.  It also heard closing remarks on the ongoing review of the DPI from the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor.  


According to the draft resolution on the review of the DPI, the Assembly would emphasize, that, through its reorientation, the Department should maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and others with special needs, including countries in transition.  The reorientation should contribute to bridging the existing gap between the developing and developed countries in the crucial public information and communications field.


On multilingualism and public information, it would emphasize the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all official languages in all of DPI's activities, reaffirm its request to the Secretary-General to ensure that the DPI had appropriate staffing capacity in all official languages, and remind him of the need to include, in the Department's future programme budget proposals, the importance of using all official languages.


Other provisions concerned:  the multilingual development and enrichment of the Web site, including the possibility of organizational restructuring towards language units in the six official languages; the United Nations information centres and the possibility of creating regional information centre "hubs" especially -- but not exclusively -- in areas where linguistic commonalties


facilitate regionalization; and radio as one of the most cost-effective and

far-reaching traditional means available to the Department and an important instrument in United Nations activities.


According to the draft on information in the service of humanity, the Assembly would be asked to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in the areas of training and dissemination of information. 


The draft decision on the increase in the membership of the Committee on Information would have the Assembly decide to increase the membership of that body from 98 to 99 and to appoint Saudi Arabia as a member.


Responding to the issues raised by delegates during their three-day debate, Mr. Tharoor said he was gratified that Member States had strongly supported the new direction for the DPI proposed by the Secretary-General, as well as the Department's aim to better focus the United Nations message.  The Secretary-General and the DPI would not be setting new priorities for the Organization.  The Member States had done that at the Millennium Summit and recent international conferences.  It was DPI’s job to communicate Member States’ priorities effectively, and it was the Secretary-General's expectation that, with the Committee's guidance, a transformed DPI would work more strategically to achieve that.


He said the immediate administrative restructuring of the Department at Headquarters was being implemented on 1 November under the authority of the Secretary-General, as it concerned merely the way in which the Department organized itself to fulfil the challenges before it.  That would not have a negative impact on the implementation of DPI mandates; on the contrary, it would facilitate a more effective implementation of those priority tasks.  The Committee on Information would always be the Department's guide and partner as it was repositioned for greater effectiveness.


Statements in the general debate were made today by the representative of Morocco, as well as a representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  A proposal on how the Committee conducts its work on the information question was made by the representative of Venezuela.  The representative of Cuba spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 4 November, to begin its consideration of the item entitled "United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA)".


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its general debate on questions relating to information.  [For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/248 of 29 October.]


The Committee was also expected to take action on two related draft resolutions and a draft decision.  The draft texts are contained in the report on the twenty-fourth session of the Committee on Information (document A/57/21).


Draft resolution A -- Information in the service of humanity -- would have the General Assembly urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact to reduce existing disparities in information flows, by increasing assistance for communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries.  This should be done with due regard to the needs and priorities of those countries, and in order to enable them to develop their own information and communication policies.


The Assembly would urge all concerned to ensure that journalists have the opportunity to freely and effectively perform their professional tasks, and condemn all attacks against them.  They would also be urged to provide support for the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries.  Regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, and between developed and developing countries, would be sought to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology, especially in training and information dissemination.


Among other things, the Assembly would seek all possible support and assistance for:  the development of human and technical resources indispensable for improvement of information and communications systems in developing countries; the creation of conditions that will enable developing countries to have communication technology suited to their needs; establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels; and the facilitation of developing countries' access to advanced communication technology available on the open market.


By draft resolution B of the text -- United Nations public information policies and activities -- the General Assembly would concur with the Secretary-General on the need to enhance the technological infrastructure of the Department of Public Information (DPI) to widen its outreach, as well as to improve the United Nations Web site.  The Assembly would also reaffirm that the DPI is the focal point for information policies of the United Nations and the primary news centre for information about the Organization and its activities and those of the Secretary-General.


Also by the text, the Assembly would encourage:


-- A closer integration of functions between the DPI and those offices providing spokesman services for the Secretary-General;


-- The Secretary-General to strengthen the coordination between the DPI and other Secretariat departments, and underline that public information capacities and activities in other departments should function under the guidance of the DPI; and

-- The DPI to continue to work within the United Nations Communications Group to coordinate implementation of communications strategies with the heads of information of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.


Further by the text, the Assembly would request the Committee to thoroughly examine the comprehensive review once it had been finalized and to submit its recommendations thereon to the Assembly.  It would also stress the importance of respecting the principal competence of the Committee to undertake the examination and submit recommendations prior to the consideration of the review by any other body.  It would call on Member States to ensure that recommendations relating to the Department's programme of work originate and are considered in the Committee.


Also, the DPI would be urged to continue to exhibit transparency to increase awareness of the impact of its programmes and activities.  The Assembly would, in addition, request the Department to continue consultations with the Committee prior to taking any decision on the possible changing of its title.


Concerning the issuance of daily press releases, the Assembly would request the Department to continue providing this service to both Member States and media representatives, while considering possible means of improving their production process and streamlining their format.


In the area of multilingualism, the Assembly would reaffirm its request to the Secretary-General to ensure that the DPI has appropriate staffing capacity in all official languages of the United Nations to undertake all its activities.  It would remind him of the need to include in the Department's future budget proposals the importance of using all six official languages in its activities.


Regarding the United Nations information centres, the Assembly would emphasize that, as the "field voice" of the DPI, United Nations information centres should promote public awareness and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level, bearing in mind that information in the local languages has the strongest impact on the local populations.  It would request the Secretary-General to include in his comprehensive review the results of the ongoing review by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the matter and information on DPI's involvement in the United Nations Houses initiative.


Also, the Assembly would recall the appeal made by the Secretary-General to the host governments of United Nations information centres to facilitate the work of the centres in their countries by providing rent-free or rent-subsidized premises, while taking into account the economic condition of the host governments, and bearing in mind that such support should not be a substitute for the full allocation of financial resources for United Nations information centres in the context of the United Nations programme budget.


By further terms, the Assembly would note the possibility of creating regional information centre "hubs", especially but not exclusively in areas where linguistic commonalties facilitate regionalization, and stress the need for the Committee to consider a set of proposed guidelines and criteria relating to the advisability of implementing this option.  It would also stress that the creation of any such "hubs" -- subject to the Assembly endorsing these guidelines and criteria -- should take place in a flexible manner, if feasible, on a case-by-case basis and only with the approval of all host countries concerned.


In other action, the Assembly would request the DPI to continue its efforts to strengthen its capacity to contribute significantly to the functioning of information components in United Nations peacekeeping operations, including through the development of a coherent information strategy with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.


The Assembly would also stress the importance of enhancing DPI's public information capacity in the field of peacekeeping operations and its role in the selection process of spokespersons for peacekeeping operations or missions, and encourage the DPI to second spokespersons who have the necessary skills to fulfil the tasks of the operations or missions, and to consider views expressed, especially by host countries in that regard.


Regarding traditional means of communications, the Assembly would stress that radio remains one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the DPI and an important instrument in United Nations activities, such as development and peacekeeping.  It would look forward to the report of the Secretary-General to be submitted to the Committee at its twenty-fifth session on the implementation of the United Nations international radio broadcasting capacity, in order for the Committee to decide on the future of this capacity.


In addition, the Assembly would reiterate that all the DPI publications should fulfil an identifiable need, not duplicate other publications of the United Nations system and be produced in a cost-effective manner.  In that regard, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to include in his comprehensive review the relevant results of the larger review of United Nations publications and information materials called for by the Assembly in its resolution 56/253.


Concerning the United Nations Web site, the Assembly would stress the need to adopt a decision on the multilingual development, maintenance and enrichment of the Web site, considering, among other things, the possibility of organizational restructuring towards separate language units of each of the six official languages within the DPI to achieve full parity among the official languages of the United Nations.


It would reaffirm its request to the Secretary-General to ensure, until such a decision has been taken and implemented, the equitable distribution of financial and human resources within the DPI allocated to the Web site among all official languages on a continuous basis, and to make every possible effort to ensure that all materials contained on the Web site that do not change and do not need regular maintenance are made available in all six official languages.


In addition, the Assembly would reaffirm the need of achieving full parity among the six official languages on the Web site, and, in this regard, take note of the Secretary-General's proposal to translate all English materials and databases on the Web site by the respective content-providing offices of the Secretariat into all official languages.  It would also request the Secretary-General to report to the Committee at its next session on the most practical, efficient and cost-effective means of implementing this proposal.


Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to include in his report to the Committee's next session proposals relating to the designation of a future date by which all supporting arrangements would be in place for the implementation of this concept, and after which parity would continue from that date onwards, as well as to the exemption of specific items from translation on the Web site.


The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to report to the Committee at its next session on the impact on the functioning of the official document system following implementation of the full multilingual support function and on the feasibility of providing free, public access to the official document system through a link with the United Nations Web site, and express its intention to take a decision on the official document system subscription policy during the main part of its fifty-eight session.


Also, the Assembly would take note with interest of the electronic mail-based United Nations News Service distributed worldwide by e-mail by the DPI, express appreciation for the plan by the DPI to provide this service in the other four official languages this year and emphasize that extra care needs to be taken to ensure that news-breaking stories and news alerts are accurate, impartial and free of any bias.


According to the terms of the draft decision on the increase in the membership of the Committee on Information, the Assembly would decide to increase the membership of that body from 98 to 99 and to appoint Saudi Arabia as a member.


Statements


MOHAMMED ARROUCHI (Morocco) said if the Organization was to exist, it must both communicate and receive feedback.  For that reason, he endorsed the proposals of the Secretary-General to modernize the DPI, making it more effective -- at a lower cost.  The DPI’s strategic role in promoting a wide understanding of the purposes of the United Nations needed to be continuously reinforced to ensure broad-based global support for its work, especially at a time when multilateral action was crucial.  “Proliferating mandates” had fragmented the Department’s activities and had resulted in an overall ambiguity surrounding its mission.  Greater efficiency and effectiveness should be the main objective of the review.


Budgetary restraints should not be the main rationale behind the review of United Nations information and communication activities, he said.  Rather, the review should reposition the DPI to make it “an effective vehicle” to communicate the work of the Organization.  The review, moreover, should take into account the special needs of the developing countries, particularly Africa, the continent most affected by poverty, armed conflicts and HIV/AIDS.  Creating synergy between the DPI and other Secretariat departments was a good step towards the promotion of the Organization’s work.  Strategic partnership with intermediaries, such as the media, non-governmental organizations and educational institutions was of crucial importance.


The achievement of the linguistic parity among the six official languages in DPI’s work was indispensable to ensuring a wide understanding of the United Nation’s work among the different linguistic communities, he said.  While reiterating the primary role of the United Nations information centres in delivering the United Nations message, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s flexible approach in the creation of regional "hubs".  He looked forward to constructive debate in that regard.  Nothing justified division among Member States on the policies and practices of the Department in promoting an informed understanding of the work of the United Nations. 


YUSSEF F. KANAAN, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that, in recent months, much of the Islamic world had been the target of fierce criticism, injuries, calamities, as well as misleading propaganda campaigns, especially after the events of 11 September 2001.  Unfortunately, certain media circles, bent on defaming Islam, had seized that occasion to vilify the image of Islam, using those events as a pretext to generate deep-rooted hostility towards Islam and to promote "Islamaphobia".  The challenges facing the Islamic world were as momentous as they were unprecedented, requiring exceptional efforts.

The Islamic world must also meet the challenges flowing from the technological advances in information and communication, especially satellites and cyberspace.


He said the Conference recognized the need to develop and strengthen its information strategies.  Together with its Member States, specialized organs and institutions, it was exerting efforts to eliminate the digital divide.  Activities under way included the Al Azhar Online Project, which would enable global access to the rich Islamic culture and heritage from one of the oldest universities and religious institutions in the world.  Also, among others, was the 20-year,

$200 million project undertaken with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- the Library of Alexandria.  That would hold more than 8 million books and thousands of manuscripts and be a centre of dialogue.  He also highlighted the adoption of a resolution at the Conference's third session in December 2001 to establish the Islamic Satellite Channel.


As the Israeli Government continued its bloody and inhumane military campaign against the Palestinian people and their properties and institutions in the occupied Palestinian territories, the United Nations must shoulder its responsibility concerning the question of Palestine, including in the field of information.  He commended the DPI for implementing its special programme to enhance public awareness on that question.  The convening in New York in September of the International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, under the theme "End Occupation", deserved commendation.  He praised the DPI for undertaking training programmes for Palestinian journalists and staff from the Palestinian Authority.


Under-Secretary-General Closing Statement


SHASHI THAROOR, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said he was gratified that Member States had strongly supported the new direction in which the Secretary-General proposed to take the Department of Public Information and its aim to prioritize its work programme and resource allocation among many mandated activities to better focus the United Nations message.  The Secretary-General and the DPI would not be setting new priorities for the Organization.  The Member States had done that at the Millennium Summit and in recent international conferences.  It was DPI’s job to communicate Member States’ priorities effectively.  It was the Secretary-General's expectation that, with the Committee's guidance, a transformed DPI would work more strategically to achieve that.


Highlighting some of the issues raised during the debate, he said many speakers had expressed the view that the role of the Committee on Information was critical in any reform of the DPI.  One speaker had observed that the definition of United Nations communications strategy rested with the Committee on Information and not necessarily with the Secretary-General.  The Department fully agreed that the broad directives for its work emanated from intergovernmental bodies.  It was the Secretariat's responsibility to organize its work effectively within the broad parameters given to it.  The first phase of the comprehensive review had been presented to the Committee on Information last May and that body would have an opportunity to discuss the substance of the DPI reform at its next session. 


He said the immediate administrative restructuring of the Department at Headquarters was being implemented on 1 November under the authority of the Secretary-General, as it concerned merely the way in which the Department organized itself to fulfil the challenges before it.  That would not have a negative impact on the implementation of DPI mandates; on the contrary, it would facilitate a more effective implementation of those priority tasks.  The Committee on Information would always be the Department's guide and partner as it was repositioned for greater effectiveness.


Many speakers had emphasized the importance of a strengthened evaluation culture in the Department, to be based on programme impact reviews, he noted.  The DPI regularly evaluated each of its activities and products.  The current restructuring of the Department reflected the results of its detailed review and evaluation of its work so far.  Regarding the three-year time frame mentioned in the Secretary-General's reform report, the Secretary-General considered it important to evaluate the overall impact of each of the Department's activities over a sufficient period of time in order to draw further meaningful conclusions about their utility and effectiveness.  He had proposed a three-year period as a reasonable amount of time in which to do that.  That did not mean, however, that the Department would wait for three years to evaluate its work.  Instead, evaluation would be an ongoing process and a training programme in the DPI to prepare managers to conduct such evaluations as part of their regular work had already been instituted.


Throughout the debate, he said many speakers had pointed to the vast opportunities opened up by the ICT revolution, unanimously praising the Department's use of new communications technologies to provide immediate access to United Nations news.  Others had underscored the importance of the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society to be held in two phases, in Geneva and Tunis.  He said he was making arrangements, together with the representatives of the television industry and the Swiss Government, to organize a World Electronic Media Forum, as a side event to the first part of the Summit in December 2003 in Geneva.


Regarding the importance of maintaining traditional means of communications in DPI's outreach programmes, he said the fact was that while proud of the vast audience the Department had created for the United Nations Web site, the DPI actually reached more people every day with outputs in traditional media of radio and television.  Tens of millions of listeners heard the voices of the United Nations and news of major United Nations operations in every area of human endeavour through the live daily news bulletins produced by United Nations Radio every day. 


He said the Department had established partnerships with over 160 major broadcasters around the world, including the Voice of Nigeria, the Voice of Egypt, South African Broadcasting Corporation, Africa Numero Uno, National Radio of Argentina, China National Radio and the Voice of Russia.  Daily broadcasts were in the six official languages and Portuguese.  Scores of other radio stations in Latin America, Africa and the Arab world used the Department's daily news bulletins via other networks.  He noted without surprise, therefore, that many speakers had called for the pilot radio project to be placed on a sound financial footing in the 2004-2005 biennium.

The United Nations News Centre and the News Service were directed primarily to developing countries media needs for access to United Nations information, he said.  Information was organized by theme and by region for easy access.  The News Service’s e-mail version had subscribers from 109 countries, 84 of which were developing countries or countries in transition.   Member States must not fear that that service was reaching only the developed world; in fact, the opposite was true.


Television footage of the General Assembly and Security Council meetings were produced and disseminated by UN TV, he said.  The Department was also establishing formal distribution partnerships with TV networks which carried "United Nations in Action" features and the half hour "Meet the Press" type of interview programme known as "The World Chronicle".  The major international broadcasters included China Central TV and the Hong-Kong based Phoenix TV,

La Chaîne Publique of France and Radio and TV Spain.  A new media partnership page on the United Nations Web site (www.un.org/av/mediapartnerships.htm) provided more details.  Several speakers, he said, had pointed to the importance of DPI press releases, asking that they be maintained.  At present, there was no intention to do otherwise.


      He said a number of delegations had raised the issue of multilingualism, in particular language parity on the United Nations Web site.  Several had pointed to progress in that regard, while at the same time signalling that more needed to be done.  The Department would continue to see that as one of its highest priorities and would ensure that multilingualism continued to be an important element in all facets of its work, within the resource constraints that Member States had placed upon it.


Multilingualism on the Web site had been enhanced last year, especially in Spanish, thanks to the Government of Spain, which provided the services of an associate expert.  Creative initiatives had been implemented, such as an agreement with a university in Spain to provide translation of material for the Web site at no cost to the Organization.  So far, nearly 1,000 pages of translated material had been received and made available on the Web site.  The term of the associate expert had just ended, however, leaving the Spanish Web site without that valuable supplementary assistance.  A similar agreement was being negotiated with a university in Egypt.  The Secretary-General, in his report A/57/355, had outlined proposals for strengthening the Department's capacity to enhance the Web site in all official languages.  Any government wishing to see more material in a specific official language on the Web site should encourage national universities to conclude similar arrangements to provide pro bono translations to the United Nations.


He said the DPI had never before sought any resources for its Web site operations.  The Web site was one of DPI's and the United Nations great success stories.  The DPI built it entirely by redeploying 17 existing posts

(11 Professional and 6 General Service).  Also, the widely acclaimed United Nations News Centre and the e-mail-based News Service, both in English and French, would soon be available in all official languages.  Those activities had been realized by redeploying 13 existing posts (9 Professional and 4 General Service).  A Director-level post and two other posts have also been redeployed to create a new Internet Service, which would significantly enhance the effectiveness of the Department's Web-based operations and build greater synergies with production and information-disseminating units of the Department and the Secretariat. 


In all, 33 posts had been redeployed from activities that were being   performed, but which were considered by the Department to be of lower priority, he said.  The Department had exhausted the potential pool for redeployment for now.  Therefore, the Department's request for additional resources was only made after careful review of whether additional posts could be redeployed from existing functions.  If resources were not forthcoming, it would be difficult to bridge the gap.


Regarding the United Nations Chronicle, he said that publication was deliberately pursuing an editorial policy of academic debate and discussion, rather than reporting on United Nations activities and events, which was being done elsewhere at greater speed.  As part of the restructuring, the Chronicle had been integrated into a new Educational Outreach Section to further that mission and give it still greater coherence.  The option of closing the Chronicle had been considered, but it had an audience in the academic community that put the publication to good use.  The investment in the parent edition of the Chronicle remained modest; it was printed internally and its eminent writers contributed articles without remuneration. 


However, in view of the specific direction and mandate by the General Assembly, additional resources had been necessary to produce the magazine in all official languages of the Organization, he said.  That too, had been kept to a minimum, thanks to innovative co-publishing arrangements in the respective languages.  The Chronicle had maintained its relevance with an online edition, which received a Web award for excellence.  The publication’s staff were an important part of the Department’s and the Organization’s overall Internet strategy.


He said the United Nations information centres -- the local voice of the Organization -- were clearly of paramount concern to delegations, particularly as a result of the Secretary-General's proposal in his reform report to create regional information offices, beginning with a hub in western Europe.  It was the Department's intention to undertake the process on a case-by-case basis, in close cooperation with the host countries concerned.  It was the Department’s intention to proceed in that way, provided the General Assembly approved the Secretary-General’s proposal.


Regarding the need for information centres to provide local language versions of DPI materials, he said the core mandate of the information centres was to provide the peoples of the world with information about the United Nations work and to adapt it to the needs of local audiences, giving a local voice to global United Nations messages.  The production of local language materials had remained a priority for the information centres, both in printed form and on the Web, and was limited only by resource constraints.  Forty-eight information centres currently maintained their own Web sites, in the six official languages, as well as in 26 local languages and the production of printed materials in the local languages remained extensive.  The Department was exploring new ways to augment its capacity to do that in collaboration with other organizations.


Regarding the level of resources to be freed in the regionalization process of information centres in developed countries, he said that in reference to western Europe, the creation of a regional hub in lieu of the 9 existing information centres, not including Geneva and Vienna, would free some $3.9 million during the biennium.


Several speakers had pointed to the important role of information in United Nations peacekeeping operations and the need for strengthening DPI's collaboration with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Great progress had been made in that area.  The DPI would soon strengthen its staff with the assignment of an information specialist who had served in three United Nations peacekeeping missions in the field.  The designation of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers would provide a "peg" for information efforts.


The Department had been working on increased cooperation with external commercial entities, he said.  On the issue of strengthened partnerships with United Nations system colleagues, he said that was being done principally, but not exclusively, through the United Nations Communications Group.  Regarding the training programme for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries, in particular for training of journalists from Africa, he said a total of 34 African journalists had participated in two separate programmes at Headquarters in

New York over the past four years.  He hoped to maintain a comparable level of attention to African journalists in the future.


On the special information programme on the Question of Palestine, he said the annual Training Programme for Palestinian Media Practitioners had had to be postponed due to difficulties in obtaining United States entry visas on time.  The DPI had raised the matter with the host country and was pursuing efforts to hold the programme early next year.  The Department was also actively planning for next year's media encounter on peace in the Middle East.


Several speakers had referred to the danger of “hate speech”, including "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism, he said.  The Department was devoting great attention to promoting the Charter principles of coexistence and tolerance -- and Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration -- and would continue implementing the very successful United Nations programmes relating to the Dialogue among Civilizations.  


The Department, indeed the United Nations, shared in the condemnation of the use of violence to silence journalists, or other obstruction of their work.  The Department joined in mourning for those who had lost their lives.  The Secretary-General had reiterated, regarding the death of journalist Daniel Pearl, his long-standing commitment to the right of journalists to carry out their vital work without fear for their security or life.  When that right was threatened, all were placed at risk.


Regarding the proposals to integrate United Nations library services and to modernize those services, several delegates had requested a full examination in that regard.  The Department would proceed with that in mind.  The Department would also continue to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization and would take measures through all media available to publicize the United Nations work in the field of decolonization.


He had also noted Switzerland’s desire to become a member of the Committee on Information.  With the Committee’s approval, Switzerland would become the

100th member of the Committee on Information.  He said he would welcome that occasion wholeheartedly.


It had been a rich and interesting debate, befitting the crucial time in the life of the Department, he said.  It was clear that Member States had agreed that creating a culture of communication was essential to building awareness and

support for the United Nations.  Each speaker’s valuable observations would guide the Department in the months to come. 


Action on Text


Then, acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolution A on information in the service of humanity, draft B on United Nations public information policies and activities, as well as the draft decision on increasing the membership of the Committee on Information (document A/57/21).


Following action on the texts, DOMINGO BLANCO (Venezuela) said he had agreed fully with the point expressed in many forums that the strengthening of the United Nations system was not an event, but a process.  That was not a new idea, but one that was being deepened.  He suggested that the Committee consider holding an interactive dialogue with the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General, in connection with the application of measures to be taken within his competence to implement the steps proposed in his report.  Perhaps such an idea could be put into practice at the Committee's next session.  In essence, the interactive dialogue would be similar to the one used to examine peacekeeping operations in all its aspects.


Committee Chairman GRAHAM MAITLAND (South Africa) said he appreciated that proposal, adding that action on it might be taken at a later time.


Rights of Reply


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Cuba, referring to the statement made yesterday by the United States representative, said that representative had stated that the Cuban delegation, in its statement, had introduced a subject that fell outside the agenda.  Item 79, which was under discussion, concerned questions relating to information.  Those were the same terms the United States representative had used to describe the Cuban social system -- that it fell outside the confines of the debate.


He said that his country’s statement had been intended to denounce the flagrant violations of international norms in radio broadcasting committed daily against Cuba in the name of freedom of information.  Radio broadcasting aggression was totally unilateral in character.  He could understand the United States' indignation when it was reminded of the ineffectiveness of those attempts, apart from their illegality and immorality.  The Cuban people were educated and cultured enough to know perfectly well where and how to look for, analyse and absorb balanced and truthful information without outside guidance.


The United States representative had also mentioned the existence of the

so-called “Varela project”, which had supposedly been signed by some 11,000 Cubans, he said.  Unfortunately, he had forgotten to mention that its authors sat in the very place from which he received his instructions to read the statement he made yesterday.  Around that time, 8.2 million Cubans decided, independently, to ratify Cuba's constitution, he said.


He said that the United States representative also forgot to say that Cubans learned of that project while they were following the masterly lecture delivered at the University of Havana by former United States President Jimmy Carter.  That speech, however, had not been transmitted live by so-called Radio Marti.  The United States representative should ask his Government why that kind of censorship was imposed on a governmental radio broadcasting station concerning a statement made in Cuba by a former United States President, who shortly thereafter, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

* *** *