17 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/350

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)


MONOPOLY ON MODERN COMMUNICATIONS DISTORTS REALITIES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES,


FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARS, AS IT CONTINUES CONSIDERation OF INFORMATION QUESTIONS


Citing Imbalances in Information Flows, Speakers Urge

Public Information Department to Promote new Global Information Order


Certain developed countries were taking advantage of their ďmonopoly on modern communicationsĒ to distort realities, especially in developing countries, Iranís representative told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon, as it continued its consideration of questions relating to information.


Like many speakers in todayís debate, he focused on imbalances of information and communication technology between developed and developing countries, urging the United Nations Department of Public Information to improve activities of special interest to the latter group of States.† He also urged the Department to play an effective role in promoting the establishment of a new order of global information, based on free circulation and the balanced dissemination of information.† As recent sacrileges by some publications in Europe had fostered resentment among people of different faiths, he encouraged the Department to continue promoting respect for all cultures, religions and civilizations.


Similarly, Pakistanís representative said that, because of the ďvast disparitiesĒ in the flow of information between developing and developed countries, the media of the developing world were overwhelmed by those of the developed world.† As a result, the flow of information had become lopsided.† The biggest casualty in that ďgame of dominanceĒ was the understanding and goodwill between societies, regions and cultures.† Traditional means of communications, such as radio broadcasts, therefore, should be emphasized.


South Africaís representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing countries and China, underlined the importance of the United Nations Information Centres in developing countries in promoting the public image of the Organization and in bringing its message closer to local populations.† Those centres strengthened the flow of information in developing countries and assisted in addressing the disparities they faced in terms of access to information and information technology.


Also on the United Nations Information Centres, the speaker from the Russian Federation said that the further rationalization of the United Nations Information Centres network should be conducted with regard to the opinions of all interested states and regional groups, as it was important to have an equitable approach to the different information centres.† For its part, the Moscow-based information centre worked closely with Russian non-governmental organization s and civil society.


Many speakers welcomed improvements to the United Nations website, including improved access for disabled persons, and encouraged the Department to continue its efforts to achieve language parity among all official United Nations languages in website content.† They applauded the Departmentís efforts to implement a communications strategy aimed at focusing world attention on such key achievements as the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.


On a critical point, however, Azerbaijanís representative, noting that the essential role of the Department as the primary news centre for United Nations information required timely delivery of accurate, objective and unbiased news and information, said that, unfortunately, in several cases, the United Nations news digest and press releases had contained unbalanced and inaccurate information.


The representatives of Colombia, Japan, India, Angola, Syria, the Sudan, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), and Congo also spoke.


The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also made a statement.


Muhammad A. Muhith ( Bangladesh), Rapporteur of the Committee on Information, introduced that bodyís report.


The Committee will meet again Wednesday, 18 October, at 3 p.m. to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on questions relating to information.† Reports before the Committee have been summarized in press release GA/SPD/349 of 16 October.


Introduction of Reports


MUHAMMAD A. MUHITH ( Bangladesh), Rapporteur of the Committee on Information, introduced that bodyís report contained in document A/61/21 and Add.1., including two draft resolutions and one draft decision.


Statements


ILGAR MAMMADOV ( Azerbaijan) said that reliable information was one of the most valued commodities.† The issues relating to information could be an important tool for consolidating liberal principles, such as pluralism, transparency and accountability.† He was pleased to note that the Department of Public Information had moved forward in its reform activities.† The essential role of the Department, as the primary news centre for United Nations information, required timely delivery of accurate, objective and unbiased news and information.† Unfortunately, in several cases, the United Nations news digest and press releases had contained unbalanced and inaccurate information.† In order to avoid such incidents, Department staff should be more careful in choosing the source of information and double-check it before publicizing any information product.


He said that the Department should also improve its activities in the areas of special concern to developing countries and countries in transition.† Such activities would contribute to closing the gap between those countries in the field of public information and communications.† That disparity was particularly vivid in the area of information and communication technologies.† Also vital was for the Information Centres to keep up their role in disseminating information materials to the targeted public, with a view to raising awareness of United Nations activities.† In that regard, language remained an important factor, as it was only through the information presented in the local language that the population could be reached effectively.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA ( Russian Federation) applauded the Departmentís efforts to implement a communications strategy aimed at focusing world attention on the establishment of the Human Rights Council, a key outcome of the 2005 World Summit.† Stressing the importance of cooperation between the media and State in counteracting terrorism, she said it was important to closely follow implementation of Security Council resolution 1624 (2005) in the fight against the advocacy and incitement of terrorism.


She encouraged the Department to continue to systematically implement its communication strategy in close cooperation with, and in support of, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).† On national issues, Moscow had hosted the fourteenth International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, organized by the Department of Public Information and her countryís Ministry for Foreign Affairs.


The further rationalization of the United Nations Information Centres network should be conducted with regard to the opinions of all interested States and regional groups, as it was important to have an equitable approach to the different information centres.† The Moscow Information Centre worked closely with Russian non-governmental organizations and civil society.† It was necessary to uphold the principle of multilingualism of all official United Nations languages and there was a need for the Department of Public Information to follow a non-partisan approach, when preparing news materials in those languages.† On the freedom of speech, she thanked everyone who had expressed sympathy over the recent murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.


CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), associating herself with statements on behalf of the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the revision of the web pages in a way that would guarantee access by persons with disabilities.† The Department had been able to carry out relevant campaigns to spread key messages, for instance, on the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and on the Review Conference on small arms and light weapons trade.† Receiving accurate and timely information on what was happening on the ground was very important for troop-contributing countries.† In that regard, the collaboration between the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was essential.† Timely, balanced, impartial and transparent coverage of the facts and events that occurred within the United Nations system allowed for the recovery and sustainability of international trust and credibility in the Organization.


She said, as for the recently created regional grouping to rationalize information centres for Latin America and the Caribbean, that that decision must continue to be evaluated, as each country had its own characteristics and realities.† Each proposal aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the information centres could only succeed if timely and adequate agreement was reached with the Governments that hosted them.† Her country hosted one of the information centres.† It was a centre that needed strengthening, as it operated in one of the countries with the greatest United Nations presence in Latin America.† It was important that the information in her country and its region was generated within the country itself.† The centres were, and would continue to be, a tool to help the world see, not only the benefits of the United Nations, but also the achievements made by countries in different areas.


MARI MIYOSHI ( Japan) said that, as reform of the United Nations was the most important issues at hand, the Department had taken a number of initiatives.† She hoped that such efforts would be continued for the Departmentís further strengthening.† Thanking the Department for having made it possible for Katsutoshi Kaneda, former Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, to have attended the fifty-ninth Annual Conference of Department of Public Information for non-governmental Organizations in September, she said there he had addressed the importance of human security.† The United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo had been conducting activities to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Japanís membership in the United Nations, and her Government had decided to contribute $320,000 to the Centre for the current year.


She said she hoped that due efforts would be made to publicize the importance of the relations between the United Nations and developed countries, as critical views were frequently expressed in their national assemblies and opinion polls on the financial burden those countries had to carry with regard to the United Nations.


Noting that the report on mandate review had suggested eliminating the duplication of work between the Committee on Information and the Fourth Committee, she said it would be pertinent for Member States to reconsider the way that meetings of the Committee on Information were held and the inter-relationship between that Committee and the Fourth Committee, with a view to eliminate duplication of work and to find more efficient ways to conduct consultations.


RAGHUNATH JHA ( India ) stressed the pivotal role of the Department of Public Information as the conduit for the information flow among the United Nations, Member States, media, civil society and the public.† The Department must intensify efforts to meet the concerns of developing countries in the field of information and communications technology, as the digital divide remained vast.† For developing countries, he encouraged the use of a combination of traditional means of communication and such new technologies as the Internet and web-casting.† In that context, he welcomed United Nations radio website programming in Hindi, Bengali and Urdu.


He said that the role of information centres was crucial in disseminating information about the United Nations, especially in developing countries, and he encouraged the Department to consult closely with centreís host countries.† He applauded the Departmentís efforts to refine its communications strategy in support of peacekeeping operations, as the Department could help create goodwill for peacekeepers.† On United Nations website development, he commended recent improvements to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities, as well as efforts to reach out to target audiences, including non-governmental organizations and research institutions.


GUL NASEEB KHAN (Pakistan), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the role of the Department had assumed a far greater dimension in the present-day world, which was characterized by emerging polarizations and misunderstandings between societies and cultures.† The Departmentís task to strategically communicate the Organizationís activities and concerns was of vital significance to the Member States.† The United Nations Information Centres played the role of miniature United Nations in their respective countries and served to enhance the interest and involvement of countriesí populations in the work and ideals of the United Nations.† Member States attached great importance to the network of United Nations Information Centres.


He said that there were vast disparities in the flow of information between countries and regions, in particular between developing and developed countries.† The media of the developing countries were overwhelmed by those of the developed world.† As a result, the flow of information had become lopsided.† The biggest casualty in that ďgame of dominanceĒ was the understanding and goodwill between societies, regions and cultures.† Traditional means of communications, such as radio broadcasts, therefore, should be emphasized.† He also underlined the importance of the Department in disseminating information about peacekeeping operations and in strengthening dialogue among civilizations.† He urged the Department to finance a greater number of journalists from the developing countries to visit the United Nations.


ESTEV√O UMBA ALBERTO ( Angola) said that the Department of Public Information faced the challenge of completing its tasks in an environment of tightly constrained resources.† It should accomplish its work by using existing resources or pressing for the allocation of more.† In that context, he applauded the Secretary-Generalís report on the need for Luanda to host a United Nations information centre, and urged the††† Department of Public Information to continue efforts for its opening, as the centre would serve the special needs of five developing countries.† He reiterated Angolaís offer for rent-free premises.


He said that the need to develop different media for different audiences was clear.† While Angola commended the Portugal desk of the United Nations regional centre in Brussels, the Portuguese-speaking African countries could not rely solely on such services, as developing-country needs would be addressed more effectively through a centre in Luanda.† On other issues, Angola commended the Department for redesigning the United Nations website and reiterated its call for it to look closely at allocating special passes for the Permanent Missionís press counsellors, in order to enable them to conduct their tasks effectively during the General Assembly.


SABELO SIVUYILE MAQUNGO ( South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commended the Department for its work on various communications campaigns, particularly the thematic campaign on the establishment of the Human Rights Council.† A particular focus on the question of Palestine and the promotion of Africa through highlighting the goals of the New Partnership for Africaís Development (NEPAD), remained necessary.† Cooperation between the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should be strengthened, and the former Department should continue to promote the activities of the newly established Peacebuilding Commission.


Reiterating the importance of the information centres in developing countries in promoting the public image of the Organization and in bringing its message closer to local populations, he said the presence of those centres in developing countries strengthened the flow of information in those countries and assisted in addressing the disparities faced by those countries in terms of access to information and information technology.† He welcomed efforts undertaken to improve news services, especially those relating to the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, as well as progress made in narrowing the gap among different official languages on the website.† He called on the Department to continue its efforts to attain language parity on the website.


He expressed the Groupís support for the Departmentís efforts to draw attention to crucial issues and developments that were often ignored, especially in developing countries, through the ďTen Stories the World Should Hear More AboutĒ.† The Group also attached the utmost importance to the continuation of the use of traditional media in developing countries, and encouraged the Department to continue building partnerships with local, national and regional broadcasters.† The Group was studying the proposals on the new strategic directions of United Nations libraries, in particular, on an expanded role for the Dag Hammarskjold Library in improving knowledge-sharing and internal communications within the Secretariat.


HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran), underscoring the Departmentís importance as the United Nations voice, said its mission should be the impartial provision of accurate, timely and relevant information on United Nations work.† Iran appreciated the Departmentís promotion of important issues, including sustainable development, decolonization and the rights of women and children.† The Committee on Information, whose task it was to review and prioritize public information policies, should form an effective United Nations information policy to assure greater understanding among peoples.


On rectifying imbalances of information and communication technologies, he urged the Department to improve activities of special interest to developing countries, and he encouraged it to enhance its technological infrastructure on a continual basis.† The technology gap was widening, and certain developed countries were taking advantage of their monopoly on modern communications to distort realities, especially in developing countries.† Given that situation, he encouraged the Department to play an effective role in promoting the establishment of a new order of global information, based on free circulation and balanced dissemination of information.† The important role of the information centres in disseminating information could also enhance the Organizationís public image.


Freedom of expression, as an aspect of human rights, contributed to economic and cultural development in all societies.† However, recent sacrileges by some publications in Europe, committed in the name of freedom of expression, had fostered resentment among people of different faiths, he said.† Iran encouraged the Department to continue to promote respect for all cultures, religions and civilizations, as facilitating dialogue among civilizations would foster friendship among nations.


MANAR TALEB (Syria), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation attached great importance to the achievement of a more equitable information system that reflected the culture and values of all peoples of the world.† The United Nations system, in general, and particularly the Department of Public Information, had a great responsibility to clarify the United Nations roles to different parts of the world.† He appreciated the efforts of the Department through its campaigns on issues of importance such as decolonization, dialogue between civilizations, HIV and AIDS and the development of Africa.† Welcoming efforts to strengthen the website by using new browsers, he said that language parity should be pursued more strenuously.


He said the initiatives of the second stage of the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Tunis in November 2005, should be implemented by all in a manner that bridged the digital gap.† He welcomed the Departmentís efforts in organizing the fourteenth International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, and urged it to continue the Information Programme on Palestine, as well as to organize training programmes for Palestinian information professionals.† Emphasizing the important role the Department could play in fostering dialogue among civilizations, he said the dialogue must be based on mutual respect for religious beliefs, in order to prevent crises, such as those caused by the cartoons.† In conclusion, he said that any proposal to rationalize the United Nations information centres must be developed in close consultation with host countries and other countries benefiting from these centresí services.


A. A. R. SWARELDAHAB (The Sudan) said his delegation supported the statement of the Group of 77 and China delivered by the South African representative.† Noting the Departmentís targeted strategy to maximize partnerships at all levels through the use of new technologies, he commended its systematic evaluation of its activities.† In that context, he underscored the Departmentís central position as the United Nations voice in its interactions with all members, particularly in communications on such important issues as sustainable development, disarmament and the dialogue between civilizations, which required a reliable source of information.


He stressed the need to increase the links between the Department and the media, particularly in Africa, to help meet the New Partnership for Africaís Developmentís objectives and the Millennium Development Goals.† He welcomed improvements to the United Nations website, particularly in audio/visual media, which had made access available to a larger number of users.† The widening digital divide, however, was impeding website use, and it was necessary to help developing countries acquire modern technologies and ensure those countriesí adequate training.† Noting the importance of Arabic on the website, he called for equal treatment of all official languages.


At the same time, he drew attention to United Nations activities in such places as Palestine.† Ending colonization was of crucial importance, as that constituted a threat to peace.† He called for the dissemination of information on colonization matters, and on issues such as small arms and light weapons, with particular emphasis on post-conflict countries.† Attacks that targeted the symbols of numerous countries, including the defamation of the Prophet in the form of a cartoon, had created a negative impact on stability.† To avoid that situation in the future, the United Nations, through the Department of Public Information and with the media, must promote dialogue among civilizations, especially through seminars and symposium to support all cultures.


PRADIP NEPAL ( Nepal) said that information and communication were major contributing factors in the enhancement of culture and civilization.† They could play a major role in promoting harmony and tolerance and could contribute to the enhancement of peace and security.† They could act as an effective tool in uplifting the common people from deprivation and marginalization.† The Department of Public Information disseminated information about the Organizationís activities in a timely, accurate, impartial and comprehensive manner.† Despite its efforts, however, there existed an information deficit.† Millions of people in developing countries were out of reach of modern means of communications.† Radio and print media had proved to be the most effective tools there, and, thus, the Department needed to strengthen its radio programming.


He commended the Department for its significant efforts to integrate the network of the United Nations Information Centres into its overall communications strategies and work plan.† As those Centres had become the main sources of information to the public in developing countries, they should receive more support.† The centre in Kathmandu had been instrumental in reaching out to the people of Nepal.† He was deeply concerned with the wide disparity of the flow of information between the developed and developing countries.† In order to address that disparity, developed countries should transfer the appropriate technologies to developing countries.† There was also an urgent need for dissemination of information and training facilities to developing countries, in order to prevent them from becoming the victim of misinformation.


PHILIP SEALY ( Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), aligned himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.† He agreed that the Department of Public Information had a crucial role in disseminating information on important issues, such as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations, among others.† In that context, the Department must overcome the disenchantment with the United Nations in certain parts of the world and continue to build support for the Organization.


He said that the CARICOM welcomed the continued collaboration between the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to refine its global communications strategy, as peacekeeping activities were among the United Nations most visible interventions.† The United Nations Information Centres continued to be a vital arm of the Department of Public Information.† Because his Government had underwritten the rental costs of premises for the information centre in the Port-of-Spain, he asked that the savings generated be applied to the United Nations programme budget, so that the full allocation of financial resources for that centre remained intact.† He also called for an increase in staff, as the centre planned to reintroduce a ďmedia clusterĒ initiative to facilitate access to key experts for journalists among other plans.†


Concerned over the disparity of access to information and communications technologies, he urged the Department of Public Information to continue to play a vital role in raising awareness in developing countries about the Internet.† Continued financial resources should be made available for the United Nations Caribbean radio programme, as radio, television and print media remained the most widespread traditional means of communication in CARICOM countries.


RAPHAEL DIEUDONN… MABOUNDOU ( Congo), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, recognized the efforts of the Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, in promoting the Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission.† He applauded Department of Public Informationís reform efforts, especially its adoption of a ďculture of evaluationĒ.† Indeed, that initiative had enabled it to better assess its effectiveness and to publicize United Nations activities in a way that would have greater resonance.


Although he supported the Departmentís strategic approach to reform, he said it should do more to meet the information technology needs of developing countries, as those countries faced enormous problems in accessing the technology revolution.† He welcomed improvements to the United Nations website, and encouraged the Department to continue its efforts with a view to achieving language parity in website content.


He commended the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for their close collaboration in drawing up a common communications strategy.† Noting the necessity of the information centres in improving the United Nations image, especially in developing countries, he called for more resources to be allocated to them.† Streamlining their network should be carried out in a way that took into account the specific needs of the host countries and regions. †He commended the Departmentís efforts to promote Africa, and reaffirmed support for the universal right to freedom of expression, paying tribute to those who had lost their lives in fulfilling their duties.


YUSSEF F. KANAAN, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, aligning himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, commended the Departmentís communication strategy, through which it successfully drew the worldís attention to such events as the establishment of the Human Right Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.† As the United Nations had a responsibility regarding the question of Palestine until it was resolved, the special information programme on Palestine was particularly important.† It expanded worldwide awareness of the issue and had contributed to development of dialogue and peace.† He also welcomed that Fourteenth International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, held in Moscow.


He paid tribute to the Department for its continued assistance to the training of Palestinian journalists, who could participate in the coverage of United Nations activities, despite Israeli attempts to prevent that.† He condemned Israel for non-compliance with an Assembly resolution regarding the organization of fact-finding missions to the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.


The Department should accord the issue of dialogue between civilizations greater importance as, unfortunately, some western media had insulted Islam, he said.† He, meanwhile, commended the Department for its emphasis on a culture of peace, and in particular, for its recent organization of a seminar on the promotion of peace through cartoons.† Stressing the critical role of Member States in making the Department the public voice of the United Nations, he expressed the hope that Palestine would soon be among those Member States.


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For information media • not an official record