|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Information
2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)
Public information department commended for clear, focused strategy
In delivering UN Message, as Information committee continues debate
As the Committee on Information continued its general debate today, Member States commended the United Nations Department of Public Information for successfully delivering a coherent message about the Organization and its work, saying its strategy in recent years had been clear and focused.
Among those welcoming the Department’s “more strategic approach in the execution of its mandate” was Jamaica’s delegate, who noted an increased coordination with other United Nations departments. The United Nations Communications Group, the Organization’s global communications platform, had also been successful in delivering a coherent message at the local level, managing to relay a sense of the Organization’s unique and multifaceted character. The Department had also successfully turned the global spotlight on United Nations peacekeeping work, which was an important area in the Organization’s operations.
He said that feedback from educators and students indicated that outreach efforts also seemed to be bearing fruit, and the Department’s efforts to tackle important issues -- such as partnerships for Africa’s development, migration and the question of Palestine -- were commendable as well. He suggested that United Nations information centres forge partnerships with civic groups in host countries as a way to highlight the Organization’s relevance to everyday people.
Several speakers today said that the Department’s extensive network of information centres -- popular with many countries for being able to disseminate information in local languages -- should be used to ensure that future messages were well balanced and even richer in detail.
Japan’s representative noted that the centres were ideally situated to relay messages from Headquarters to other parts of the world. He hoped that the Department would continue to integrate those centres in its communications strategies. The Information Centre in Tokyo was the only United Nations organization that provided information in Japanese, and the Government had extended 45.7 million yen in voluntary contributions to that Centre in 2007.
The representative from the Republic of Korea added that the centres were most useful to those communities where information technology was not readily available, or where one of the six official United Nations languages was not widely spoken. He hoped the Department would rationalize the way information centres worked in such a way that it enhanced the Organization’s outreach to Member States currently outside of the Department’s scope.
Angola’s representative urged the Department to press for the opening of the Luanda Centre in Angola despite the challenges it faced with tightly constrained resources. It would serve the special needs of five Portuguese-speaking African countries, which could not rely on the United Nations regional centre in Brussels. Indeed, the communities there seriously lagged behind in terms of access to information. He reiterated the “rent free” offer of the Angolan Government for the premises and stressed that the decision to open the Centre should not be dependent on the process of “rationalization or regionalization of the information centres”.
The United States delegate, on the other hand, voiced support for the Department’s efforts to rationalize United Nations information centres and hoped that the Under-Secretary-General would link the information centres regionalization process with a system-wide evaluation of all United Nations offices worldwide. He said his country would like to see the United Nations continue efforts to house all United Nations system country offices under one roof, and with one central public information unit. He also invited the new Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, to take a “hard look” at the Committee’s work, to see if it added any value to the Department.
Looking forward to continued cooperation between the Public Information Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the speaker from the Philippines said that would raise public awareness about the new realities of peacekeeping, especially the surge in demand for “Blue Helmets”. He noted the emphasis on information dissemination and the greater role to be played by the Public Information Department as part of the Secretary-General’s plan to restructure the Peacekeeping Department. He, thus, welcomed efforts by both departments to implement a comprehensive communications strategy on current challenges facing United Nations peacekeeping, including the creation of a joint public information working group. That was the right response to the pressing need to highlight the achievements and challenges of United Nations peacekeeping.
Also during today’s debate, some Member States called for more fair, balanced and unbiased information from the United Nations to counter what they felt was distorted information from certain countries. As Cuba’s delegate said, and as echoed by Iran’s delegate, information being disseminated from the developed world was often misleading, false, distorted and demonstrated an ignorance of events taking place in developing countries. For that reason, it was important to create a “new world order of information”.
Also speaking were the representatives of Croatia, Belarus, Argentina, Tunisia, Indonesia, Sudan, Nepal, Russian Federation, Switzerland and Yemen.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 2 May, to conclude its general debate.
The Committee on Information met today to continue its general debate. For background, see Press Release PI/1768 issued on 27 April.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ (Cuba), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said 852 million people in the world suffered from hunger and 2 billion people lived without access to electricity. More than 2 billion people had never used a telephone and the word “Internet”, for them, had no meaning. Furthermore, information being disseminated from the developed world was often misleading, false, distorted and demonstrated an ignorance of events taking place in developing countries. For that reason, it was important to create a “new world order of information”.
He said the developing world should be given special treatment in the United Nations information system, and that system should play a more effective role in disseminating balanced information. Radio should continue to be promoted as a means for contributing information to vast illiterate populations that existed in the South. For instance, Cuba ran a literacy programme, “Yes I Can”, in 15 countries that used audio-visual aids and new technologies to broaden the scope of teaching materials, including through radio. As Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, he informed the Committee of a New York working group on information formed by the Movement in April 2006 and chaired by Malaysia.
He said Cuba was “obliged” to denounce the radio and television aggression that was being waged against his country by the United States, which infringed on international law and the rules and procedure of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The Deputy Director of ITU’s radio-communications office, accompanied by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the ITU, had visited Cuba last February. He had been able to confirm Cuba’s allegations, and the issue would be addressed at the World Conference on Radio Communications next year. In August 2006, the United States Government’s Office of Cuba Broadcasters began using an aircraft for television broadcasts, which had a budget of $10 million. Last December, the same organization leased airspace for 6 months in Miami to broadcast Radio and TV Marti, even though United States law prohibited broadcasting within the United States of programmes intended for overseas audiences. Cuba reiterated its condemnation of those, and similar, aggressions.
MLADEN CVRLJE, Minister Counsellor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatia, aligning himself with the statement by the European Union, commended the Department of Public Information for projecting a positive image of the Organization. He also wanted to draw attention to the ways in which the Department could tell the United Nations story in a compelling way.
For example, he said, an important function of the Department was to help the world understand the United Nations’ role through the UN News Centre, by inserting, occasionally, personal stories about individuals in need, who “live too deeply below the surface of States and nations to be easily seen or heard”. During the Security Council mission to Africa in 2003 the News Centre reported just such a story, with a personal account of Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock’s visit to Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. As he entered the city, the children ran out from the trashed out buildings crying out in French for help; as he left, they stood standing silently by the side of the road wondering why the mission was leaving before having restored their lives to normalcy. That kind of story added an extra dimension in trying to explain the work of the United Nations.
Continuing, he said systematic impact reviews were important instruments for gauging whether United Nations information had met the demands of its users and noted that the radio remained the primary source for information in many developing countries, including Croatia. Every year the Committee observes World Press Freedom Day, paying tribute to the many journalists around the world who risked their lives to assert press freedom. In Croatia, too, a special tribute is paid in memory of journalists who fell victim during the war. One of them, in fact, had been an editor for Croatian Radio Vukovar and he was captured and executed on the same day the city fell. Back in 1991, for the Croatian people, who lived in shelters and basements for months to avoid the shelling, the radio was the only source of information. The use of the radio provided new strength in the fight for freedom and contributed greatly to achieving Croatian independence.
United Nations peacekeeping operations were one of the most efficient tools in preserving international peace, and Croatia was a participant in 11 of the 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations, he said. Success of any operation depended on trained troops for the political process, and Croatia had proposed devising a communications strategy to highlight success stories of peacekeepers. Media also played a key role in disaster risk reduction, education and raising awareness, particularly in countries dealing with natural hazards.
He said information and communications technology was increasingly being used in Croatia, particularly in the teaching of tolerance, citing his country’s emphasis on condemning the Holocaust. Information users were also reminded that the Islamic community in Croatia was represented in the Government. Further, Croatia, because of its location, provided added value in bilateral and multilateral contacts, stemming from its participation in global initiatives such as the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission, he noted. Finally, he could not accept the fact that some countries had been precluded from the benefits of global information, and he pushed for preserving the Department’s people-centred approach.
JIRO KODERA ( Japan) said the Secretary-General’s reports provided extensive information on the Department’s work over the past year, and Japan supported the use of United Nations information centres and the use of new technology to enhance the Department’s work. He also voiced support for the United Nations website. He hoped the Department would continue those efforts to further integrate its strategies with other United Nations bodies.
He said that the United Nations information centres could play an important role in relaying messages from Headquarters and raising awareness around the world of the Organization’s work. He hoped that the Department would continue to integrate the information centres in its communications strategies and that the necessary coordination could be achieved. The Centre in Tokyo had played an invaluable role as the Department’s relay station in Japan. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Japan’s membership in the United Nations last year, the Centre had partnered with other United Nations agencies to hold various events, mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report. It also created a web page about the day, on which video messages by United Nations workers and others had been posted. The Centre in Tokyo was the only United Nations organization that provided information in Japanese, and Japan gave 45.7 million yen in voluntary contributions to UNIC Tokyo in 2007.
He thanked the Department for its help in organizing a classical music concert by Asian Artists and Concerts, a non-profit organization aimed at young musicians, at the General Assembly hall in May 2006, to commemorate Japan’s fiftieth anniversary as a United Nations Member. A commemoration ceremony had also been held in Tokyo, which had been attended by the Emperor and Empress. He also thanked the Department for helping with the “Faces of Angkor” exhibit at the United Nations lobby in June 2006, which had been presented in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Cambodia.
ANDREI POPOV ( Belarus) said he hoped that the broad coverage of the United Nations news service would continue. He supported the statement made yesterday on behalf of the Group of 77 and China underscoring support for broad coverage of the positions of Member States on key issues on the Organization’s agenda. The Department of Public Information should give greater attention to quality information coverage of the work of the main organs, namely the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Belarus supported the Department’s efforts to improve Russian language activities, as broad segments of the population in his country were showing interest in the work of the United Nations.
Noting that it had been more than 20 years since the Chernobyl disaster, from which Belarus had suffered the most from radioactive fallout, he said that the focus of efforts had turned to socio-economic recovery. As before, Belarus required international support, including for carrying out the necessary projects. His country was hoping for support not only for the Chernobyl section of the United Nations website, but for expanded attention in the mass media, under United Nations auspices, towards the aim of overcoming the consequences of that disaster.
He said that the Organization’s information services should reflect the trend to combat international trafficking in human beings. There should be a more powerful flow of objective information on the experience of States in resolving problems of trafficking, and the Department should consider enhancing the quality of its information in that regard. Belarus was carefully following the work of the United Nations office in Minsk and hoped that it would continue to promote news coverage in a way that emphasized the constructive nature of the Organization’s work in his country. The United Nations was gaining prominence in Belarus. He sought support for the significant information initiatives proposed by Member States, as only a balanced approach to information could help support the positive image of the United Nations and ensure that the Organization dealt with “real life issues” in the field, aimed at resolving Member States’ socio-economic problems.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the more strategic approach being taken by the Department in executing its mandate, as well as its increased coordination with other areas in the United Nations. Its efforts to improve outreach had also begun bearing fruit, judging by feedback from educators and students. Jamaica noted the Department’s efforts to engage the public on issues relating to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the question of Palestine. It had also successfully turned the global spotlight on United Nations peacekeeping work, which was an important area in the Organization’s operations. It was to be commended for the role it played in commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
He said the increased number of visitors to the website, with an average of 1 million a day in 2006, was heartening. Jamaica supported the Department’s efforts to attain parity in all official languages, and was pleased with the recruitment drive to boost the current staff complement. Since traditional media, such as radio, remained an “essential” medium of communication in developing countries, United Nations radio should place emphasis on increasing its audience and increasing interactivity, including in the Caribbean and Africa. He supported the Department’s efforts to continue to produce programmes in non-official languages, since a vast portion of the globe did not speak any of the six official languages.
He said Jamaica realized the “need for adjustment to the modus operandi” of the information centre network, but believed it should not pose limitations on those with little access to sophisticated forms of information technology. His country also noted the United Nations Communications Group’s success in conveying a coherent message at the local level. That message had been that the United Nations was a unique, multifaceted organization; the centres should forge partnerships with civic groups in host countries to help highlight the Organization’s relevance to the common man. A number of host Governments had made generous extrabudgetary contributions to reduce the maintenance costs for premises of the centres in their countries. Those included Trinidad and Tobago, whose Information Centre in the Port of Spain serviced the 10 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) States. It was important that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Kingston, Jamaica, complement the work being undertaken by the Centre in Port of Spain.
HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) said it was indispensable that the voice of the United Nations be heard in a clear and effective manner. The Organization’s aims and activities should be brought to the attention of all peoples across the globe. The Department of Public Information was “the voice of the United Nations”. To strengthen international support for the Organization’s activities, the Department should provide all people with accurate, comprehensive, timely and relevant information on the tasks and responsibilities of the United Nations in an impartial and transparent manner. At the same time, the Department should maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries. He appreciated the Department’s past activities, especially in promoting issues of importance to the international community in such areas as: sustainable development; decolonization; dialogue among civilizations and a culture of peace and tolerance; the rights of women and children; and HIV/AIDS. He encouraged the Department to vigorously continue working in those areas.
He said that the Department should also continue to contribute to bridging the gap between the developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications. That required a strong and electronically well-equipped department. Among other things, he encouraged it to enhance its technological infrastructure. Multilingualism was an important factor in the outreach activities; however, it was necessary to take fully into account the audiences and their real needs in a cost-efficient manner. He also emphasized the crucial role of the Information Committee, especially in promoting the establishment of a new, more just and more effective world information and communication order. Such a goal could only be attained through free circulation and wider and better balanced dissemination of information. That was particularly important at a time when the monopolized world of the media was obviously hampering common efforts to have access to real and unbiased news and information.
The international community, led by the United Nations, should take the necessary steps to rectify the imbalances in the present development of information and communications technology, in order to make the world of media more just, equitable and impartial, he stressed. Indeed, fair, balanced and unbiased information contributed to the maintenance and promotion of world peace and security. The digital gap between the developed and developing world was also increasingly widening. Certain developed countries were taking advantage of that situation and using their monopoly on modern communications to distort and fabricate the events and realities in developing countries, thus tarnishing the image of those countries. The case-in-point was the current extensive campaign by western media against certain developing countries that fell outside the realm of their political and cultural influence. The international community should spare no effort in finding a way to put an end to that detrimental and undesirable situation in the world of global media and communications technology.
DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, remarked that a number of countries often spoke of the Department’s “regionalization” strategy, which had brought about the formation, in 2002, of the network of United Nations information centres. The same group of countries often talked of the Regional Centre in Brussels as a good model to follow, and had encouraged others to adopt that model. The subsequent flow of human and material resources to various regional hubs was then talked of as an important component in furthering the Department’s mandate. In reality, such “regionalization” was simply a way for those countries to avoid repeating the experience of some developed countries, who regretted the shutdown of their own information centres.
Furthermore, he said that, during the general debate, there had been talk of extending the Department’s “evaluation culture” to cover the information centres. He pointed out that such an evaluation was already taking place. However, in evaluating the different centres, it was important not to take a one-size-fits-all approach. In particular, an English-language centre could not be measured against one that must translate material from English to another language. Finally, the use of the word “client” in the recent report on activities of the Department referred to the offices of the United Nations system, and not members of the public. In fact, the Department was an intermediary between United Nations and the public, and served them both.
He said his Government was satisfied with the Information Centre in Argentina -- also serving neighbouring Uruguay -- which had been in operation since 1948. It acted as the voice of the Department, in Spanish, and helped in mobilizing support for local and regional United Nations offices. He congratulated United Nations Radio’s Spanish team for making Spanish-language broadcasts possible, and commended their role in helping expand the role of Spanish United Nations television and radio services.
MOUNA MCHÁREK HADIJI (Tunisia), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, paid tribute to the Department of Public Information for promoting the Organization’s priority activities and for informing the world about its work. Undoubtedly, the Department’s mission was extremely complex and ever evolving. Her delegation was pleased with the Department’s constant evaluation of its methods of work, its activities and products. In that context, she encouraged it to pursue efforts to produce material in all six official languages of the United Nations on an equal footing, particularly on the website.
She said it was also up to the Department to inform the international community on the World Summit on the Information Society and its results, particularly the Tunis Agenda. Beyond the fact that the Summit had been a key event of the United Nations, it had laid the foundation for a new global communications and information order and paved the way for narrowing the digital divide. She invited the Department to contribute actively to the annual 17 May celebration of the World Information Society Day. She commended the role of the information centres, particularly in developing countries. Those should be strengthened, and any attempt to rationalize them should be done on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the host countries.
LEE DO-HOON ( Republic of Korea) said his country attached great importance to the Department’s work, adding that the United Nations could realize its policy goals more effectively by gaining the support of the global public. The Department should make every effort to provide relevant information to an ever wider and more diverse audience. In that regard, the Republic of Korea supported recent efforts to better structure Department operations, and was encouraged by positive steps such as defining goals and target audiences, making use of new information and communications technologies and evaluating its activities and productions.
He said the Department’s work in the field of peacekeeping was particularly important. With the increased role of United Nations peacekeeping operations, it was imperative for the Department to establish an effective communications and public information system to cope with unexpected communications crises, and to gain public support for United Nations activities within the region in question, as well as the wider world.
Turning to the information centres, he said they were a “highly useful tool” for delivering regionally relevant messages and maximizing the impact of public information. The centres were most useful to those communities where information technology was not readily available, or where one of the six official United Nations languages was not widely spoken. Hopefully, the rationalization of the information centres would be implemented in a way that it enhanced the Organization’s outreach to Member States currently outside of the Department’s scope. The United Nations website, meanwhile, was a highly successful medium for delivering United Nations public information. Efforts to foster parity among the six official languages were noted, but, given limited resources, the most practical approach to website enhancement was to focus on the most widely used languages, while setting guidelines to ensure access for the disabled.
TRIYOGO JATMIKO ( Indonesia) said he was pleased that the strategy of better defined communication goals, identification of target audiences, the use of various actors and “re-disseminators”, and the assessments of the impact of approaches and activities was paying off. Coordination had improved throughout the system, particularly through the United Nations Communications Group. Although it was established only five years ago, the Group’s impact was being felt throughout the Organization. With some 41 offices throughout the United Nations and the use of such important tools as regular brainstorming meetings at all levels, the Group was effectively coordinating and guiding the information agenda. That was as it should be, and he was proud of the strides that had been made.
He said that, as a troop-contributing country, Indonesia recognized the importance of information dissemination in United Nations peacekeeping. That was why he was pleased at the current growing cooperation between the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Particularly welcome had been the daily meeting of the joint public information working group, which had been started last year. He fully believed that such initiatives would enhance the image of the United Nations in the eyes of the world and the quality of peacekeeping missions. Undoubtedly, the increasing use of the latest information and communications technology was why some of the communication strategies were so successful. He commended the Department for extending the use of that technology as expansively as possible. Not only had it brought the Organization’s work closer to the people of the world, but it had also brought United Nations offices and programmes closer to each other.
In that connection, he expressed satisfaction at the increasing use and influence of the United Nations information centres and their deeper involvement with the local media. They were a critical link in the work of the United Nations and would continue to have Indonesia’s support. He hoped the latest and most effective technology would always be made available to the centres. He was also pleased that Bahasa Indonesia was to be one of the 29 non-official languages in which the local United Nations information centre maintained a website. He commended the Department for its continuing efforts to communicate the activities and concerns of the Organization to the world community in an accurate, balanced and objective manner. In today’s heavily interconnected world, the Department’s ability, in that regard, as well as its continuing “re-invention of itself” to ensure that it fulfilled its mandate to strategically communicate the work and purposes of the United Nations, was highly commendable.
ALI ELSADIG ALI ( Sudan), in alignment with the Group of 77 and China, said he welcomed the accomplishments achieved by the Department in last few years, and commended it for its efforts. The United Nations information centres, both regional hubs and country offices, played important roles in dissemination of United Nations public information, and the Department’s evaluation of those centres were also welcome. However, he stressed that decisions to shut down individual centres should only take place once the countries involved had been consulted.
He voiced support for the Department’s efforts to upgrade the technology it used to disseminate information and other services, and its general willingness to keep up with the latest technological advancements. But, it was important to ensure that the message also reached those without access to those new forms of technology, particularly those in Africa and other developing countries. Also, only 15 journalists benefit from training grants, which was a low number, in light of the great need for training in the developing world. Hopefully, the Department could work to increase the number of recipients.
He said the Sudan had recently signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and looked forward to hearing messages that were supportive of peace and the political settlement process, as well as messages that encouraged dialogue and supported the peace agreement. Also, freedom of the press was an important right, and the Department must do all it could to support that principle. The international day for press freedom, on 3 May, had as its theme “guaranteeing security for journalists”. As such, the Sudan called for the release of one Sudanese national, a photographer for Al Jazeera, who had already served five years at Guantanamo. In addition, the Department should continue to increase parity among the six official languages, while not forgetting the importance of disseminating information in local languages, especially African languages.
NARAYAN DEV PANT ( Nepal) said that the Department of Public Information had done a commendable job through its outreach programmes, particularly its efforts to reach the target audiences by using both traditional means of communication and new information and communications technology, such as the Internet and the United Nations website. The recent strategic approach adopted by the Department had achieved a good level of public impact on issues that mattered most to the global community. In that context, he appreciated the work of the Communications Group, which was a platform for promoting the common agenda of the United Nations system. The Department’s work on several crucial issues, from United Nations reform to training of journalists to peacekeeping operations, had undoubtedly generated enthusiasm and momentum on a global scale.
He said that his country, as one of the largest troop contributors to United Nations peacekeeping, very much appreciated the Department’s efforts to highlight peacekeeping matters. The Department should intensify its coordination with the Peacekeeping Department, so that it could present related issues to the peoples of the world in their proper perspectives. Notwithstanding the various measures taken by the Department, the developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, were constrained by their acute lack of information and communications technology. Although it was a positive indication that more than 1.1 million pages of the United Nations website were viewed daily, only a fraction of any rural population had access to such modern means of communication. The Department had striven to disseminate information to a wide constituency through its television and radio programmes, which were quite popular in the rural areas in developing countries. Radio constituted the most popular means of information in developing nations, and, thus, it was imperative that audio programmes in the local languages be given due priority.
He said that the addition of new pages aimed at achieving parity among the official languages had been welcome. The principle of parity should also extend to radio and television programmes aimed at the rural populations in the developing countries; that would help narrow the digital divide. The information centres were key to the Department’s work, giving its global work a “local accent”. He supported the communication strategies that underscored the centres’ pivotal role as “implementing agencies” of those strategies. In addition, the centres were the lifelines in the successful functioning of the Communications Group. As such, they needed to be revamped and strengthened as focal points in sensitizing local people about United Nations activities.
As a matter of priority, he said, the centres in developing countries should be bolstered through allocation of increased resources, so as to make them user-friendly and effective in keeping with the priorities of the host countries. Any decisions regarding the centres should be guided by the sole aim of enhancing the image and outreach capacity of the United Nations as a “common man’s centre of hope”. Proper assessment of the specific needs and conditions of each centre, and prior consultation with the host countries, should be conducted before each step was considered by the Department.
LEROY G. POTTS ( United States) welcomed the Under-Secretary-General’s efforts, so far, to meet with Member States to discuss the Department’s role, and encouraged him to take a fresh look at the Department’s activities, so that it focused on core activities, improved coordination, efficiency and integration throughout the United Nations system. The Committee, in turn, must produce a meaningful road map for the Department, and Members, in cooperation with the Committee’s leadership and the Under-Secretary-General should take a “hard look” at the Committee’s work, to see if it added any value to the Department of Public Information.
He expressed hope that the Department would consult with Member States when developing a strategic communication plan for the Organization. Member States were stakeholders in the Department, and a partnership must exist if the Department were to be strengthened. The United States supported the Department’s efforts to rationalize United Nations information centres and hoped that the Under-Secretary-General would link the information centres regionalization process with a system-wide evaluation of all United Nations offices worldwide. Furthermore, the United States would like to see the United Nations continue efforts to house all United Nations system country offices under one roof, and with one central public information unit.
Finally, he noted “with some irony” that some countries with the most oppressive regimes complained the loudest about freedom of speech and of expression. The Committee must not adopt an agenda that undermined the Department’s work or eroded the basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
ELMER G. CATO ( Philippines) stressed the vital role played by the Department of Public Information in promoting a better and peaceful world. He lauded its efforts to promote and strengthen dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace. It should continue to provide the necessary support for the dissemination of information pertaining to those issues, and take due steps to foster such dialogue and promote religious and cultural understanding through the mass media. He looked forward to the Department’s support of ongoing efforts to promote interfaith cooperation, particularly the convening in September of a high-level dialogue on inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace, which his country was spearheading with Pakistan and several other Member States. He was also pleased at how the Department had been promoting other issues of importance to international communication, especially the thematic communications campaigns on international migration and development and the Millennium Development Goals.
Like previous speakers, he emphasized the importance of enhancing the Department’s capacity in the field of peacekeeping operations. He looked forward to its continued cooperation with the Peacekeeping Department in raising public awareness about the new realities of peacekeeping, especially the surge in demand for “Blue Helmets” in response to the growing need for multidimensional and complex operations in conflict areas worldwide. He noted the emphasis on information dissemination and the greater role to be played by the Department as part of the Secretary-General’s plan to restructure the Peacekeeping Department. He, thus, welcomed efforts by both departments to develop and implement a comprehensive communications strategy on current challenges facing United Nations peacekeeping, including the creation of a joint public information working group. That was the right response to the pressing need to highlight the achievements and challenges of United Nations peacekeeping.
He reiterated his call for greater efforts to bridge the digital divide. He would like to see the Department make full use of new technology to allow the public better and faster access to information about the United Nations. He also encouraged the continued use of traditional media to reach out to the peoples of developing countries who had limited or no access to emerging information technology. Appropriate use should also be made of all official United Nations languages in all activities of the Department, with the aim of eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the five other official languages. On that, he expected further improvements in the near future. He also supported the Department’s efforts to bring the United Nations directly to the classrooms and called on it to further strengthen its linkages with academic institutions worldwide.
BORIS N. MALAKHOV ( Russian Federation) said his country appreciated the extensive and systematic delivery of information to the international community on the tasks and goals of the United Nations. The results of past years had been positive. For example, the Department’s leadership had given more attention to the essence of the work of United Nations entities, while touching on “hot and urgent issues”, such as freedom of information, overcoming racism, intolerance and xenophobia. Multilingualism was an important component of the Department’s work and achieving success in the implementation of its various activities, such as the United Nations radio and website. In the future, it should increase the potential of non-English websites not only at the United Nations itself, but also other bodies and organs within its system.
Support for all forms of Russian language information coverage of United Nations activities was welcome, he said. The rising number of page visits to the Russian section of the United Nations website showed an increased interest of Russian-speakers in the Organization’s work, which gave rise to the possibility of instituting webcasts of the Organization’s meetings in Russian. It would not require substantial funding; interpretation would come directly from the interpreters’ booths. At present, the webcasts were broadcast in English, with the original language added later. It did not meet the needs of an audience eager for urgent information.
He noted the fruitful work of the United Nations Radio Russian Language Unit, which started broadcasting in 2006, and the constructive cooperation of the Unit with “Voice of Russia” -- a leading radio station. Also welcomed were the Department’s work in publishing press briefings, and its work with the Office of the Spokesperson. He also supported the Department’s efforts to cover United Nations peacekeeping activities, in coordination with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
As for the various United Nations information centres, he said they must be treated equally in terms of budget allocation and personnel policies. The centres should prepare materials in languages spoken by the local audiences. They should also arrange events with the participation of civic organizations and those who shaped public opinion, while taking care to involve the local media in the communications process. He noted with satisfaction the successful joint event, arranged by the Department with the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry in Moscow, on the annual international seminar for the media on the peaceful settlement in the Middle East, on June 2006.
He said, in December 2006, the Security Council adopted a resolution on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts. Adoption of that document, mandatory in its nature, gave hope that the number of media representatives becoming victimized in the world’s hot spots would not rise even higher. It was also important to denounce attempts to revive neofascism in the world, manifested in some countries’ attempts to raze monuments of Soviet soldiers-liberators. Indeed, as a co-sponsor of a General Assembly resolution calling for a Holocaust Victims Commemoration Day, Russia believed in honouring the sacred memory of the victims of Nazism.
ESTEVÃO UMBA ALBERTO ( Angola) said that Department of Public Information, together with all departments within the Organization, faced the challenge of completing its tasks in an environment of tightly constrained resources. The Department must accomplish its tasks within existing resources, however, or push for the allocation of additional ones. He urged it to press for the opening of the Luanda Centre, which would serve the special needs of five developing countries. For those countries, an effective United Nations information centre had a key role to pay. He reiterated the “rent free” offer for the premises by the Angolan Government, adding that the decision to open the centre should not be dependent on the process of rationalization or regionalization of the information centres. Such a decision should be based solely on the grounds of the special needs of the countries concerned, namely the linguistic, geographical and technological dimension. The centre’s establishment would also renew the commitment for better dissemination of information about the work of the United Nations, particularly in Africa.
Continuing, he said that the five Portuguese-speaking African countries could not rely on the United Nations regional centre in Brussels. The special needs of those five developing countries could more effectively be addressed through a centre in Luanda. The local communities did not have the same new technologies as developed countries; countries like his were still seriously lagging behind in terms of means of access to information. He commended those staff members who worked in United Nations radio, particularly those in the Portuguese Radio Unit, and he encouraged them to do more, particularly in Africa. He also commended the Department for redesigning the website. He welcomed the new Press Release web page. He joined other delegations in congratulating the Department for improving the delivery of services offered by United Nations libraries. Those should be available in other languages, in order to reach all users, especially in developing countries.
SIMON PIDOUX ( Switzerland) said that, following the phase of partial reorientation within the Department, the task now was to respond to the rapid developments in the “media world” to enable the Department to offer its clients the best possible products, while ensuring a wide dissemination of information about the United Nations world. He was very pleased about the continuing efforts to bring about improvements, and he particularly welcomed the creation of the Communications Group. The establishment of focal points at the local level perfectly conformed to the logic of greater coherence in the United Nations system. The redeployment and reinforcement of the resources of information centres close to the major media seemed to be very promising. After Cairo, Mexico and Pretoria, he encouraged the implementation of such measures in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific. Positive, as well as negative, lessons should be learned and measures should be adopted that could bring about improvements, while taking into account specific regional aspects. The centres should base their work on a mission and objective clearly defined by the Department.
He said he was also pleased with the many partnerships established with civil society. The Department, while maintaining its independence, certainly benefited from that type of collaboration. He wondered, however, whether accumulating such partnerships might be more desirable via the creation of a network among the various partners, rather than on a one-to-one basis. Overall efforts to foster improvements also applied to the work of the Committee. In that regard, it might be possible to reduce the number of reports asked of the Secretariat. He welcomed the improvements to the Internet site. The excellent work of the team producing that site was reflected in the quality of the end product. He encouraged the Department to coordinate its work with the information services of the Management Department, in order that they might mutually benefit from their respective skills. Given the importance of the Internet site, he encouraged the Department to continue it efforts to attain linguistic parity. As for investment in new technology, he highlighted the importance of webcasting, as that could enable the United Nations to reach a wider audience in a transparent manner.
ISMAIL MOHAMED YAHYA ALMAABRI ( Yemen) said he had noted the Secretary-General’s reports on the Department’s activities, particularly its efforts to have an impact on people of different intellectual, religious and political persuasions. He commended those successes and achievements, which had contributed to a deeper awareness of United Nations activities, and which were conducted through a better rationalization of the Department’s activities.
He said his country supported the Department’s use of new information technology, as well as its effort to expand partnerships within the United Nations system. Yemen hoped that the United Nations Information Centre in Sana’a would be given the support it needed to continue its role and, in that regard, requested that the Department expedite the recruitment of a director for that Centre. Indeed, the Centre was based in a region that was vital to international interests. Yemen was a country that was transforming politically and economically, which meant that any international effort to augment the Government’s efforts were welcome. A strong information centre would be helpful.
He said it was important for such a country -- which counted itself among the lesser developed in the world -- to promote tolerance and moderation through direct communication with various social sectors, as well as to promote the Millennium Development Goals. For those reasons, the Department should give the country special consideration. He praised the Department for its flexible approach, through which it was able to cope with continuously changing needs.
* *** *For information media • not an official record