9 May 2008
General Assembly
PI/1834

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

Committee on Information

Thirtieth Session

5th Meeting (PM)


INFORMATION COMMITTEE SAYS ROLE OF DPI ESSENTIAL IN ENSURING CLEAR, EFFECTIVE VOICE


FOR UNITED NATIONS, WORLD’S ‘INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION’ FOR PEACE, JUSTICE


Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka Notes ‘Growing Partnership’ with Committee,

Says Resolution, Fruit of Patient Negotiations, Provides Road Map for Future Work


The Committee on Information today, emphasizing that public information and communications should be placed at the heart of the United Nations strategic management and that a culture of communications and transparency should permeate all levels of the Organization, reaffirmed that the United Nations was the indispensable foundation of a peaceful, just world and emphasized the essential role of the Department of Public Information in ensuring that its voice was heard clearly and effectively.


The Committee adopted a wide-ranging, two-part text as it concluded its annual two-week session.  Draft resolution B, titled “United Nations Public Information Policies and Activities”, would have the General Assembly stress the importance of the Secretariat providing Member States with clear, timely, accurate and comprehensive information upon their request and within the framework of existing mandates and procedures.


The Assembly would reaffirm the central role of the Committee on Information in United Nations public information policies and activities, including the prioritization of those activities, and decide that recommendations relating to the Public Information Department should originate, to the extent possible, in the Committee and be considered by the Committee.


The Department would be asked to maintain its commitment to a culture of evaluation regarding its products and activities, with an aim towards improving their effectiveness, as well as to continue to cooperate and coordinate with Member States and the Office of Internal Oversight Services.


Further, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General exert all efforts to ensure that publications and other information services of the Secretariat, including the United Nations website and News Service, contained comprehensive, objective and equitable information in all official languages about the issues before the Organization and that they maintain editorial independence, impartiality, accuracy and full consistency with Assembly resolutions and decisions.


It would emphasize that the Department should maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and contribute to bridging the existing gap between developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications.


Noting the issuance of daily press releases, the Assembly would request that the Department continue to improve their production process and streamline their format, structure and length, keeping in mind Member States’ views, including their views on expanding them to the other official languages.


The Assembly would emphasize the importance of making appropriate use and equitable treatment of all United Nations official languages in all the Department’s activities, with the aim of eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the five other official languages.  It would also stress the importance of fully implementing its resolution 61/266 of 16 May 2007 in ensuring that the texts of all new public documents in all six official languages and information materials of the Organization be made available daily on the United Nations website and accessible to Member States without delay.


By a related provision, the Assembly would welcome the work done by the network of United Nations Information Centres in favour of the publication of United Nations information materials and the translation of important documents in non-official languages, with a view to reaching the widest spectrum of audiences and extending the United Nations message to all corners of the world, in order to strengthen international support for the Organization.


The Assembly would stress the importance of rationalizing the Information Centre network and would request that the Secretary-General continue to make proposals in that direction.  It would reaffirm that the rationalization process must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all concerned Member States in which existing Information Centres were located, the countries served by those Centres and other interested countries in the region.


It would also stress the importance of taking into account the special needs and requirements of developing countries in the field of information and communications technology, as well as stress that the Public Information Department should continue to review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to the Information Centres in those countries, emphasizing the needs of least developed countries.


In the area of strategic communications, the Assembly would reaffirm the role of those services in devising and disseminating United Nations messages by developing communications strategies in close collaboration with the substantive departments, United Nations funds and programmes and the specialized agencies.


The Assembly would express its appreciation for the work of the Public Information Department in promoting, through its campaigns, issues of importance to the international community, such as the United Nations Millennium Declaration and internationally agreed development goals, United Nations reform, poverty eradication, conflict prevention, sustainable development, disarmament, decolonization, human rights, strategic coordination in humanitarian relief, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, the needs of Africa, combating terrorism, dialogue among civilizations, the culture of peace and tolerance, and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.  It would ask the Department to enhance world public awareness of those and other important global issues.


By a related provision, the Assembly would commend the Department’s role in the commemoration of the first International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and would look forward to its further work in promoting the establishment of a permanent memorial.


The Assembly would request that the Public Information Department continue its efforts to help peacekeeping missions further develop their websites, and continue, in cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, to raise awareness of the new realities, far-reaching successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations, especially multidimensional and complex ones, and of the recent surge in peacekeeping activities.  The Assembly would also request both Departments to continue cooperating on an outreach programme to explain the zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse.


The Assembly would also recall its resolutions on dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace and request the Department to continue to provide the necessary support for the dissemination of information pertaining to the issue, as well as the initiative on the Alliance of Civilizations, and take note of the initiatives launched at the first Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Madrid.


Turning to traditional communication means and welcoming the initiative of United Nations Radio, which remained one of the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Public Information Department and an important instrument in United Nations activities, the Assembly would request that the Secretary-General continue to make every effort to achieve parity in the six official languages in United Nations radio production.  It would also note the Department’s efforts to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations worldwide in the six official languages, with the addition of Portuguese and Kiswahili, as well as in other languages, where possible.


Regarding the website, the Assembly would reaffirm that it was an essential tool and would reiterate the continued need for Department efforts to maintain and improve it.  It would recognize that the multilingual development and enrichment of the United Nations website had improved and, in that regard, ask the Department to further improve the actions taken to achieve full parity among the six official languages.  It would especially reiterate its request that the Secretary-General ensure adequate distribution of financial and human resources for that purpose.


Concerning the library services, the Assembly would acknowledge the role of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library in enhancing knowledge-sharing and networking activities to ensure access to the vast store of United Nations knowledge by delegates, permanent missions, the Secretariat, researchers and depository libraries worldwide, and take note of the proposal to rename the library the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and Knowledge-Sharing Centre (DHLink), reflecting its new direction, as well as the proposal to change the name of the depository libraries to partner libraries.


As for the Department’s outreach services, the Assembly would welcome the educational outreach activities through UN Works and the Global Teaching and Learning Project.  It would further welcome movement towards educational outreach and the orientation of the print and online editions of the UN Chronicle magazine, as well as encourage it to continue to develop co-publishing partnerships, collaborative educational activities and events, including the “Unlearning Intolerance” seminar series, with civil society organizations and institutions of higher learning.  It would also take note of the Department’s intention to evolve the UN Chronicle into a journal called UN Affairs and request a comprehensive and detailed report on the project’s progress in due course.


By the terms of draft resolution A, titled “Information in the Service of Humanity”, the Assembly, deeply concerned by the disparities between developed and developing countries and the consequences of those disparities, would urge all countries and the United Nations system to step up assistance to develop communications infrastructure and capabilities in developing countries, enabling them to develop their own information and communications freely and increase the participation of media and individuals in the communications process.


Countries and the United Nations system would also be urged to, among other things, ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; provide support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries; and provide full support for the International Programme for the Development of Communication of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which should support both public and private media.


By the terms of a draft decision, the Assembly would decide to increase the Committee’s membership from 110 to 112 and to appoint Antigua and Barbuda and Zambia as members.


Prior to action on the text, the Committee approved the draft report of its 2008 session (documents A/AC.198/2008/L.1, L.2, L.3),as orally amended.Rapporteur Hossein Maleki ( Iran) introduced the Committee’s draft report.  The full text of the draft resolution is contained in document A/AC.198/2008/L.3.


Commenting on the Committee’s work, Antigua and Barbuda’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, thanked all for the spirit of cooperation that had produced a sound, bold, but agreeable, resolution.  He said that, after intense negotiations, he was more confident in the Department’s ability to carry out its mandate.


The United States representative also thanked his fellow delegates for the cooperative spirit to produce a resolution that would hopefully be of assistance to the Department.  The Department’s financial resources were tight and it must continue to carry out its important mandate within existing resources.  He recognized the right to development and said that meant that each individual should have the right to develop his intellectual capabilities, including through the full range of civil and political rights.


France’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, also thanked the Secretariat and delegates for all their hard work.  The outcome of the meeting boded well for the overall outcome of the Committee’s work and for the resolution.  He expressed hope that the resolution would be improved further.


The Russian Federation’s representative also thanked colleagues and said the Committee had overcome past crises and, when dealing with complex questions, it had managed to avoid being stymied by disagreement.  A new trend towards constructive work had emerged.  The Committee’s meetings had gone from involving a mere consideration of resolutions to a genuine dialogue.


In closing remarks, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said the resolution, the outcome of two weeks of work, was the fruit of collaboration and patient negotiations and it provided the Department with a clear-cut road map to guide it in the future.  The Committee had worked very hard and efficiently.  He thanked all members of the Group of 77 and China, the European Union and other Committee members for having reached consensus.  He particularly thanked the coordinators of the Group of 77 and China, and of the European Union, which led the efforts of the entire membership to arrive at a consensus and achieve common goals.  He thanked them for their perseverance, flexibility and sense of direction, and also expressed his gratitude for the constructive contributions of the Committee’s Chairperson, Rapporteur and three Vice-Chairpersons.


He also noted the growing partnership between the Committee and the Department, saying it was a key element in defining the Department’s role as the principal source of public information about the United Nations, as well as its engagement with civil society to broaden and expand its audiences and partners.  Noting important and challenging issues, such as addressing the situation in Myanmar and climate change, he stressed that, when the Department’s work in contributing to a better understanding of the United Nations role and work in today’s world was carried out in close collaboration with Member States, the results could be very effective.


Committee Chairperson Andreas Baum ( Switzerland), in closing, said that, in many ways, the past two weeks had been significant.  Aware of the challenges facing the United Nations, delegations had called for a stronger, more effective and more united world body.  They had also expressed support for a Department that was stronger, more effective and more focused than ever, to make the voice of the United Nations heard loud and clear, and as widely as possible.  The resolutions to be forwarded to the General Assembly had expressed those views clearly.  Draft resolution B unanimously reaffirmed that the United Nations remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world, that its voice must be heard clearly and effectively, and in that context, it had emphasized the essential role of the Public Information Department.  That was also a clear reiteration of strong confidence in Mr. Akasaka’s leadership.  The draft had been the result of intense negotiations and he congratulated all on the superb constructive spirit that had been demonstrated.


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For information media • not an official record