15 May 2009
General Assembly
PI/1885

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

Committee on Information

Thirty-first Session

5th Meeting (PM)


COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION CONCLUDES TWO-WEEK SESSION BY APPROVING TEXT


URGING STRONGER ROLE FOR ‘INDISPENSABLE VOICE’ OF UNITED NATIONS


Draft Calls on Department to Boost Multilingualism,

Enhance Efficiency, while Raising Awareness of Current Issues


Concluding its annual two-week session this afternoon, the Committee on Information called on the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) to continue to strengthen its role as the indispensable voice of the Organization by boosting awareness of a raft of current issues, increasing multilingualism, re‑evaluating all programmes and enhancing efficiency.


Unanimously approving draft resolution B of a two-part text, titled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly, in its next session, reaffirm the importance of DPI’s strategic communications services and promotional campaigns, as well as its integral involvement in peacekeeping operations.


By other terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of United Nations information centres in disseminating the Organization’s message to local populations, especially in developing countries, and stress the centrality of timely, accurate, objective and balanced news and information services in print, by radio and television and over the Internet.


Among other priorities, the Assembly would reaffirm the need for DPI to continuously enhance its technological infrastructure and improve the Organization’s website in all official languages, as well as continuing to use traditional media and better coordinating with United Nations units at the local level, in order to better target its message to diverse audiences.  For that purpose, it would encourage the network of information centres to continue to develop web pages in local languages.


Taking note of the strengthening of the information centres in Cairo, Mexico City and Pretoria, the Assembly would encourage consideration of the strengthening of other centres, especially in Africa, in cooperation with the Member States concerned and within existing resources.  It would also note the Secretary-General’s proposal to work with host Governments in identifying rent-free premises for information centres, and request further proposals for rationalizing the network, reaffirming that such efforts must be carried out on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with all concerned Member States in the region served by each centre.


Noting a proposal to transform the UN Chronicle publication into UN Affairs, the Assembly would request the Department to continue to publish UN Chronicle with a view to improving it further within existing resources, and to submit options for publishing it in all six official languages.  It would welcome the publication’s educational outreach efforts and encourage it to continue to develop co-publishing partnerships, collaborative educational activities and events, including the “Unlearning Intolerance” seminar series.


By further terms of the text, the Assembly would commend DPI for instituting the annual observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, as well as its commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping and other important observances.


Taking note of the Department’s efforts to improve access for the press officers of Member States to the general debate of its sixty-third session, the General Assembly would, by other terms, strongly urge the Secretary-General to provide the needed number of additional passes for restricted areas.


The Assembly would, by other terms, request that every effort be made to ensure full maintenance of DPI services throughout the period of the Capital Master Plan (CMP) at New York Headquarters.


By the terms of draft resolution A, titled “Information in the service of humanity”, the Assembly, deeply concerned by the consequences of the disparities between developed and developing countries, would urge all countries, as well as the United Nations system, to step up assistance to improve communications infrastructure and capabilities in developing countries.


The United Nations system and Member States would also be urged to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks, and to condemn resolutely all attacks against them, while providing support for the strengthening of training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries.


Prior to taking action on the two-part text, the Committee approved the draft report of its 2009 session (documents A/AC.198/2009/L.1, L.2 and L.3).


Sheree Chambers ( Jamaica), Rapporteur of the Committee, introduced its draft report (document A/AC.198/2008/L.1) and announced that Sierra Leone had applied for membership, which would take the total number of members to 113, pending approval by the General Assembly.


In closing remarks, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, congratulated Committee members for having reached consensus, saying he looked forward to continuing the close partnership between DPI and the Committee in the months ahead.  In pursuing its goals, the Department would be guided by the draft resolution just approved, a product of collaborative effort and patient negotiation.  DPI was grateful to the Committee’s membership and Bureau, and anticipated meeting the many difficult and exciting challenges ahead through dialogue and cooperation.


The representative of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, also thanked the Bureau and membership for their willingness to achieve consensus, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his report and DPI for its cooperation with the Committee.


Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of the Czech Republic said the bloc’s main priority for the current session had been to streamline the draft resolution, which was necessary in order to formulate an action-oriented mandate for DPI.  The Committee had been able to reorganize some of its content, but more ambitious changes were needed to eliminate overlaps, duplications and references to events, documents and initiatives that had already lost their relevancy after having been in the text for far too long.  The task force responsible for that matter hoped to make those changes before the Committee’s next session.


Israel’s representative affirmed the importance of DPI’s programmes on genocide prevention, and noted the significance of his delegation having been able to include in the text language calling for a strengthening of those programmes.  Israel also called for a new, non-politicized information mandate for Palestinian and Middle East issues, a point that had been proven by the remarks made by the observer for Palestine.  Hopefully all members would work towards creating a more balanced programme in which they could all participate.


The observer for Palestine thanked DPI for all its programmes, including those on Palestinian issues, and voiced his hope that Israel would end its occupation so that peace could result.


Concluding the meeting, Committee Chairman Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima ( Cape Verde) said the last two weeks had been significant in many ways as delegations continued to lend their support to the Department of Information.  DPI had become stronger, more efficient and better focused than ever before, making the voice of the United Nations clearer and more audible and ensuring that it reached the largest public possible.  Those goals were clearly advanced by the Committee’s approval of the text today, which also provided clear support to the work of the Under-Secretary-General.  The Chair thanked everyone concerned for the extremely constructive and professional conduct of the session.


The Committee on Information will meet again at a date and time to be announced.


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For information media • not an official record