7 May 2010
General Assembly
PI/1937

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

Committee on Information Asks Public Information Department to Heighten Awareness


of Critical Global Issues through New Technology, Concluding Two-Week Session


Comprehensive Draft Would Have General Assembly Stress Centrality of Timely,

Balanced News, Featuring, Among Others, Conflict Prevention, African Needs, Poverty


The Committee on Information this afternoon called on the United Nations Department of Public Information to continue to advance, through new technology, multilingualism, partnership, efficiency and local outreach, to better raise awareness of critical international issues.


“The United Nations remains the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world and […] its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner,” the Committee reaffirmed through the consensus adoption of two draft resolutions contained in document A/AC.198/2010/L.3, as it concluded its annual two-week session.


For those purposes, through draft resolution B of the two-part text, entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly, in its next session, reaffirm the importance of continuing to strengthen the Public Information Department’s capabilities in outreach, strategic communications and news services.


Welcoming new initiatives to enhance the Department’s technological infrastructure in all those areas, it would have the Assembly affirm the need to update such infrastructure, particularly Internet services “on a continuous basis” and in a way that complemented and extended the reach of traditional media such as radio, television and print.


Through the text, the Assembly would also welcome Department efforts to enhance multilingualism and eliminate the disparity between the use of English and the other official languages of the Organization, requesting that appropriate resources be made available for that purpose and that all documents be made accessible on the website in official languages, without delay.


It also would have the Assembly request that partnerships continued to be developed with academic institutions so that some products, such as the quarterly magazine UN Chronicle and the daily Press Releases could be made available in more languages in a cost-efficient manner.  Partnerships with the rest of the United Nations system, broadcasters around the world and Member States were also critical, the Assembly would stress.


In order to reach local audiences in their own languages and in appropriate technologies, the text emphasizes the importance of the network of United Nations Information Centres, particularly in developing countries, welcoming their efforts to make available United Nations documents and web pages in local languages, with a view to reaching “the widest possible spectrum of audiences and extending the United Nations message to all corners of the world”.


Welcoming the approval of a new United Nations Information Centre in Luanda, Angola, the Assembly would reiterate the need for the prompt establishment of that Centre, and request the strengthening of other Centres, particularly in Africa and especially in updating of their technological capabilities, in cooperation with the Member States concerned and within existing resources.  It would take note of the Secretary-General’s proposal to secure rent-free premises from host countries, while bearing in mind the economic conditions of those countries and the need for full allocation of financial support for the Centres.


The Assembly, by the text, would continue to stress the centrality of timely, accurate, objective and balanced news and information services in print, by radio and television and over the Internet, affirming the need to continue strengthening technology, multilingualism and partnerships in all those areas.  It would also request continuation of outreach to civil society, efforts to improve accessibility of library services and a wide range of other initiatives.


In regard to priority topics to be addressed by public information efforts, the text requests that particular attention be paid to peace and security, human rights, poverty and the global food crisis, conflict prevention, sustainable development, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and combating terrorism, with a special focus on the needs of the African continent.


In addition, it called for a special focus on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the impact of climate change and the world economic crisis on sustainable development.


The Assembly, through the draft, would express appreciation for promotional campaigns conducted by the Department on a host of issues, from decolonization to dialogue between civilizations to prevention of genocide to the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, commending recent initiatives to remember victims of the transatlantic slave trade and stressing the need for renewed emphasis on Africa’s development.


The text draws attention to requirements for the promotion of International Mother Language Day, the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development, Nelson Mandela International Day, the fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples and Women, Peace and Security, requesting that most of those efforts be conducted within existing resources.


It requests the Department to continue its 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 of peacekeeping operations, and to continue its outreach activities to explain the zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse.


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


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 for the improvement of the communications capabilities of developing countries.


The United Nations system and Member States would also be urged to ensure 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 those texts, the Committee approved the draft report of its 2010 session (documents A/AC.198/2010/L.1, L.2 and L.3), as introduced by Sheree Chambers of Jamaica, Rapporteur of the Committee.


In closing remarks, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, congratulated the Committee and its Bureau on the session’s successful conclusion.  He conveyed his warm appreciation to the regional groups and all those in the membership who had been active in the negotiations.


He reiterated his intention to organize a briefing session for the Committee before the general debate of the next General Assembly session, as well as other intersessional meetings on public information, for which good proposals had already been submitted.


He announced that two days ago, on 5 May, an opinion poll by the United Nations Foundation in the United States showed that the favourable view of the United Nations had increased by 5 per cent in the past year, reinforcing a trend already seen in Europe and in previous United States’ polls.  He hoped that it was, in part, an indication of successful communication efforts.  He pledged to continue to improve the Organization’s efforts to communicate with the world public, with the guidance and support of the Committee.


In his closing remarks, Committee Chairman Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima of Cape Verde noted the strong support expressed by all delegations in the past two weeks for the United Nations and the role of public information in achieving the Organization’s goals.  He thanked Mr. Akasaka and other Department officials for their constructive interaction with the Committee members.  He said that the text had been the result of intensive negotiation and compromise, and he thanked all delegations, including the leaders of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the European Union, for their constructive participation.


In a special request, he asked delegations to send him a rendering of the following sentence in as many languages as possible:  “Freedom of the press is fundamental to the development of human societies throughout the world.”


In other concluding remarks, Ronnie Shikapwasha, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services of Zambia, thanked the Committee and Department for their work in encouraging “heartbeat to heartbeat” communication between the United Nations and the world public.  He hoped that would be reinforced locally.


The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and the representative of Spain, on behalf of the European Union, thanked the Bureau, the Secretariat and membership for their cooperation, which had resulted in another consensual outcome.


The Russian Federation, in addition to thanking the Committee and Department, proposed that the Committee and the Group of 77 and China meet on the wording of texts before the next session, to streamline the Committee’s work.  The representatives of Switzerland, and Spain, on behalf of the European Union, expressed support for that suggestion.  Yemen’s representative noted that the Group of 77 and China had already agreed to discuss next year’s text in advance of the next session.  He requested that that agreement be included in the report.


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For information media • not an official record