|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
11th Meeting (PM)
Some Speakers in Fourth Committee Praise New Media for ‘Direct Access to Emotional
Part of Public Opinion’, Others Caution Over-Reliance, during Information Debate
‘Widening Gap’ Cited between Materials Produced by United Nations
Department of Public Information in English, Other Official Languages
Information – from both new and traditional sources - was integral to an interdependent and interconnected world, especially in times of rapid political changes, calamities, and natural disasters, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it continued to examine efficacy with which the Organization disseminated its message.
Speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand’s representative said the United Nations was working to bridge the digital divide, which threatened universal information access, particularly in countries that lacked advanced means of communication. While embracing new media platforms, the United Nations Department of Public Information should continue to use traditional media such as television, print and radio, she said.
Regarding the growing role of new media and social networking sites in the contemporary dissemination of information on a wide range of topics and for diverse purposes, delegations pointed to the benefits of those tools. Japan’s speaker noted that social networking services and other new media had “direct access to the emotional part of public opinion”, as seen with their unprecedented impact during the recent Arab Spring movements. “New media” stood without a medium of interpretation or synthesizing, which meant that management of the Public Information Department should be fully involved and committed to all contents.
Others, including Syria’s representative, cautioned against possible pitfalls of relying solely on information from social networking sites. He stressed that information needed to be transmitted in a neutral manner that did not lead to incitement. While the Internet and social networking sites were of great importance, they should not be used to publish videos of unknown provenance, which were not credible and could be used to incite.
Often the first vehicle for spreading news and information, the Internet was one of the most important means of communication in vast parts of the world, Yemen’s representative said. In many instances, it constituted the most important way to spread culture, information, and bridge the gap between peoples.
It followed that the United Nations website needed to serve as the optimum means for broadcasting the news of the Organization’s work, he said. It was regrettable, then, that there was a widening gap between the materials produced in English and those produced in the other languages.
Also in that vein, Argentina’s representative said multilingualism was an issue inherent to the very existence of the United Nations in view of its nature, scope, and goals. He thus supported the Department in looking for solutions to redress the serious delay in reaching parity among the official languages, and commended the ongoing efforts made by the Department to make the United Nations website more attractive, complete and multilingual.
It remained a true concern, he said, that United Nations press releases were only published in two languages, which was “inadmissible”. The international community could not continue to make the mandate on multilingualism conditional and based on resource availability, and he urged the Department to design, as soon as possible, a mechanism to settle that “debt”.
Delegates also stressed the many positive contributions and achievements of the Department, including through the work of the United Nations Information Centres and other regional initiatives.
Colombia’s representative said that the Information Centre at Bogota had a communications strategy that highlighted the most important work and events of the United Nations. This year, it had held 18 press conferences covering a wide variety of topics. Colombia was publicizing the Centre’s work through the use of social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other new media outlets.
Algeria’s representative drew attention to an initiative in his country, which included a documentary, broadcast in New York City last year, including interviews with former terrorists. That was part of efforts to fight radicalisation, and he pointed to the role the United Nations could play in fighting the scourge of radicalism and maintaining vigilance to discourage terrorists.
The representative of Cote d’Ivoire praised the theme set forth by this session’s General Assembly President, on the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of conflicts. He said that the Organization had no better messenger than the Department of Public Information in promoting that theme and in finding new elements that could feed the discussion of the session and guide debates.
In order to give greater weight to that theme, he suggested that the Department should, at the end of the current term, organize an exhibition to highlight good practices emanating from that topic, and he called on it to carry out similar campaigns in subsequent General Assembly sessions.
Also speaking were the representatives of United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Burkina Faso, Brazil, India, Jamaica, Bahrain, Libya, and Iran.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20 October, to continue its general debate on information.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of questions relating to information. [For more information, please see Press Release GA/SPD/486.]
THANAVON PAMARANON (Thailand), speaking for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said information was integral to an interdependent and interconnected world, especially in times of rapid political changes, calamities, and natural disasters. According to Google Analytics, the English language United Nations News centre website received some 600,000 visits and more than 1 million page views each month. Regarding the effective distribution of information, the Association strongly believed that multilingualism was of particular importance to the Organization, since it enhanced information access and communications among peoples, which in turn ensured an increased participation and better outcome of the United Nations work.
She said that cooperative arrangements existed between the Department of Public Information (DPI) and various national universities to translate the United Nations website content into Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. Advertising the new web pages in all six languages would not only increase the number of visits to the site, but would also attract more non-English and non-French readers in developing countries. In particular, that would make a sizable difference for the Arabic segment of the site, which remained the least trafficked.
She welcomed the Department’s application of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs to distribute information. She noted with appreciation the Department’s new role in bridging the digital divide, which threatened universal information access, particularly in countries that lacked advanced means of communication. While embracing new media platforms, the Department should continue to use traditional media such as television, print and radio. In that regard, she supported the Department’s initiative to enhance more frequent live radio broadcasting in all six languages. The Department had the potential to promote peace and international cooperation in many areas, including interfaith dialogue, empowerment of women and children, sustainable development, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals.
AMENA BULHOON ( United Arab Emirates) said that information was one of the most important and modern means of addressing the international community. It helped to develop ideas; multimedia information, in particular, was critical in today’s modern, technological world. However, some developing countries were limited in their access to information and communications technology (ICT) — a situation which required intervention from developed countries. Such assistance was a responsibility both of developed countries and international institutions related to information issues, she said. Moreover, the world was facing increasing challenges, but ICT was playing an important role in giving reality to movements including those that were spreading across the Arab world.
The participation of people in areas such as development planning was crucial, she continued, and ICT was the most modern way to accomplish that. For that reason, the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates helped to ensure access to information and participation, including through “information headquarters” — where no censorship existed — which were set up across the country. In addition, it embraced the Arab Information Forum, which was aimed at exchanging views on information issues. Finally, she stressed, there should be credibility in publishing information about the situation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which represented the world’s biggest violation of international humanitarian law.
IHAB HAMED (Syria), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said he attached great importance to the establishment of a new international information system that was in keeping with the Charter of the United Nations and that would correspond to the aims of nations. He also attached great importance to the role of information in building societies and educating peoples. For its part, Syria had adopted a new packet of legislation that sought to reflect the aspirations of the Syrian people for greater freedom and transparency. He said the Information Committee had the responsibility of bringing the workings of the United Nations to the broader world, including information on peacebuilding efforts.
He said information should be transferred in a neutral manner that did not incite. He acknowledged the importance of the Internet and social networking sites, but stressed that it was not acceptable that such sites should be used for publishing video material of unknown provenance. That was regrettable and a matter of concern that some parties, including Member States, and media and international organizations were using those video materials which were “not credible and were inciting in nature” to further positions and stances that led to greater tensions in the world.
He said greater parity needed to be achieved among the languages, and Arabic needed to be featured more prominently with regard to its specificities. Also, the Organization should keep the public apprised of the challenges of the Question of Palestine. Israelis were expanding settlements against international law, and building an apartheid separation wall and disrespecting Muslim holy sites. The Department should work to build a bridge between civilians and cultures, in accordance with the principles enshrined in the Charter. The freedom of expression was an international right, but it must never be used to disrespect the values, civilization, or heritage of others.
MARCELA ZAMORA (Costa Rica), aligning herself with comments made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, as well as on behalf of the Rio Group, said that free and pluralistic communication, generated by the freedom of expression, belonged to all citizens and should be denied to no one, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ease of communication through new technologies was a way to spread that freedom.
She wished to highlight the growing cooperation and partnership between the Committee and the Department of Public Information. Initiatives such as the Committee’s intersessional meeting last September strengthened that association and increased its effectiveness. She was also encouraged by the informal exchange on multilingualism, scheduled at the end of the deliberations. It was necessary to foster an organizational vision founded upon the parity of the United Nations six official languages. That should be reflected, as a starting point, on the Organization’s website, which had substantially improved in quality and number of visits, but still had significant gaps in four of the six official languages.
Her Government was concerned at the limited budgetary resources for the Department’s other activities, she said, urging Member States, particularly the most developed, to fully meet their financial obligations to the Organization. In addition, the Secretariat should hone its spending and investment priorities, and the Department should maximize its efforts towards efficiency, creativity, and partnerships with academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and media to amplify its impact at lower cost.
VUGAR PANAHOV ( Azerbaijan) thanked the representatives of the United Nations Department of Public Information, and said that Azerbaijan continued to support its provision of timely, accurate, coherent information. It praised the Department’s outreach programme on international events, such as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Today, he said, climate change, floods and other natural disasters and calamities stood out as areas where the United Nations information programmes needed to reach further.
Some people around the world were not benefiting from those programmes, and more should be done to fill those gaps; that was particularly true in the cases of developing countries and countries with special needs. He stressed that press releases and other United Nations information products must be governed by the normative standards of the Organization and by the United Nations Charter — in particular, with regard to sovereignty and respect for State borders. Finally, DPI should continue to pay attention to human rights, peace and the needs of the least developed countries, among other critical issues.
CASLYN OW ( Singapore) recalled that, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone had the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. That right had been greatly facilitated by new media technologies and communications infrastructure. However, the opportunity to take full advantage of, or even to have access to, information and communications technology was not equal to all. A “digital divide” existed and persisted in many parts of the world and even within different communities within the same country.
Singapore, for its part, was making efforts to promote digital inclusion as part of its “Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) Masterplan”. The aim was to bridge the digital divide for three key groups of people, namely, the disabled, the elderly and students from less-privileged backgrounds. It had established the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, where those with disabilities could be empowered through relevant ICT skills to enhance their integration into society. Other programmes, such as the Silver Infocomm Initiative and the NEU PC Plus Programme, targeted senior citizens and students from low-income households, respectively. Meanwhile, Citizen Connect Centres, set up island-wide, catered to those in the general population who either did not have access to, or required help with, computer technology.
WALEED ALSAIYANI ( Yemen) expressed support for the statement delivered on behalf of the G-77, and said that the efforts of the Department of Public Information spread the message of the United Nations on sustainable development, climate change, peacekeeping and other priority activities. Regarding the Question of Palestine, he said the seminar on peace in the Middle East of 2011 organized by the Department on 12-13 July in Budapest, and the annual training programme for Palestinian journalists, were positive activities in that regard.
He further said that the Internet today was one of the most important means of communication in vast parts of the world, and in many instances constituted the most important way to spread culture and information, and bridge the gap between the peoples of the world. The Internet was often the first means used to spread news and information, and it could, therefore, be said that the United Nations website should be the optimum means for spreading the news of its work. However, there was a widening gap between the materials produced in English and those produced in other languages.
He expressed appreciation for the persistent efforts made by the Department to enhance media performance, and he looked forward to achieving more balance between the official languages, as that would promote dialogue and understanding between cultures and help achieve the desired benefits.
LEOPOLD BONKOUNGOU ( Burkina Faso) said that in a world of communication in perpetual flux, the United Nations needed to continuously adapt to new realities, taking into account the specific need of different regions in order to better channel its ideas. Burkina Faso reaffirmed the pivotal role of the Committee on Information in the monitoring of United Nations work in that field. He also welcomed the initiatives of the Department of Public Information to support the Organization’s efforts in peace and security, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, human rights, material and child health, and others. The Committee should continue to encourage and support information strategies implemented by DPI to raise the profile and showcase the Organization’s activities.
He said his delegation commended DPI’s “praiseworthy” efforts to establish greater parity between the Organization’s six official languages, and its work with stakeholders to provide better access to new information technologies — particularly in Africa. However, those new methods should not come at the expense of traditional media, namely, press, radio and television. Those forms of information must continue to be supported. Burkina Faso also underscored the important role of the United Nations Information Centres (UNICs), which worked to disseminate United Nations messages, especially in developing countries. The UNIC in Burkina Faso covered the other countries of the Sahel region, providing reliable information about the United Nations; among other activities, it had, in the context of International Peace Day 2011, organized a session on the dissemination and organization of information in situations of crisis. UNICs required more sustained support and resources, he stressed, adding that he hoped that the concerns addressed during the recent review would be taken into consideration in order to help DPI’s work at its best possible capacity.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said that to reach out to our multilingual world, the United Nations message had to be delivered in as many languages as possible. In that regard, the Portuguese Unit of UN Radio had played an important role in broadcasting information to Portuguese-speaking peoples worldwide. Additionally, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Rio de Janeiro had helped to educate and raise awareness among the Brazilian public about the United Nations fundamental role. The Department of Public Information and Member States should collaboratively explore creative ways to ensure the necessary support and progressive strengthening of the network of information centres, services and components of the United Nations. She specifically acknowledged the Department’s efforts to discuss information related to the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference.
The Department of Public Information and the Angolan Government had taken initial steps to create a UNIC office centre in Luanda to address the special needs of Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. The United Nations could now work closely with Portuguese-speaking African countries to tackle their specific challenges. She strongly encouraged all States with the necessary means to offer UNICs rent-free and maintenance-free premises.
Speaking of the importance of creating synergies between traditional and new media, she said that that approach had been particularly effective during Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and the natural disasters that hit Japan last March. That mutually supportive combination of media could be used to address pressing issues, such as food security, the loss of biodiversity and the impacts of climate change. The Department of Public Information could also explore the strengthening of communications during peacekeeping operations. In closing, she spoke with appreciation for the Department’s work on the Question of Palestine, its outreach programme on the Holocaust and its effort to preserve the historical memory of the Organization.
TAKAHIRO NAKAMAE ( Japan) said that DPI was comprehensively covering the priority activities of the United Nations, including the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development, climate change, international peace and security and human rights. The services provided by DPI and its UNICs to the media and civil society, as well as to the general public, were highly appreciated. Turning to the “unprecedented” disasters that Japan had experienced in the first half of 2011, he emphasized that the Secretary-General’s visit to Japan — including to the Fukushima nuclear station — had had an “invaluable impact” in enhancing solidarity in the international community. In the same context, the work of the local UNIC had been remarkable.
Social networking services and other new media had “direct access to the emotional part of public opinion”, he noted, as had been witnessed through their unprecedented impact during the recent Arab Spring movements. He also underscored the fact that “new media” stood without a medium of interpretation or synthesizing, which meant that management of the Department at Headquarters should be fully involved and committed to all contents. In the same vein, responses from viewers came quickly and directly; preparedness was needed in that regard. Due to those characteristics of new media — which made them appear easy to use “at first sight”, but in fact caused them to be potentially resource-consuming — the challenge now was the current budgetary situation. New media should be considered in tandem with the rationalization of conventional media, thus making an adequate resource shift possible.
MOURID BENMEHIDE ( Algeria) said the United Nations needed to look more broadly at how information had become a global strategic challenge. The rapid growth of information and communications technologies, as well as innovation in digital systems, had brought about a revolution that was radically changing ways of thinking and working. The digital revolution was opening up avenues of knowledge and education, and was changing ways in which countries managed trade, economic and public affairs.
He said increased knowledge would improve the living standards of millions across the world. Further, communication between peoples could help with conflict resolution and spreading peace. The United Nations needed to make a contribution to ensure that all countries had fair access to the benefits of that technology, and to close the digital divide. The Secretary-General had mentioned the major progress achieved in the development of new media to disseminate information on United Nations activities around the world. He welcomed that the Department of Public Information continued to strengthen communication within the Organization, so as to achieve better understanding of United Nations activities and secure greater support for the Organization to carry out its activities more efficiently.
Innovative initiatives included a documentary made in conjunction with sources in Algeria, which was broadcast in New York City last year. That included content with former terrorists and was part of efforts to fight radicalisation. It pointed to the role the United Nations could play in fighting against the scourge of radicalism and maintaining vigilance to discourage terrorists.
He called on the Department to continue covering the issues of the United Nations, and expressed the wish to see the six languages of the United Nations treated equally, with a greater development of multilingualism on the United Nations website. He further said the increased use of social networks and the Internet by the Department must be done in a cautious way, so as to avoid further aggravating the imbalance that disadvantaged and developing countries suffered from.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) aligned his statement with that of the representative of Chile on behalf of the Rio Group and the representative of Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He said Colombia attached great value to the work of DPI, whose efforts linked countries around the world through the UNIC system; his delegation had followed with special attention efforts to strengthen the capacities of those centres, including through the diversification of audio-video material, collaboration with local media and other activities. He encouraged the Secretariat to continue those programmes.
He said the UNIC at Bogota had a communications strategy that highlighted the most important work and events of the United Nations. This year, it had held 18 press conferences covering a wide variety of topics. Colombia was supporting the use of social media and the publication of UNIC information through Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other new media outlets. He also wished to mention the design of the Bogota Centre’s website, he stressed, which this year specially reflected the International Year for People of AfricanDescentand the International Year of Forests. The UNIC was also pursuing a social mission which brought the Organization to young people through its “UN in Your School” programme and other activities. The UNIC had also received a visit by the Secretary-General this year, he noted. While Colombia took note of budget constraints, the fact that its UNIC covered three countries — Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela — meant that it required greater staff and support. He noted efforts to make DPI’s work more multilingual, but stressed, nonetheless, that press releases should be published in all official languages of the Organization.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( C ôte d’Ivoire) hailed the key role played by the Department, which was the mouthpiece of the Organization. The Department had covered a number of major news stories in 2011, and the one that was most closely watched in Côte d’Ivoire was the implementation by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) of Security Council resolution 1975, enabling the effective protection of the civilian population in his country. The visit by the Secretary-General to the country was a matter of great interest, and was seen as the high point in his unwavering effort to secure peace and security in today’s world. Under his offices, the United Nations had contributed significantly to restoring peace in Côte d’Ivoire, and he expressed gratitude in that regard.
He welcomed the choice of this year’s theme by the General Assembly president, on the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of conflicts. The Organization had no better messenger than the Department in promoting that theme, and finding new elements that could feed the discussion of the session and also guide the debates. In order to give greater weight to that theme, the Department should, at the end of the current term, organize an exhibition to highlight good practices emanating from that topic. He called on the Department to convey messages and specific ideals pertaining to the theme chosen by each General Assembly president in subsequent sessions.
SANTOSH CHOWDHARY ( India ) said that the role of the Department was to fulfil the substantive purpose of the United Nations by strategically communicating the activities and concerns of the Organization with the greatest public impact in situations where the United Nations confronted a variety of complex challenges. The Department’s Strategic Communications Division, under its thematic campaigns, worked closely with the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support and had produced 27 press releases and 1,206 articles in English on peacekeeping matters for the United Nations web portal, during the period from July 2010 to February 2011. The UNifeed had produced and disseminated 250 stories and United Nations Radio had produced 120 stories on the subject during the same period to generate greater public support for peacekeeping operations.
She reiterated that the information being produced had to be relevant and communicated in a manner that made it interesting and enjoyable. That was not easy to achieve, and those working on content management must be driven by a constant yearning for further improvement. The Department’s programmes must seek to deepen their coverage of the noteworthy activities of the United Nations. She would like to see the Departments of Public Information, Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support work more closely in highlighting United Nations peacekeeping success stories. The Department of Public Information needed to use the widest possible range of technologies in order to make its work pertinent. Thus, a strong emphasis must be retained on using traditional cost effective means of communication, such as radio and print. It was encouraging to note that social media followers of United Nations Radio had grown to 21,000, an increase of 275 percent over the second half of 2010. She congratulated that Department for now producing information in more than 150 languages. There was much value in raising the level of local content and local involvement in the production of programme material. India appreciated the Outreach Division for its Academic Impact and Celebrity Advocacy Programmes.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE (Jamaica), aligning himself with statements of the Group of 77 and China and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the information centres played a significant role as a key conduit for information and activities on the Organization’s key priority areas, including achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and climate change, combating racism, the promotion and protection of human rights, including the efforts to end violence against women, HIV/AIDS, the challenges facing least developed countries and peacekeeping.
He said his country supported the important work being undertaken by the Centre in Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica maintained that the role and activities of the Centre in Port of Spain could be greatly enhanced through the placement of an Information Officer in Kingston, servicing the information needs of the northern-most areas of the Caribbean.
Outreach activities were an integral part of the Department’s work, he said, and included in that broad heading were the activities to promote the various International Days. Of critical importance to Jamaica was the Department’s initiative to promote construction of a monument at a place of prominence at the United Nations in honour of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. With regard to the commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Jamaica encouraged the Department to ensure that the annual commemorative activities were a fitting and solemn tribute to the victims, in recognition of the objectives of the remembrance.
He noted that, during last year’s debate in the Fourth Committee, Jamaica had called on the Department to focus on the issue of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and their deleterious impact on individuals, communities, and the social and economic development prospects of countries worldwide; Jamaica repeated that call today. It was the eve of what promised to be a turning point in global efforts to combat the proliferation of illicit conventional weapons across the globe. Those weapons fuelled instability, contributed to high levels of armed violence in all parts of the globe, and threatened to prevent the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in many countries.
FAYSAL ALZAYAENI (Bahrain), associating his statement with that of the Group of 77 and China, said that the two reports currently before the Committee were “beacons” shedding light on the progress achieved by the Department of Public Information in performing is functions. The Department had become a mirror reflecting the various activities of the United Nations, he said, citing several examples. Among those, he mentioned preparations for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to be held in Brazil in 2012, for which the Department had coordinated its activities in order to hold enlightened dialogues on sustainable development, including on such issues as diversity, oceans, forests and climate change. Another example was the work of the Department in the aftermath of disasters and natural catastrophes. Bahrain looked forward to its continued work in those areas, as well as in providing information on the situation of Palestine until that long-standing question was resolved.
He said that the information centres continued to sensitize the world to the functions of the Organization. For example, they had promoted the International Year of Youth (2010-2011), and the centre in Manama, Bahrain had organized several sports tournaments for young people, in accordance with the country’s Vision 2030. They were sources of culture and education. However, it should be noted that a number of developing countries lacked new and complex means of communication, and so traditional media should not be disregarded. Finally, in order for information to perform its crucial and effective role, the “digital gap” between developed and developing nations should be narrowed or bridged altogether.
FADERL BENASHUR ( Libya) stressed the importance of making more international and regional efforts within the framework of the United Nations and regional organizations, to spread and deepen knowledge of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, of the principles of the freedom of press, and of the multiplicity of media. He also stressed the importance of promoting international and regional cooperation in order to improve the role of media in developing countries, and also the infrastructures of media and communication technologies, in a way that reduced disparities between them and those in developed countries in the free flow of information without any constraints.
He said reducing the gap in information and communication technologies between developed countries and developing countries had become a priority issue on the international agenda on information. The achievement of that would require international cooperation in order to provide support and assistance to developing countries according to their needs and priorities. He emphasized the importance of strengthening the capacities of the administrative and financial performance of the Department, and its information centres in countries all overt the world, and increasing cooperation and coordination with Member States in a way that increased the efficiency of the Department’s programmes. That would lead to expanding rational understanding of the work of the United Nations and the principles of its Charter. He also stressed the need to achieve equality for all the official languages of the United Nations in all the Department’s activities.
GERARDO DIAZ BARTOLOME ( Argentina), associating his statements with that made on behalf of the G-77 and the Rio Group, reiterated his delegation’s permanent support for the work of the United Nations information centres which, he said, were elements of key importance in disseminating the Organization’s message. He expressed satisfaction for the Information Centre in Buenos Aires as it was the “voice” in Spanish of the Department, in accordance with the mandate to promote the principles, purposes and work of the United Nations. That Centre also assisted newspapers, radio and television journalists in providing news, writing articles and special reports on the work of the Organization.
He went on to say that multilingualism was an issue inherent in the very existence of the United Nations, in view of its nature, scope, and goals. However, it was of concern that the Secretary-General’s report did not strikingly refer to that issue. He, therefore, supported the Department in looking for solutions to redress the serious delay in reaching parity among the official languages.
While his delegation was happy to see that the Spanish content of the United Nations website had been expanded in recent years, he regretted that the content in Spanish continued to be lower than that in the English segments of the site. He further said that it continued to be a true concern that the press releases were published in only two languages. That was inadmissible, he said, and specified that he was not referring to the two working languages, since the mandate on public dissemination through the United Nations website indicated that the necessary parity among six official languages needed to be fully respected. The international community could not continue to condition the mandate on multilingualism to resource availability, and he urged the Department to design, as soon as possible, a mechanism to settle the “debt” with those States which legitimately claimed the use of all official languages, without discriminations.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI (Iran), associating his statement with that of the Group of 77 and China, said that the most important work of the Department should be providing an accurate, impartial, balanced, comprehensive, timely and relevant information on the tasks and responsibilities of the United Nations. In that regard, he emphasized the important role of the Committee on Information in examining the Organization’s public information policies and activities, and stressed the need for close cooperation and coordination between the Committee and the Department. He also commended the Department on its holding of the first official commemorative ceremony of the International Day of Nowruz, in March.
He stressed that the gap in information and communication technology between developed and developing countries continued to widen. “Developing countries are suffering from an unjust, inequitable, partial and monopolized world of media,” he said. It was regrettable that certain developed countries took advantage of their monopoly of modern communication technology to distort the facts and fabricate events and realities, especially those relating to developing countries. The international community should take necessary steps in rectifying those imbalances.
Turning to the “escalating catastrophic humanitarian situation” of the innocent Palestinian civilian population, he stressed the need for the Department to raise international awareness regarding the Question of Palestine. He further called upon the Department to counter the phenomenon of Islamophobia and to foster respect for all religions and cultural values and religious tolerance. Iran believed that promoting the dialogue among civilizations and cultures would tremendously increase the understanding among peoples, and it called on the Department of Public Information to facilitate such dialogue. Finally, he stressed the need for closer communication between the United Nations information centres and their host countries, and for more emphasis to be placed on multilingualism — including local languages, such as Persian — in the work of the Department.
* *** *For information media • not an official record