20 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SPD/488

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

12th Meeting (PM)


Delegations in Fourth Committee Herald United Nations as ‘Only Credible Advocate’


for Peaceful World, Forward Two Drafts on Information to General Assembly

 


‘Ambitious But Not Impossible’ to Transmit ‘Voice’ of Organization

In All Official Languages, ‘Giving Locally What Is Happening Globally’


The United Nations remained the “only credible advocate” for a peaceful, free and just world, and its voice must be heard clearly and loudly in every corner of the globe and by all its peoples, the Fourth Committee was told today as it concluded its consideration of questions relating to information, with the approval of two draft resolutions.


By one of those texts, which detailed the public information policies and activities of the Organization, the Committee would have the Assembly reaffirm that the United Nations remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner.  It would also stress the need for the Secretariat to provide clear, timely, accurate and comprehensive information to Member States when so requested.


On the issue of multilingualism and public information, that text would have the Assembly emphasize the importance of ensuring equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all the activities of the Department, whether based on traditional or new media.


Also by that text, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations Information Centres in enhancing the Organization’s public image, in disseminating messages on its work to local populations, especially in developing countries and in local languages.


A further provision would have the Assembly welcome the continuing initiative of United Nations radio, which remained one of the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department and was an important instrument in United Nations activities.


That text also contained provisions relating to bridging the digital divide, the United Nations website, enhancing dialogue among civilians, and the role of the Department in peacekeeping operations, among others.


By the provisions of a second draft, on information in the service of humanity, the Assembly would urge all countries, United Nations organizations and all actors to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as to those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of the media.


That text would also have the Assembly call for a “new world information and communication order”, which was seen as an evolving and continuous process.


During its general debate on questions relating to information, prior to action on the texts, representatives called attention to the achievements and efforts of the Department in bringing the message and mission of the United Nations to the world’s audience.


The “voice” of the Organization needed to be transmitted in all of its official languages, said many delegates today, including Tunisia’s representative, who referred to that goal as “ambitious but not impossible”. 


The representative of Nigeria called the Public Information Department the “public voice” of the United Nations for bringing the noble work of the Organization to the doorsteps of members of the international community.


Dialogue among civilizations — a key identifier of the United Nations — should be achieved through a working multilingual platform that functioned with equality, said Morocco’s delegate.  He also underlined the importance of the United Nations Information Centres, especially for developing countries that lacked modern technologies.  The Centres, he said, were able to receive and disseminate information “to give locally what was happening globally”.


Indeed, said Pakistan’s representative, the Information Centres around the world were the “eyes and ears” of the Organization, and he supported the allocation of adequate resources to strengthen them.  A proponent also of freedom of expression as a universal right to be promoted and protected, Pakistan cautioned at the same time that that freedom should not be misused or abused to create misunderstanding among cultures, civilizations and religions.


Stressing the importance of the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations commended the Department for its valuable efforts in launching the revised and updated permanent exhibit on the Question of Palestine at United Nations Headquarters in New York as well as in the development of the archives of films and videotape documentaries on the history of the Question of Palestine.


Another important element of the Department’s work was remembering victims of the Holocaust, said the representative of the Russian Federation.  It was also important to focus on the soldiers who had liberated the prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps.  The Holocaust was not just a tragedy of the Jewish people, but a tragedy for all of humanity, he said.


Also speaking during today’s debate were the representatives of Myanmar, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Cuba and Mexico.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 21 October to begin consideration of questions relating to atomic radiation.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information.  [For more information, please see Press Release GA/SPD/486.]


MIAN JAHANGIR IQBAL ( Pakistan) said the Department of Public Information (DPI) had provided timely and adequate information to the international media about the devastating floods triggered by the torrential rains in his country.  He commended the Department’s efforts to sensitize the world community about that calamity.  Along with the United Nations, his Government had been working hard to meet the needs of flood victims at a time when it was also engaged in fighting terrorism.


On that point, he said, Pakistan was the worst victim of terrorism, and had suffered huge human and material losses, which was seldom highlighted in the media.  Very few countries were ravaged by the “monster of terrorism” as brutally as Pakistan:  30,000 innocent Pakistani men, women and children had been killed, and 6,532 troops were martyred.  That was the price Pakistan had paid in protecting itself and, indeed, the rest of the world.


He said that the United Nations Information Centres around the world were the “eyes and ears” of the Organization, and he supported the allocation of adequate resources to strengthen them.  He stressed that freedom of expression was a universal right, which needed to be promoted and protected, but it should also not be misused or abused to create misunderstanding among cultures, civilizations and religions.  The Committee on Information had a central role to play in ensuring that the United Nations public information policies were formulated towards forging greater harmony and respect among peoples.  It was important to have accurate, objective and balanced news and information services in print, radio, television and over the Internet, which affirmed the need to continue strengthening technology, multilingualism and partnerships.


U KYAW MYO HTUT (Myanmar), aligning with the statements of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the digital divide between developed and developing countries remained an area of concern.  Imbalances in the world’s information and communication could create one-sided dissemination of news.  Therefore, his country supported the enhanced role of the United Nations Department of Public Information, which provided member countries with ”timely, accurate, impartial, comprehensive and coherent information”.  Thailand also supported the positive role the Department had played in the aftermath of natural disasters, disseminating information to local communities in the affected areas.


He said that Myanmar’s new constitutional Government was making every effort to mobilize all available means to attain modern technologies, in order to facilitate development.  Information and communication technologies parks in Yangon and Pyin Oo Lwin had been established and were operated to keep abreast with the latest technology.  Myanmar had also launched its ICT Master Plan Project under the initiative of ASEAN Integration.


BASO SANGQU (South Africa), aligning his statement with that of the Group of 77, said the United Nations remained the only credible advocate for a peaceful, free and just world, and its voice must be heard clearly and loudly in every corner of the globe and by all its peoples.  He said the Organization’s membership was edging towards 194 as the membership of Palestine was being considered, an addition which he welcomed.


He said that the Public Information Department was integral to all of the United Nations activities, and should be placed at the heart of strategic management of the Organization.  Informing the peoples whose collective aspirations and interests were represented by the work of the United Nations contributed immensely to broadening the global support for the Organization.  Such broad-based support became especially significant when it related to addressing diverse yet pertinent issues, such as eradicating poverty, sustainable development, the financial and economic crisis, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, human rights, the rights of women, children and peoples with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases, humanitarian relief, disarmament, the special needs of Africa and the least developed countries, international peace and security, and peacekeeping.


His delegation was mindful of the vast potential opportunities that new information and communication technologies provided for the eradication of poverty, and for economic and social developments, he said.  It was also mindful of the widening disparity in information and communication technologies between the developed and the developing countries.  Social and new media networking platforms had shown to be effective mechanisms for reaching key constituencies, whether they related to publicizing the Nelson Mandela International Day campaign on Twitter, or soliciting support for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief through YouTube, or messaging on the International Year of Forests through Facebook or Twitter.  Those new media platforms helped access key constituencies such as the youth, and must be promoted.


The South African delegation was especially honoured to have participated in the March event on racial discrimination at the United Nations headquarters, he said.  That event, organized by the Department in support of the International Year for People of African Descent, had included a video-conference link to schools in Canada, New York and the Caribbean.  That day, 21 March, not only marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, but it was also observed as a National Day in South Africa in recognition of human rights.


DJUMAKADYR ATABEKOV, Special Envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kyrgyzstan, said that two of the most important facets of the concept of information were the freedom to seek it and the freedom to transfer it.  In a political landscape full of upheavals, the Public Information Department was undertaking strenuous endeavours to make the greatest amount of information accessible to the international community.


He said that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Kyrgyzstan in 2010 had provided great “moral satisfaction”.  The Secretary-General’s speech, which supplied information about United Nations activities, such as United Nations Academic Impact, was greeted with understanding and support of the people of Kyrgyzstan.


The Constitution of Kyrgyzstan ensured that all its citizens enjoyed basic human rights, he said, adding that with the arrival of democracy in the country, the number of mass media had increased to more than 100.  There were also broadcasts by foreign media.  He concluded by reminding the Committee that tomorrow was “D-Day” for Kyrgyzstan.  For the first time, Kyrgyzstan was a candidate in the Security Council elections.


ANTON USPENSKIY ( Russian Federation) noted the coherence and effectiveness of the actions of the Department in informing the world of the work of the General Assembly’s session, as well as the productive work of the thirty-third session of the Committee on Information.  He said the interactive nature of communications materials was key, especially with regard to youth and its involvement with the United Nations, which would assist the Organization in its vital long-term prospects.  The Department should work to popularize the United Nations with youth, such as had been done through the initiative begun in 2010, called “Academic Impact”, which brought together institutions of higher education to exchange scholarship on issues such as human rights.  Through programmes such as the Model United Nations, young people should be able to feel that they were full-fledged participants of the international dialogue.


He said that an important element of the Department’s work was the activities of the Department in remembering victims of the Holocaust.  In that, it was also important to focus on the soldiers who had liberated the prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps.  The Holocaust was not just a tragedy of the Jewish people, but a tragedy for all of humanity.  Policies that glorified Nazis as patriots ran counter to the main purposes of the Charter, which was to spare future generations from the horrors of a new war.


The United Nations website offered a needed opportunity to reach the broadest possible audience, and attention should be focused on the need to ensure the progressive development of traditional and new media in equal measure, he said.  Multilingualism on the United Nations website should be improved to be fully in line with the principles of the Organization.


MURAD ASKAROV ( Uzbekistan) said that the contemporary level of development of information and communication technologies could be used for both good and harm.  It was necessary, therefore, for the United Nations to work as a standard-bearer in the development and use of those technologies.


In Uzbekistan, he added, a great deal of effort was being put into learning foreign languages, especially English.  One-third of current Uzbek youth were proficient in English.  However, for the older segments of the population, the “lingua franca” was still Russian.  Thanks to the professional work of United Nations organizations in those languages in Central Asia, the population was well-informed about the major events at the United Nations and the key areas of work of the Secretary-General and the General Assembly.


He concluded that the potential of information and communication technologies must also be actively used to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.


AMINE CHABI (Morocco), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, noted the diversification of activities conducted by the Department to inform, educate and communicate to the broadest possible audience, including through social media, the image of a truly “global planet”.  He said the Department had given itself the three-fold mission to inform, engage and act, and that should be applied particularly to the needs of Africa.


He said that the challenges of information were posed in new terms, as was seen from the radical change in methods available for gathering, producing and disseminating information.  In that regard, the United Nations Information Centres played a key role for disseminating and receiving information, to give locally what was happening globally. That was particularly true for developing countries that lacked certain modern technologies.


He commended the Department for its work in addressing the situation in Palestine.  That question, if not resolved, would remain as a critical issue within the United Nations.  The programmes of the Department to raise awareness on the question of Palestine sought to build capacities in the area of journalism, and provided an important component by allowing Palestinian journalists to build their capacities and talents through training.


Unfortunately, linguistic parity in the communications materials of the United Nations was still lacking.  The Department should redouble efforts to support all of the six official languages.  Dialogue among civilizations was one of the key identifiers of the United Nations, and that needed to be achieved through a working multilingual platform that functioned with equality.


AUGUSTINE UGOCHUKWU NWOSA (Nigeria), aligning himself with the statements of the Group of 77 and China, said that his country appreciated the work that the Public Information Department has been doing as the “public voice” of the United Nations by bringing the noble work of the Organization to the doorsteps of members of the international community.


He said his country supported the Department in that endeavour and urged it to continue in that stead.  Nevertheless, the uneven access to the information highway, to the disadvantage of the developing countries, particularly in Africa, remained a source of concern.  Thus, while underscoring the benefits of modern information and communication technologies to the global community, traditional means of information and communication should continue hand-in-hand.  His delegation also remained convinced of the central role that the Department could play in the peacekeeping process, in that it could be “instrumental in softening the ground through the diffusion of positive information between the period of mandate-setting for peacekeeping exercise and the actual arrival of peacekeepers, in order to ensure their reasonable reception by host communities”.


The country also believed that for sustainable development to become a reality, particularly in the developing world, the factors that hindered development should be tackled holistically economically, socially, environmentally, and so forth, he said.  In that connection, the Rio+20  Summit on sustainable development next year would be significant for the Department and for developing countries, whose voices remained of fading significance in the committee of nations.


YADH BOUSSELMI ( Tunisia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said that the equal use of official languages in the United Nations system was an “ambitious but not impossible” goal.  Lack of resources should not be an impediment to the use of Arabic in the United Nations system.  Tunisia thanked the Department of Public Information for its meritorious efforts in the question of Palestine, and said it should keep developing efforts, such as the regional seminars, which provided information on the subject.


Adding that the Department was a vehicle for learning about the activities of the United Nations, he concluded by reiterating Tunisia’s support for developing the performance of the Organization and reflecting its image throughout the international community.


OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, said that information and communication technologies had developed impressively over recent decades. That progress, which every year surprised the international community with new innovations, was positive.  The potential benefits for medicine, education and other areas were vast.  However, it could also seriously threaten international peace and security and jeopardize the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.  Further, the benefits of those communication tools far from reached the majority of the world’s population.  Recent statistics from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) indicated that 70 per cent of people had no access to the Internet – and that figure was as high as 80 per cent in developing countries.


Thus, he said, the digital divide still gaped.  Even in the hypothetical instance of universal access, the international community should ask what use the Internet would be to those millions of adults who were illiterate, or to the millions of children without access to education.  He asked what use a computer would be to those living in poverty and who were hungry.  He stressed that just a very small fraction of the funds used for military expenditures worldwide could eliminate the digital divide between the developed and the developing world.  In the interim, he supported the continued use of traditional broadcasting means to reach the large numbers of illiterate people in the world’s South.


He drew further attention to radio and television campaigns, broadcast by the United States, which he said were used to subvert and destabilize the normal work of Cuba’s communications services.  Those aggressive broadcasts, sent from 29 stations and on a number of frequencies, caused damaging interference and ran counter to the rules of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to which the United States was a signatory.  The United States Congress annually approved a budget of $30 million from federal funds to cover those campaigns, which included links to anti-Cuban “terrorist elements” residing within the United States.  He called on the United States to cease immediately the radio and television broadcasts to Cuba, which were violations of international regulations.


RODRIGO PINTADO (Mexico), aligning with the Rio Group, said that Mexico supported the work of the Department of Public Information and particularly wished to acknowledge the improved access to documents and photographs in the archives, owing to digitization.  He also hailed the United Nations Academic Impact initiative, in which seven Mexican universities had participated as well, as the work of the Information Centre in Mexico City.  The Centre had undertaken several projects to disseminate information about the United Nations, especially among children and youth.  As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, there was an agreement between the Information Centre and Instituto Latinoamericano de la Comunicación Educativa, an organization that specialized in distance learning technologies.


Mexico, he said, welcomed the entry of the United Nations into new forms of communication such as social media.  However, the Department should not lose sight of the traditional means and must strike a balance between both.  Complete access to information was a critical factor, not only in enjoying human rights, but also in fostering economic development.  Mexico wished to underscore the availability of key information materials in the Spanish language, in traditional as well as in new media.  Also as cited in the report, Mexico ranked third among countries with the greatest number of hits on the United Nations website.  It was also one of the Latin American countries with the highest number of Facebook users.  The rise of Spanish as a world language was evident in the statement by the representative of Kyrgyzstan, who had delivered his speech with full mastery of the Spanish language and a flawless accent.


YUSSEF KANAAN, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, aligning himself with statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said Palestine stressed the importance of the Public Information Department’s Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, in accordance with relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, the latest being resolution 65/15, which had been adopted on 30 November 2010 by an overwhelming majority.


He said that the adoption of those resolutions reflected the broad international support for that programme, which was instrumental in raising and promoting the international community’s awareness of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, and in raising awareness of and support for the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination.  The programme also broadened support for regional and international efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole.


Palestine commended the Department for its valuable efforts in launching, on 18 October, the revised and updated permanent exhibit on the Question of Palestine at United Nations Headquarters in New York, he said, also reaffirming the importance of the Department’s work in the development of the film archives on the subject.  Also important was the continued provision of assistance to the Palestinian people in media development through the annual training programme for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


He called on the Department to undertake the other activities requested by the General Assembly, including the organization and promotion of fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem, and Israel, and to expand the Department’s collection of audio-visual materials on the question of Palestine.  He hoped that the Palestinian Section in the Department would receive sufficient funding and staff to enable it to fully implement its mandate vis-à-vis the question of Palestine.


The Palestinian leadership, through the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, attached great importance to the strategic role of that sector and its development, despite Israeli control of the communications sector in Palestine, including the Palestinian frequency spectrum, he said.  That deprived the Palestinian people of their right of direct access to communication services and information technology.  In the framework of building State institutions, the Palestinian leadership worked tirelessly to build the communications and information technology networks to reach their people everywhere in Palestine and to help them overcome the geographical and physical impediments to normal life and development caused by the illegal settlements, the apartheid annexation wall, and the suffocating and deliberate siege and closures.


He said that the Palestinian leadership was also exerting efforts to protect journalists and guarantee that they worked freely and safely.  In that, a new TV and Radio law was being drafted with the participation of media professionals and freedom of speech activists.  Also, relevant Palestinian Government agencies had been training their staff on how to deal with the media, the rights and obligations of journalists under the law, and the protection afforded to them.


Action on drafts


Following the conclusion of its general debate on information, the Committee proceeded to consideration of two related drafts.


Draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s thirty-third session (document A/66/21), is entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, while Draft resolution B, also contained in that report, is entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”.


The Committee approved the two texts without a vote.


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For information media • not an official record