19 April 2013
General Assembly
PI/2049

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

Background Release


Committee on Information’s Thirty-fifth Session to Be Held

 

at Headquarters 22 April-2 May

 


The thirty-fifth annual session of the Committee on Information, the intergovernmental body charged with reviewing progress in the field of United Nations public information, will take place at Headquarters from 22 April to 2 May.


During the two-week session, delegations are expected to undertake a wide-ranging review of the Department of Public Information and its three subprogrammes — the News and Media, Outreach and Strategic Communications Divisions.


The Secretary-General observes in his reports on news services and strategic communications services that the Department conveys the United Nations story to audiences worldwide through a mix of traditional media channels and new Internet and mobile-based platforms. 


By increasingly drawing on social media tools, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, as well as other innovative communications technologies, the Department has broadened its reach and contributed to the Organization’s overall transparency and accountability.  Last year, the Department launched United Nations profiles on Pinterest and boosted its fan base on Google Plus to 700,000.


“Efforts to harness the power of social media in all six official languages have yielded impressive results in terms of reaching new audiences around the world and in directing viewers to the Department’s traditional media products,” he states, noting that the number of social media followers has increased in all of the Department’s news and media accounts.


Additionally, the global network of United Nations Information Centres, located in 63 countries, continues to raise awareness and improve understanding of pressing global concerns.  Last year, the Centres’ websites recorded a 42 per cent increase in page views, thanks to steps to increasingly tailor overall communications strategies in local languages. 


With language parity remaining a key goal in all its activities, the Department added more than 11,000 multilingual pages last year, contributing to greater use of the non-English materials.  


In his report on Outreach Services, the Secretary-General states that the appointment in January of his Youth Envoy has enabled the Public Information Department to bolster “proactive and targeted” engagement with young people, and that during the next two years, it will expand its outreach to this key constituency, establish new partnerships and continue to modernize the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.


Established in 1978, the Committee on Information examines United Nations public information policies and activities in light of evolving international relations, and evaluates the Organization’s progress in the information and communications field.  The 114-member Committee is also mandated to promote a more effective global information and communications order to strengthen peace and understanding.


Report Summaries


According to the Secretary-General’s two-part report, entitled Activities of the Department of Public Information:  strategic communications services (document A/AC.198/2013/2),the strategic communications services are responsible for helping to fulfil the United Nations substantive goals by strategically communicating the Organization’s activities and concerns to achieve the greatest public impact.  To do that, the services devise and implement communications strategies on priority issues and provide communications support for key United Nations events and initiatives.


The first part of the report covers the Department’s communications campaigns, which support the three pillars of the world body’s work — development, human rights and peace and security.  Between July and December 2012, the number of followers of the Organization’s main Twitter account in English increased steadily to more than 1.2 million, with readers focused particularly on such themes as human rights, combating racism, ending violence against women, access to water, the work of the Security Council, the crisis in Syria and the question of Palestine. 


In the area of peacekeeping, the Department continued, in partnership with the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, to host the Organization’s peacekeeping website in all six official languages.  Together they launched “a global effort to advance peace on the ground”, a digital campaign featuring an interactive “wall of faces” allowing users to click on a face and find out the story behind the image, as well as the “Year in Review” website focusing on the main peacekeeping developments in 2012.


A communications team worked with humanitarian agencies to ensure coordinated messaging on the Syrian crisis at Headquarters and in the Middle East.  A dedicated webpage on Mali was developed for the News Centre website.  The Department worked with that of Political Affairs to organize a multimedia exhibit on Libya’s transition from dictatorship to democracy.


To keep the spotlight on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda, the Department helped the Secretary-General’s Office prepare joint messaging.  It partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Millennium Campaign to promote public participation in the “My World” global survey and “The World We Want 2015” platform through its various websites and social media accounts.


Other thematic communications strategies detailed in the report focus on counter-terrorism; ending violence against women; the question of Palestine; climate change; sustainable development; human rights; and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


The second part of the report highlights the work of the 63 United Nations Information Centres, which adapt overall United Nations communications priorities into local communications strategies for local audiences in their own language. 


Through partnerships with members of the United Nations, local authorities, civil society, academic institutions and the private sector, the Centres provided communications support to such initiatives as the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, the International Day of the Girl Child and the International Years of Cooperatives and of Sustainable Energy for All. 


The Centre in Beirut teamed with Heya TV, the only Arab station dedicated to promoting women’s issues, on the weekly Her Excellency the Minister programme profiling women activists interested in becoming Government ministers.  Through an arrangement with Media Evolutions, a company with direct access to mobile phone companies and their databases, the centre in Lusaka sent text messages throughout Zambia about local United Nations activities. 


The Strategic Communications Division has initiated a series of WebEx meetings, which allow field staff to communicate face-to-face and share best practices.


The Secretary-General’s report on Activities of the Department of Public Information:  news services (document A/AC.198/2013/3)outlines key advances in promoting the United Nations work through print, radio, television, video, photographic and Internet services.  It particularly focuses on UNifeed, the Department’s Internet-based video news service.


It says that last year the Department enhanced the scope and depth of its multimedia programming and online news coverage, expanded the network of partner broadcasters carrying its television and radio programmes in different languages and actively engaged social networks to reach broader audiences worldwide.  Segments of 21st Century, its flagship television feature series, are now translated into Chinese and Turkish; United Nations Radio’s programming in Bangla has been revitalized and its web page upgraded.  All six official language versions of the News Centre portal have been fully redesigned to harmonize their appearance and functionalities.


The Department continues to provide strong support to Member States.  When resources permit, its webcasting operations now post video footage in English and the original language on the United Nations Web TV website of speakers organized by country.


By the end of 2012, United Nations Radio’s list of partners worldwide reached 646.  Radio programmes posted online were downloaded more than 800,000 times by listeners and radio stations; the number of followers on social media outlets burgeoned in all six official languages.  United Nations Television continues to provide live coverage of meetings and other events at Headquarters; produce varied news and feature-style programming; and generate video material for a growing number of web and mobile platforms.


The Department continued to improve the performance, video quality, and search and browsing capacity of its live and on-demand streaming services to help audiences worldwide follow proceedings in real time.  The number of subscribers of the United Nations Channel on YouTube reached more than 34,000 subscribers.


In the area of press release distribution, the Department’s Meetings Coverage Section between July and December 2012 produced 2,042 releases in English and French — including year-end round-ups of the Security Council and General Assembly.


Also covered in the report are other services — such as support to the media, placement of op-ed articles, as well as the growth and improved presentation of the United Nations website to include better use of statistics, multilingualism and access for persons with disabilities.


Finally, the Secretary-General’s report on Activities of the Department of Public Information:  outreach services (document A/AC.198/2013/4) states that the mission of the Outreach Division is “to strengthen international support for the role and activities of the Organization by informing the public about the goals, priorities and concerns of the United Nations and by engaging in an interactive dialogue with its global constituencies”.  The report discusses work geared towards students, teachers and civil society.


It highlights several initiatives in 2012, including a new series of workshops to support Model UN Conferences worldwide;the annual United Nations student conference on human rights, which gave students a chance to recommend to a panel of experts the kind of human rights campaign they wanted to develop in their schools or communities; and partnerships with the entertainment industry to portray the United Nations in film and television, as part of the Secretary-General’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative.


By the end of 2012, more than 850 institutions of higher learning and research worldwide had joined Academic Impact — a global university initiative launched in 2010 to align such institutions with the United Nations.  The Department is collaborating with member institutions on a range of initiatives, among them a global educational video contest on sustainable development in June in Buenos Aires and the development of mobile devices and tablets to help people learn English as a second language.


The United Nations Visitors’ Centre website, launched in 2010 to provide visitors with information on guided tours, exhibits and lectures, last year received 343,679 page views and its Facebook page has increased to more than 5,800 fans.


Also last year, young journalists from developing countries participated in the thirty-second annual Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalists’ Fellowship Programme, held in New York and, for the first time, in Geneva.  In 2013, the Department would mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States and the 180th anniversary of the Slavery Abolition Act in the British Empire with a series of events at Headquarters.  


As part of efforts to expand production and distribution of digital and print-on-demand products, the Department completed the beta 3 version of the Organization’s e-collection and issued digital versions of some 390 titles.  It released the first edition of United Nations at a Glance, a guide for readers new to the Organization. 


As for library services, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library is continuing the digitization of the Organization’s parliamentary records since 1946.  By the end of November 2012, it had digitized more than 250,000 important historic documents.  The Library adopted a new online platform to disseminate information on subscribed electronic resources as well as United Nations databases and research tools.


The report notes that the Capital Master Plan renovation of Headquarters in New York continues to pose challenges to the Department’s outreach services due to limited dedicated infrastructure facilities catering to visitors, non-governmental organizations and student groups.  Every effort is being made to maintain the usual level of service.  The Department is considering setting up a visitors’ centre and a small space for exhibitions in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Building when the General Assembly building, which normally houses the Visitors’ Lobby, is closed for renovation this year for 18 months.


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For information media • not an official record