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26th Session (2004)

General Debate: Switzerland

Statement by Mr. Rudolf Christen, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations (28 April 2004)

Mr. Chairman,

This 26th session of the Committee on Information provides us with an opportunity to thank the Department of Public Information, its chief, Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor, and all his staff, for the work effected over the past year. In the Swiss delegation's opinion, a good job was done in terms of communication, under often difficult circumstances.

Our gratitude is particularly addressed to Ms. Thérèse Gastaut, who ran this Committee's secretariat with great competence and to whom we offer our best wishes in view of her upcoming retirement.

My delegation notes with satisfaction that the DPI has progressed in the implementation of re-forms, notably its new orientation towards providing information as a client-oriented concept, and formulated with its customers' specific needs in mind. This positive approach must allow the establishment of closer ties between the public and our Organisation, between the citizens of out States and the United Nations, by making the actions it undertakes and the policies it follows more comprehensible. A real step forward in the direction of more modern and efficient communication has been taken, and we will acknowledge with interest the evaluations to be carried out.

My delegation also rejoices that the use of modern means of communication has consequently been introduced, such as the Internet, and notes that more traditional means of information, such as the radio, remain indispensable and must be adapted to specific circumstances. If it has not been possible to attain all the goals — for example the implementation of the Official Documents System of the United Nations, originally foreseen in Spring but postponed until this Fall — the results attained are nonetheless significant.

As we've learned from the World Summit on the Information Society — the first phase of which was held last December in Geneva and whose second phase will be held next year in Tunis — even though we started working with new technology more than eight years ago, much remains to be done.

Mr. Chairman,

Two of the reports submitted to our Committee merit particular observations from my delegation.

As concerns the rationalisation of the network of United Nations Information Centres (UNICs), the report informs us on the status of implementation of the Secretary-General's proposed strategy adopted by the General Assembly. The opening, in Brussels at the beginning of last year, of the first regional information centre, which replaced 9 centres closed at the end of 2003, was part of that strategy and we will follow with interest the eventual evaluation of the results achieved.

My delegation takes note of the fact that, with the regionalization of these centres in Europe, the information services located in Geneva and Vienna, that support the activities of the Office of the United Nations in those cities and thereby fulfil a mission of a different nature, have not been affected. It deems that these services must continue to enjoy the benefit of the means necessary to accomplish their mission. We all know, in particular, how important it is that the public be able to visit the UN's buildings, thus familiarising themselves with its tasks.

In pursuing this effort at rationalisation, which is progressively being extended to other regions, my delegation deems that the conditions specific to each region must be taken into account, and that dialogue and transparency must prevail in the elaboration of solutions that will retained.

Concerning the modernisation and integrated management of the libraries, Switzerland takes note of the results of the work carried out by the Steering Committee established to follow that question. In my delegation's esteem, they constitute a good basis for the realisation of the goal to improve the efficiency of the United Nations' library system. We note with satisfaction that a fruitful collaboration has been engaged between the Dag Hammarskjöld Library in New York and the library of the United Nations Office in Geneva, both of which carry important and complementary roles. The collaboration merits further pursuit, while respecting the mission and budgetary autonomy of each.

Mr. Chairman,

We are well aware of the working conditions too often surrounding modern journalism: the search for the scoop, the exposure of scandals, the revelation of sensational facts that make the big headlines and first pages. These are, as Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor said in his introductory statement, the "hard threats" that make the news. My delegation welcomes the decision to put the more forgotten themes in the UN context back in the spotlight, next Monday, when we will celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

We hope that certain reporters — who are like brothers to me — will use the opportunity to write articles and report on these themes, which relate to "soft" information — even though, granted, the term is hardly appropriate, consisting of subjects like famine, epidemics or forgotten crises. The challenge we face is as much for ourselves, we must continue to work together to make these themes more visible and understandable.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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