26th Session (2004)
General Debate: Tanzania
Statement by Mrs. Radhia Msuya, Head of the United Nations Section in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania (28 April 2004)
My delegation is delighted to see you presiding over the work of the Committee on Information and would wish to pledge our full support and co-operation in discharging your duties. Allow me to extend our sincere appreciation to Mr. Tharoor, Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information for presenting the Reports of the Secretary General.
My delegation associates itself with the statement made by the Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
The United Republic of Tanzania has always supported initiatives to reorganize and review activities of the Department of Information, so as to enable the Department to implement its mandate in full and efficiently. The proposed reforms should however be undertaken carefully so as not to undermine the standing of the UN in the eyes of the world citizens, particularly those in developing countries where there is very limited access to electronic media.
My delegation is concerned with the proposals to rationalize the network of the United Nations Information Centers as contained in the Secretary General's report Doe. A/AC.198/2004/3. The Centers continue to play a vital role in disseminating information on the functions of United Nations on important areas including economic and social development, peace and security, human rights, poverty eradication, debt relief, health particularly HIV/AIDS, education, gender issues, children's rights, environmental issues, as well as many other issues of relevance.
My delegation therefore shares the views expressed by many that the idea of establishing Regional Hubs should be applied carefully. Due consideration should be accorded to the specific needs of different countries, particularly in countries with underdeveloped communication infrastructure and systems, otherwise these changes would jeopardise the objectives of the Committee and the mandate of the Department and implementing agencies. It is recommended that the approach to this proposal should be on a case-by-case basis.
The United Republic of Tanzania calls for the retention of the United Nations Information Centre at Dar-as-Salaam for the following reasons:
- The operational and administrative costs of the Centre are relatively low due to the rent-free premises offered by the Government. The current staff includes one professional at P-3 level and five local staff
- The Center, which includes a library, is conveniently located, which makes it easily accessible to the public. Students, teachers, researchers, journalists and members of the public use the Library.
- There is no other United Nations office, which offers similar service. The Centre's Library contains information materials and publications from various United Nations agencies such as the UNDP, ILO, UNIDO, FAO, UNCTAD, IMF, UNICEF, WFP, UNFPA and the World Bank, among many others. It is the only place in Tanzania where one can access a collection of information materials and publications of the United Nations under one roof.
- The Dar-es-Salaam Centre has very good working relations with the host country and its partners, United Nations Offices, Non-Governmental Organizations and academic institutions. This collaboration has enabled the Center to co-organize major events like the International Peace Day and the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. With the support from United Nations agencies, the Government, NGOs and other partners this Centre can operate effectively.
As stated earlier, my delegation believes that the proposed re-orientation of the United Nations Information Centres is aimed at, among other things, strengthening the Centres to enable them better to serve the Organization and the Member States. The possible best way to enable it to serve the community within the spirit of the ongoing reforms is to enhance its operations as a national information service for the United Nations in Tanzania. Given Tanzania's special circumstances, it is unlikely to be effectively served by the proposed Regional Hub in Nairobi, which is intended to cater for the whole of East Africa.
The operation of retaining one or two staff information officers under the Resident Coordinator's Office (under Option No. 2) means that the Centre will have to close its library services thereby denying many Tanzanians an important source of information about the United Nations that they have already got used to.
The use of the Internet and modern information technology is still limited in Tanzania. Very few people have access to the Internet where they could access information about the United Nations. The traditional methods of communications, including delivery of documents by post mail and dispatch as well as physical contacts are still some of the relevant methods being employed to get the United Nations message across. This requires physical presence of a viable, functioning information centre.
The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania is willing to continue providing rent-free premises for the United Nations Information Centre in Dar-es-Salaam as it currently does, the challenge for the Department of Public Information rests in supporting the Center to enable it to better serve the community. At a time when the multilateral character of the organization is an issue of public concern and interest, it is best to retain the center in Dar-es-Salaam.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.