by the Representative of the Netherlands
on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group
in the 23rd session of the Committee on Information
1 May 2001
1. Mr. Chairman, I have the pleasure to speak on behalf of the Western
European and Other States Group, that includes the countries of the European
Union. Although some members will speak on a national basis, all have agreed
with this statement.
2. First I would like to congratulate the new members of the Bureau on their
election. They have the unenviable task of improving on the performance of their
predecessors, but I think the new Bureau is well capable of doing that. I take
the opportunity here to thank the former Under Secretary General Mr. Kensaku
Hogen for all the work he has undertaken, while at the same time welcoming Mr.
Tharoor as the Interim Head of DPI and thanking him for the statement he made on
the activities of DPI.
3. This session of the Committee on Information will be very important for
the future course of the public information by the United Nations and DPI in
particular. I emphasise that our Group remains fully supportive of the important
role that DPI has to fulfil in order as we continue to realize that the United
Nations cannot achieve its purposes if the peoples of the world are not fully
informed of the aims and activities of the United Nations.
We will have to take into consideration the technological changes that
are reshaping the way information is distributed, shared and consumed, which continue to create new challenges for DPI. At the same time we must not forget the traditional tasks of DPI, as
media such as radio continue to reach millions of listeners all of the world. We
will have to determine what we think are the core activities of DPI. We will
need to formulate policies to strengthen DPI’s effectiveness and efficiency in
order for DPI to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century and that the
United Nations reaches out to key disseminators of information, especially the
media and non-governmental organisations, utilizing the latest technologies. We
need a DPI that realizes the slogan: “Global Vision, Local Voice”.
5. Technological changes seem to be happening at increasing speed. What was
deemed impossible a year ago, became technologically feasible today; mobile
phones, portable computers, hundreds of satellite channels and millions of
webpages are available for more and more people affecting and changing their
lives and the manner is which they get their information. It must immediately be
said that not all people are benefiting to the same extent of these
developments. Regretfully significant groups of people are still deeply mired in
poverty and lack basic needs such as water, education and health care and for
them these technologies and the internet are still a distant dream. Although the
internet cannot substitute a sound poverty eradication programme it is clear
that developing and developed nations will need to work together to try to
bridge this divide as otherwise poor nations could be left behind. On the
approach to be pursued elsewhere in the United Nations very important
discussions are taking place.
In this changing environment of new technologies and opportunities the
United Nations will have to try to bring across its important message to as many
people as it possibly can. This surely is a daunting task and it underscores the
need for further and continued reform and improvement in the manner the UN
disseminates its information. In our view reform is more than simply reducing
costs and improving efficiency, although necessary, but the overall objective
should be to enhance the effectiveness of UN information activities. It is
necessary to move further away from the approach of trying to do it all, but to
develop new strategies and approaches.
7. In our view its is essential for the United Nations to make
communications and information strategies an integral part of the strategic
management of the organisation. Not only DPI but also other UN departments can
and must contribute to informing international audiences of the goals and
achievements of the United Nations.
8. The question is where do we go from here. As we said earlier the
challenges posed by the new technologies need to be addressed. The importance of
the website will continue to grow in the future. There are costs involved in the
further development of the site, as mentioned by the secretariat in its report.
However we feel that the further development of the website cannot be seen
separately from the other activities of the DPI. Therefore we continue to encourage the DPI to prioritise and
to apply its resources to ensure that the UN's message is delivered with the
right technology, geared towards the correct audiences, with the appropriate mix
of communications tools. At the same time UN has to be aware of the fact that
not all audiences have the same demands nor are they able to receive the same
information. In prioritizing the DPI should differentiate between the different
‘markets’ that it is trying to serve.
I would like to make a few remarks about the use of languages within
public information. Although the United Nations has six official languages our
Group is worried about the gap between the use of English and the other official
languages, which is evident in the development of the UN website. The United
Nations needs to take steps to ensure at multilingual approach to the
availability of public information, with a focus on the needs of constituency
audiences and within budgetary constraints. We continue to point out that
through organizational steps it is possible to utilize and even strengthen
existing content creation and development throughout the UN to improve the
multilingual character of the website.
During the discussions on the resolution the Western group would like to
focus on formulating concrete steps for DPI to undertake to improve its
effectiveness and efficiency. Before mentioning a few I would like to say that
we have taken good notice of great importance several delegations still attach
to part A of the resolution, as they expressed in their statement. Returning now
to a few of our suggestions:
For the website the Optical Disk System should be linked as soon as
possible to the United Nations Website, as this would greatly enhance the
multilingual character of the website. We feel that such information should be
freely available to all.
My group fully supports the initiative of the Secretary-General to
develop UN-Houses, as bringing together physically and organisationally the
public information activities of the UN in one region would greatly improve
their efficiency and effectiveness and we call for an in-depth evaluation in
13. We need to support the development of the United Nations libraries, such
as the Dag Hammerskjold Library, in becoming modern, integrated libraries
accessible to all audiences.
14. Given the importance of peacekeeping operations, on which important
discussions are ongoing, we feel that DPI should continue to strengthen its
involvement in this field through active co-operation with the Department of
15. We are concerned about hate media, an issue mentioned during the open
debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in the Security Council
recently and we call on DPI to develop programmes in radio and television
address in the harmful effects of hate media of peace and security
These are several of the proposals we will make during the discussions on
the resolution in the coming weeks. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that all
of these proposals aim at strengthening the work of DPI and improving its
outreach to more and more communities all over the world. It is also worthwhile mentioning that my Group feels that we should
intensify the dialogue with DPI during the year and not limit ourselves to these
two weeks in May. We propose to have regular meetings between representatives of
the different regional groups and the DPI, perhaps once every three months, to
discuss the implementation of the recommendations contained in our resolution.
Finally I would like to make a few remarks about the role of a free press
in society as we will be celebrating World Press Freedom day on 3 May next. As I have done over the past years it is necessary to reiterate the old
adagium of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart
information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. It is
regrettable that in many nations in the world a free press does not exist and
that the exchange of information is controlled and limited.
18. We strongly condemn the use of violence to silence journalists or otherwise obstructing their work and more in general we condemn attempts to control or influence the media with the aim of distorting or suppressing information and opinions or to use the media for purposes of propaganda, for example inciting ethnic hatred and violence. We mourn those journalists that gave their lives in doing their job in countries all over the world.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman I reiterate that our Group is looking forward
to the discussions within the Committee. We hope that our discussions will take
place in the usual spirit of co-operation and be aimed at seeking consensus at
this 23rd meeting of the Committee on Information.
you, Mr. Chairman. -----
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.