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STATEMENT BY MR. M. MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN,
REPRESENTATIVE OF BANGLADESH,
AT THE GENERAL DEBATE
OF THE UN COMMITEE ON INFORMATION
DURING ITS 26TH SESSION
27 APRIL 2004
Needless to say, the Bangladesh delegation has every confidence in your leadership. Therefore, could I begin by expressing my delegation's appreciation to the Under Secretary General Mr. Shashi Tharoor for his statement introducing the reports of the Secretary General. His remarks provided us with an overview of the activities and accomplishments of the Department of Public Information during the past year.
Bangladesh delegation associates itself with the statement made yesterday by the distinguished Ambassador of Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. I shall, therefore, limit my statement to a few areas which are of particular importance to us.
DPI has been going through phases of reform and restructuring since many years. We commend the progress already achieved since commencement of this exercise. Restructuring of the Department last year was yet another positive step. We hope this will enable the Department to further improve its delivery in the field of public information and communications and to disseminate messages of the United Nations by developing communications strategies, in close collaboration with the substantive departments, the United Nations funds and programmes and its subsidiary organs.
We applaud the DPI for the good work done in running and re-designing the UN web site. The web site has become a very cost-effective medium to disseminate information about the activities of the United Nations to the far corners of the world. It has been of immeasurable benefit to all of us. We noted with satisfaction the successful expansion of the electronic mail-based United Nations News Service. However, we emphasize that extra care needs to be taken to ensure that news-breaking stories and news alerts are accurate, impartial and free of any bias. The central objective of the news services should be the delivery, in real time, of authentic, objective and unbiased news and information to the audiences worldwide. DPI should explore full potential of all available channels of communications - both new and traditional - so that they can meet the varied and growing demands of its users.
United Nations peacekeeping operations have assumed paramount importance against the backdrop of an international era unfortunately beset with conflicts. In the complex UN peace operations, information component has a vital role to play in forging proper understanding of the objective of the mission and its capabilities. We appreciate the activities already undertaken by the Department in this area. The Department of Public Information should continue its efforts to strengthen its capacity through development of a coherent information strategy with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As a major troop contributing country, we would like to see our contribution to the international peace and security recognized and adequately reflected in local and regional media.
Bangladesh firmly believes that the UN Information Centers scattered around the globe are the real interface of the United Nations with the global community. My delegation has, therefore, carefully examined suggestions made by the Secretary General for the rationalization of information centers. We were not however, persuaded that how the initiatives as proposed would strengthen the flow and exchange of information on the United Nations in developing countries. UN Information Centers were created essentially to perform functions as media liaison, knowledge management and outreach to educational institutions and civil society. These functions are still relevant to UNICs located in developing countries. Here we would like to note with appreciation the role played by the UNIC in Dhaka. Despite the fact that the center is running without a Director for quite a few years, it is doing a commendable job. We strongly support that the Center be maintained and further strengthened.
We understand the logic behind creation of Western hub, but the same cannot be generally applied to most of the centers in developing world. The global media has undergone dramatic changes with the innovative use of information and communication technologies. The developed countries have been the main beneficiaries while majority of people in the developing countries are still lagging far behind. This reason alone is enough to justify maintenance and even further strengthening of the centers in the developing countries.
The hub in Western Europe has just been created. It is too early to conclusively evaluate the success of the experiment and its impact on the work of the Department. A great care must be taken before treading further in this direction taking into account the communicational, linguistic and geopolitical realities. It should not be a budget driven exercise as often perceived to be. Also, an objective cost benefit analysis of the proposal should be done. In our view, it should be applied only in countries where operating costs are very high and mediums of communication are sufficiently developed.
We are concerned at the reduction of allocation for information centers by $2 million. This may adversely affect strengthening of centers in developing world as mandated by the General Assembly.
We appreciate efforts of DPI in the area of multilingualism. These efforts should not be limited to six official languages only, rather be extended to other popular and widely spoken non-official languages. Needless to say, information has the strongest impact if it is disseminated in local languages. We are happy to learn that Information Centers are trying to meet the demand. But their efforts are constrained by resource scarcity. Dhaka Center is a case in point. It is hosting a very useful website in local language - Bangla, catering information requirements of 250 million Bangla speaking people in and outside Bangladesh. The web site should be maintained and enriched with adequate technical and material resources.
We recognize that the pursuance of true multilingualism means promotion, protection and preservation of diversity of languages and cultures globally. Multilingualism by its very nature promotes unity in diversity and strengthens international understanding. In this connection, my delegation would like to remind the Committee that the General Conference of the UNESCO, at our initiative in 1999, proclaimed 21 February as the "International Mother Language Day". The UN General Assembly welcomed the decision at its 56th Session, which was reflected in the resolution on multilingualism A/RES/56/262. The day is observed in many countries of the world with due importance. We recommend that DPI advocate the issue of mother language and take initiatives to observe the day in the United Nations in consonance with its effort to promote multilingualism. By doing so, the United Nations will show respect to more than 6 thousand languages spoken today around the world.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.***