As delivered E/F

STATEMENT BY MR. SHASHI THAROOR,
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC INFORMATION,
AT THE OPENING OF THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION
OF THE COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION
26 APRIL 2004

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and a great pleasure for me to address the Committee on Information as it begins its twenty-sixth session. The honour, of course, is customary, but the pleasure is not routine. The past year has been marked by very positive cooperation between the Committee and the Department of Public Information. If the warm and kind words addressed to DPI, in general, and to me, in particular, by the Chairman, Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, are any indication, I am convinced that this tradition will not only continue but will be further strengthened. During the current phase of its renewal, DPI has greatly benefited from your guidance, Mr. Chairman, and from the collective wisdom of the Bureau, helping to steer it in the right direction. Your cogent and instructive statement today is one more example of this. You said you will do your part. You have done more than your part, Mr. Chairman, and I do thank you very much on behalf of my Department and my colleagues, and I wish to express through you our deepest gratitude and indebtedness to your team, to your Bureau, and your staff, for your continued support and cooperation.

The membership of the Committee has steadily grown over the years. With the admission of three new Member States - St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Switzerland - it is now 102 members strong, and we hear of further interest from other Member States. The Department of Public Information has always welcomed constructive interaction between itself and the members of the Committee. Your active participation in the general debate and year-round contacts with my staff in the Department bear clear witness not only to your interest in the work of the United Nations on questions relating to information, but also to your abiding commitment to making DPI the effective public voice of the Organization.

Mr. Chairman,

Last year when I addressed the Committee, the United Nations was already faced with the serious challenges posed by the events relating to Iraq. 2003 was a difficult year for the Organization, indeed a tragic one, in which many greatly valued colleagues lost their lives in Baghdad. The institution itself suffered collateral damage, with some openly talking about the United Nations becoming irrelevant.

Today, one year later, there are growing signs that the standing of the Organization - to use a word from a New York Times headline - is "rebounding". Slowly, but surely, the United Nations is being perceived as regaining its indispensable role in global affairs.

Admittedly, spirits at the UN have at times been low, yet its vital work continued around the world. This Committee understands that any attempt to reduce the United Nations' relevance to its conduct on any one issue is completely misconceived. We know the media prefers to focus on "hard threats" - such as acts of terrorism or dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction. The "soft threats", so called, such as extreme poverty and hunger, endemic or infectious disease, or environmental degradation that afflict millions of people, rarely make the headlines. Though the risk of being attacked by terrorists or with weapons of mass destruction, or even of falling prey to genocide, are real enough for all, the dangers of extreme poverty, hunger and disease are ever-present in the lives of millions of people in poor countries. These "problems without passports" - both "hard" and "soft" threats - are challenges that no one country, however powerful, can confront and overcome all alone. The only way to tackle them is together, through common endeavours in pursuit of common goals, ideally using the mechanisms of the United Nations.

For us at the Department of Public Information, the options are never simply "either/or". We have to address all issues, hard and soft, critical and controversial, today and every day. We have no choice but to respond to the insistent demands of the news stories of the day - normally in the world's "hot spots", which today means focusing on Iraq and its future, and the allegations of wrongdoing in the management of the oil-for-food programme in that country. But we cannot afford merely to echo the media's priorities. We have to constantly strive to keep the "big picture" on the media's agenda, reminding the world that there are other critical areas that need equal, if not more, attention. How this is done and what has been accomplished is recounted in the Secretary-General's report on the continuing reorientation of United Nations activities in the field of public information and communications (A/AC. 198/2004/2). But more on that later.

As part of our continuing efforts to highlight the United Nations' priorities - your priorities - the Department plans to focus at this year's observance of World Press Freedom Day on what is missing from the world's media headlines. As agreed with the Bureau, this year's observance of World Press Freedom Day will take place on the morning of 3 May, the actual day, and include the usual two parts: a formal institutional session and an informal panel discussion. The theme for the panel discussion, "Reporting and Under-Reporting: Who Decides?", is related to the list of ten stories of global importance the world should hear more about, that DPI will announce in connection with World Press Freedom Day. We have deliberately chosen this timing in order to highlight the importance of the work and responsibilities of your Committee.

Mr. Chairman,

As requested in paragraphs 12 and 88 of resolution A/58/101 B, I would now like to report to you on the activities of the Department and on the implementation of your recommendations. Through consultations with the Bureau of the Committee, it was decided that the information requested in resolution 58/101 B, as well as in resolutions 58/126 of 19 December 2003 and 58/270 of 23 December 2003, would be grouped into six reports, the most comprehensive of which would be the one dealing with the continuing reorientation of DPI. The remaining reports would address requests for information on more specific areas, including an in-depth review on library activities, the rationalization of the network of United Nations information centres, the activities of the United Nations Communications Group in 2003 and, for the first time, a report on better publicizing the work and decisions of the General Assembly.

As a result of my obligation to touch on all of these, however briefly, I regret that my statement this morning will do little to enhance my reputation for brevity. But I hope, Mr. Chairman, that it would not dilute my claim to relevance. Even then I cannot cover everything. Let me remind you that the Department, as agreed with the Bureau, will host an informal interactive dialogue with the members of the Committee on what DPI does and how it does it. This dialogue, which replaces the traditional informal briefing by DPI to the Committee members, will take place today in this room, Conference Room 2, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. and will provide you with an informal setting to interact with DPI staff and DPI management on the entire gamut of the activities of the Department. This dialogue should be particularly useful to those delegates who are taking part in the work of the Committee for the first time and are not fully familiar with the activities of DPI. So, please join us later in the afternoon. And please make an effort to be on time because we intend to begin with a seven-minute audio-visual presentation on the work of DPI to set the tone for the discussion, with all the bells and whistles, which you will miss if you arrive after 3:07!

Mr. Chairman,

With the implementation of the September 2002 reform proposals of the Secretary-General, a comprehensive and broad-based restructuring of the Department of Public Information has now been implemented. This process, initiated by the General Assembly through its resolutions 56/253 calling for a comprehensive review of DPI's management and operations, was essentially steered by this Committee. The General Assembly, agreeing with your recommendations made at the twenty-fourth as well as the twenty-fifth sessions in resolutions 57/130 B and 58/101 B, welcomed the Secretary-General's proposals and DPI's efforts to improve its public information activities. Today, as a result of this reform process, DPI has undergone a transformation, complete with a new mission statement, a new operating model and a new organizational structure. It has developed a new strategic approach at the core of which lie a new client-oriented service, greater system-wide coordination and a new culture of evaluation embedded into the work of the Department.

I do not intend to review each of these elements at length, as we have already done so in detail in the Secretary-General's reports submitted for your consideration. Instead, with your permission, I will concentrate on a few highlights and examine together with you what has so far worked and what has not.

Mr. Chairman,

In its ongoing process of reform and reorientation, DPI has acquired the tools needed to deliver on the challenges set by the Secretary-General in his report, "Strengthening the United Nations: an agenda for change". Initially we faced a few teething problems, a few hiccups, but after twelve months of client meetings, communications strategies and system-wide coordination in planning and implementation, we can say with confidence that the measures taken were right and necessary.

A new element in our work is the systematic evaluation of our products and activities based on well-defined and measurable indicators of achievement.

As we informed the Committee members last year, DPI has begun to work with the Office of Internal Oversight Services on a three-year project to institute an internal mechanism for performance management, which of course is in line with the Secretary-General's reform programme. For DPI, this first year has witnessed the introduction of an "annual programme impact review," which with the UN taste for acronyms, has now been reduced to the APIR. For OIOS, DPI serves as a pilot project on institutionalising self-evaluation with a view to offering it to other Secretariat departments for possible replication. What this has entailed for the Department is that, on the basis of our new mission statement and the setting of departmental and divisional goals, the APIR has allowed programme managers to identify performance indicators and collect baseline data to evaluate the effectiveness of DPI products and activities over time. As distinguished delegates may have had the opportunity to observe, incorporated throughout the reorientation report is the initial set of data collected as the empirical foundation of this new mindset of strategic planning and the creation of a culture of evaluation.

We know we have a long road ahead before we can claim that we are able to systematically appraise the effect and impact of all our products and activities. However, the APIR has already encouraged programme managers to focus on results and on the evaluation of programme effectiveness in selected areas. In order to illustrate what I mean, allow me to share with you some concrete examples of the outcome of these efforts so far.

By identifying expected accomplishments and defining measurable indicators, such as user satisfaction, we were able to find out what worked and what did not. For example, a Dag Hammarskjöld Library user survey, in which I hope some of you participated, found that users want improved or enhanced services in a number of areas. It revealed that users were mostly satisfied with DHL, but were not aware of specific Library services that we offer. Managers immediately reacted by expanding their efforts to raise awareness about the Library's programmes.

Monsieur le Président,

Dans ses efforts visant à revoir ses priorités et à affiner ses moyens d'action, mon Département a bénéficié considérablement de l'établissement de liens formels avec les autres départements du Secrétariat - devenus nos clients -, et de l'intensification des efforts destinés à intégrer les institutions du système des Nations Unis dans un paysage de communication commun. A présent, le DPI travaille avec 24 départements-clients et formule une stratégie de communication particulière pour chaque question prioritaire définie en consultation avec ceux-ci. Par ailleurs, l'ensemble des institutions du système onusien est actuellement représenté au sein du Groupe de l'ONU pour la communication, lequel, par le biais de réunions hebdomadaires et de groupes de travail, est en mesure de s'exprimer d'une seule voix sur les questions prioritaires pour l'Organisation. Permettez-moi de vous donner quelques exemples récents.

Le Sommet mondial sur la société de l'information, dont la première phase s'est déroulée à Genève en décembre 2003, a posé des défis particuliers aux spécialistes de l'information du DPI. C'est ainsi que le département a travaillé en étroite coopération avec l'Union internationale des télécommunications et a joué un rôle stratégique déterminant dans la définition des grandes orientations en matière de communication, et, partant, dans la définition des grandes orientations politiques qui ont guidé le Sommet. Les messages que nous avons diffusés à cette occasion ont insisté sur notre attachement au principe de la liberté de la presse, et nous nous sommes efforcés de susciter une couverture médiatique globale plutôt qu'une couverture limitée aux publications et aux milieux spécialisés. Nous avons également fait appel à nos contacts politiques et médiatiques de longue date pour élargir l'action des autres agences qui travaillaient avec nous à la réussite de cette manifestation, et nous avons contribué à mieux faire connaître ce rassemblement, en facilitant l'organisation d'entretiens entre des médias d'importance majeure et des hauts fonctionnaires de l'Organisation et en plaçant des éditoriaux de ceux-ci dans différentes publications à la veille du Sommet. De ce fait, la manifestation a fait l'objet d'une vaste couverture médiatique, qui, compte tenu de certains problèmes rencontrés par la première phase du Sommet, a été largement positive. D'ores et déjà nous nous tournons vers la seconde phase du Sommet, qui se tiendra l'an prochain à Tunis, dans l'espoir de pouvoir y apporter notre concours.

Par ailleurs, à l'occasion de la Journée mondiale 2003 contre le sida, le Département a coordonné une « campagne médiatique intense » de deux semaines à l'échelle du système onusien tout entier. Cette initiative a été lancée en fonction d'un nouveau modèle de campagne rapide et ciblée, dans le cadre de laquelle le personnel du DPI est appelé à placer des éditoriaux et à organiser des entretiens de hauts responsables de l'Organisation, dont les messages sont diffusés le plus largement possible dans des régions données. Cette « campagne intensive », qui a bénéficié de l'aptitude des centres d'information à atteindre un vaste public local, a reçu la couverture médiatique la plus large et la mieux ciblée de toutes les Journées anti-sida observées jusqu'à présent.

Un autre bon exemple de coopération avec un département-client est le travail que nous effectuons avec le Département des opérations de maintien de la paix. En effet, le DPI réfléchit avec ce département à la manière d'attirer l'attention du grand public sur la récente multiplication spectaculaire des demandes pour ce type d'opérations. En effet, susciter le soutien des Etats Membres pour ces nouvelles missions élargies, notamment pour ce qui est de la constitution d'un effectif militaire et policier civil adapté et qualifié, constitue un défi majeur. Les deux départements ont ainsi collaboré à la mise à jour d'une brochure consacrée au caractère multidimensionnel et complexe des opérations de maintien de la paix, et qui vise à souligner l'importance de cette question et à l'expliquer aux lecteurs. Le texte du document figure d'ailleurs sur le site web du Département des opérations de maintien de la paix. En outre, mon département a arrangé la publication d'éditoriaux préparés par les responsables du Département des opérations de maintien de la paix qui soulignent l'ampleur de cette tâche. Les deux départements continueront à étudier d'autres moyens de mieux faire connaître ce problème, y compris par le truchement des centres et des services d'information de l'Organisation.

La planification d'un déploiement rapide et efficace des nouvelles missions de l'ONU constitue un autre volet essentiel en matière de coopération. C'est ainsi que l'an dernier, le DPI a participé à des missions d'évaluation menées par le Département des opérations de maintien de la paix en Côte d'Ivoire, au Libéria et en Haïti. Nous avons également dirigé une mission d'évaluation des besoins médiatiques en Iraq, et, au Libéria, nous avons prêté notre personnel pour faciliter le coup d'envoi de la mission. Le Département de l'information a en outre pris une part active à la planification des missions prévues au Burundi et au Soudan, et a travaillé avec de hauts responsables du Secrétariat et de la Mission d'assistance de l'ONU pour l'Iraq à la constitution d'une cellule d'information pour cette mission, dans l'attente d'un retour des Nations Unies dans ce pays.

De plus, mon Département maintient un contact étroit avec les cellules d'information des missions actuellement sur le terrain, leur permettant de réagir à tout changement de situation. C'est ainsi qu'en décembre 2003, le DPI a organisé et financé un atelier de deux jours à Dakar consacré aux programmes d'information sur le désarmement, la démobilisation et la réinsertion. Y ont participé des responsables de l'information des missions d'opérations de maintien de la paix en Afrique, ainsi que d'autres experts. Les travaux de l'atelier ont permis de dégager les grandes orientations d'une stratégie commune pour les missions à venir. A présent, mon département, en coopération avec celui des opérations de maintien de la paix, prépare un stage de formation d'une semaine prévu en juin 2004 sur la base logistique de l'ONU à Brindisi, en Italie. Le stage, financé conjointement par le Département pour le développement international du Royaume-Uni, le Département des opérations de maintien de la paix et le Département de l'information, formera des équipes d'attachés de presse en vue de leur déploiement rapide sur le terrain. En effet, les participants seront familiarisés à cette occasion avec les pratiques de communication stratégique, avec les règles opérationnelles en usage et avec les meilleures méthodes d'action. Ils seront ainsi capables d'entamer leur travail d'information sur le terrain dès le déploiement de leur mission, et même avant.

Le Département de l'information s'est également chargé de la diffusion la plus large de l'information sur les opérations de maintien de la paix, tout en s'efforçant d'en améliorer la qualité. A présent, le site web de l'ONU consacre des pages à la totalité des 57 opérations de maintien de la paix présentes et passées. Dans le souci d'actualiser l'information, la plupart de ces pages sont remises à jour en permanence avec les gros titres des événements les plus récents affichés sur le site web du Centre de Nouvelles. Ce service a également aidé les missions d'opérations de maintien de la paix à créer leurs propres pages électroniques.

Une autre priorité du département est son action en faveur de la lutte de l'ONU contre le terrorisme, qui comprend les efforts déployés par l'Organisation auprès des Etats membres pour qu'ils saisissent l'importance de la ratification et de l'application de toutes les conventions anti-terrorisme en vigueur. A ce sujet, les centres d'information des Nations Unies ont contacté différentes communautés et collectivités de par le monde pour leur faire connaître les 12 instruments des Nations Unies relatifs à la lutte contre le terrorisme. De plus, mon Département poursuit la promotion des activités essentielles de l'Organisation visant à enrayer la pauvreté et l'intolérance, ainsi que les autres facteurs susceptibles de contribuer à la propagation du terrorisme.

Monsieur le Président,

L'amélioration de la capacité de l'ONU à communiquer effectivement avec les populations du Moyen-Orient a constitué l'un des principaux défis que nous avons eu à relever l'an passé. En effet, l'image des Nations Unies dans cette région n'a cessé de se détériorer au fil des années, et, afin d'y remédier, le DPI a pris une série de mesures à partir de 2003. C'est ainsi qu'à partir de juin dernier, nous avons, en collaboration avec nos collègues d'autres départements et d'autres institutions de l'ONU, travaillé à la formulation d'un cadre de communication stratégique destiné au Moyen-Orient et aux pays arabes. Cette stratégie, qui a été adoptée en septembre dernier, devrait faciliter notre action inlassable pour rehausser l'image et faciliter la compréhension de l'Organisation dans cette région. Le mois prochain, nous allons consulter nos collègues du système de l'ONU, cette fois-ci à Beyrouth, pour examiner ensemble ce qui a été fait dans ce domaine ces derniers mois et pour élaborer un programme concret d'activités qui sera appliqué par nous tous.

Le département a par ailleurs accordé un soin particulier à sa contribution aux discussions qui se déroulent actuellement avec le Bureau du Conseiller spécial pour l'Afrique sur la question d'une stratégie de communication mondiale pour la promotion du NEPAD ou le Nouveau partenariat pour le développement de l'Afrique. Le Conseiller spécial a été invité à présenter un projet de plan aux membres du Groupe de l'ONU pour la communication, en juin, à Nairobi. Ce n'est pas la première fois qu'il s'adresse au Groupe. Entre-temps, la Section Afrique de mon département travaille sur la formulation de deux projets qui serviraient de point de départ à toute stratégie dans ce domaine. Le premier projet concerne la publication d'une version facile à lire du programme du NEPAD, dans les langues parlées par la plupart des Africains, à l'attention des personnes qui participent à sa mise en œuvre. Le deuxième projet concerne la publication d'un bref ouvrage expliquant les différentes facettes du NEPAD dans un langage simple et offrant des exemples de projets qui contribuent à la réalisation des objectifs du NEPAD.

Mr. Chairman,

Eight years and ten months ago, the United Nations stepped into the Internet age with the launch of the United Nations web site. It was uncharted territory, the Organization had very little expertise, no resources, no dedicated staff, and no precedent to follow. Yet, in this short period of time, our presence on the web has grown to a point where the UN web site is one of the world's premier information sites. Visitors to www.un.org are now viewing more than one million pages every day. You may recall that I had told you that we had two billion hits last year. This year, we expect to reach three billion, not only in the six official languages of the Organization, but also, thanks in large part to our offices in the field, in 27 other languages.

Our venture into the world of the web has opened new vistas of integration within the Department, as well as between DPI and other Departments. Here are a few examples of how we have integrated the Internet in the way we work: And in keeping with the expressed wishes of Member States, the Department of Public Information, as manager of the UN web site, has continued its efforts to enhance parity among the official languages on the site. The Department has been implementing innovative approaches towards achieving the goal of multilingualism within the context of existing resources. One such approach, as detailed in our report on reorientation, has been the decision to expand the UN News Centre site into all the official languages. The new database platform for the News Centre, developed entirely in-house I might add, enables the latest news items on any specific theme or topic to be automatically available, not only on any part of the UN web site, but on any other interested web site as well. I know that web sites of some of your Permanent Missions already have direct links to the UN News Centre, but I would like to alert you that a "breaking news" service is now also available that can bring the latest UN headlines right to your page. We shall also be extending this technology, with its greatly enhanced search facility, to other areas of the site, such as press releases.

Another innovative step of which we are proud has been our arrangements with universities for pro bono translation of content for the web site. You know of our poverty, our budget cuts and that our budget circumstances have long been a disadvantage. In addition to the arrangement with the University of Salamanca, in Spain, which I have reported earlier, agreements are now in place with Shaoxin University in China and Minsk State Linguistic University in Belarus for translation of material which is then revised and processed for posting on the web site.

DPI has been encouraging and assisting other departments in the Secretariat in making their information materials available on the UN web site in all official languages. Today, the official language sites are growing at a much faster pace than the English site, though I must admit that progress has not been as speedy as we would have wished, for many reasons, resources being only one of them, perhaps the most important still. The opening up of the Official Documents System later this year will of course greatly enhance the availability of material in all official languages on the web site.

Mr. Chairman,

Another area where the Department has introduced changes in response to growing needs is what is now referred to as knowledge management. The in-depth review of library activities submitted for your consideration (A/AC.198/2004/4) discusses the leadership role of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library in this area. With the establishment of the Steering Committee for the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries, a mechanism has been created through which all the major libraries of the Organization are working together to share resources, minimize duplication of effort and develop common products, common services and common policies. The Steering Committee has so far held four meetings, mainly by videoconference, bringing together all member libraries.

As part of this ongoing collaboration, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library provided consultancy expertise to the United Nations Office in Nairobi. The objective was to evaluate the feasibility and the mechanisms for the establishment of a common library at this UN Office. Since then, the UNEP Library has undertaken to operate as a de facto United Nations library in Nairobi, with the material support of UN-Habitat and UNDP there. The next logical step towards giving it a secure administrative footing, would be for the General Assembly to recognize it as a United Nations Library and to approve its funding accordingly.

Mr. Chairman,

As the "public voice" of the Organization, connecting with the public at large and building partnerships with civil society, NGOs, educators, students and the private sector in an increasingly integrated fashion, is a challenge that remains vital for the Department. The successes of our outreach efforts over the past year -many of which are detailed in the Secretary-General's reorientation report - have not simply been successes in getting our word, or fact, or "message" out to a larger world, but of intimately involving those who constitute that larger world in an informed, passionate debate about the United Nations, its achievements and its failures, as well as its past, its present, its promise.

Our outreach to civil society partners, particularly non-governmental organizations, provides many opportunities for partnerships and information -sharing with the 1,400 NGOs associated with DPI, as well as those in consultative status with the United Nations through ECOSOC. We continue to reach out to the educational community at all levels, expanding and strengthening relationships with what I would like-at the risk of causing some discomfort to our interpreters!-to call the "educable" world. Through the UN Teaching and Learning Project, with its online component the UN Cyberschoolbus, we seek to provide exceptional educational resources online and in print to students around the world. And through the UN Works project, DPI has created a multi-media platform that puts a human face on critical global issues and shows how the United Nations can change peoples' lives.

Mr. Chairman, in an interview published in the latest issue of the UN Chronicle, you had observed that "to know what to ask is to know half the answer in some ways." Although your remarks were in a different context, I can think of no more appropriate phrase to sum up, if I may so call it, the philosophy of our outreach. It reflects the realization that ideas that can compel solutions to the "problems without passports" that distinguish our times, must emerge from the enormous reservoir of global thought and creative talent which this Organization must access. And if, through our diverse means of popular as well as targeted outreach, we can spur the imagination to ask the right questions, can the successful inward journey to the right answers be far behind?

Later this afternoon, during our interactive dialogue, we shall be able to devote more time to this question and its possible answers, or partial answers. In any case, we know that you will not only ask us questions, you will question our answers. We look forward to this.

Mr. Chairman,

Let me now turn to the question of regionalization of the network of UN information centres.

During the past year, DPI has continued to implement the Secretary-General's proposals for rationalizing information centres by consolidating its network around "regional hubs". His proposals were based on two points. First, that now, perhaps more than ever before, it is essential to create a better understanding of the Organization and to build public support for its work in all parts of the world. At the same time, we no longer have sufficient resources to accomplish this, using the existing scattered arrangements in the field. While each UNIC is normally expected to provide services to several countries, the fact is that resource constraints often restrict the centres to providing services only within the capital city of their host country. Moreover, as a result of retrenchment exercises mandated by the General Assembly in the 1990s, where a significant number of posts were abolished - and I might add, where resources were simply not increased, and inflation had eroded the operational budgets of each of these centres, before the cuts of last year - too many centres are today unable to perform even essential programme functions and are instead reduced to little more than administering themselves.

In other words, in the current budgetary climate, in order to have a substantive and efficient field presence, there is simply no option for the Organization but to rationalize the network of information centres around regional hubs. I should emphasize that the goal is certainly not to reduce the information capacity in the countries currently served by UNICs, but rather to reduce the administrative costs required to operate the network, both in terms of staff costs of administrative personnel and the basic operating costs inevitably attached to maintaining a centre, such as rental and maintenance of premises, utilities and security costs. By pooling the scarce resources available to us in a smaller number of strategically located regional centres, we aim to make more efficient use of these resources, while increasing the effectiveness of our information work. At the same time, our aim is to maintain information capacity in each country, ensuring that even where United Nations information centres as such are closed, national information officers are attached to the United Nations country teams.

The Department has, in other words, turned to a more strategic approach to its communications in the field. And I do not believe that in our current budgetary environment, we can effectively do otherwise.

Last year, the General Assembly laid out, in resolution 58/101 B, a clear sequence of steps to be taken and the Department has followed them. In the resolution, Member States identify the creation of a Western European hub as the first step in this process. I am pleased to inform the Committee that the new Regional United Nations Information Centre in Brussels began operations on 1 January 2004, immediately after the region's nine information centres were closed - not without a great deal of difficulty and pain - on 31 December 2003. This modern and fully-resourced centre, when fully functional - and I stress it is still in temporary premises without a full complement of staff - this RUNIC will enable the Organization to implement a more robust, coherent and coordinated public information outreach programme in the region. We intend to evaluate this operation and share the findings with you, after a reasonable period of time has passed.

The second step identified in the resolution is to take a similar cost-cutting approach in other high-cost developed countries - namely Sydney, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. You will no doubt be heartened to learn that the Department has negotiated an agreement with the Government of Australia - and I do want to thank the Government of Australia for its generosity - as a result of which the Sydney Centre is expected to move to rent-free premises in Canberra in the Fall of this year. This will release funds to allow the Centre to better fulfil its role as a regional hub also covering the countries of the South Pacific. In other words, the idea is not to save the money we are paying in rent in Sydney, but to use the rental money from Sydney for operational purposes in Canberra. That is the logic we want to apply in the regionalization initiative in the developing countries.

I am also pleased to tell you that the Government of Japan, in addition to its generous annual voluntary contribution in support of the programme activities of UNIC Tokyo, has also agreed to cover the Centre's substantial annual maintenance costs and service charges, in 2005, through extra-budgetary funding. UNIC Tokyo is located in rent-free premises in the UN University building. In Washington, D.C., where the Centre is responsible for important liaison work with various institutions of the host country, we are exploring other means of economizing, including the possibility of occupying smaller and less costly premises in 2005, when the current lease comes up for renewal.

The third step set out in resolution 58/101 B is the submission of a progress report on the implementation of regionalization with the objective of applying this initiative in other parts of the world. In this regard, I should like to refer you to the Secretary-General's report on the rationalization of the network of United Nations information centres (A/AC.198/2004/3) which sets out the proposed strategy and modalities for implementing the initiative in other regions.

In considering the proposals to regionalize UNICs in developing countries, it is important to keep in mind that the objective is not to reduce the resources that are made available for this purpose, but to strengthen the flow, and exchange of information. In fact, as a result of the establishment of the regional centre in Brussels, there will be a modest increase in the staff resources available for centres in developing countries, including three D-1 posts and a number of General Service posts. Regrettably, this good news is more than offset by a serious reduction in operational resources following the decision of the General Assembly in paragraph 30 of its resolution 58/271, to reduce the budgetary allocation to UNICs by $2 million.

DPI has consistently taken the view that regionalization is not a cost-cutting exercise, but an exercise in improving the efficiency of our information efforts in the field. We cannot have effective regional hubs if they are not provided with the necessary operational funds, particularly for travel and communications. I therefore request this Committee to urge the General Assembly to support DPI's reform efforts by providing our field offices, especially the regional hubs, with adequate operational resources, rather than reducing them. I do believe that regionalization is the way forward for the reasons that I have explained. But I also believe that if regionalization does not show Member States that we can effectively redirect administrative resources for information purposes, but instead we simply save the administrative resources and show no improvement in our information work, then we will not be able to generate the understanding and the political support so necessary in this Committee, and beyond, for the effective reform changes we are advocating.

Our objective, as proposed in the Secretary-General's report, aims to strengthen and improve access to information on the United Nations by people around the world, including of course, in particular those in developing countries. We recognize the existing lack of access to information and communications technologies in many parts of the developing world, and so the model we are proposing retains, wherever possible, a physical presence in the countries serviced by the hubs through the posting of information staff in the offices of Resident Coordinators. I have already initiated discussions with Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, the Chairman of the UN Development Group and the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, on elaborating the details of the new DPI field presence so that we can take full advantage of the Resident Coordinator system and contribute further to the coherence of the United Nations presence in the field.

Monsieur le Président,

Contrairement au modèle de grand centre régional utilisé en Europe occidentale, le modèle que l'on suit dans les pays en développement est celui d'un plus grand nombre de centres de taille plus modeste. Pour illustrer le fonctionnement de ce nouveau modèle, nous avons indiqué d'une façon très provisoire les emplacements des sièges des centres régionaux de l'information. Le choix définitif de ces sièges sera influencé par les opinions exprimées par les membres du Comité de l'information et sera arrêté à la suite de consultations intensives avec les Etats Membres. Je tiens à souligner à ce propos qu'il est particulièrement important de faire preuve de souplesse dans l'adaptation du modèle aux réalités propres aux pays en développement et aux particularités de chaque région et pays. Je voudrais à cette occasion inviter les membres du Comité à prendre en considération les directives et les critères de régionalisation qui figurent dans l'annexe II du rapport, au moment où seront discutés les sièges proposés pour les centres régionaux.

J'attends avec un vif intérêt d'entendre les vues des membres du Comité alors que nous entamons la phase capitale du processus de régionalisation, qui envisage l'extension de l'initiative de centre régional aux pays en développement. Nous comptons sur vos recommandations pour la poursuite de la mise en œuvre de l'initiative, en vue de respecter l'échéancier fixé par le Secrétaire général de mener à bien le processus de régionalisation sur une période de trois ans à partir de 2003.

Monsieur le Président,

Le Département de l'information est déterminé à produire des programmes de qualité et soigneusement ciblés. A cette fin, nous avons formulé - et soumis à votre examen - un projet de cadre stratégique pour l'exercice 2006-2007 (A/AC.198/2004/7), qui esquisse les grandes orientations du Département. Utilisant comme base les quatre sous-programmes, le cadre stratégique précise nos futurs objectifs de travail et décrit nos indices de performance. Fidèle à la culture de la gestion d'évaluation et de rendement qui prévaut désormais dans mon Département, le cadre stratégique représente à la fois une vision et une feuille de route, dont l'unique objectif est de permettre aux peuples du monde de profiter au quotidien des fruits du travail de l'Organisation.

A ce sujet, permettez-moi d'attirer votre attention sur la règle 104.6 des règlements relatifs à la planification des programmes, aux aspects budgétaires du programme, et à l'analyse de l'application et aux méthodes d'évaluation, et de vous inviter à examiner le projet de plan de programme biennal et à présenter vos commentaires sur la question au Secrétaire général. Comme vous le savez, le projet de plan, modifié en cas de besoin, sera d'abord soumis à la quarante-quatrième session du Comité du programme et de la coordination, dont les recommandations seront transmises à la cinquante-neuvième session de l'Assemblée générale dans le cadre de l'examen par cette dernière du projet de cadre stratégique pour l'exercice 2006-2007.

Mr. Chairman,

According to an old African proverb, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today. While reform is not, strictly speaking, a tree planting exercise, the care and attention it requires are no less demanding. The "tree" that we have planted is now two years old; its growth and longevity will depend not only on the care we provide but also on the support you give us.

I know you will have to take a close and hard look at some of the issues on your agenda. Your recommendations will be critical for the Secretary-General's reform process to continue and to ultimately reach its goals. I am looking forward to having a fruitful exchange with delegations on all aspects of the question relating to public information. I firmly believe that you will draw the right conclusions, however difficult or politically challenging they might be. After all, as the great Roman philosopher-writer Seneca once said, it is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

Thank you very much.

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