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STATEMENT BY H.E. DR. IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY,
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF BANGLADESH TO THE UNITED NATIONS,
AT THE GENERAL DEBATE OF THE UN COMMITEE ON INFORMATION
DURING ITS TWENTY-EIGHTH SESSION
24 APRIL 2006
It would be frightfully remiss of me were I to begin without paying rich tributes to you, my good friend Ambassador Mihnea Ioan Motoc, for your continued skilful stewardship of this Committee. The COI is specially dear to me, not only because I had myself chaired it for two years, though also that, but mainly because I see this as a major instrument for bringing about substantive changes in the UN’s work-content, including the reform process an endeavour in which Chairman, you and I remain deeply involved.
These are, therefore, important times, where significant responsibilities lie in store for this Committee, and for the DPI. It is a matter of good fortune for all of us that at this crucial juncture the DPI is headed by a person of such prodigious qualities of leadership, intellect, head, heart and mind as Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor. His excellent statement this morning bears testimony to my sentiments. I feel a modicum of pride in being counted among his friends which I hope is the case. Our other colleagues in the DPI have also given us ample cause for satisfaction, and to them too, we are beholden.
While I align myself entirely with the statement made by the distinguished representative of G-77 and China, let me make a few additional points.
The renewal of the Department involving major structural overhaul that we have been witnessing over the past years, has, to my delegation’s mind, begun to yield positive results. The DPI making the best use of available information and communication technologies, now has a more strategic orientation. Also, its messages are sharper and its targeted audiences are more clearly defined. As a result of its emphasis on a ‘culture of evaluation’ since 2001, it is now better equipped to measure in clear and concrete terms the results of public information and communications activities. In this regard, I laud the Department’s conclusion of its comprehensive three year review of its major product and service lines, in collaboration with OIOS. I am confident that the findings of this report will prove useful in not only increasing the world-wide access to UN public information products and services, but also in meeting the needs of its target audiences by improving the relevance, the usefulness and the quality of its works.
I have said this before and I reiterate that Bangladesh believes that the UNICs that dot the globe are the real interfaces between the UN and the global community. I must, therefore, once again underscore the imperative need to further strengthen them, particularly in the developing countries, including and perhaps more so, in the LDCs. In this context let me mention that the UNIC in Dhaka has been actively engaged in promoting the UN in this nation of 140 million people. It has been doing this through its multifarious outreach activities and its very functional Bangla website. It has helped us keep alive the public enthusiasm in Bangladesh vis-a-vis this organization, which in turn helps us in the constructive role that my delegation is able to play overall at the United Nations. It is my view that the Dhaka Centre should have a Director, and soon. Also it be provided adequate and necessary resources. The government will continue to accord the usual support.
It is a matter of concern to the Bangladesh delegations that one of the two weekly Radio Programmes in Bangla has been arbitrarily discontinued, without adequate consultation. As evidenced in the various correspondences received, it is one of the most popular non-official language UN radio programmes, catering to over 220 million in Bangladesh and her neighbouring Indian States. Bangla, the medium through which the intellects of Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam found efflorescence and fruition, was the language that laid the basis of South Asian renaissance, and its culture of pluralism, tolerance and democracy. We urge the immediate reinstatement of this programme. Indeed there must be an increasing attention paid to Bangla at the United Nations, given the value of this language as an instrument of positive social transformation and change. As you may be aware, it is the observance of Ekushey February, or Twenty-first February 1952 when young students laid down their lives to strive, successfully, to make Bangla an official language in Pakistan that eventually led UNESCO to recognize that day in February as the International Mother Language Day.
We should commend the DPI for the excellent performance of the UN Website team. Its success has been the result of good team-work and praiseworthy professionalism. The introduction of the new Press Releases page has been timely and useful. Also, the UN web-cast services which provide live video of meetings and events have been most well-received. A special word of appreciation would also be in order for the electronic mail-based UN News Service.
As we all are aware, UN Peace-keeping has evolved significantly over the past years. Today it has morphed into peace-building that state of societal equilibrium where new disputes would not had to relapse into violence and war; in other words, the peace can be rendered sustainable. The new Peace-Building Commission that is being established with its field formations would require close cooperation with the DPI to project the UN’s peace-building role appropriately. The DPI would need to gear itself to embrace these tasks.
The UN is on the cusp of great changes today. Under the leadership of the General Assembly President, Jan Eliasson we are adopting one resolution after another, following intense negotiations to implement the ‘Outcome Document’, a task given us by our heads of government last September. A High Level Panel has commenced examination of how to enhance coherence among UN agencies. A ‘culture of change’ is being sought to be introduced in management across the spectrum of governance, budget and finance and leadership of this house, at this very moment being fiercely debated in the Fifth Committee. Perhaps most importantly, and this could be central to all reforms, we have already begun our deliberations on the methodology of choosing Mr. Kofi Annan’s successor, the next Secretary-General and others to follow, so that it will be transparent and equitable, that will truly reflect the urges and aspirations of the total membership, and that it will be a process in which we must and will ensure that our voice is heard and listened to.
Through these supremely challenging times the DPI will need to conduct itself fairly, prudently, objectively, impartially, even wisely, sometimes with courage and always with efficiency, and with the ability to respond effectively to the memberships’ calls for support and assistance, if and when these are made. These may well appear a tall order, but not taller than that, in our view, can be handled by Sashi Tharoor and his team. We in the Committee will help set the DPI’s sights to such heights, guided at all times by the maxim of the mighty Dante Alighieri, Italy’s poet of the renaissance, who had urged that man’s reach should exceed his grasp for what else were heavens for?
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.***