30e session du Comité de l'information (28 avril-9 mai 2008)

Déclaration de M. Kiyo Akasaka, Secrétaire général adjoint à la communication et à l’information

Monsieur le Président,
Délégués distingués,
Mesdames et Messieurs,

C’est un grand plaisir pour moi de m’adresser au Comité de l’information au moment où il entame des délibérations sur les « questions relatives à l’information ».

Permettez-moi tout d’abord de féliciter M. Andreas Baum pour son élection à la présidence du Comité. Je suis convaincu que sous sa direction avisée, les relations entre le Comité et le Département de l’information seront renforcées. Je saisis également cette occasion pour exprimer ma sincère gratitude au Président sortant du Comité, M. Rudolf Christen, pour sa direction solide et son soutien aux Nations Unies et à leurs idéaux. Je félicite aussi M. Xavier Rosa pour son élection en tant que Vice-Président.  Je me réjouis à la perspective de travailler avec vous, en tant qu’une équipe, pour nous acquitter de nos responsabilités partagées et pour renforcer l’efficacité et l’impact du DPI .

Cette année marque le 30ème anniversaire du Comité de l’information. En 1978, lorsque l’Assemblée générale a établi le Comité, elle a souligné l’importance d’une coopération étroite entre le Département de l’information et les États Membres pour informer l’opinion publique mondiale des « buts et réalisations » des Nations Unies. Aujourd’hui, nous pouvons dire avec certitude que l’évolution du partenariat entre le Comité et le DPI fut une pierre angulaire dans la définition du rôle du DPI dans un environnement médiatique mondial en perpétuelle mutation. Grâce au soutien et aux conseils de ce Comité, les efforts du DPI sont plus stratégiques et cohérents, ses produits et ses services sont communiqués plus rapidement et avec davantage d’efficacité, tandis que sa portée et ses partenariats engagent un public plus grand et plus large.

Dans les rapports du Secrétaire général soumis à votre examen, intitulés « Activités du Département de l’information, Première partie et Deuxième partie », nous avons fourni des informations sur les activités du DPI dans des domaines spécifiquement identifiés par l’Assemblée générale dans sa résolution 62/111 du 12 décembre 2007. Dans ma déclaration, j’apporterai des informations complémentaires sur les activités actuelles du DPI et sur un certain nombre de défis qui se posent à nous. Un peu plus tard dans la journée, lors du dialogue interactif avec les États Membres, nous aurons une autre occasion de discuter plus en détail des activités du DPI. Je vous encourage, en particulier ceux d’entre vous qui participent pour la première fois au Comité, à vous joindre à moi et à mes collègues dans ce dialogue.

Mr. Chairman,

DPI remains committed to providing timely, accurate, impartial, comprehensive and coherent information about the United Nations and its objectives. Its mission –   to help fulfil the substantive purposes of the United Nations by strategically communicating the activities and concerns of the Organization to achieve the greatest public impact – is central to, and inseparable from, the objectives and aims of the Organization.

I would like to briefly outline the approaches that I have undertaken to guide the work of the Department.

1.         A strategic approach.  I have consistently emphasized the need for setting priorities and early preparation to ensure that our work is focused, and to achieve the greatest impact from our efforts.  This is particularly important given DPI’s shrinking resource base but expanding mandate. The Department early in the year identified broad communications priority themes in the areas of development, peace and security, human rights, and climate change.  It also identified Africa as a regional focus, and youth as a strategic audience for its work. These priorities, which reflect and build on the mandates provided by the General Assembly, as well as the vision articulated by the Secretary-General, guide us in our work. Examples of our strategic approach in action, and its resulting successful communications campaigns include: the series of events and activities at UN Headquarters and in venues around the world as part of the Holocaust and the United Nations outreach programme; the launch of Secretary-General Ban’s multi-year campaign to end violence against women and girls; and the first annual worldwide commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

2.         Improved coordination. I have held a series of consultations with the heads of departments and offices to identify specific areas of cooperation.  The purpose of these consultations has again been to set communications priorities, to provide advice and expertise on effective ways to inform the public at all levels about specific UN initiatives, and to coordinate early action across departments. I have also sought to be more proactive in ensuring coordination across the UN system on selected priorities, including at the global, regional and country levels through the UN Communications Group.  The Department presently serves, for example, as the chair of inter-agency communications task forces on the Millennium Development Goals, and on Climate Change. Both task forces have delivered coherent and coordinated UN messages and public information materials that have advanced the debate on these subjects. I have also led meetings of UN Information Centres and UN Offices from the Arab region, and from the Asia-Pacific region, in Cairo and Bangkok, respectively, to focus on global and regional priorities. We are currently planning a similar regional meeting for Africa in early 2009.

3.         New and expanded partnerships. I am convinced that building support for the United Nations requires us to make new partnerships and to expand old ones.  I have taken a number of steps on this front, including by initiating and promoting creative long-term partnerships with, for example, the film industry, NGO coalitions, the business community, and young people. Youth represent a top priority for my Department as well as a new generation of support. The Model UN programme, in which more than 400,000 students participate worldwide each year, is just one excellent way to educate and excite young people about the United Nations. Model UN events are organized at the local, regional, national and international levels by many different associations.  I believe there is an enormous opportunity for DPI to play a more active role in Model UN programmes and in engaging the interests and energy of young people.  And here, I would seek your support for a new DPI initiative to launch a global Model UN, beginning in 2009. This global Model UN would be developed on the basis of best practices, and, we hope, could rotate among the different regions of the world.

4.         Multilinguisme.  En raison du statut du français qui constitue l’une des langues de travail de l’Organisation, le Département continue à déployer tous les efforts en vue de renforcer la nature plurilingue des Nations Unies dans l’ensemble de leurs activités. Cela comprend des programmes de la radio des Nations Unies dans les six langues officielles ainsi que dans des langues non officielles, et la retransmission sur le web dans la langue d’origine de l’orateur en plus de l’anglais. Les centres d’information des Nations Unies font des contributions considérables pour éveiller l’intérêt du public et produire de la documentation dans à peu près 80 langues locales. En outre, nous déployons sans cesse des efforts pour renforcer et accroître les ressources disponibles pour les langues des centres de nouvelles, lesquels, par exemple, sont parmi les sites les plus populaires des pages d’accueil dans les différentes langues.  Je voudrais saluer l’appui des États Membres à ces efforts.

5.            Evaluation represents the fifth overall approach to our work that I would like to emphasize.  I have underlined to my team the value I place on the achievement of results, and on understanding the impact of our work. As part of these efforts, the Department conducts an Annual Programme Impact Review on selected programme outcomes. We are also increasing the number of evaluations of our services and programmes, with a view to making them more effective.

Mr. Chairman,

Parts I and II of the Report of the Secretary-General on the « Activities of the Department of Public Information » contain many examples of communications successes in the year since the Committee last met. These include successful campaigns and outreach programmes on thematic issues; cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support on UN peacekeeping; the expansion of a full range of news services to larger audiences; and examples of new partnerships with, for example, educators, the academic community, libraries, and NGOs.

I would like to inform you briefly about a number of current initiatives and strategies that we are working on with our partners in the Secretariat and in the UN system. All of these efforts aim to target new audiences and to establish new partnerships.

In a rapidly changing media environment, where young people use the internet, social networks and mobile phones to communicate and get information, DPI has developed strategies to target this key group.  For example, the UN Works Programme is developing with VH1 networks a celebrity hosted TV series and complementary website with online advocacy and educational resources. The UN Cyberschoolbus has sponsored live video chats on human rights, the MDGs, Darfur, and the realities of nuclear war and has brought them directly into the classroom.

We have also been looking into new ways we might better reach out to academics and policy makers around the world. Here, we would like to discuss with you our proposal to create an entirely new journal, “UN Affairs”, which would replace the “UN Chronicle” magazine, and which would target this key academic audience more closely.  The new journal would be accompanied by a multilingual “UN Affairs” website, subject to available resources.  The website would include an interactive capacity that would allow the global academic community to engage the Organization on selected themes. My colleagues and I look forward to discussing this proposal with you further this afternoon.

Mr. Chairman,

The capacity of DPI to deliver the services required will, however, depend a great deal on resource availability.  Our approved budget for 2008-2009 has been reduced to such an extent that its non-post initial appropriation is almost three million dollars less than the non-staff portion of the proposed budget for this biennium.  Unless alternative sources are found, the resource shortfall could hurt several of our programmes.

For example, one of the flagship publications of the Organization, the Yearbook of the United Nations, which made significant gains over the last decade to maintain a meaningful production schedule, could once again face publication delays. Our efforts to put the entire collection of the Yearbook on-line, from 1946, could also be slowed.  The Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s information services to clients could be further affected.  The ability of UNICs to translate materials into multiple languages, in particular local languages, could be curtailed.

Meanwhile, broadcasting has gone digital and mobile -- making it cheaper and easier to reach audiences around the world -- in cities as well as remote rural areas.  But with a smaller operating budget, DPI is ill-equipped to buy the digital equipment it needs to take full advantage of this transformation of the dissemination of audio and video material.  Nor will we be able to meet the growing demand for webcasting meetings and events in all official languages.  Fewer resources may also mean that same day photo and press release coverage of late meetings will be delayed, and that late meeting television coverage may no longer be possible when our budget for overtime costs is exhausted.

With 63 field offices, the Department is also forced to cope with the impact of currency fluctuations, the declining value of the dollar, inflation and rising costs for rent and utilities.  UNIC Rio de Janeiro, for example, has calculated that when inflation and currency fluctuation are factored in, its actual operating budget has decreased by over 70 per cent between 2002 and 2007. In addition, we will have to manage the continuing question of security for our staff in the field.  Even before the attack on UN offices in Algiers, requests from information centres, approved by local security officials, exceeded our 2008 allotment for UNIC security by $124,000.  The Department is simply not able to meet current needs, let alone cover any new costs that arise owing to evolving security requirements.

Resources will also be key to implementing the proposal on press releases included in Part II of the Report of the Secretary-General. Guided by the mandate in last year’s resolution, the Department considered several proposals to expand press release coverage to the other four official languages, in addition to English and French. We are aware that each of the options before you has financial implications  In developing these options, we consulted the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management on ways to expand language press releases, including within existing resources. However, this was not feasible, given the volume of content involved. Member States might wish to offer alternatives the Department has not considered on the kind of content they would like to have available in other languages, and provide further guidance in that regard. The Department remains ready to explore the matter further.

Despite these resource constraints, I would like to assure you that we are not standing still. To make up for the shortfalls, we are reaching out to Member States, private sector and civil society partners for extra-budgetary contributions.  We are also looking for creative solutions. For example, since February of this year, through a cooperative agreement with ITSD, we made available to UNICs computers in good condition that would otherwise have been returned to stock and discarded. And we have now completed the four training seminars for UN Information Centres on Holocaust Remembrance, and will hold an “Unlearning Intolerance” seminar on “Art and the Environment” next week, all paid for by partner institutions and at no cost to the UN.

Mr. Chairman,

Another challenge that we will face is the forthcoming move of staff in connection with the implementation of the Capital Master Plan.  Every effort will be made to ensure the continuation of all the essential services that you rely on from DPI. Meetings will continue to be broadcast and webcast and press releases issued. The media will continue to have access to briefings and stakeouts, and will be able to send out their stories as quickly as they do now.  However, during the CMP renovations of the conference building, the guided tour operation will be limited to the General Assembly building. DPI expects that the number of tours and visitors will be reduced, as will the revenue from this income-generating operation. We will work with many external partners to alleviate some of the consequences stemming from these constraints, as well as find new and creative ways to engage the millions of visitors to the United Nations.

But the CMP provides opportunities as well. For example, we are working closely with the Department of Management to create a more efficient and more integrated digital asset management system for all audio and video services.  Such a system, provided Member States will agree to meet the request now submitted for the associated costs, would both enhance services to delegates, the media and other users, as well as realize a number of efficiency gains.

Monsieur le Président,

Le DPI est déterminé à être à la hauteur des espérances que vous, États Membres, avez placées en nous. Cependant, la tâche qui attend le DPI - pour relater l’information des Nations Unies et renforcer le soutien du public à l’Organisation et à ses objectifs – ne peut être achevée par le DPI seul.  Nous avons également besoin de votre participation active. Je vous demande, à vous distingués délégués, de réfléchir aux moyens avec lesquels vos gouvernements et la société civile peuvent continuer à s’associer avec le DPI et d’autres bureaux des Nations Unies pour promouvoir auprès de vos propres opinions publiques une connaissance plus grande et plus profonde des Nations Unies.

Le Secrétaire général dit souvent que le monde bouge en faveur des Nations Unies. De plus en plus de questions d’importance mondiale sont soumises à l’Organisation, et les attentes du monde pour que les Nations Unies trouvent des solutions sont plus grandes. Il est d’autant plus important que l’opinion publique mondiale comprenne exactement ce que les Nations Unies peuvent, et, surtout, ne peuvent pas faire, de sorte que son soutien et sa foi dans l’Organisation soient durables. Notre travail dans l’information publique est, à cet égard, essentiel. Je sais qu’avec votre appui et vos conseils, nous pouvons faire la différence pour un monde meilleur.

Merci.

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