TEXTS ON INFORMATION IN SERVICE OF HUMANITY, UN INFORMATION POLICIES APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

14 November 2000
GA/SPD/206

TEXTS ON INFORMATION IN SERVICE OF HUMANITY, UN INFORMATION POLICIES APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

14 November 2000

Press ReleaseGA/SPD/206

TEXTS ON INFORMATION IN SERVICE OF HUMANITY, UN INFORMATION POLICIES APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE, AS IT CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION

20001114

Also Approves Decision to Expand Committee on Information Membership

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning approved two draft resolutions and a draft decision, as it concluded its consideration of questions relating to information.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolution A, entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, and draft resolution B, “United Nations public information policies and activities”, as well as a draft decision concerning expansion of the Committee on Information. The texts were contained in the report of the twenty-second session of the Committee on Information, which met at Headquarters from 1 to 12 May.

By the terms of draft resolution A, the General Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate in reducing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard for their needs and priorities and so that they can develop their own information and communication policies.

The Assembly would also urge all concerned to: ensure that journalists can perform their professional tasks freely and effectively and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; support the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries; and enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries.

Also by the text, the Assembly would urge all those concerned to aim at providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their interests and needs in the information field and to action already adopted within the United Nations system.

By draft resolution B, the General Assembly would express its concern that the gap in the information and communications technologies between the developed

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and developing nations had continued to widen, and that most developing countries were not benefiting from the present inequitable information and technology order. In that regard, the Assembly would underline the necessity to achieve a more equitable and effective global information and technology order that rectified those imbalances.

Also by the text, the Assembly would underline the continuing importance of traditional mass media channels to disseminate information on the United Nations, and encourage the Secretary-General to continue to take full advantage of recent developments in information technologies, including the Internet, to improve, in a cost-effective manner, the dissemination of information about the Organization, taking into account its linguistic diversity.

The Assembly would also take note with appreciation of the efforts of the Secretary-General to strengthen the capacity of the Department of Public Information (DPI) for the formation and day-to-day functioning of the information components of peacekeeping and other field operations. Further, it would stress the importance of enhancing the public information capacity of the Department in the field of peacekeeping operations and its role in the selection process of spokespersons for peacekeeping operations, as well as encourage the Department to second spokespersons who have the necessary skills for fulfilling the tasks of the missions.

By further terms, the General Assembly would welcome the Secretary- General's progress report on the implementation of the pilot project for the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations and the redeployment of the necessary resources for that purpose. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Committee's twenty-third session a progress report on the results of the project's implementation, and declare its intention to examine, before the end of 2001, the final report on the results of the project with a view to taking a decision on the matter during its fifty-sixth session.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would stress that radio is one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching media available to the DPI and an important instrument in United Nations activities, such as development and peacekeeping. It would encourage an increase in the number of programmes on United Nations Radio in all available languages, on the United Nations Internet site. The Assembly would also take note of the Department's efforts to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations all over the world in the six official languages and stress the need for impartiality and objectivity concerning United Nations information activities.

By further terms, the Assembly would encourage the Department to continue to include in its radio and television programming specific programmes addressing the needs of developing nations. It would request the Secretary- General to implement fully the recommendations contained in Assembly resolution 38/82 B of 15 December 1983 with regard to the introduction of full programming in French and Creole in the work programme of the Caribbean Unit of United Nations Radio.

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While encouraging the Secretary-General to strengthen the Department's public information capacity with a view to drawing international attention to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the Assembly would welcome the Department's decision to launch a new web site to publicize the Year. The Assembly would also take note of the Secretary-General's report on the Millennium promotional campaign and encourage him to continue to implement effective public information programmes in that regard to ensure that the Millennium Summit's outcome is widely disseminated.

The Assembly would, by further terms of the draft, welcome the development of the United Nations News Service and request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Secretariat's publications and other information services, including the web site and the News Service, contain comprehensive, objective and equitable information about the issues before the Organization and that they maintain editorial independence, impartiality, accuracy and full consistency with General Assembly resolutions and decisions.

Recalling its resolution 54/82 B of 6 December 1999, requesting the Secretary-General to continue to study ways of rationalizing and effecting equitable disbursement of valuable resources to United Nations information centres, the Assembly would note with great concern the existing imbalance in the resources available to the centres in developing and developed countries. It would request the Secretary-General to examine the situation thoroughly and stress the need to revitalize centres that are currently not operational. It would also request the Secretary-General to look into the possibility of appointing directors to centres under temporary management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure their autonomous status.

By the text on the increase in the membership of the Committee on Information, the General Assembly would decide to increase its membership from 95 to 97 by appointing Armenia and Libya as members.

As the Committee concluded its general debate this morning, several delegations applauded the work of the Department of Public Information, but expressed concern that the economic and social progress, as well as the cultural identity of the developing countries, were threatened by the concentration of information technology in the hands of the developed nations.

Other speakers expressed appreciation for the Department’s advances in utilizing electronic media, particularly the Internet, but stressed the continuing importance of traditional media such as radio, print and television. They welcomed the Department’s efforts to strengthen United Nations radio broadcast capacity.

Most speakers emphasized the continuing importance of United Nations information centres in disseminating the Organization's message as well as information about its activities. They said that any integration of the centres with field offices of the UNDP should be done on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the host authorities.

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Kensaku Hogen, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, assured the delegates that their questions and concerns would be taken into account in the Department’s future activities.

Speaking in the general debate were the representatives of Singapore, Myanmar, Mongolia, Egypt, Qatar, Bangladesh, Togo, Jamaica, Croatia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Gabon, Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Algeria, and Cameroon. The representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference also made a statement.

Julian Vassallo (Malta), Acting Committee Chairman, said in his concluding remarks that the Committee would soon resume consideration of the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping at a date to be announced. He reminded delegates that the Pledging Conference for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would be held at 11 a.m. Monday, 4 December.

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Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its general debate on questions relating to information. It was also expected to take action on two related draft resolutions and a draft decision.

Before the Committee were two draft resolutions contained in the report on the twenty-second session of the Committee on Information (document A/55/21).

Draft resolution A -- Information in the service of humanity -– would have the General Assembly urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to help to reduce disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries. That should be done with due regard for their needs and priorities, and in order to enable them and all their media to develop their own information and communication policies.

The Assembly would also urge all concerned to: ensure that journalists were able to perform their professional tasks freely and effectively and to condemn resolutely all attacks against them; support the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries; and enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in training and dissemination of information.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would urge all those concerned to aim at providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their interests and needs in the information field and to action already adopted within the United Nations system, including:

-- the development of the human and technical resources that are indispensable for the improvement of information and communications systems in developing countries;

-- the creation of conditions that will enable the developing countries and all their media to have, by using their national and regional resources, the communication technology suited to their national needs, as well as the necessary programme material, especially for radio and television broadcasting;

-- assistance in establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels, especially among developing countries;

-- and the facilitation of access by the developing countries to advanced communication technology available on the open market.

By draft resolution B of the text -- United Nations public information policies and activities -- the General Assembly would express its concern that the gap in the information and communications technologies between the developed and developing nations has continued to widen, and that most developing countries were not benefiting from the present inequitable information and technology order. In that regard, the Assembly would underline the necessity to achieve a more equitable and effective global information and technology order which rectified these imbalances.

While taking note of the Secretary-General's report on the reorientation of United Nations activities in the field of public information and communications, the Assembly would encourage him to continue the exercise, while stressing the need to take into account the views of Member States. It would emphasize that, through its reorientation, the Department of Public Information (DPI) should improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and other countries with special needs, including those in transition. Such reorientation should contribute to bridging the existing gap between the developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications.

Also by the text, the Assembly would underline the continuing importance of traditional mass media channels to disseminate information on the United Nations, and encourage the Secretary-General to continue to take full advantage of recent developments in information technologies, including the Internet, to improve, in a cost-effective manner, the dissemination of information about the Organization, taking into account its linguistic diversity.

By further terms, the General Assembly would welcome the Secretary- General's progress report on the implementation of the pilot project for the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations and the redeployment of the necessary resources for this purpose. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Committee's twenty-third session a progress report on the results of the project's implementation, and declare its intention to examine, before the end of 2001, the final report on the results of the project with a view to taking a decision on the matter during its fifty-sixth session.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would stress that radio is one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching media available to the DPI and an important instrument in United Nations activities, such as development and peacekeeping. It would encourage an increase in the number of programmes on United Nations Radio in all available languages, on the United Nations Internet site. The Assembly would also take note of the Department's efforts to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations all over the world in the six official languages and stress the need for impartiality and objectivity concerning United Nations information activities.

By further terms, the Assembly would encourage the Department to continue to include in its radio and television programming specific programmes addressing the needs of developing nations. It would request the Secretary- General to implement fully the recommendations contained in Assembly resolution 38/82 B of 15 December 1983 with regard to the introduction of full programming in French and Creole in the work programme of the Caribbean Unit of United Nations Radio.

While encouraging the Secretary-General to strengthen the Department's public information capacity with a view to drawing international attention to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the Assembly would welcome the Department's decision to launch a new web site to publicize the Year. It would request the Secretary-General to continue to implement a promotional campaign to ensure that it will enjoy the broadest international support. The Assembly would also take note of the Secretary-General's report on the Millennium promotional campaign and encourage him to continue to implement effective public information programmes in that regard, so as to ensure that the Millennium Summit's outcome was widely disseminated and enjoyed broad international support.

The Assembly would, by further terms of the draft, welcome the development of the United Nations News Service and request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Secretariat's publications and other information services, including the web site and the News Service, contain comprehensive, objective and equitable information about the issues before the Organization and that they maintain editorial independence, impartiality, accuracy and full consistency with General Assembly resolutions and decisions.

Recalling its resolution 54/82 B of 6 December 1999, requesting the Secretary-General to continue to study ways of rationalizing and effecting equitable disbursement of valuable resources to United Nations information centres, the Assembly would note with great concern the existing imbalance in the resources available to the centres in developing and developed countries. It would request the Secretary-General to examine the situation thoroughly and stress the need to revitalize centres that were currently not operational. It would also request the Secretary-General to look into the possibility of appointing directors to centres under temporary management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure their autonomous status.

While emphasizing that resources should be commensurate with the mandated programmes and activities of the United Nations information centres, the Assembly would express deep concern over the reduction of more than 40 per cent in their staffing between the early and closing years of the last decade, and acknowledge the generous contributions by several host governments, as well as the partnership with the UNDP and other United Nations system and local partners. The Secretary-General would be requested to continue the policy of cost-effectively integrating the centres with the UNDP field offices and, whenever feasible, on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the views of the host country.

Further, the Assembly would encourage the Department, in cooperation with the countries concerned and the relevant bodies of the United Nations system, to continue to take appropriate measures to enhance world public awareness of the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; and the problems and needs of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, which has been affected by nuclear tests. It would also urge the Department to take the necessary measures to achieve the major objectives set forth in the Secretary-General's report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.

By other terms of the draft, the General Assembly would express its full support for wide, accurate, equal and prompt coverage of United Nations activities through the improvement of press releases, which should bring out the intergovernmental aspect of the Organization's work and deliberations. It would stress the importance of issuing press releases in all official languages of the United Nations.

The Assembly would welcome Liberia and Mozambique to membership in the Committee on Information, by other terms of the text.

By the terms of a draft decision on the increase in the membership of the Committee on Information, the General Assembly would decide to increase its membership from 95 to 97, and to appoint Armenia and Libya as members.

JOLENE TAN (Singapore) said the media could be a world civic gathering place and a tool for international solidarity, or it could have the power to sow the seeds of enmity. It was never simply a passive recorder of events. But, attempting to control the media in the information age would be futile. Perhaps the solution to the problem of responsible media lay with non-governmental ombudsmen, such as grass-roots organizations that could act as watchdogs, to assure media accountability.

Advances in technology continued to empower the media, he said. He asked whether such technology could empower developing economies to similarly partake in the benefits of the digital revolution. It was true that the speed of developments might leave developing countries further behind. But, it could also allow them to leapfrog older technologies and catch up faster. For example, mobile phones could extend communications to areas that it might have taken decades to reach by wire.

To that end, Singapore was committed to the enhancement of regional efforts to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in developing countries. Under the framework of the Singapore Cooperation Programme, Singapore has sponsored Information Technology training courses and study visits for 1,552 officials from 76 developing countries since 1992 and telecommunications courses for 121 others from 43 countries since 1993.

TIN WINN (Myanmar) said that, despite improvements in such traditional means of communications as radio, television and print, they were gradually being supplanted by modern technology, especially the Internet. While the flow of information was a global phenomenon, the spread of information technology remained restricted. The gulf between the developed and developing countries had widened, and the majority of people from the developing world did not have access to modern technology.

He said that the South Summit Declaration and the Havana Programme of Action clearly reflected the view that the rapid accumulation of knowledge and technologies had not reached the millions of people in the developing countries who continued to live in abject poverty. The two documents called on the developed countries to facilitate the transfer of technology to the developing countries.

Information technology should be accessible to developing countries to enable them to supply the information highway with news and perspectives relevant to their interests, he said. Otherwise, they would remain passengers on the information highway, rather than drivers. The Department of Public Information could assist developing countries in improving their technological capacity in the field of information, particularly through the United Nations information centres and various training programmes.

TSERENPIL DORJSUREN (Mongolia) said Mongolia associated itself with the statement made yesterday by Nigeria, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China. He agreed that the United Nations had an important role to play in the field of developing further the world’s information network, and therefore supported the strategic directions initiated by the Secretary-General.

He also supported efforts to maximize the DPI’s outreach capacities, underlining in particular the newly designed United Nations web site, along with Treaty Lines, the Library’s electronic delivery of information, and the launching of broadcast radio in United Nations languages. To enhance those and other projects, the Department’s communications strategy had to be strengthened using the latest technology. He also stressed the importance of active cooperation between the DPI and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

He expressed satisfaction at the start of cooperation between Mongolia and the Department of Public Information, which had resulted in a Mongolian language publication on “Discovering the United Nations” and a seminar held in Mongolia. The Department also helped focus international attention on last year’s drastic cold, known as “zud,” which caused extreme hardship. And a Mongolian journalist was included in the Training Programme for Broadcasters and Journalists from developing countries.

HOSSAM ZAKI (Egypt) said the United Nations should be able to keep pace with the information technology revolution, in order to help establish a new international information order that would bridge the gap separating the developed and developing countries. A new world information order must provide a balanced and fair framework in which the cultures and religions of various cultures could coexist peacefully, without one civilization or culture trying to establish hegemony over the others.

He said he continued to hope that the Secretary-General would table new proposals to ensure multilateralism and multilingualism on the United Nations web site. Proposals to enrich the web site must not be based only on the actual use of each official language, as that would run counter to the desired equilibrium. The aim of parity among the languages deserved the support of all Member States.

Regarding the integration of United Nations information centres with field offices of the UNDP, he said it was important for the Secretariat to hold consultations with States where integration had taken place in order to avoid negative fallout. The information capabilities of some UNDP offices had been enhanced, with the aim of creating a communications and information network with host countries. Those offices should concentrate on their development activities and not get involved in secondary activities, which could impact negatively on their primary task.

He said his Government attached importance to the Department follow- through activities and programmes on the question of Palestine and thanked the Department for its training programme for Palestinian journalists.

Mr. AL-QAHTANI (Qatar) praised the development of the United Nations web site in spite of financial restraints. The free flow of information had an unprecedented effect on the lives of all the citizens of the world, and it was necessary for the United Nations to explain all its activities, of which many people were ignorant, to the public. In order to do that, it was necessary to disseminate information on a very broad scale, to convey the scope of United Nations activities for the betterment of the world. That should be done in a way that reflected the attitude and interests of the majority of Member States and that did not damage the Organization’s credibility.

Also, he said, Qatar urged equality between the six official languages, so as to serve the needs of people in developing countries and to prevent one language from dominating other languages, such as Arabic. He reaffirmed the value of traditional sources of information, such as radio and television, because those were still the main vectors of information in developing countries.

The United Nations must assume a lead role in bridging the information technology gap in order to achieve progress. The development of such technology, though, should enforce lofty values. Qatar had taken democratic action in the field of information, abolishing censorship of printed materials and relying on self-censorship according to Islamic ideals.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), associating himself with the statement by Nigeria on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the DPI should focus more on publicizing United Nations activities and accomplishments in economic and social development. Sustainable human development issues, such as poverty eradication, health, education, women’s empowerment and others, should receive primary attention.

He supported the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s continued move towards being a virtual library with a focus on electronic information support for multilingualism and outreach to depository libraries. However, the need to build up the library’s strength in books and journals should not be ignored in the name of investing in modern technology. In addition to the reduced investment in books, most of those related to peace and security were in the United Nations Library in Geneva, causing an obvious inconvenience to delegations.

He expressed serious concern at the absence of a director for the United Nations Information Centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh, since the departure of the last one years ago, following the centre’s de facto integration with the UNDP office. The Centre had been physically moved to the UNDP premises and had no officer to conduct its business. When would a director be posted to the Information Centre, and why had the post remained vacant for so long?

LAKOELE ELONIA PRINCE-AGBODJAN (Togo) said she approved of the Department’s uses of new information technology. In that regard she cited the use of teleconferencing at the Millennium Summit and sessions of the Economic and Social Council. She also supported the programme to train journalists from developing countries and asked that it be enlarged. She affirmed the value of increased United Nations radio capacity for Africa and encouraged DPI to continue to widely broadcast meetings, especially upcoming conferences on social issues.

She also called for the United Nations to make sure that all the advantages of information technology were shared by developing countries. Such technology was valuable for stimulating growth, promoting sustainable development, eliminating poverty and integrating developing countries into the world economy.

She said that integration of Information Centres into offices of the UNDP should be examined on a case-by-case basis. She described pilot projects in Togo that installed resource centres in government departments, along with a “Sustainable Development Network”, which received information from the United Nations web site and contained data bases of social and economic information. While those electronic initiatives were important, radio, television and other traditional means of disseminating information should also be strengthened.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), commended the pilot United Nations radio project initiative. The CARICOM delegations noted that special arrangements had been made with the Caribbean Media Corporation for satellite distribution of programmes to partner radio stations in the region that had confirmed their participation. The growing response was clear testimony of regional interest in the United Nations.

She said United Nations information centres played a vital role in organizing events and disseminating information in local languages demonstrating how the Organization’s work was relevant to the people’s daily lives. The information centre in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, served the entire Caribbean and had endeavoured to fulfil its mandate despite a decline in human and financial resources. However, CARICOM was disappointed with the inability of the DPI to establish an information component in Kingston, Jamaica, to complement that centre and to service the needs of the Caribbean north of Barbados.

Emphasizing the importance of the link between United Nations public information capacity and peacekeeping missions, she commended the Department’s efforts in launching Radio UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, which now broadcast regularly in English and Creole. The importance of radio broadcasts in local languages was a key tool, which could use traditional methods and enhance understanding of the local cultures. The use of local staff in disseminating information about the peacekeeping mission could be an effective confidence- building mechanism to galvanize support from local populations. Information through radio was also essential in promoting awareness and understanding of peace accords, dispelling rumours, countering disinformation and securing the cooperation of local populations.

IVAN NIMAC (Croatia) said that, after the successful public outreach campaign during the Millennium Summit, the task was now to harness the interest that had been generated to create awareness of the crucial issues facing the United Nations, such as poverty eradication, peace and security and HIV/AIDS. The redesign of the web site was a welcome improvement, but the site should always be regarded as a work in progress and keep changing to reflect the dynamism of the Organization.

Overall, he said, the aim of the DPI should be to reach audiences in all regions through the most efficient and appropriate technologies. Further cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was valuable, as long as the recommended restructuring actually added additional efficiencies in communications.

In addition, he said, the process to integrate United Nations information centres with offices of the UNDP should be accelerated. In that regard, he wished to draw attention to the fact that Croatia remained on the waiting list to host such an information centre, which could operate in conjunction with existing United Nations offices in Zagreb. In conclusion, he underlined the importance of information to all activities of the United Nations.

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) recalled that the Non-Aligned Movement’s ministerial meeting at Cartagena, Colombia, in April, had expressed concern over measures aimed at blocking or impeding the transfer of technology to developing countries. That tendency must be curtailed if the benefits of progress in the information technology revolution were to be equitably distributed across the globe. As world peace and security depended on dissemination of unbiased information by the media of developed countries, they must respect the diversity of cultures and religious sentiments of the developing countries.

The emphasis on information technology should not detract from or undermine the vital importance and relevance of the traditional mass media for the United Nations, he said. Pakistan supported the enhancement and reinforcement of United Nations broadcasting capacity. The Organization must use those resources to promote key issues of global concern, especially development, poverty eradication, education, science and technology. The same applied to print media in the dissemination of information about United Nations activities.

He stressed the need to strengthen the effectiveness of United Nations information centres, which were the Organization’s window to the world. They should have immediate access to academia, mass media and the general public. Particular emphasis must be placed on integrating innovation into the working of the centres, to make them models of high technology information. They should, therefore, be equipped with efficient professional, impartial and apolitical leadership, as well as adequate financial support.

ZELALEM DAWIT (Ethiopia) said that there should be a serious commitment on the part of the United Nations to making sure that developing countries shared in the benefits of the expansion of new technologies. He hoped that the DPI would make an immense contribution towards capacity-building in information- related fields.

He welcomed training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries. He underlined the continuing importance of traditional means of information dissemination because of their accessibility in developing countries. In that regard, he welcomed the broadcast radio project of United Nations radio in six official languages.

The majority of African governments, he said, currently found themselves facing severe financial constraints in trying to avoid isolation from global information. The Committee on Information must therefore deliberate on ways of enabling developing nations to benefit from the United Nations system, especially in the provision of resources and capacity-building.

MILAD ATIEH (Syria) stressed that a new, more just and effective international information order should reflect the interests of all peoples, regardless of their cultural background. Information must be shared and broadcast in a balanced fashion.

He said the United Nations, and specifically the DPI, had been entrusted with spreading the Organization’s message and explaining its activities, particularly in the developing countries. The United Nations should pay serious attention to its activities in the information field, in order to enhance and strengthen its stated positions in peace and disarmament, as well as economic and social development.

Information must be presented in a neutral fashion and must be credible, honest, fair and balanced, he emphasized. Private media must not be allowed to take advantage of international events to pursue their own interests or to take financial advantage of such events. The entire world saw the United Nations as the collective conscience of humanity and expected the Organization to reflect the interests of the majority of Member States, not one-sided positions that favoured the minority. Despite some gaps and failings in the Department’s work, its remarkable achievements over the years should not be overlooked.

He said there were some problems of transparency, such as the continuing need to ensure complete parity among the six official languages on the United Nations web site. The Arabic site was weak and did not meet the needs of its users. It should be enhanced to ensure that students, researchers, politicians and others could obtain the information they required. There should be a fair and equal development of all the web sites, so that some were not strengthened at the expense of the others. The same principle must apply in publications, which were issued quite late in some languages, particularly in Arabic.

DOMINIQUE ROGER NKAZENGANY (Gabon) expressed satisfaction with the live daily broadcasts of the Millennium Summit, which had been made globally accessible through partnerships between the United Nations and local radio broadcasters. The maintenance and strengthening of radio systems was essential to the developing world, and therefore the pilot project for United Nations radio should be supported.

The expansion of the United Nations Internet page, in the six official languages, should also be supported, he said. More information should be available in real time. The World Television Forum was also important, he added. Its agenda should include, in the future, more subjects relevant to developing countries.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal), on behalf of the Community of Portuguese- Speaking Countries, said that United Nations Radio’s Portuguese-language programme was broadcast on a daily basis to five continents, reaching a worldwide audience of more than 230 million people. That service was an admirable success story for the DPI. It had, time and again, proven to be a superb tool for spreading the United Nations message wherever Portuguese was spoken and heard.

Reiterating the Community’s strong support for strengthening the capacities of United Nations Radio’s Portuguese-language programme, he commended the work of a single producer for his tireless work towards meeting the Organization’s goals in the field of public information. The Community would once again support the strengthening of United Nations Radio’s capacities during the next session of the Committee on Information.

He said the community was aware that the United Nations, as a whole, and the Department, in particular, were under serious financial constraints. Nonetheless, through creativity and skilful allocation of resources, it should be possible to offer the means that United Nations Radio’s Portuguese-language programme so badly needed. Millions of people in Europe, Africa and Latin America used radio as a primary source of information on world affairs. In Asia, and especially in East Timor, United Nations Radio had been a fierce advocate for the Organization’s importance.

JOSE PATRICIO (Angola) stressed the importance of information activities carried out in the Portuguese language, particularly United Nations radio. In the case of Angola, over 12 million listeners were reached on a daily basis by the programmes originating at United Nations radio in New York. It was one of their major sources of world information, as well as making them aware of how the United Nations coped with its many challenges.

Since independence, he said, communications had played a fundamental role in consolidating national unity and democracy in Angola. For that reason, he asked that a renewed Portuguese language team should be contemplated in all contemplated DPI projects, including short-wave live radio, and satellite and Internet technologies.

MARCOS PRADO TROYJO (Brazil) associated himself with the statements by Colombia on behalf of the Rio Group, and by Portugal on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.

He said Brazil was pleased with the results of the agreement between Brazilian Public Radio and United Nations Radio, which allowed for information in Portuguese to reach vast audiences in Brazil through a receiving network that brought together at times nearly 2,000 radio stations all over the country. That service continued to grow in both importance and number of listeners.

The benefits arising from information available in Portuguese reached many other areas outside Brazil, he said. Africa’s Portuguese-speaking nations also tuned in to the information put together in New York on a daily basis. The information was also delivered to many countries in Europe and stretched as far as East Timor in Asia. However, the volume of work involved in the Portuguese- language broadcasts called for an enlargement of the production team, to ensure quality and a wider audience.

He called upon the DPI to consider allocating resources to hire new members of its Portuguese service team. Brazil would dedicate a great deal to expanding the use of new technologies to amplify the United Nations message. The Internet was an extraordinary instrument for that purpose.

YAW OSEI (Ghana) said it was important that developing countries not lag behind in information technology. The role of the DPI was key in adapting information technology to promote socio-economic development, while taking into account traditional cultures of developing countries. In that regard the initiative to create direct links by electronic mail to journalists world-wide was praiseworthy.

Information centres, he said, should be integrated into UNDP offices only after consideration on a case-by-case basis. The DPI’s operational support for peacekeeping was also important, but radio and television should continue to be used in addition to electronic media. Also of benefit were the travelling exhibition on peacekeeping, World Press Day, and United Nations publications, such as “Africa Recovery” and the “United Nations Chronicle”.

He noted with interest the Secretary-General’s Global Compact with business, labour and society, as part of the effort to bridge the information technology gap. He commended the DPI for the United Nations web site, but also urged that traditional media, such as print and radio, remain important parts of outreach activities.

NACERDINE SAI (Algeria) said that the transmission of knowledge had become very swift, due to the phenomenal developments in printing, dissemination and distribution. However, many countries felt their ways of thinking, beliefs and even independence threatened, since most information media were concentrated in the developed countries.

He said that state of affairs caused frustration and apprehension among the developing countries. It caused frustration because they found themselves marginalized and unable to make their voice and concerns heard by world public opinion; apprehension because they were aware of the potential threat that abuse of information could hold as a tool to apply pressure on and restrict their free will. That was why the developing countries had long favoured the implementation of a new world information and communication order.

Commending efforts by the Department of Public Information in the field of information and communications, he expressed the hope that it would be able to pursue with similar vigour key United Nations activities, such as decolonization, development, disarmament and the promotion of human rights. The Department should also pay particular attention to the Dialogue Among Civilizations. Algeria would continue to encourage cultural and linguistic initiatives, including through the electronic media, and particularly the Internet, which remained unavailable to many developing countries.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) strongly supported the idea of strengthening United Nations radio and hoped there would be close cooperation between the DPI and national radio and television broadcasters. It was also desirable that the Department ensured balance, both between languages and between traditional and modern media.

The United Nations information centres, he said, were carrying out remarkable work in disseminating the ideals of the United Nations. The time had come to strengthen the centre in Yaounde. The integration of such centres with UNDP offices should only happen in collaboration with governments. And they should be better equipped to serve broad goals. For that reason, the Yaounde centre, in particular, should have a full-time director.

YUSSEF KANAAN, Organization of the Islamic Conference, while acknowledging the benefits of information and communication technology, expressed deep concern over the adverse and negative consequences of any misuse of information, such as potential threats to the national integrity and sovereignty of States, religious values and cultural norms and traditions, as well as the dangers of distortion, disinformation and manipulation of information.

He said that the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in coordination of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Islamic Broadcasting Organization, had produced a documentary film on Jerusalem/Al-Quds Al-Sharif. It highlighted the cause of the holy city and shed light on Israel’s illegal actions aimed at altering its geographic and demographic aspects and desecrating the sacred sites, particularly Al-Haram Al- Sharif.

The Department of Public Information, he said, should be commended for continuing its special information programme on the question of Palestine to enhance international awareness of and achieve wider recognition for the exercise by the Palestinian people of the inalienable national rights. The Department was also commended for its support for the Bethlehem 2000 project and

for organizing training programmes at Headquarters for journalists and broadcasters from Palestine and member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

KENSAKU HOGEN, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said that, during the two-day general debate, he had noted the views, ideas, opinions and advice of delegations. They would be taken into account in the Department’s future activities. He assured the Committee that he and senior officials of the Department would be available to discuss the concerns, questions and requests raised by delegates during the general debate.

Action on Drafts

The Committee, acting without a vote, then jointly approved the draft resolutions and the draft decision.

Chairman’s Closing Statement

JULIAN VASSALLO (Malta), Acting Chairman, said in his closing remarks that the Fourth Committee had covered a wide-ranging agenda. The issues had included: decolonization to information; peacekeeping to the peaceful uses of outer space; Israeli practices and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to the effects of atomic radiation.

He said the Committee had also heard the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the representative of the Governor of Guam, the representative of the United States Virgin Islands and 23 petitioners on the question of Western Sahara and specialized agencies.

During its 27 meetings, the Committee had heard a total of 206 speakers and approved 25 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions, he said. Of the 28 texts approved, 11 draft resolutions and 2 draft decisions had been approved without a vote.

As he adjourned the meeting, he reminded Committee members that the Pledging Conference for UNRWA, to assist the Agency in obtaining the financial resources it would need to continue its humanitarian programmes in 2001, would be held at 11 a.m. Monday, 4 December.

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For information media. Not an official record.