NEED FOR PARITY AMONG ALL OFFICIAL UN LANGUAGES STRESSED, AS COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION CONCLUDES SESSION

11 May 2001
PI/1347/Rev.1

NEED FOR PARITY AMONG ALL OFFICIAL UN LANGUAGES STRESSED, AS COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION CONCLUDES SESSION

11/05/2001
Press ReleasePI/1347/Rev.1

Committee on Information

Twenty-third Session

6th Meeting (PM) and Round-up

NEED FOR PARITY AMONG ALL OFFICIAL UN LANGUAGES STRESSED,

AS COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION CONCLUDES SESSION

Draft Resolution Approved by Committee Highlights Importance

Of Closing Digital Divide between Developed and Developing Countries

The General Assembly would express its concern that vast segments of the population in developing countries are not benefiting from the present global information and technology revolution, by the terms of a two-part draft resolution approved by the Committee on Information this afternoon as it concluded its twenty-third session.

According to part B of the draft, the Assembly would also emphasize the importance of ensuring the full equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all activities of the Department of Public Information.  It would further stress the importance of fully implementing resolution 52/214 C, which requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the texts of all new public documents in all six official languages, and information materials of the United Nations are made available through the United Nations Web site daily and are accessible to Member States without delay.

By other terms, the Assembly would underline the need to rectify the imbalances of the global information and technology revolution and would welcome the efforts of the Department of Public Information in publicizing the efforts of the Secretary-General to close the digital divide as a means of spurring economic growth and as a response to the continuing gulf between the developed and developing countries.

While appreciating the present efforts, the Assembly would note there is a need for the Secretary-General to continue to develop proposals for the multilingual development, maintenance and enrichment of the United Nations Web site.  This should ultimately lead to achieving full parity among the official languages of the United Nations.  The Assembly would request the Secretary-General, until it has taken a decision on proposals for the multilingual development and enrichment of the Web site, to ensure, to the extent possible, the equitable distribution of the Department's financial and human resources allocated to the United Nations Web site among all official languages.

Also according to the text, the Assembly would request the Department, as the manager of the Organization's Web site, to develop a proposal for the establishment of one central Internet portal that will encompass all United Nations system Web sites, allowing for the search and retrieval of information from all United Nations Web sites from one central search facility.

Recognizing the far-reaching impact of linking the optical disk system -- the system which makes United Nations legislative documents available to Member State missions and the Secretariat electronically -- with the United Nations Web site in furthering the goal of making all parliamentary documents available in the six official languages, the Assembly would stress that the integration of the optical disk system with the Web site will represent a step towards enhancing the multilingual nature of the Web site.

By the text, the Assembly would stress that radio remains one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department of Public Information and an important instrument in United Nations activities.  It would also welcome developments in the production of live radio and ask for a report on the future of the project.

The Assembly would request the Department of Public Information to enhance, where necessary, the use of non-official languages to meet the information needs of its audiences.  It would also encourage the Department to continue to include in its radio and television programming specific programmes addressing the needs of developing nations.

Also by the text, the Assembly would welcome the progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations.  It would also welcome the extensive network of partnerships established with local, regional and national broadcasters in Member States. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Committee a final report on the results of the pilot project by August 2001, and would express its intention to take a final decision on the mandate and allocation of the resources needed to establish a permanent international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations during the main part of its fifty-sixth session.

Also according to the text, the Assembly would stress that the United

Nations information centres should continue to play a significant role in disseminating information about the work of the Organization to the peoples of the world, particularly in the areas of economic and social development.  The Assembly would emphasize that the United Nations information centres as the “field voice” of the Department should promote public awareness and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level.

Noting the Secretary-General's efforts to strengthen the public information capacity of peacekeeping operations, the Assembly would, by further terms of the text, request the Secretariat to ensure the Department's involvement from the planning stage of future operations through interdepartmental consultations and coordination with other Secretariat departments.  In light of the ongoing discussion on the Secretary-General's report on resource requirements for implementation of the report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations -- the "Brahimi report" -- the Department should continue efforts to strengthen its capacity to significantly contribute to the functioning of information components in peacekeeping operations.

According to part A of the draft the Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing 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 in order to enable them and all their media to develop their own information and communication policies.  Part A was approved unanimously.

Taking part in the discussions were the representatives of Cuba, United States, Netherlands (on behalf of the Group of Western and other States), Italy, Algeria, Iran (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Mexico and Portugal.

Committee Highlights

During its two-week session, the Committee dedicated the bulk of its work to a critical exploration of innovative ways in which the Department could further develop its “client” orientation by providing worldwide outreach for the United Nations system.  Its discussions underscored the need for optimal use of new information technology, and stressed the importance of the multilingual United Nations Web site and the role of the United Nations information centres.  The system-wide "The UN Works” promotional programme, which provides an overarching demonstration of how the Organization translates broad priorities into programmes that have a direct impact on people’s lives, was also reviewed.

Among other areas discussed were the enhancement of live radio broadcasts in all six official languages, which were launched successfully last year, and the creation of a United Nations news service to feed the demands of the global,

24-hour news cycle, and of developing country media who have less access to information on United Nations activities.

The Department would play an important role in meeting the challenge of the Millennium Declaration, which reaffirmed the United Nations as the “indispensable common house of the entire human family”, the Secretary-General states in one of several reports that facilitated the Committee’s deliberations during this session.  The central objective of all public information activities, the Secretary-General states, is to build broad-based global support for the United Nations by projecting it as a transparent institution.  In helping shape the “voice” of the United Nations, the Department is focusing its resources on disseminating information about the Organization’s activities throughout the world and demonstrating ways in which it is making a real difference in the lives of people everywhere.

Opening the session, the Committee Chairman, MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela), echoed the sentiments of the Secretary-General, stressing the priority task of spreading the message of the United Nations to the entire world, through both traditional and the most advanced forms of communication.  It was lamentable, however, that only 5 per cent of humanity had access to the Internet.  Therefore, there must be greater efforts to ensure access to the countries of the South.  Modern technology must be used to accelerate development for the poor, he added.  Information must be the conduit which transmits the will of the emerging world.

SHASHI THAROOR, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, emphasized that while news of the Organization could now be provided instantly to every corner of the world, financial investment was needed to modernize the communications infrastructure.  The challenge for the Department would be to translate “reorientation” into “modernization”; to create a detailed blueprint for better serving the people’s of the world in the twenty-first century.  Still, the issue of adequate resources -– both financial and human -- could not be ignored.  The Department had lost 103 posts since the 1992-1993 biennium –- over 12 per cent of its total strength –- while still being asked to do more.

Despite the reduction in staff, the Department was continuing to deliver, he said.  Mr. Tharoor said it should be proud of what it was achieving in the face of limited resources, especially in dealing with increased mandated duties.  The focus must now be on what to do, how to do it, and with what resources.  The Department would continue to disseminate timely, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information through print, audio visual and Internet media.  It would also maintain a world-class library system.  Further, he said, the Department had made real progress towards creating a culture of communication within the Organization.  It would work to ensure that the information and communications function continued to be at the heart of the strategic management of the United Nations, and that the imperative of communications infused the Organization's policy-making.    

      He said the DPI was also collaborating with many other substantive departments both at Headquarters and in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi to further develop its "client orientation" and to help them formulate their messages and realize their mandates.  As coordination was a high priority, he continued to convene the Communications Group, which regularly brought to the table United Nations system colleagues tasked with communicating the United Nations story to the outside world.  The Department was in contact with system partners to maximize outreach, avoid duplication and better focus the Organization's message.

He had taken small steps to adjust the allocation of staff resources within DPI and would constantly look for opportunities to rationalize staffing and put resources where they were most needed.  He had insisted on efficiency and accountability in daily work. He said the Department would strive to ensure there was efficiency and no waste.  

The Department would draw from the past to disseminate accurate and timely information while at the same time reflecting the present by providing timely news and images of the Organization, using the best available technology.  The Department's embrace of new technologies would become even more critical to its future success, he continued.  The overall goal was to develop an infrastructure capable of developing instantaneous transmission of text, image and voice messages from the Organization to the world.  The Department would continue to strengthen the United Nations Web site as a major communications tool to enable hundreds of millions of people to directly access information about the United Nations.  However, this would not be done at the expense of the traditional means of dissemination.

Information centres, services and United Nations offices would continue to present the work and achievements of the United Nations to local audiences around the world and their means of outreach would continue to be creative and diversified.  Mr. Tharoor recalled that in a report on the equitable disbursement of resources to United Nations information centres, the Secretary-General appealed to Member States to provide rent-free or rent-subsidized office space for information centres in the developed world, and to assist through cash contributions for information services.  Any savings could be directed to improve the quality and reach of the services provided in developing countries.  Using the report as a foundation, he further intended to carefully review overall allocation of resources to the information centres with a view to maximizing the effectiveness of those offices while maintaining their reach to the developing world. 

The Department’s goal was to live up to its initials -– DPI –- through making a difference by promoting the United Nations and influencing world opinion, he said.  The Department would be dynamic in its work, pro-active in its methods and interesting in its outputs.

As the Committee began its general debate, the key point underscored by many speakers was the need to bridge the digital divide between the industrialized and developing countries.  Nigeria’s representative said that many countries had not benefited from new technologies, and there was an urgent need to integrate developing nations into the new information and communication order.  He called on developed countries to increase assistance for communications infrastructure in developing countries.  Lending support to that call, Algeria’s representative said that reversing the continuing gap between the two hemispheres would also require large-scale international cooperation.

Cuba’s representative said there was a lack of political will in industrialized countries to reverse negative trends.  Instead, a frenzied race had been unleashed to patent not only technologies, but also the ideas that supported the new economies, creating further barriers to third world countries that needed those technologies.  Intellectual property rights excluded developing countries from knowledge.  In addition, private research was focused on the whims of rich consumers and not on the needs of the large groups of dispossessed.  Mongolia’s representative strongly advocated a new and more just communication order that was based on a free and balanced flow of information to all.  The United Nations system should play a proactive role in that regard, by creating an indispensable environment for universal access to information and communication technologies.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, said that in a changing environment of new technologies and opportunities, the United Nations would have to try to bring its important message to as many people as it possibly could.  “We need a Department of Public Information that realizes the slogan:  Global Vision, Local Voice”, he said.  That was a daunting task which underscored the need for further and continued reform and improvement in the way the Organization disseminated information.  Reform was more than simply reducing costs and improving efficiency, however.  The overall objective should be to enhance the effectiveness of United Nations information activities.  It was also necessary to move further away from the approach of trying to do it all, and to develop new strategies and approaches.

The representative of the United States said that the Department’s Web site team was a textbook example of what could be accomplished using existing resources when dedicated professionals apply the knowledge, commitment, flexibility and creativity necessary to get the job done.

He added that DPI should take the lead in establishing a central Internet portal encompassing all United Nations Web sites, which would allow searches and retrieval of information from one central search facility.  Not only would the posting of all parliamentary documents in the six official languages enhance the multilingual nature of the Web site, but it would also lead to efficiency by eliminating the duplicate formatting and posting of documents, he said.  He thanked the Information Technology Services Division for ensuring that the required bandwidth would be in place to accommodate public access to the optical disk system.  The United States continued to question the need for the DPI to produce the long and near-verbatim press releases that were issued after meetings.  While they were comprehensive and seemed to meet the needs of some delegations, they did not appear geared to satisfying the needs of the press or the public.  Perhaps the financial and staff resources used for these could be used to further develop the Department’s capacity in other areas. 

The DPI must also undertake a critical review of its operation to ensure it could support Member States' priorities.  Such a review must look beyond departmental lines to improve coordination and efficiency throughout the United Nations system. 

While recognizing the importance of using new technologies to enhance the work of the Department, many members also emphasized the critical importance of more traditional media, such as radio, television and publications, to disseminate the United Nations message.  A number of speakers underscored the primacy of radio as the most widely used and available traditional medium, and expressed widespread support for the pilot project for international radio broadcasting and the role of the Department in enabling developing nations to meet their information and communication needs.  Members from the Portuguese-speaking delegations were unanimous in their call for strengthening the Portuguese-language radio service, which reached a worldwide audience of more than 230 million on five continents.

 During this session, the Committee also considered ways of enhancing the Organization’s Web site.  MAHBUB AHMAD, Chief of the Information Technology Section of the Department of Information, said the Web site was like a storefront: “whatever we have available, we put on it”.  He added that the site was being regularly accessed by more than 163 countries and this year, a landmark

400 million “hits” had been received so far.  In addition, the link between the optical disk system (ODS) and the Web site should be operational by late summer.  Also forthcoming was the creation of a separate section for information made available by Presidents of the Security Council.

Many delegations, however, emphasized that the site suffered from a lack of language parity.  China’s representative said that, although Chinese was a language used by a quarter of humanity, it did not have as much parity as English and French on the site.  The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said a lack of objectivity and impartiality might result in the transmission of distorted information.  Special attention needed to be paid to that aspect, to avoid having public information activities represent only the interest of a certain country or region, he warned.  Responding to those comments, Mr. AHMAD said the Section recognized that such parity had not been achieved and added that it would necessitate some “hard decisions” and significant expenditure.  The Secretariat estimated that it would cost of $650 million to disseminate information on the Web site into all official languages.

The observance of World Press Freedom Day was held in connection with the Committee’s current session.  That Conference was highlighted by a panel discussion on “Fighting racism and promoting diversity:  the role of the free press”, which had been chosen in light of the upcoming World Conference against Racism, to be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September.

Opening the observance, General Assembly President HARRI HOLKERI said the focus on the relationship between racism and press freedom was a reminder that with freedom came responsibility.  Freedom of expression, he continued, should not be interpreted as the freedom to incite or promote racial hatred, discrimination or violence.  At the same time, efforts to combat racism, xenophobia and related intolerance must strike a balance with the need to protect freedom of expression.  Hate speech, such as hate sites on the Internet, were best countered not by censorship but by fostering free access to information, which exposed those ideas for what they were. 

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that freedom of the press ensured that the abuse of every other freedom could be known, challenged and even defeated.  It was important to appreciate the role that a free and vibrant press could play in bringing the horror of racism to light, and inspiring people to act on behalf of victims of racism, discrimination and bigotry of every kind.  A great debt was owed to the courageous journalists who, in many cases, risked careers and lives to tell the story of injustice and discrimination.

Committee Officers

Milos Alcalay (Venezuela) served as Chairman; Peter Mollema (Netherlands) Ivan Matchavariani (Georgia), and Tserenpil Dorjsuren (Mongolia) served as Vice-Chairmen.  Walid Haggag (Egypt) served as the Committee’s Rapporteur.

      Action on Reports

WALID HAGGAG (Egypt), Rapporteur, introduced the Committee’s draft report, contained in documents A/AC.198/2000, L.1, L.2 and L.3. 

He said that document A/AC.198/2000/L.1 contained, among other matters, the election of officers, the adoption of the agenda, the appointment of Libya and Armenia as new members, and the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day.  Document A/AC.198/2000/L.2 included a summary of the Committee’s general debate and consideration of the reports submitted by the Secretary-General.  Document  A/AC.198/2000/L.3 contained draft resolutions A and B.

He said that many members of the Committee had praised measures taken in the reorientation of the Department and noted efforts to develop a culture of communication and strategic vision within the Secretariat.  All had supported the use of enhanced technologies in the work of the Department.  Many commended the Department for the development and maintenance of the United Nations Web site.  A large number had emphasized the role of traditional means of communication, stressing that radio continued to be the most widely used medium in developing countries.

He noted an amendment in document A/AC.198/2000/L.2, Chapter 4, on the consideration of the reports of the Secretary-General.  In paragraph 68 of the English text, the second sentence of that paragraph should be replaced by the following:  “He stated that additional tasks could not be taken on within the Department’s existing resources and staffing table, without abandoning activities mandated by the General Assembly.” 

He said that draft resolution B of A/AC.198/2000/L.3 had been substantially enriched.  The preambular section contained 10 paragraphs, and the operative part of the text had been divided into 11 sections.

On the negotiations, he said that while there had not always been total agreement in the Committee, there had been full parity in the spirit of understanding.  The draft reflected the hard work in the preparation of the text, which was testimony to the flexibility displayed by all delegations.  The draft resolution contained new elements which had enriched this year’s text. 

Regarding draft resolution B, he noted that a paragraph of the preambular section had been mistakenly omitted from the text.  He also made an amendment to paragraph 34 of the draft resolution B.

The report contained in document A/AC.198/2000/L.1 was approved.

Turning to document A/AC.1998/2000/L.2, the Committee Chairman, MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela), proposed a chapter-by-chapter review of that document.  

The representative of Cuba said that paragraph 43 of the draft included references to two statements made by his delegation during the session.  As written, however, the draft reflected only partially what had been said.  Cuba would provide the Rapporteur with the complete text for inclusion in the report.

The representative of the United States said that his delegation reserved the right to comment on the draft after revisions had been made.

      The report contained in document A/AC.198/2000/L.2 was adopted unanimously, as orally amended.

The Committee then turned to document A/AC.198/2000/L.3. 

Draft resolution A was adopted unanimously by the Committee.

Turning to draft resolution B, SHASHI THAROOR, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information commented on paragraph 55 of the draft.  That section, which requested the Secretary-General, while awaiting a decision on proposals for multilingual development of the Web site, to ensure to the extent possible, equitable distribution of financial and human resources within the Department allocated to the Web site among all official languages on a continuous basis.  Mr. Tharoor said he recognized that the complicated formulation of that section was of concern to many delegations.  He would do his utmost to ensure that request, and the spirit of that request, was carried out from within existing resources, with no additional financial implications at the present stage.  At the same time, the Department would make effective use of the available resources to build on the achievements accomplished regarding the Web site thus far.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the Western European and other States, asked if Mr. Tharoor’s statement could be reflected in the final report of the Committee.  That Group was prepared to join consensus on the resolution.

On paragraph 63, THÉRÈSE GASTAUT, in her capacity as Committee Secretary, confirmed that the informal meetings of the Committee with the Department would be scheduled in coordination with the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services to ensure that the necessary services, including interpretation, would be made available without incurring any further costs.

Draft B was then adopted unanimously, as orally amended.  The Committee then approved the draft resolution as a whole.

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that coming to the end of the Committee’s work was a pleasure, both in terms of the process and the outcome of the session.  Mr. Tharoor’s involvement in the process had been a great help and boded well for the work of the Department and the Committee.  When looking at the collective outcome of the session, the Committee should be pleased.  The resolution formed a good basis for the strengthening of the Department and carried clear guidelines for its work.  He thanked the Chairman for his excellent stewardship of the session.

The representative of Mexico said many of the proposals put forward by her delegation during this session had focused on the issue of promoting the use of the six official languages in the dissemination of all information about the Organization.  She was pleased to note that the documents approved today would go before the Assembly containing sections devoted to multilingualism and public information.  She was satisfied at the strong commitment of the Committee to increase parity in the use of the six official languages.

The representative of Portugal thanked all the delegations for their support in the launching of the Portuguese-language radio programme on the United Nations Web site, which during the first day of its existence had more than 1,500 visitors.  This was a good start indeed, and would go a long way to demonstrating the importance of the work of the Organization to Portuguese-speaking people.

Mr. THAROOR said he was pleased to see that the Committee had been able to arrive at the draft resolution by consensus.  He paid tribute to the energy, commitment and wisdom of the Chairman.  He had listened carefully to the deliberations and had taken due note of suggestions made.  He was grateful to the Committee for the support it had expressed for the Department’s work.  The close working relationship between the Committee on Information and the Department was crucial.  He looked forward to further strengthening relations and to ensuring continued harmony between the needs of Member States and the Department.  He expressed his deepest gratitude for the support given to the Department.  He assured Committee members of his continued cooperation in the months ahead and sessions to come.

The CHAIRMAN thanked Mr. Tharoor for his comments addressed to him and for his expression of multilingualism.  He had addressed the Committee in perfect English, French and Spanish.  Perhaps by next Spring, he would also speak in Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

Background

As the Committee on Information met this afternoon to conclude its work for this year, it was expected to take action on a two-part draft resolution contained in document A/AC.198/2001/L.3 to be submitted to the General Assembly's fifty-sixth session.

By terms of part A of the resolution -- Information in the service of humanity -- the General Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact to reduce existing disparities in information flows, by increasing assistance for communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries.  This should be done with due regard to the needs and priorities of those countries, and in order to enable them to develop their own information and communication policies.

The General Assembly would also urge all concerned to ensure that journalists have the opportunity to freely and effectively perform their professional tasks, and would condemn all attacks against them.  It would support the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries.  Regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries and between developed and developing countries would be sought, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology, especially in training and information dissemination.

Among other terms, the Assembly would seek all possible support and assistance for:  the development of human and technical resources indispensable for improvement of information and communication systems in developing countries; the creation of conditions that will enable developing countries to have communication technology suited to their needs; establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels; and for the facilitation of developing countries' access to advanced communication technology available on the open market.

By part B of the draft resolution -- United Nations public information policies and activities -- the General Assembly would express concern that the gap in the information and communications technologies between the developed and the developing countries has continued to widen and that vast segments of the population in developing countries are not benefiting from the information and technology revolution.  The Assembly would stress the need to rectify this imbalance.

Also by the text, the Assembly would recognize that developments in information and communication technology open vast new opportunities for economic growth and social development and can play an important role in eradication of poverty in developing countries.  However, the Assembly would emphasize that they also pose challenges and risks, and could lead to further widening of disparities between and within countries.

By other terms, the Assembly would note that developments and rapid changes in information and communication technology have a tremendous impact on the United Nations, and its Department of Public Information in particular, which may necessitate adjustments in the manner in which the Department’s mandates are implemented.

The Assembly would also note other initiatives to bridge the digital divide, including those of the World Bank, the International Telecommunications Network, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Digital Opportunity Task Force of the Group of Eight Nations (dot force) and the Group of 77 South Summit.

By further terms of the draft, the Assembly would welcome the Millennium Summit Declaration, the 2000 Ministerial Declaration of the High-Level Segment Session of the Economic and Social Council, and the Secretary-General's Millennium Report.  The Assembly would call on Member States to make every effort to prevent the use of media and information technologies that undermine legitimate governments and democracy, fan ethnic strife and xenophobia, incite hatred and violence and contribute to any manifestations of extremism.

The Assembly would reaffirm that the Department of Public Information

is the focal point for United Nations information policies, and the prime news centre for information about United Nations activities and those of the Secretary-General.  The Assembly would welcome the development of the United Nations News Service by the Department.  It would ask that every effort be made to ensure that publications and other Secretariat information services contain comprehensive, objective and equitable information and maintain editorial independence, impartiality, accuracy and full consistency with resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly.

Taking note of the Secretary-General's report on the reorientation of United Nations public information and communications activities, the Assembly would encourage him to continue the reorientation exercise, while stressing the need to take into account Member States' views.  Through its reorientation, the Department of Public Information should improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and other countries with special needs.  Such a reorientation should contribute to bridging the gap between developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications.

Also according to the text, the Assembly would encourage the Secretary-General to strengthen cooperation between the Department of Public Information and other departments of the Secretariat, in particular those dealing with priority issues.  It would welcome initiatives that have been taken by the Department of Public Information to strengthen the public information system of the United Nations.  In this regard, the Assembly would stress the importance of a coherent and results-oriented approach by the United Nations, the specialized agencies and the United Nations programmes and funds involved in public information activities and the provision of resources for their implementation, taking into account feedback from Member States on the relevance and effectiveness of its programme delivery.

The Assembly would recognize the need for the Department of Public Information to increase its outreach activities in all regions, and would ask the Secretary-General to include an analysis of the present reach and scope of the Department's activities in his next report on the reorientation.  The widest possible spectrum of audiences and geographical areas which are not covered adequately and which may require special attention should be identified, as should appropriate means of communication and local language requirements.

By other terms, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of ensuring equitable treatment of all the official languages in all activities of the Department of Public Information.  It would stress the importance of fully implementing resolution 52/214 C, which asks the Secretary-General to ensure that the texts of all new public documents in all six official languages, and other information materials, are made available through the Web site daily and are accessible to Member States without delay.

The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to present updated figures on the use and command of all six official languages by Department's staff to the Committee at its next session, and would ask the Secretary-General to ensure that the Department has appropriate staffing capacity in all official languages to undertake all its activities.

By further terms, the Assembly would remind the Secretary-General of the need to account for the importance of using all six official languages in the Department's future programme budget proposals.  Taking note of the

Internet Publishing Guidelines, the Assembly would ask the Department and the Working Group on Internet Matters to make specific recommendations to achieve the goal of making all documentation on the web sites available in all six official languages.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would commend the Department of Public

Information for its important role in the promotional campaign for the Millennium Summit.  It would express appreciation of the Secretary-General’s initiatives in promoting the Year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.  It would encourage him to intensify the promotional campaign through the use of as many broadcasters and languages as possible -- in addition to the official languages -- and to spread the coverage, with special emphasis on publicizing the findings of the Group of Eminent Persons for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.

The Assembly would recognize the need for enhanced publicity on special sessions and conferences, including those on HIV/AIDS, racism, financing for development and ageing.  It would urge the Department to provide information aimed at achieving the major objectives in the Secretary-General's report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.  Recalling its resolutions concerning the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, the Assembly would also encourage the Department, in cooperation with the concerned countries and the relevant bodies of the United Nations system, to continue to enhance public awareness of the consequences of that disaster; and the needs of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, which has been affected by nuclear tests.

The Assembly would commend the Secretary-General for the establishment of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), the Health

InterNetwork, and the Information and Communications Technology Task Force.

It would also welcome the Department's contribution -- and call for its enhancement -- in publicizing the Secretary-General's efforts to close the digital divide.

The Assembly would stress that United Nations information centres should continue to play a significant role in disseminating information about the work of the Organization, in particular in the areas of economic and social development.  Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on the integration of United Nations information centres United Nations Development Programme offices, the Assembly would welcome action taken by the Department to implement the views of host governments, and call for such action to continue.

The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to report to the Committee on Information on possibilities to continue, on a case-by-case basis, the integration policy in a cost-effective manner, while maintaining the independence of the centres.  Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on equitable disbursement of resources to the centres, the Assembly would emphasize the needs for further effort in this regard, with particular attention given to the concerns of developing countries and other countries with special needs.

Further, according to the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to include in his report on the reorientation of United Nations activities in the field of public information and communications, to be submitted to the Committee on Information at its next session, information on the involvement of the Department of Public Information in the context of the implementation of his recommendations on the establishment of United Nations houses.

The Assembly would emphasize that the information centres -- as the “field voice” of the Department -- should promote public awareness and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level.  It would recognize the appeal made by the Secretary-General to host governments to facilitate the centres' work by provision of rent-free or rent-subsidized office space, bearing in mind that such support should not be a substitute for the full allocation of financial requirements for the centres in the context of the programme budget.

According to the text, the Assembly would note the efforts by some centres to develop their own Web pages in local languages, and encourage the

Department of Public Information to provide resources and technical facilities to help develop Web pages in local languages of host countries.

      According to the draft, the Assembly would note the Secretary-General's efforts to strengthen the public information capacity of the Department of Public Information for the establishment and day-to-day functioning of the information components of peacekeeping and other field operations of the United Nations.  It would also request the Secretariat to continue to ensure the involvement of the Department from the planning stage of such future operations through interdepartmental consultations and coordination with other departments of the Secretariat, and to report to the Committee at its 2002 session, including any possible proposals for enhancing the role of the Department in this regard.

Also, the Assembly would note the ongoing discussion on the report of the Secretary-General on resource requirements for implementation of the report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations.  In that regard, it would stress that the Department of Public Information should continue its efforts to strengthen its capacity to significantly contribute to the functioning of information components in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would note the continuing efforts of the Secretary-General to make the Dag Hammarskjöld Library a virtual library with world outreach, making United Nations information and other acquired materials accessible electronically to a growing number of readers and users.  At the same time, it would request him to enrich on a multilingual basis the stock of books and journals in the Library, including publications on peace and security and development-related issues, to ensure that the Library continues to be a broadly accessible resource for information about the United Nations and its activities.

Also by the text, the Assembly would welcome the progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations.  It would also welcome the extensive network of partnerships established with local, regional and national broadcasters in Member States, and concur with the Secretary-General that the implementation of the project has been one of the more successful examples of the reorientation of the Department of Public Information.  It would ask the Secretary-General to submit to the Committee on Information a final report on the results of the pilot project by August 2001, and express its intention to take a final decision on the mandate and allocation of the necessary resources for the establishment of a permanent capacity during the main part of its fifty-sixth session.  The Assembly would ask the Department to ensure the continued implementation of the project through 31 December 2001.

By other terms, the Assembly would stress that radio remains one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department of Public Information and an important instrument in United Nations activities.  It would take note of efforts to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations all over the world in the six official languages, as well as in other languages.  It would stress the need for impartiality and objectivity.  The Assembly would ask the Department to enhance, where necessary, the use of non-official languages to meet the information needs of its audiences.  It would also encourage the Department to continue to include in its radio and television programming specific programmes addressing the needs of developing nations.

The Assembly would also emphasize that all publications of the Department of Public Information, in accordance with existing mandates, should fulfil an identifiable need, should not duplicate other publications of the United Nations system and should be produced in a cost-effective manner.

While appreciating the present efforts on the United Nations Web site, the Assembly would state that there is a need for the Secretary-General to continue to develop proposals for multilingual development, maintenance and enrichment of that Web site, in order to ultimately achieve full parity among the official languages of the United Nations.  The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to report on this to the Committee on Information at its next session.  In the meantime, and until it has taken a decision on the proposals to be presented for the multilingual Web site, it would ask him to ensure, to the extent possible, the equitable distribution of financial and human resources within the Department of Public Information for the Web site among all official languages.

Also by the terms of the text, the Assembly would request the Department of Public Information -- as the manager of the Organization's Web site -- to take the lead in developing a proposal for the establishment of one central Internet portal that will encompass all United Nations system Web sites, preferably through system-wide cooperation.  That would allow for the search and retrieval of information from all Web sites in the United Nations system from one central search facility. 

The Assembly would also recognize the far-reaching impact that the linking of the optical disk system with the United Nations Web site will have in furthering the goals of the Organization by making all parliamentary documents in the six official languages publicly available.  The Assembly would stress that the integration of the optical disk system with the United Nations Web site will represent one of the steps towards significantly enhancing the multilingual nature of the United Nations Web site and lead to efficiency in all the Secretariat departments.

The Assembly would further recognize the need for constructive interaction between the management of the Department of Public Information and members of the Committee on Information, and would request the Department of Public Information to arrange, in consultation with the Chairman, informal meetings with the members of the Committee every three months to discuss the ongoing work of the Department.  In that regard, it would request the Department, in preparation for these

meetings, to invite members of the Committee, no later than two weeks prior to their convening, to propose topics for discussion.

The Assembly would notewith interest the electronic mail-based news alert service distributed worldwide by the Department, and emphasize that extra care needs to be taken to ensure that stories and alerts are accurate, impartial and free of any bias.  The Assembly wouldencourage the Secretary-General, through the Department, to continue to take full advantage of recent developments in information technology to improve, in a cost-effective manner, expeditious dissemination of information on the United Nations.  The Assembly would also encourage increases in availability of United Nations radio programmes, in all available languages, on the United Nations Web site.

Also before the Committee was its draft report (document A/AC.198/2000/L.1), which states that the Chairman informed the Committee that Azerbaijan and Monaco had asked to become members.  Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Monaco, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated as observers.  The Holy See also took part as an observer.

Also listed as participants are the following specialized agencies:  the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The Committee also had before it the draft report containing the session's general debate and consideration of substantive questions (document A/AC.198/2001/L.2).

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For information media. Not an official record.