UN INFORMATION DEPARTMENT SHOULD BE PROUD OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN FACE OF LIMITED RESOURCES, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD AT OPENING MEETING

30 April 2001
PI/1337

UN INFORMATION DEPARTMENT SHOULD BE PROUD OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN FACE OF LIMITED RESOURCES, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD AT OPENING MEETING

30/04/2001
Press ReleasePI/1337

Committee on Information

Twenty-third Session

1st Meeting (AM)

UN INFORMATION DEPARTMENT SHOULD BE PROUD OF ACHIEVEMENTS IN FACE OF LIMITED

RESOURCES, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD AT OPENING MEETING

As the Committee on Information began its twenty-third session this morning, Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the Department of the Public Information (DPI), said the Department should be proud of what was being achieved in the face of limited resources, especially in relation to the proliferation of mandated priorities.

Yet while news about the Organization could now be provided to every corner of the world in an instant, he said financial investment was needed to modernize the communications infrastructure.  While the Department had lost 103 posts since the 1992-1993 biennium, over 12 per cent of its total strength, it was still being asked to do more.  Nevertheless, despite staff reductions, the DPI was delivering.  The focus must now be on what it had to do, how it would do it, and with what resources.

The DPI would continue to face challenges regarding resource availability and allocation, he continued. It was one of the larger entities of the Secretariat and would require periodic self-assessment and fine-tuning to maximize staff and programme resources.  It also needed clear mandates for its work.

The challenge for the Department was to translate "reorientation" into "modernization", or a process into a detailed blueprint to better serve the peoples of the world in the twenty-first century, he said.  It would work to ensure that the information and communications function would continue to be placed at the heart of the strategic management of the Organization and that the imperative of communications infused United Nations policy-making.

Also this morning, the Committee elected by acclamation Milos Alcalay (Venezuela) as its Chair, and Peter Mollema (Netherlands), Ivan Matchavariani (Georgia) and Tserenpil Dorjsuren (Mongolia) as Vice-Chairs, as well as Walid Haggag (Egypt) as its Rapporteur.  It adopted its agenda and programme of work, as well.

The newly elected Chair, Mr. Alcalay, stressed that while this was now an era of communication, it was lamentable that only 5 per cent of humanity had access to the Internet.  There must, therefore, be better efforts to ensure access by the countries of the South.  Modern information technology must be used to accelerate development for the poor, he urged. 

He said another priority was to inform the entire world of the message of the United Nations through both traditional and the most advanced forms of communication.  The public had a right to necessary and essential information  and, in that regard, he underscored that efforts must be made to strengthen the DPI.  Information must be the conduit to transmit the will of an emerging world.

The Chairman also welcomed Armenia and Libya as members of the Committee whose total membership now stands at 96.  He informed members that Azerbaijan and Monaco had requested to become members, and the United Arab Emirates had requested to become an observer at the current session.  Those requests would be handled as part of the Committee’s recommendations to the General Assembly.  In addition, those three delegations, along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), had asked to participate in the current session as observers.

The representatives of Mexico, Spain (on behalf of the Western European and Other States), Azerbaijan (on behalf of the Eastern European Group), Indonesia (on behalf of the Asian Group) and Mozambique (on behalf of the African Group) nominated the officers who were elected today by acclamation.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Iran (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Indonesia, Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Bangladesh and Brazil.  The Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also spoke.

Scheduled to meet from 30 April to 11 May, the Committee will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.

Background

The Committee on Information met this morning to begin its twenty-third session, which is scheduled to run from 30 April to 11 May.  During this morning’s meeting, it is expected to elect its officers, adopt its agenda and programme of work and hear various opening statements, including addresses by the Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, and the Committee’s newly elected Chair.

(For background details of the current session, see Press Release PI/1336 dated 27 April.)

Statements

MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela), Chairman of the Committee, said the current session was initiating its activities at a crucial moment -- a new period for the United Nations.  The Organization could not face the challenges of the twenty-first century with the same rules of the game that had prevailed since the Second World War.  The Millenium Summit had accepted those new challenges and laid down the direction to be taken by the United Nations in the future. 

He said it was no longer acceptable in a global village that the prosperity of a privileged minority should sink its roots in the deprivation of the majority.  The concrete and human directives of the Millennium Declaration included possibilities and prospects for a stage where the international community would act according to necessary social justice to implement the principle of solidarity.  “There are tangible signs that we are on the right path”, he noted.  Tomorrow, for example, the Economic and Social Council and the Bretton Woods institutions would meet to craft a new international and financial architecture based on the social principles pinpointed by heads of State at the Millennium Summit.

Stressing that while this was now an era of communication, he said it was lamentable that only 5 per cent of humanity had access to the Internet.  There must be better efforts to ensure access by the countries of the South.  Modern information technology must be used to accelerate development for the poor.  Another priority was to inform the entire world of the message of the United Nations through both traditional and the most advanced forms of communication.  The public had a right to essential information.  Efforts must, therefore, be made to strengthen the Department of the Public Information (DPI).  Information must be the conduit to transmit the will of an emerging world.

SHASHI THAROOR, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information (DPI), said that last year the Committee had added a new item to its agenda, which allowed for in-depth consideration of the Secretary-General's reports and discussion on issues between the Committee and the Department.  Overall, in the Committee’s last session there had been a positive assessment of the Department's work.  He trusted that the current session would generate the same kind of support. 

He would strive to improve the Department's efficiency and outreach with the objective of "energizing", rather than restructuring its work, he said.  He had made a modest beginning in this direction over the least three months.  When he began his assignment in the Department, he had convened a "town hall" meeting and visited staff in their offices to see how the Department’s work was being done.  The Department should be proud of what was being achieved in the face of limited resources, especially in relation to the proliferation of mandated priorities.  The Secretary-General's report on the reorientation of the Department highlighted the Department's most recent efforts to further develop the conceptual framework and operational priorities for the reorientation of United Nations information and communications policies.

The primary objective of the DPI's public information programme -- to build broad-based global support for the work of the United Nations -- went back to a 1946 resolution and was clearly articulated in the 2002-2005 medium-term plan.  The Millennium Summit and Assembly had reaffirmed that the United Nations was the "indispensable common house of the entire human family".  The Secretary-General had underscored that the challenges and substantive goals of the United Nations could not be attained without garnering public support for the Organization through efforts to create an "informed understanding" of its work and purposes.  How could the global campaign to eradicate poverty succeed without mobilizing public support, both in donor countries and amongst the poor?  How could United Nations peacekeeping efforts be successful without an accompanying information programme, including in the mission area, to explain the purpose of the mission?

At the beginning of the new century, the communications revolution had opened up enormous possibilities for the Department, he said.  That was especially important to providing developing countries with immediate access to news developments from the United Nations worldwide.  At the heart of that effort were daily 15-minute news bulletins in the six official languages which, since September, were being broadcast by hundreds of radio stations.  Building on the popular United Nations News Centre on the Web, the DPI would soon launch a regionally oriented news service, which would carry news of United Nations developments directly to thousands of journalists in every region of the world.  As part of the effort to reach journalists in developing countries, a series of high-level briefing programmes had been initiated with the support of Japan.  Fifteen journalists from Africa participated in the first such programme last year, and another 15 from Asia would be at Headquarters in May.

News of the Organization could now be provided to every corner of the world in an instant, he added.  Financial investment was needed to modernize the communications infrastructure.  He was looking at the work of the Department with a fresh eye.  At the same time, however, the Secretary-General had not sent him to the Department to wield an ax.  The Department had lost 103 posts since the 1992-1993 biennium or over 12 per cent of its total strength and was being asked to do more.  Despite the reduction in staff, the Department was delivering.  The focus must now be on what the Department had to do, how it would do it, and with what resources.  It would continue to disseminate timely, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information through print, audio-visual and Internet media, and to maintain a world-class library system.  Effective advocacy campaigns were being developed in support of General Assembly objectives.  The Department would partner with the United Nations agencies and programmes and with key redisseminators, including the media and civil society, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions and the private sector.  A key example was the programme entitled, "The United Nations Works", which demonstrated to people around the world how the Organization was working to help solve the problems of the twenty-first century, in particular, those relating to economic and social development.

To enhance lines of communication, he had created a "senior management team" composed of Directors and other senior staff, who met every day to formulate strategies and exchange information.  The DPI was also collaborating with many other substantive departments both at Headquarters and in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi to further develop "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.  The Department would also continue to play an active role within the Joint United Nations Information Committee. 

He assured members of the Committee that the Department was continuing to respond to the General Assembly's call to improve activities in areas of special needs to the developing countries, as, for example, in the work of the information centres, in strengthened media outreach and training programmes for the media from developing countries and through the Internet-related training seminars.  To cover the work of the main organs of the United Nations, the DPI was publicizing seven major international conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly taking place this year.  The objective was to demonstrate that they were action-oriented gatherings, which would provide tangible results for the world's people.  The Department was taking a proactive role in the Third International Conference on the Least Developed Countries being held in May in Brussels.  Additional resources, however, would be necessary to effectively carry out information campaigns for those conferences and special sessions. 

The Department had made real progress towards creating a culture of communications within the Organization, he said.  For the next biennium, the Department would use the medium-term plan as its road map, which was the basis of the submission to the 2002-2003 programme budget.  He had taken small steps to adjust the allocation of staff resources within the 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.  The staff had responded positively. 

The challenge for the DPI was to translate "reorientation" into "modernization", or how to translate a process into a detailed blueprint for better serving the peoples of the world in the twenty-first century, he said.  The Department would work to ensure that the information and communications function would continue to be placed at the heart of the strategic management of the Organization and that the imperative of communications infused the Organization's policy-making.  The Secretary-General had invited him to address the Senior Management Group following the conclusion of the Committee's deliberations on the "Information Challenge".  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 would also look at the future, to foster an awareness of the global challenges to the peace and well-being of the world and the role the United Nations could play to make it a better place.  The Department would continue to project an open, transparent organization, which was a change now being recognized by many members of the world press.

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.  Guidelines would soon be officially issued in the form of as an administrative instruction, which would help coordinate the Internet effort. 

Increased use of the electronic media would not be at the expense of the traditional means of dissemination, he added.  The publications programme would remain vital -- and multilingual-- resources permitting.  Library resources in print formats would also be acquired, to meet the needs of delegates and staff.  Strides would continue to be made in radio broadcast, clear evidence of which was the success of the pilot project for direct international radio broadcasting.  Information centres services and United Nations officials 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. 

The DPI would continue to face challenges regarding resource availability and allocation, he said.  The Department represented some 5 per cent of the United Nations budget with 428 staff at Headquarters and 307 in the field.  It was one of the larger Departments of the Secretariat and would require periodic self-assessment and fine-tuning to maximize staff and programme resources.  For its work, the Department needed clear mandates.  

In his 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, he said.  The proportion of resources being spent on rent in the developed world had become unconscionable.  He hoped that the Committee would endorse the Secretary-General's request and that Member States would help to ease the burden on slender resources.  Savings could be directed to improve the quality and reach of the services provided in developing countries. 

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.  The Department would be dynamic in its work, pro-active in its methods and interesting in its outputs, he concluded.

J. KYAZZE, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said 10 years ago his agency, in cooperation with the United Nations, had organized the Seminar for Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press in Windhoek, Namibia.  That meeting had started a process of media liberalization in Africa.  The resulting Windhoek Declaration affirmed that “creation, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press are essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development”.  Windhoek was the first of five major regional seminars on the same theme organized by UNESCO and the DPI between 1991 and 1997.  This week, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Windhoek Seminar, his organization was again returning to Namibia’s capital to survey the achievements of the last decade.

He said support for a free and independent press, however, could not take place in a vacuum.  The UNESCO, therefore, continued to be committed to the development of communication infrastructures and capacity-building in the areas of training, equipment, procurement, and creation and strengthening of community media, as well as the development of community multimedia centers, which combined traditional media with new information and communication technologies (ICTs).

He said closing the information gap between industrialized and developing countries was one of UNESCO’s foremost priorities.  For the coming biennium (2002-2003), his agency had identified the contribution of the new ICTs to the development of education, science, culture and the construction of a knowledge-based society as one of its two cross-cutting themes for interdisciplinary activities.  In addition, the building of public domain information and the promotion of universal access to information, as well as new ICTs, had been deemed as the major priority of UNESCO's communication and information sector.

He said UNESCO was also committed to developing greater public access to information through the use of ICTs and other technologies such as CD-ROMs. Building access, however, was not just a matter of extending connectivity.  It also involved enhancing the body of information in the public domain, where it was valuable to all; providing training at the local, as well as the national level, in the use of ICTs; setting up digital libraries; and assisting in the development of local content in local languages.

BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the first session of the Committee of the new millennium started with the spirit of three major events in 2000, namely, the Group’s South Summit, the ministerial session of the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the Millennium Summit.  The outcome of those events indicated that there was great hope and concern in the field of information and communications.  The Ministerial Declaration of the ECOSOC high-level segment recognized that information technology opened vast new opportunities for economic growth and social development, but also posed challenges and risks.  The Declaration also stressed that the majority of the world’s population lived in poverty and remained untouched by the information and communications technology revolution.  The emerging new economy, characterized by an increasing reliance on information and knowledge, was concentrated in developed countries.  The Millennium Declaration reflected the same concern.

The Secretary-General’s report to the Millennium Assembly highlighted the “digital divide” and underlined the importance of the information and communications technology revolution, he said.  The economics of information differed from the economics of inherently scarce physical goods and should be used to advance policy goals.  The report addressed connectivity within the United Nations, emphasizing the existing handicaps and the need to update the system’s internal information capacity.  The Group welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General and ECOSOC for the establishment of an ICT Task Force and supported its prospective endeavours to bridge the gulf between developed and developing countries.  The United Nations system could play a key role in bridging the digital divide by promoting and accelerating universal access to ICT and contributing to the development of norms and standards on a transparent and participatory basis.  The Task Force should take into account development priorities, cultural diversity, information ethics, privacy security and cyber-crime.  All stakeholders could extend to the developing world in the field of transfer of technology and financial support. 

He said the Group concurred with the Secretary-General in assigning a major role to communications and information activities of the United Nations system to create broad-based, global support for the Organization.  The Group welcomed the initiatives of the DPI to strengthen the public information system through undertaking necessary organizational shifts and obtaining quality feedback from target audiences.  The Group emphasized the imperative of due regard for the principles of impartiality, fairness and objectivity.  The 2002-2005 medium-term plan set out the overall orientation of the public information programme for the Organization’s goals through effective communication. 

On the question of the reorientation of the United Nations activities in the public information and communications, he said that the Group concurred that development of a strategic vision -- linking all the components of the Secretariat with emphasis on planning cooperation within the Organization -- constituted the central goal for continuing reorientation.  The Department should maintain and improve its activities in areas of special interest to developing countries, particularly socio-economic development.

The United Nations information centres and information components should continue to play a significant role in disseminating information about the work of the Organization to the people of the world, he continued.  That objective could be achieved through efficient leadership, independence, professionalism, adequate financial resources and close cooperation and harmony with host countries.  He wished to be informed by the Secretariat on the present situation of the integrated centres.  The Group also attached great importance to the public information capacity of the Department in the field of peacekeeping operations and took note of the proposal to transfer certain units of the DPI to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  He wanted to know the implications of such a proposal on the Department’s capacity in peacekeeping operations. 

Equitable disbursement of resources to information centres was still a matter of concern for developing countries, he said.  Further efforts were needed to rationalize disbursement of resources of United Nations information centres.  Particular attention should be paid to the concerns of developing countries.  The Group supported the appeal made by the Secretary-General to the host governments of United Nations information centres to facilitate the work of those centres by the provision of rent-free and rent-subsidized office space.  The Group also attached great importance to the work of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the development of the United Nations web site.  He appreciated on-going efforts in that regard.  Traditional media, however, still played a significant role for developing countries.  He welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on progress in the implementation of the pilot project on an international radio broadcasting capacity and encouraged Member States to provide feedback on the impact of the live daily programming so far and guidance for future development of this capacity.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said the major gap between developed and developing countries in access to technology should prompt the international community to support national efforts to pinpoint problems faced by developing countries in that regard.  Information highlighted the values and beliefs of different countries making it possible to strengthen peaceful coexistence.  It was essential to establish a convention of honour at the international level to specify criteria in the transmission of information in various areas.  Based on its belief and faith, the United Arab Emirates believed in the valuable role of the transmission of truth.  He promoted diversification in the use of the different media formats.  The United Arab Emirates had noted changes at the international level and had tried to adapt to realities based on the principles of Islamic legislation, culture and values. 

He encouraged the establishment of centres for research and the organization of meetings to obtain common objectives for free access to information which was diverse and which promoted the goals of humanity as a whole.  Despite the positive results of efforts by the DPI and regional centres to disseminate information on the objectives of the United Nations, the Committee should establish a balanced strategy, which served all peoples of the world, in particular the developing world.

He appealed for the increased use of the Arabic language in dissemination of information in radio, broadcast and Internet sites.  It was also essential to strengthen coordination between various information components at the United Nations.  Such coordination should alert people to the urgent nature of the world’s problems, particularly in the developing world. 

Some urgent matters should be stressed by the media, including the legal, economic and other aspects of the Palestinian question, he added.  The sufferings of the Palestinian people and the crimes of aggression by Israel should be unveiled.  Israel was continuing its policy of settlements in the occupied territories in violation of human rights and United Nations resolutions.  It was the role of the international community and the Security Council to send observers and to update its knowledge of the situation in the occupied territories.

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said the Secretary-General’s Millennium Assembly report had noted that a yawning digital divide still existed, with the United States having more computers then the rest of the world combined, and with Tokyo having more telephones than all of Africa.  The report also noted that the United Nations had not fully tapped into the potential of the information revolution.  Inadequate information technology infrastructure, lack of training and change-resistant cultures were also mentioned as main impediments in that regard.  There was, therefore, need to update and upgrade the United Nations internal information technology capacity to make the Organization’s system fully equipped and better integrated in order to provide people with the information needed. 

That objective, he continued, could only be achieved through efficient, qualified and experienced leadership, which provided professional guidance and understood the dynamics of the new revolution.  Welcoming the establishment of an ICT Task Force, he hoped the DPI would closely coordinate with that body to not only develop the Organization’s capacity in the field of information technology, but also to help bridge the digital divide. 

He said close cooperation between United Nations information centre officials and host governments was also very essential.  The Department should, thus, ensure that its representatives operated in close harmony with host country officials.  In addition, professional, efficient and impartial personnel coupled with prudent management of existing resources would certainly improve the functioning of those centres.  He said that in line with his Government’s policy of promoting close cooperation among the countries of the south in the field of ICTs, Pakistan, at the Havana South-South Summit last year, had announced the intention to establish a South Institute of Information and Technology in its territory.  The process for the establishment of such an institute had already started, he stated.

HAZAIRIN POHAN (Indonesia) said revitalization of the Organization’s public information activities should begin with the role of the DPI in the twenty-first century.  It was important for that entity to work in a more effective and efficient way.  Addressing the reorientation exercise, he said it was important to mobilize the public support that was recently generated by the Millennium Summit.  By reaffirming the United Nations as the “indispensable house of the entire human family”, as well as the importance of realizing “universal aspirations for peace cooperation and development”, the heads of State and government had given direction to the DPI to disseminate those ideas to the world. 

He said the Department should sustain its activities, which were of particular interest to developing countries, especially in the field of sustainable development.  Subjects such as poverty eradication, health and education should be accorded priority.  Furthermore, it should contribute to the existing efforts to bridge the digital divide.  He noted that despite its potential contribution to human development, the spread of information and communication technology had resulted in negative impact not only on the process of nation-building, but also on the way development results were distributed. 

He said that in some developing countries, ICTs had increased the marginalization of and domination over women.  Promoting gender-sensitive ICT policies had, therefore, become imperative.  Also, for developing countries that lacked ICTs, outreach activities in the continued use of print, radio and television were most relevant and necessary.  The principles of impartiality, reliability and objectivity should also apply to the coverage of United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Objective coverage could enhance not only the success of operations, but also personnel safety and security in such situations.

CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile), on behalf of the Rio Group, restated the Group’s genuine commitment to multilingualism and insisted on the need to provide human and financial resources to enhance information provided in Spanish in a manner commensurate with the number of Spanish speakers in the world.  The Group was satisfied with the development of information activities, particularly the integration of new technologies. 

On efforts to better disseminate information, unfortunately, the Organization’s Web site had been redesigned on the assumption that users were well trained and highly equipped, he said.  While that might be the case among members of the academic community in developed countries, the Web site did not take into consideration individuals or school users relying on home computers.  From the perspective of a typical user, the new Web site was complex and required powerful equipment for rapid access.  Reference systems were not clear enough.  Despite the Department’s efforts and the policy orientations it had received from the Committee in recent sessions to place Web sites on an equal footing, discrepancies had worsened in an unacceptable manner.  The Group urged the Department to strive to obtain linguistic parity.  The Group would continue to work to provide the Department with the required mandates to do that. 

For developing countries, it was crucial that the Organization maintain the traditional systems of disseminating information, he said.  He welcomed efforts to update radio and television equipment to increasingly reach out to more media and users.  It would be necessary to consider extending the radio programme and place it on a stable footing.  Activities to digitalize the Dag Hammarskjöld Library were strategic and were designed to make collections available to the international academic community.  He noted the importance for the DPI to expand its training programmes for journalists from developing countries so that they could develop an awareness of the activities and achievements of the Organization.  It was essential for the Organization to develop molders of public opinion.  He recognized the usefulness of information meetings for journalists at a high level and would be grateful if such meetings could be planned for the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Within the overall concept of reform, reference had been made to redirecting resources for information to peacekeeping operations, he said.  While he was open to discussion within the Committee, no decision on the future of the Department could be taken unless the Committee was convened and the issue debated.  The Committee must never be left out of that kind of decision. 

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the Department performed a vital task for the United Nations and told the world what the United Nations was all about.  Given the negative image of the Organization often projected by the media, the Department provided the only information outlet that could give a holistic view of the United Nations and its work.  During the Millennium Assembly, Bangladesh had mentioned the importance of the development of a new culture of communications of the United Nations.  Bangladesh supported the increasing use of advanced technology by the United Nations and commended the Department for developing and maintaining the useful and attractive United Nations Web site.  At the same time, however, utilizing new technology should not be at the cost of traditional means of communications -- still the main source of information in most developing countries.

Regarding information dissemination, the DPI should focus more on publicizing United Nations accomplishments in the area of economic and social development, he said.  Sustainable human development issues like poverty eradication, women’s rights and empowerment, children’s issues, health, education and other relevant issues should get primary attention.  The Department’s press releases should bring out the intergovernmental aspect of its work and deliberations.  Bangladesh had urged the Department to highlight the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries to be held in Brussels next month.  As that Conference was only two weeks away, the Department should highlight the constraints faced by least developed countries in a globalizing world and disseminate the programme of action to be adopted at the Conference.  It should also develop a coordinated media strategy to support it, focusing on the need for action.

He said that the Department should undertake focused dissemination of information on a culture of peace, particularly keeping in mind the ongoing United Nations Decade on a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).  There was great merit in widely publicizing the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.  The Department should play a proactive role in that regard, clearly identifying specific actions to be taken.  Peacekeeping remained another area where more attention should be placed.  More information and advocacy was required for generating international public support for peacekeeping, focusing, in particular, on the troop-contributing countries.  To achieve those objectives, the United Nations information centres should play a significant role. 

He expressed serious concern at the current status of United Nations information centres, particular the one that Bangladesh was hosting.  The Centre had not had a director since the previous incumbent left years ago.  That followed a de facto integration of the Information Centre with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The Centre had physically moved to UNDP premises and did not have an officer to conduct its business independently.  The comments by the Secretariat that the Centre in Dhaka was never integrated with the United Nations field office/UNDP were not accurate and did not address the concern of his country.  Bangladesh hoped that the decision to appoint a director would soon materialize and not get bogged down by the “established procedures”. 

ENIO CORDEIRO (Brazil) said that in light of the comprehensive activities being undertaken by the United Nations in the area of public information and diminishing resources, defining priorities and intelligent allocation of resources should now make more sense than ever to the DPI.  He said information was about empowerment and development.  It was also the key to propelling more and more peoples towards the knowledge-based society that was being defined.

He said his delegation attached particular importance to the message of the United Nations through radio broadcasts.  Those broadcasts might help to spread the word of the Organization to the most remote areas of the globe. 

He said the Department’s Portuguese language service continued to grow in both importance and in the number of listeners and had shown itself to be an admirable success story.  He, therefore, reiterated his delegation’s strong support for strengthening the capacities of the Portuguese radio service, which at present were performed solely by one single producer, João Lins de Albuquerque. Such strengthening both demanded an expanded team of producers and assistant producers and one that would resourcefully cover diverse geographical areas, which now included East Timor.

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For information media. Not an official record.