UN EMBRACES NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, BUT USE OF TRADITIONAL MEDIUMS HAS NOT DIMINISHED, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD
UN EMBRACES NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, BUT USE OF TRADITIONAL MEDIUMS HAS NOT DIMINISHED, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD
Committee on Information PI/1342*
Twenty-third Session 3 May 2001
4th Meeting (PM)
UN EMBRACES NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, BUT USE OF TRADITIONAL MEDIUMS
HAS NOT DIMINISHED, COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TOLD
Live Radio Broadcasts, Press Releases, Parity in Languages
Among Issues Addressed by Interim Head of Public Information Department
Even as the Department of Public Information continued to use new information technology, it had not diminished its reliance on the traditional mediums of radio, television and publications to disseminate the United Nations message, the Department’s Interim Head, Shashi Tharoor, told the Committee on Information this afternoon.
Responding to comments and questions posed by delegations earlier in the week, he said that the live radio project was at the heart of bringing the United Nations directly to every region of the world. United Nations Radio was actively speaking with new clients and offering them live broadcasts. Also, the United Nations information centres were helping to identify and offer broadcasts to potential partners. Further, a database of radio stations around the world was being developed to enlarge its partner base.
Regarding the value of press releases, he emphasized that the Department was continually reviewing the format, content and production of its press releases to ensure they met the requirements of its various target audiences, including users of the United Nations Web site. The press releases were a primary information source on the many debates and events under way every day at Headquarters. They were often the only source of regional perspective on the many issues before the Organization, and as such were in continuous demand.
He added that press releases were produced in the two working languages, English and French, and it would cost some $6 million per year in additional staffing costs alone to produce them in all six official languages.
On peace and security issues, he said that the Committee had made it clear that its views must be part taken into account in any consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. His Department would continue in the development of standard operating procedures and start-up kits, the identification of new technologies, the establishment and support for radio operations and the
Committee on Information - 1a - Press Release
4th Meeting (PM)
maintenance of mission Web sites. It would also continue to highlight the efforts of troop-contributing countries in its programmes to ensure increased support for peacekeeping.
Among the other issues Mr. Tharoor addressed were links between the Optical Disk System and the United Nations Web site, the use of all six official languages on the Web site, the dissemination of public service announcements on the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, and the integration of the United Nations information centres.
Mexico’s representative, speaking on behalf of the 20 Spanish-speaking Members of the United Nations, expressed her deep concern for the increasing gap that existed in the public information that the Organization made available in Spanish and other official languages, compared to those distributed in English. It was unacceptable for the Organization to limit its information channels to a single language due to a lack of financial resources.
Multilingualism, she emphasized, was an indispensable tool in the dissemination of information on the image and activities of the United Nations, an organization that spoke and communicated its message in all its official languages.
Also this afternoon, several reports before the Committee were introduced by: Thérèse Gastaut, Director of the Public Affairs Division; Yousef Hamdan, Officer-in-Charge of the Information Centres Service; Salim Lone, Director of the News and Media Division; and Mahbub Ahmad, Chief of the Information Technology Section.
Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of Portugal, Brazil, Syria, Iran (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Côte d’Ivoire, Spain, India, Nigeria and Indonesia.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 4 May, to continue its consideration of the reports for the current session.
The Committee on Information met this afternoon to consider the reports of the Secretary-General. (For background information on the current session of the Committee, see Press Release PI/1336 of 27 April.)
SHASHI THAROOR, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information (DPI), said that many speakers had recognized that even as the Department continued to use new information technology in its work, it had not diminished its reliance on the traditional mediums of radio, television and publications to disseminate the United Nations message. The live radio project was at the heart of the endeavour to bring the United Nations directly to every region of the world. The Department would shortly carry out an assessment of its impact, which would be shared with Member States. The strong words of support for the Portuguese radio unit were welcome. He was aware that there was a large audience of Portuguese-speaking peoples around the world. Although he could not promise the allocation of a new post for the section, he assured delegates that the Department would do its best to provide additional support for such programming.
United Nations Radio was actively speaking with new clients and offering them the live broadcasts, he said. The United Nations information centres were helping to identify and offer broadcasts to potential partners. A database of radio stations around the world was being developed to enlarge DPI’s partner base. The idea of establishing listening pools was worth exploring. DPI would pursue efforts to raise funds for a briefing programme for senior journalists for the Latin American and Caribbean region next year. Regarding the value of the News Service, it was not the intention of the Department to develop a news agency. The DPI was, however, creating a News Service, which alerted journalists in advance to upcoming newsworthy developments in the United Nations and provided full text of speeches and other news highlights.
On the value of press releases, he emphasized that the Department was continually reviewing the format, content and production of its press releases to ensure they meet the requirements of its various target audiences, including users of the United Nations Web site. A front-end format had been developed, for example, providing the main news and developments of a meeting in the first page and a half for quick review. The press releases were a primary information source on the many debates and events under way everyday at Headquarters. They were often the only source of regional perspectives on the many issues before the Organization, and as such were in continuous demand, as would be even more so for the News Service, which would be organized along regional lines.
The coverage of intergovernmental deliberations and activities was a priority and constituted the majority of press releases issued by the Department, he added. The way press releases were posted to the Web site had been improved. Many delegations had indicated how useful they found the press releases. Correspondents at Headquarters also considered them useful, either because they had not been able to follow all meetings or to check on a particular aspect of the meeting. Enhancing the navigability of releases on the Web with a more sophisticated search capability was also being explored. Press releases were produced in the two working languages, English and French. It would cost some $6 million per year in additional staffing costs alone to produce press releases in all six official languages.
Regarding dissemination of public service announcements on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, DPI has so far completed the initial distribution of the public service announcements to over 100 networks around the world.
He noted that United Nations television video programmes were produced in Arabic to the extent possible. On coverage, the TV news service had a close relationship with broadcasters in Arabic-speaking countries and with syndicators providing services to Arabic-speaking customers.
On the United Nations Chronicle, he said that while it was a sales publication, DPI would be willing to consider external publishing arrangements to widen its accessibility. Provision would be sought in the next biennial budget for funds to resume its publication in all official languages in a manner that assured the continued development of a global readership.
The DPI was fully engaged in publicizing a series of major conferences and special sessions of the General Assembly taking place this year, he said. The campaign for the upcoming Third International Conference on the Least Developed Countries was in high gear.
Regarding the possible expansion of the training programme for broadcasters and journalists, he said that while costs were rising, the budget for that programme had not increased significantly in the last 20 years, since its establishment. As a result, the Department was able to sponsor only nine participants -– instead of the usual 16 -– this year. A substantial budget increase for this programme for the 2002-2003 biennium had been requested.
He assured delegates that DPI continued to publicize the work of the United Nation in the area of decolonization and self-determination. The Department maintained a Web site on decolonization and the press section provided comprehensive coverage of the regional seminars organized by the Committee of 24. A new brochure would be produced later in the year. Regarding the question of Palestine, DPI would organize a media encounter on the question of Palestine in Paris on 18-19 June. Representatives of major media organizations and international experts had been invited. The Department would also produce an updated publication on the United Nations and the question of Palestine later this year.
Turning to peace and security issues, he said the Committee had made clear that it must be part of any consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the recommendations of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. He would remain in close contact with the Committee on Information regarding appropriate action by the Committee. With regard to the current recommendations of the Secretary-General on the Brahimi report, the recommendations were under review in the context of the comprehensive review of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Under the initial proposals tabled last November, the implementation of the recommendation of the Brahimi report would indeed mean the transfer of posts from DPI. But no definitive decision had been taken.
On the need for improved coordination between DPI, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs, he had discussed with the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations how the Departments might work together more closely. The DPI would continue to work in support of those operations, including the development of standard operating procedures and start-up kits, the identification of new technologies, the establishment and support for radio operations and the maintenance of mission Web sites. The DPI would continue to highlight the contributions of troop-contributing countries in its programmes to ensure increased support for peacekeeping.
In response to a question about the linkage to the Optical Disk System, he said that while linkage to the new ODS would enhance the multilingual nature of the Web site, it would create additional maintenance tasks and would require the development of many search interfaces to retrieve documents from the ODS. The DPI was discussing with the Information Technology Services Division the establishment of one central Internet portal encompassing all United Nations system Web sites. As a first step, DPI had been looking at the various commercially available search engines to adapt them to United Nations needs. While DPI was fortunate enough to have the required expertise in the Department, the resources to develop the capacity were lacking. Any attempt to undertake the task within existing resources would impact negatively on other ongoing work on the Web site.
Over the last year, many new items had been added to the United Nations Web site in all official languages, representing the largest increase ever in that regard, he said. The gap between the English site and other languages sites had indeed increased, primarily because more materials were produced in the Secretariat in English than in the other languages. The DPI was looking at innovative ways to add material in all official languages to the Web site. It was finalizing an agreement with a number of universities in Spain to provide translations of material into Spanish and would strive to do the same for the other official languages. Ultimately, any major progress in that regard would depend on the availability of additional resources. Across the Secretariat, more staff were assigned to prepare materials for the English Web site than for other sites. The DPI provided other departments with services for rendering much of their material into the other official languages. However, with one Professional and one General Service member on each language team, capacity was limited.
He recalled that following a decision by the Secretary-General in 1992, 18 UNICs were integrated with field offices of UNDP. Since then, there had been no further integration, and DPI has taken note of the General Assembly decision, reiterated in paragraph 27 of resolution 55/136 B, that any further action should be taken on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the host government.
On the integration of the United Nations information centres, he said that DPI was regularly monitoring the performance of the integrated centres and took action to strengthen them, wherever required. Since the last session of the Committee, DPI had provided some of the centres with additional staffing support to reinforce their information activities. While the integration of information-related efforts in the field contributed to minimizing duplication and ensuring an effective use of resources, it did not alter the fact that DPI must continue to deliver its mandate. The Department supported the “United Nations Houses” initiative. Many information centres shared common premises with UNDP and other field offices. The initiative facilitated information centres' efforts to coordinate the information activities of the United Nations system in the field.
Regarding the centre in Dhaka, he said it had maintained its own office premises for many years and it was offered accommodation with UNDP when the building in which it had been located was no longer available. The relocation was not intended to affect the status of the centre nor its functional autonomy. The DPI was committed to maintaining an effective information component in the United Nations Office in Minsk. The DPI had requested the upgrading of the local Information Assistant post to the National Information Officer level in its programme budget proposals for 2002-2003. He had taken note of the concern regarding the Professional post in that Office, and that would be taken into account when the overall staffing of the field offices was reviewed.
ROBERTA LAJOUS (Mexico), spoke on behalf of the 20 Spanish-speaking members of the Organization -- Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela.
She expressed her deep concern for the increasing gap that existed in the public information that the Organization made available in Spanish and other official languages, with respect to those distributed in English. The Spanish-speaking members of the United Nations could not accept the fact that the Organization limited its information channels to a single language due to a lack of financial resources. The following were among the proposals put forward by the Group, which it hoped could be transformed into future actions of the Committee.
She requested the Secretary-General to report to the Committee, before the beginning of the fifty-sixth session of the Assembly, with updated figures on the use and command of the six official languages by the Secretariat staff. Also, the Secretary-General was requested to take into account the command and use of all official languages of the United Nations in the recruitment and appointment of personnel to be assigned to DPI and all departments involved with the preparation and dissemination of public information and official documents.
In addition, she encouraged the Secretary-General to present a plan of action towards achieving parity in all six official languages in all United Nations public documents, including the United Nations Web sites. She once again underlined the importance of having the press releases issued in all official languages, and requested the Secretary-General to consider providing interpretation services to his Spokesman’s daily briefing in order to reach a broader audience in the six official languages.
She emphasized that the 20 Spanish-speaking Members believed that multilingualism was not only a question of principle but also an indispensable tool in the dissemination of information on the image and activities of the United Nations, an organization that spoke and communicated its message in all its official languages.
SEBASTIAO COELHO (Portugal) expressed the appreciation of the community of Portuguese-speaking countries for the comments and responses provided by Mr. Tharoor to their concerns.
MARCOS PRADO TROYJO (Brazil) supported the statement made by Portugal and reminded the Committee of the invitation to attend the launching next Tuesday in the UNCA Club of the Portuguese language Web page.
ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said that in paragraph 36 of Assembly resolution 55/136 (B), the Assembly had urged the Secretariat to issue press communiqués in the six working languages of the United Nations. After the Assembly had adopted that resolution, it was surprising to see that that was not implemented and the lack of resources was given as the primary reason. When the Assembly adopted a resolution, the Secretariat should come up with the means to implement it. That matter should be studied further. If there was truly a desire to implement that part of the resolution, it would have been done within the context of proposals put forward in the budget.
That was true of other matters as well, he continued. It could be seen that appeals of the Assembly had not been heeded. The report relating to parity of languages on the United Nations Web sites, in paragraph 7, clearly stipulated that there was a gap in the treatment of the official languages, with respect to English. It stated that the use of other languages had been slower than that of English, due to lack of resources.
He was totally convinced that there was inequality in the treatment of languages. There should be equality in the distribution of human and financial resources for the use of all official languages. He requested the Secretariat to submit to the Committee in writing the number of staff members working on the United Nations Web sites in the six languages. Also, how were those sites financed? The Assembly had called for the equal treatment of the various sites.
Further, paragraph 33 of the interim report on the implementation of pilot projects for radio broadcasts stipulated that there was no provision for continuing implementation of the pilot project for the biennium 2002-2003. That budget had not been adopted as of yet and the Secretariat could have made proposals on the matter. The doors were still wide open.
Mr. THAROOR said that he had a great deal of sympathy for the statement by the representative of Syria. Similar concerns had been expressed for the Spanish language. Multilingualism was a cardinal principle of the United Nations. Everyone was committed to making it work to the extent possible, within the resources made available by Member States. On the issue of press releases, the Secretariat had made it clear that it would cost some $6 million per year to render press releases in the six official languages. In 1999, it would have cost some $650 million to bring the Web site up to par in the other languages. Member States had decided not to pursue the matter further. His question was, what should be cut? He needed to be told. When he was told that the DPI could receive no additional staff or resources, how could he fulfil the legitimate requirements of Member States without direction?
Further, on the question of language parity in press releases, he said the section currently had four English and four French language Professional posts, because they were produced in the two official languages. The DPI had paid attention to assuring parity in output of the two official languages. To carry out comparable work in other languages, they would need at least four more Professional posts in each language. There was no way to get 16 additional staff at the moment, unless the General Assembly voted to do that.
On the Web site, three Professionals were doing all English language work with two General Service staff. There were currently one Professional in the Arabic section and one General Service; one Professional in the Chinese section and one General Service; one French Professional and two General Service; one Russian Professional and one General Service; and one Spanish language Professional and one General Service. That staff had been squeezed out of other parts of DPI.
He pointed out that DPI’s staffing had not just been frozen, but reduced. In recent years, DPI had lost 103 posts, or more than 12 per cent of its total strength. In the meantime, the Internet had come into existence and the Department had no choice but to respond to this new task through the internal redeployment of staff, as no new posts could be requested. What more could be done? Some Member States had called for further cuts. While he shared the Committee’s objectives, he must be told how to fulfil them. There was not enough staff to fulfil existing mandates.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d’Ivoire) said that the Secretary-General’s statement for World Press Freedom Day made reference to Africa. Yet, his statement had only been issued in English. It would have been beneficial to have the text in French, so that it could have been sent it to the capitals of many African countries. Names had been quoted of African presidents who did not respect the freedom of the press. While he recognized were budgetary constraints, a short statement could have been translated into French.
Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) thanked the Secretariat for its sincerity and clarity. The United Nations budget was adopted once every two years. At the current stage, it was difficult for the Secretariat to meet a certain number of requests. As a principle, proposals were put forward by the administration in the name of the Secretary-General. When the administration put forward its proposals, it carried out a study and said that there was a General Assembly resolution that called for equality in Web sites. It was submitted to the General Assembly, which then adopted it. It was up to the administration to put forward initiatives. His comments related to the way in which DPI met its aspirations in the budget, to be adopted this year. While there were no resources at present, that could not be said for the future. Proposals could be made and put before the General Assembly. To say that there were no resources was premature. Perhaps he could accept that logic next year, once the budget had been adopted. At present, it was difficult to say.
The distribution of existing resources was not on an equal footing, he added. The English language site had three staff members. Despite the adoption of a resolution calling for permanent posts for the Arabic, Chinese and Russian language sites, those posts were still vacant. There was no equality in the distribution of resources. That was stated clearly in the Secretary-General’s report. He wanted to know how many staff were working on the six sites, and what resources had been allocated in the 2002-2003 proposed programme budget for each site.
AGUSTIN GALAN (Spain) said that he had been in the Committee for the past three years and had heard the same requests being made over and over again. While he understood that the United Nations was in a period of zero growth, that should not be used as an excuse to do nothing. The guidelines for publishing information on the Internet had been distributed to the Committee. In those guidelines, he did not see any mention of the importance of languages. The official languages should be used in documents, on the Web sites and in the radio broadcasts.
The proposals of the Spanish-speaking countries were not impossible ones, he said. They were constructive proposals that should result in a change of attitude. For the Organization to provide documentation in official languages, it needed people who spoke those languages. It must be accepted that the gap between official languages was going to continue and to grow due to the lack of resources.
Responding to delegations, Mr. THAROOR said that the French text of the Secretary-General’s speech on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day would be released later today by the Spokesman’s Office.
Turning to the concerns voiced by Syria, he quoted paragraph 36 of Assembly resolution 55/136. The proposals for the 2002-2003 budget had been finalized by the Department of Management and there were new, significant increases proposed with regard to various departments. It was the Department of Management’s view that, within the budgetary constraints, press releases could not be produced in all languages. The appropriate place to consider the financial resources to implement that resolution would be in the Fifth Committee. On the issue of Arabic language posts for the Web site, there were two posts that were in the process of recruitment.
He mentioned that there was going to be a conference paper on the programme aspects of the budget for 2002-2003. The problem was that it was only available in English. The paper would be ready in all six languages by next Wednesday for the Committee’s consideration. With regard to the type of contracts held by the staff, he did not have that sort of information for the Committee. All staff working on the Web site were on regular budget posts, except for three.
He added that he was struck by the detailed proposals put forward by Mexico and would bring them to the attention of the Secretary-General. “Our minds are not closed to the real concerns posed by delegations”, he said. The question was how much could be done when under pressure to cut costs.
Introduction of Reports
THERESE GASTAUT, Director of the Public Affairs Division of DPI, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on public information activities for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001) (document A/AC.198/2001/3). Last December, the General Assembly had asked DPI to continue to implement a promotional campaign to ensure that the Year enjoyed the widest possible international support. The DPI, including its network of information centres, had participated actively in the campaign to mobilize support for the Year. The dialogue was launched on the eve of the Millennium Summit, at an event with the participation of eminent personalities. Since that time, DPI had produced general public information material on the Year and other activities had been organized, including today’s World Press Freedom Day.
MEHDI MOLLA HOSSEINI (Iran) expressed his appreciation for the comprehensive report on the activities for the Year. The report gave evidence that the Assembly’s call had been well received around the world, both in the public and private sector. It led to a number of activities to promote respect for the richness of all civilizations. Iran believed that the media had an indispensable role in the successful promotion of dialogue.
SATISH CHAND MEHTA (India) wanted to know why the report had made only two specific references to broadcasters that had agreed to air the public service announcements.
Ms. GASTAUT said that the Cable News Network (CNN) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) were the first two broadcasters to respond positively to the announcements, which had been very encouraging. The video public service announcements had been distributed to 100 broadcasters throughout the world.
YOUSEF HAMDAN, Officer-in-Charge of the Information Centres Service, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports entitled, “Integration of United Nations Information Centres with Field Offices of the United Nations Development Programme: implementation of the views of host governments” (document A/AC/198/2001/4) and “Equitable Disbursement of Resources to United Nations Information Centres”(document A/AC.198/2001/5).
The first report, he said, was produced in response to paragraph 28 of Assembly resolution 55/136 B. Five Member States, hosting integrated centres, had introduced in their replies certain proposals for the improvement of the centres they hosted. The report described those proposals and the steps undertaken to accommodate them by the governments.
Turning to the second report, he said that in paragraph 32 of Assembly resolution 55/136 B, the Assembly had asked the Secretary-General to provide additional information on the allocation of resources to the information centres, including the factors which affected that allocation. The report provided an analysis of those factors. It also indicated the measures undertaken by the Secretariat to strengthen information centres in developing countries, particularly in Africa. In addition, it introduced the allocation of resources in terms of the staffing and financial resources allocated to the centres.
He said that the report contained additional information that was not present in previous reports. The funds allocated in 2000 were shown by region. Annexed to the report was information on the centre-by-centre allocation of posts, the rent for each centre and government contributions.
He said that the Secretary-General had thanked all Member States that had provided financial resources in the form of contributions, as well as office space for the centres. The Secretary-General himself had supported the view of Member States concerning the fundamental role those centres played in providing information on the United Nations, its activities and its objectives. Further, he drew attention to the appeal by the Secretary-General to Member States, particularly those in the developed countries, to contribute to the rent of information centres or to subsidize the cost. Forty per cent of their operating funds was used to pay for office rent in the year 2000. Host governments, by providing rent-free premises, could make it possible for UNICs to use those funds instead for programme activities.
Regarding the annex, he made two clarifications. The contribution received by the United Nations Information Centre in Bogota from the Colombian Government was the amount received at the time of the report’s preparation. Subsequently, a second payment was received, bringing the total contribution of Colombia to $62,466. Also, the building occupied by the United Nations University, United Nations Information Centre Tokyo and other United Nations offices were provided free of charge by the city of Tokyo. The amount shown in the annex showed the cost the information centre had to pay to the United Nations University for operating and maintaining the building.
Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) expressed his gratitude for the additional information provided to the second report. He said that the aim of the report was to show whether or not an imbalance existed between centres in developed and developing countries. Sometimes there were disparities in the number of posts, as well as the level of the posts, allocated to information centres. Some centres had D1, D2 and P5 posts, whereas in some developing countries the highest post was a P4. That matter had to be addressed by the Secretariat. It would be better if the higher posts were put in the developing countries, which had the greatest need for those high-level posts. That would give a boost to those information centres. He wanted to know what mechanism was used to decide how many posts and what level of posts were allocated to the information centres.
CHARLES ONONYE (Nigeria) said that while he appreciated the problem of the availability of funds, he wished that special attention would be paid to the needs of information centres in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Centres in that region could not be compared to those in countries of the North, or in some countries of the South. He urged DPI to bear in mind the peculiarities that prevailed in that region and ensure that they received the necessary human and financial resources.
In response, Mr. HAMDAN reiterated that one of Mr. Tharoor’s priority tasks was to review the staffing of all UNICs and to examine the allocation of posts. The review aimed to improve the effectiveness of all UNICs around the world. Among the factors in determining the number and level of posts was whether or not the UNIC was the only United Nations presence in a particular country. He emphasized that, as DPI was the focal point for United Nations public information activities, UNICs are the focal point for United Nations system public information at the country level.
SALIM LONE, Director of the News and Media Division of DPI, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on cooperation between DPI and the University of Peace in Costa Rica (document A/AC.198/2001/6). He said the cooperation went back 20 years, and an important element of this was the relationship with Radio for Peace International, which was affiliated to the University. Cooperation had intensified with the recent initiation of the daily live broadcasts UN Radio was now doing. In June, a delegation from the radio station was expected in New York to discuss further cooperation.
Mr. Lone also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations (document A/AC.198/2001/7). The radio pilot project was carried out in all six official languages and DPI was grateful to Member States for their strong support, which was a source of inspiration for people working on the project. Staff arrived to work very early every day, including at 3 a.m. to transmit coverage of the opening of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit in Abuja on HIV/AIDS and Other Infectious Diseases.
The radio pilot project had transformed the way the United Nations reached the world, he continued. Literally hundreds of millions of people could hear the voices of the top United Nations officials and representatives of Member States every day. The live programming also carried voices from United Nations missions and activities from around the world. But there was still much to do to strengthen the programme.
At the moment, radio stations in 100 countries were transmitting programmes. He appealed to Member States to help build more partnerships with broadcasters.
Authorization of the project was only to the end of the current year; neither the mandate nor the resources for its continuation were in the 2002-2003 biennium.
Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) said that the last paragraph of the report referred to the need for resources. All attached great importance to the project. What did the Secretariat intend to do? The administration could continue its work, or perhaps decide to end it. He also wanted to know about broadcasts in languages other than the official languages and about partnerships with stations, particularly the large number of partner stations in Africa.
MARIA DEL PILAR ESOBAR (Mexico) said that when efforts were pooled, results were possible. She thanked the staff for implementing the project. What was most important was the dissemination of the United Nations message in countries where radio continued to be the basis of communication. Radio was of the utmost importance to ensure the dissemination of the Organization’s message. She stressed the importance of the way in which DPI had been able to optimize the limited resources available to it. Mexico was aware of budgetary restrictions. She invited the Department to continue with the radio programme. While it was difficult, the project was well worth it.
YAYAN G.H. MULYANA (Indonesia) asked how many more phases were needed for the project.
Mr. LONE said that on the question of resources, these were provided for only one year. DPI had not included anything in the 2002-2003 budget, as there was no mandate. In terms of amounts and the number of periods, it was a demanding project and the Department did not seek to go beyond what was currently being done; namely, 15-minute programmes in the six official languages. There would soon be smaller programmes in Portuguese and Swahili. The cost of the live broadcasts was $1.7 million per year, or $3.4 million for the biennium.
Currently, there were also weekly programmes in nine non-official languages. In addition to partnerships with broadcasters, DPI was also trying to develop on-the-ground partnerships with United Nations agencies. He was extremely satisfied with the response from around the world about the project. An assessment of the radio pilot project would shortly be undertaken.
MAHBUB AHMAD, Chief of the Information Technology Section, DPI, introduced the report on the continued multilingual development, maintenance and enrichment of the United Nations Web site, which was the fourth report on the topic (document A/AC.198/2001/8). Providing an update on the Web site, he said that its usage had been rising dramatically. Since the report was written, daily accesses had risen to more than 4 million. The average number of documents viewed had increased to 410,000 a day. With regard to the addition of new materials, the number of new documents added since last September was now over 13,000. He said that making parliamentary documentation available on the Web site at no cost would require a decision by the Assembly. Also, before any information could be made available in any language, it had to be created in that language.
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