COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION REAFFIRMS ‘ESSENTIAL ROLE’ OF DPI IN MAKING UN VOICE HEARD

7 May 2004
PI/1579

COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION REAFFIRMS ‘ESSENTIAL ROLE’ OF DPI IN MAKING UN VOICE HEARD

07/05/2004
Press ReleasePI/1579

Committee on Information                                   

Twenty-sixth Session                                       

5th Meeting (PM)

COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION REAFFIRMS ‘ESSENTIAL ROLE’ OF DPI

IN MAKING UN VOICE HEARD

After Adoption of Draft Text, Under-Secretary-General Says

Committee’s Endorsement of DPI’s Efforts Indicates Department Is on ‘Right Track’

By the terms of a comprehensive draft resolution adopted by the Committee on Information this afternoon, as it concluded its twenty-sixth session, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Department of Public Information (DPI) is the focal point for United Nations information policies and the primary news centre for information about the activities of the Organization and the Secretary-General.

The Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, speaking after action on the draft, said the Committee’s endorsement of DPI’s efforts to reform and renew itself, and to develop a client-oriented approach, strengthen system-wide coordination and embrace a culture of evaluation at all levels of work, clearly provided a welcome reaffirmation of the fact that the Department was on the right track.  The draft clearly outlined the path that the Committee wished DPI to take, including where the rationalization of the network of United Nations Information Centres (UNICs) was concerned.  Both the spirit and letter of the Committee’s recommendations would be followed.

Under a provision of the text on DPI’s general activities, the Assembly would encourage closer integration of functions between the Department and the office providing spokesman services for the Secretary-General.  It would also welcome DPI’s recommendations for developing a communications strategy on publicizing the work and decisions of the General Assembly, and encourage DPI to establish a closer working relationship with the Office of the General Assembly President.

In the section of the text on multilingualism, the Assembly -- emphasizing the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all activities of DPI –- would recognize the fact that the integration of the Official Document System with the United Nations Web site, scheduled to take place during the fourth quarter of 2004, would significantly enhance the multilingual nature of the site by providing free, public access to all United Nations parliamentary documents in the six official languages.

Towards bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would welcome the holding of the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, which took place from 10 to 12 December 2003, and look forward to the second phase to be held in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005.  It would call upon DPI to contribute to raising international awareness of the Summit’s importance and the need to join efforts to make it a success.

In the section of the text on DPI’s new programmatic priorities, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General’s note on the 2006-2007 proposed strategic framework.  It would stress the need to include in the proposed biennial programme plan quantifiable and verifiable indicators for measuring expected accomplishments so as to give a clear indication of progress.

The Assembly would acknowledge that DPI, with the assistance of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), has developed an annual programme impact review to systematically evaluate its products and activities and, as an initial step in the three-year project between DPI and OIOS, the first annual programme impact review was completed in January 2004.

Concerning the UNICs, the Assembly would stress that the United Nation information centres or regional hubs should play a significant role in disseminating information about the Organization’s work to the peoples of the world.  As the “field voice” of the Department, the information centres, or regional hubs, should promote public awareness of and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level.

The Assembly would also welcome DPI’s ongoing efforts to review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to UNICs with a view to transferring resources from information centres in developed countries to United Nations information activities in developing countries, emphasizing the needs of the least developed countries, and to any other activities of high priority, such as multilingualism on the Web site and evaluation of services.

Regarding DPI’s role in United Nations peacekeeping, the Assembly would request the Secretariat to continue to ensure the involvement of DPI from the planning stage of future operations through interdepartmental consultations and coordination with other departments of the Secretariat, in particular with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. 

Regarding the United Nations Web site, the Assembly would stress the need for DPI to take further necessary measures to ensure accessibility to the Web site by persons with disabilities, including visual and hearing disabilities, call on the Department, as a first step, to make further efforts for all new and revised pages to adhere to the obligatory level of compliance with recognized industry standards regarding such accessibility, and within existing resources, to work towards compliance with all other levels of such standards.

The Assembly would also note that the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations will be observed in 2005 and request DPI to take necessary measures to publicize the occasion in every way possible, stressing the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and highlighting its accomplishments in the past six decades.

Regarding programme budget implications for the text, Committee Secretary Thérèse Gastaut had announced that the paragraph regarding accessibility to the Web site for persons with disabilities might entail potential financial implications.  Following a clarification by Under-Secretary-General Tharoor, the paragraph was amended and the text adopted did not entail any programme budget implications.

Committee Rapportuer Janice Miller (Jamaica) introduced the Committee’s draft report, which was adopted as orally amended.

In other business, the Committee adopted a draft decision to increase its membership from 102 to 107, with the admission of Qatar, Iceland, Luxembourg, Madagascar and Cape Verde.

In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (Bangladesh) said that, having reached a crucial stage in the reform of DPI, the task before the Committee was to take a close and hard look at the progress made and to provide the Department with recommendations for the next steps.  Aware of the challenges the Department faced, the Committee had called for a stronger, more effective and more united world body.  It also expressed the clear need for a Department that was stronger, more effective and more focused than ever before, to make the voice of the United Nations heard better and clearer.

Committee Officers

Chairman:  Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (Bangladesh); Vice-Chairpersons:  Larbi Djacta (Algeria), Sebastião Filipe Coelho Ferreira (Portugal), and Marius Ioan Dragolea (Romania).  Rapporteur:  Janice Miller (Jamaica).

Summary of Draft Resolution

As the Committee on Information met this afternoon to conclude its current session, it was expected to act on a two-part draft resolution (document A/AC.198/2004/L.3) to be submitted to the General Assembly’s fifty-ninth session.

By terms of part A of the draft, entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, the 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.

The Assembly would also urge all concerned to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks, and condemn all attacks against them.  They would also be urged to provide support for the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries.

By part B of the text, on United Nations public information policies and activities, the Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations remains the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner, and emphasize the essential role of the Department of Public Information (DPI) in that context.  It would stress the importance of clear and timely provision of information by the Secretariat to Member States within the framework of existing mandates and procedures, and encourage the DPI to continue to do so.

Further, the Assembly would request the Department, following the priorities laid down by the General Assembly in the medium-term plan and using the United Nations Millennium Declaration as its guide, to pay particular attention to such major issues as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic, combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and the needs of the African continent.

The Assembly would further request the Department to pay attention to all major issues addressed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals in carrying out its activities.

Concerning the general activities of DPI, the Assembly would reaffirm that DPI is the focal point for United Nations information policies and the primary news centre for information about the activities of the Organization and the Secretary-General, and encourage closer integration of functions between the Department and the office providing spokesman services for the Secretary-General.

The Assembly would welcome DPI’s recommendations for developing a communications strategy on publicizing the work and decisions of the General Assembly and encourage the Department to establish a closer working relationship with the Office of the President of the General Assembly.  It would also request the Secretary-General to report further on the progress achieved in, and the remaining challenges to, the implementation of his recommendations to the Committee at its twenty-seventh session.

The Assembly would also encouragethe Secretary-General to strengthen the coordination between DPI and other Secretariat departments, including the designation of focal points to work with substantive departments, in the context of its client-oriented approach, to identify target audiences and develop information programmes and media strategies for priority issues, and emphasizes that public information capacities and activities in other departments should function under the guidance of the Department.

Under a further provision, the Assembly would appreciate the Department’s continued efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request it to continue providing that invaluable service to both Member States and representatives of the media, while considering possible means of improving their production process and streamlining their format, structure and length, keeping in mind the views of Member States.

On multilingualism and public information, the Assembly would welcome DPI’s ongoing efforts in that regard, and emphasize the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all activities of DPI.

It would recognize the fact that the integration of the Official Document System (ODS) with the United Nations Web site, scheduled to take place during the fourth quarter of 2004, will significantly enhance the multilingual nature of the site by providing free, public access to all United Nations parliamentary documents in the six official languages.

Towards bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would welcome the holding of the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) from 10 to 12 December 2003, and look forward to the second phase to be held in Tunisfrom  16 to 18 November 2005.  It would call upon DPI to contribute in raising awareness of the international community of the importance of the WSIS and the need to join efforts to make it a success.

Taking note of the Secretary-General’s note on the 2006-2007 proposed strategic framework on the Department’s programmatic aspects, it would stress the need to include in the proposed biennial programme plan quantifiable and verifiable indicators for measuring expected accomplishments, so as to give a clear indication of the progress towards the accomplishment of objectives set.  It would also stress the importance of full compliance with all legislative mandates, when preparing the proposed budget for 2006-2007.

Concerning the United Nations Information Centres (UNICs), the Assembly would reaffirm paragraph 15 of its resolution 57/300, in which it took note of the Secretary-General’s proposal to rationalize the network of UNICs around regional hubs, where appropriate, in consultation with concerned Member States, starting with the creation of a Western European hub, followed by a similar approach in other high-cost developed countries.  It would request the Secretary-General to submit a progress report on the implementation of the proposal with the objective of applying this initiative in other regions, in consultation with Member States, where this initiative will strengthen the flow and exchange of information in developing countries.  It would welcome the agreement between DPI and the Western European countries to establish a Regional United Nations Information Centre (RUNIC) in Brussels.

Taking note of the Secretary-General’s report on the rationalization of the network of UNICs, the Assembly would stress that the report could not at that stage fully address all aspects of the implementation of the rationalization of UNICs in Western Europe and other high-cost developed countries.  In that regard, he would be asked to report in detail to the Committee at its next session.  The Assembly would also emphasize that the information centres, or regional hubs, as applicable, as the “field voice” of the Department, should promote public awareness of and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level.

It would affirm that the above-mentioned objectives are central to the future rationalization of UNICs, which must be in consultation, on a case-by-case basis, with all concerned Member States in which existing UNICs are located, the countries served by those UNICs, and other interested countries in the region, taking into consideration the distinctive characteristics of each region.  In the framework of rationalization, the Secretary-General would be requested to extend the services of the UNICS and RUNICs to those Member States currently outside the scope of DPI’s field information capacity.

The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General -- within the framework of the rationalization process -- to take into account the needs of Portuguese-speaking African countries, and the offer made by the Government of Angola.

In that context, it would welcome DPI’s ongoing efforts to review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to UNICs with a view to transferring resources from information centres in developed countries to United Nations information activities in developing countries, emphasizing the needs of the least developed countries, and to any other activities of high priority, such as multilingualism on the Web site and evaluation of services.

The Assembly would appreciate DPI’s work in promoting, through its campaigns, issues of importance to the international community, such as sustainable development, children, HIV/AIDS, malaria, decolonization, dialogue among civilizations, tolerance and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Assembly would also stress the need for the renewed emphasis in support of Africa’s development, in particular by DPI, in order to promote international awareness of the nature of the critical socio-economic situation in Africa and of the priorities of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Regarding DPI’s role in United Nations peacekeeping, the Assembly would request the Secretariat to continue to ensure the involvement of DPI from the planning stage of future operations through interdepartmental consultations and coordination with other departments of the Secretariat, in particular with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).  It would also stress the importance of enhancing DPI’s public information capacity in the field of peacekeeping operations and its role in the selection process of spokespersons for United Nations peacekeeping operations or missions.

Expressing regret over the information gap between the new realities and success of peacekeeping operations, especially multidimensional and complex ones, and the public perceptions, the Assembly would stress the need for a comprehensive public information strategy on peacekeeping operations, undertaken in close coordination with other relevant departments to overcome such gaps and ensure a positive public impact.  It would emphasize the need for close cooperation between DPI and the DPKO to develop this strategy.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would encourage DPI to provide the necessary support within existing resources for dissemination of information pertaining to dialogue among civilizations and culture of peace, as well as take due steps in fostering the culture of dialogue among civilizations via all mass media such as Internet, print, radio and television.

In the area of news services, the Assembly would stress that the central objective of the news services, implemented by the News and Media Division, is the timely delivery of accurate, objective and balanced news and information emanating from the United Nations system in all four mass media -- print, radio, television and Internet -- to the media and other audiences worldwide with the overall emphasis on multilingualism.

The Assembly would also stress that radio remains one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional media available to DPI and note that international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations has been made an integral part of DPI’s activities.  It would request the Secretary-General to pay full attention to the parity of the six official languages in expanding the international radio broadcasting capacity.

With regard to the United Nations Web site, the Assembly would note that the multilingual development and enrichment of the site has improved, although slower than expected, due to constraints that need to be addressed.  In that regard, it would encourage DPI to improve actions to achieve full parity among the six official languages on the United Nations Web site and would reaffirm the need for parity.

The Assembly would also recognize that technological infrastructure and supportive applications are based on Latin scripts and encourage DPI to continue efforts to ensure that infrastructures and applications in the United Nations fully support Latin, non-Latin and bidirectional scripts to enhance language equality on the United Nations Web site.

In addition, the Assembly would stress the need for DPI to take further necessary measures to ensure accessibility to the Web site by persons with disabilities, including visual and hearing disabilities, and call on the Department, as a first step, to make further efforts for all new and revised pages to adhere to the obligatory level of compliance with recognized industry standards regarding such accessibility, and within existing resources to work towards compliance with all other levels of such standards.

Welcoming the electronic mail-based United Nations News Service, distributed worldwide through e-mail by DPI, the Assembly would also welcome the inclusion of the news e-mail services in English and French, and the Secretary-General’s intention to include other official languages in these services by 2004.

In other action, the Assembly would welcome the creation of the Steering Committee on the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries, and commend it for its coordinating role and initial organizational efforts and for reaching agreement on an impressive programme of work.  It would call on DPI to continue to lead the Steering Committee, and encourage the member libraries of the Steering Committee to coordinate closely and to establish time frames for fulfilment of its programme of work.

The Assembly would also note with appreciation the operation of a common library in Nairobi within existing resources and urges all United Nations offices in Nairobi to participate and support this venture.

The Assembly would note the importance of the continued implementation by DPI of the ongoing programme for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries and countries in transition, and encourage the Department to consider how best to maximize the benefits derived from the programme by reviewing aspects such as its duration and the number of its participants.

The Assembly would recognize the need for DPI to increase its outreach services in all regions, and reiterate the need to include, in the reorientation of United Nations activities in the field of public information and communications, an analysis of the present reach and scope of the activities of the Department, identifying the widest possible spectrum of audiences and geographical areas that are not covered adequately and that might require special attention, including the appropriate means of communication, and bearing in mind local language requirements.  Welcoming the thrust for educational outreach and the orientation of the UN Chronicle to that end, the Assembly would also call on DPI to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil society.

Congratulating the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) for its Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Scholarship Fund, which sponsors journalists from developing countries to come to the United Nations Headquarters and report on the activities during the General Assembly, the Assembly would urge donors to extend financial support to the Fund so as to increase the number of such scholarships.

The Assembly would also note that the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations will be observed in 2005, and request the DPI to take necessary measures to publicize the occasion in every way possible stressing the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and highlighting its accomplishments in the past six decades.

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For information media. Not an official record.