UNITED NATIONS, AS INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION OF PEACEFUL AND JUST WORLD, MUST BE HEARD ‘CLEARLY AND EFFECTIVELY’, SAYS FOURTH COMMITTEE TEXT

18 October 2006
GA/SPD/351

UNITED NATIONS, AS INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION OF PEACEFUL AND JUST WORLD, MUST BE HEARD ‘CLEARLY AND EFFECTIVELY’, SAYS FOURTH COMMITTEE TEXT

18 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/351
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

12th Meeting (PM)

UNITED NATIONS, AS INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION OF PEACEFUL AND JUST WORLD,

MUST BE HEARD ‘CLEARLY AND EFFECTIVELY’, SAYS FOURTH COMMITTEE TEXT

Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor Hopeful and Confident

About Future of United Nations Department of Public Information

Reaffirming that the United Nations remained the “indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world”, and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today emphasized the essential role of the Department of Public Information, as it approved without a vote two draft resolutions and a draft decision at the conclusion of its general debate on questions relating to information.

By the terms of a wide-ranging draft resolution entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly emphasize that the Department’s activities be organized in a way that promoted to the greatest possible extent an informed understanding of the work of the United Nations among the peoples of the world. 

The Assembly, according to that text, would request the public information Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent. 

Further to the terms of the draft, the Assembly, acknowledging the Department’s commitment to a culture of evaluation, would ask the Department to continue to evaluate its products and activities with the objective of improving their effectiveness.  The Assembly would note with appreciation the Department’s continued efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request it to continue providing that invaluable service both to Member States and media representatives.

The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the ongoing efforts by the Department to enhance multilingualism in its activities, and encourage it to continue its endeavours in that regard.  It would emphasize the importance of ensuring the full and equitable treatment of all official United Nations languages in all activities of the Department.

In other provisions, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the Organization to local populations, especially in developing countries.  It would stress the importance of rationalizing the centres’ network, and reaffirm that such rationalization must be carried out in consultation on a case-by-case basis with all Member States concerned.

A section of the text on the Department’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping “gateway” on the United Nations website, and request the Department to continue supporting the peacekeeping missions to further develop their websites.  It would also request the public information Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue their cooperation in raising awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations.

The draft text also addresses such related issues as news services, traditional means of communication, the United Nations website, library services and outreach activities.

By the terms of the draft resolution entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, the Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructure and capabilities in developing countries.  The Assembly would also urge those countries and other entities, among other things, to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them.

The draft decision approved today would have the Assembly increase the membership of the Committee on Information from 108 to 110, by appointing Dominican Republic and Thailand as members.

In closing remarks, Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, thanked delegates for a “very rich” debate and assured them that both the letter and the spirit of their recommendations would be followed.  He pointed out, however, that while the Department would like to carry out additional activities that would only be possible with additional resources, which only the Members States could provide.

The current debate had come at the end of five years of reform within the Department, he said.  The path taken by the Department was not different from that taken by the United Nations.  In its sixty-one years of existence, the United Nations had had to reinvent itself continually, in order to reflect and shape the priorities of an evolving world.  As a spokesman of the Organization, the Department had done likewise.  He saw numerous structures in place to look forward to the future of the Department with confidence and hope.

During its general debate on questions related to information, prior to action on the texts, the Committee heard statements by the representatives of Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Thailand on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Singapore, Myanmar, Yemen, Côte d’Ivoire, Bahrain, United Republic of Tanzania, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Morocco. 

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 19 October, at 3 p.m. to start its comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

Background

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of questions related to information, it had before it two draft resolutions and one draft decision contained in the report on the twenty-eighth session of the Committee on Information (document A/61/21, Chapter IV).  It also had before it the report on questions relating to information (document A/61/216).  For a summary of that report, please see Press Release GA/SPD/349 of 16 October.

By the terms of draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s twenty-eighth session, entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, the General Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, and in order with due regard to their needs and the priorities attached to such areas by those countries to develop their own information and communication policies freely and independently, and increase the participation of media and individuals in the communication process.

Those countries and other entities would be urged also to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; to provide support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from public, private and other media in developing countries; to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in the areas of training and dissemination of information; and to aim at, in addition to bilateral cooperation, providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their needs in the field of information and to action already adopted within the United Nations system.

By the terms of draft resolution B contained in the report and entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the Organization remains the indispensable foundation of a peaceful world and that its voice be heard in a clear and effective manner.  It would emphasize the essential role of the Department of Information in that context, the activities of which should be so organized as to promote to the greatest possible extent an informed understanding of the work of the United Nations among the peoples of the world.

The Assembly would request the Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent.

Also by the text, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Department had concluded its collaborative three-year project with the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the systematic evaluation of public information products and activities.

The Assembly would also request the Department of Public Information, acknowledging its commitment to a culture of evaluation, to continue to evaluate its products and activities, with the objective of improving their effectiveness, including through interdepartmental consultations. 

The Assembly would note with appreciation the Department’s continued efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request it to continue providing that service both to Member States and media representatives.

The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the Department’s ongoing efforts to enhance multilingualism in its activities, and request it to continue its endeavours in that regard.  It would emphasize the importance of ensuring the full and equitable treatment of all official United Nations languages in all the Department’s activities.

As for bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would call upon the Department to contribute to raising the international community’s awareness of the importance of the implementation of the outcome document of the World Summit on the Information Society. 

Further by that draft, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the Organization to local populations, especially in developing countries.  It would stress the importance of rationalizing the centre’s network, and reaffirm that such rationalization must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all Member States concerned, taking into consideration the distinctive characteristics of each region.

A section of the text on the Department of Public Information’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping gateway on the United Nations website, and request the Department to continue its efforts in supporting the peacekeeping missions to further develop their websites.  It would also request the Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue their cooperation in raising awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations.

In a section on news services, the draft emphasized the importance of the Department continuing to draw the attention of world media to stories that do not obtain prominent coverage, through the “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About” initiative. 

Regarding traditional means of communication, the Assembly would stress that radio remained the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional form of media available to the Department, and requests the Secretary-General to make every effort to achieve parity in the six official languages in United Nations production.  Further, it would welcome the Department’s efforts to produce and disseminate television news video and feature material to broadcasters worldwide through satellite distribution and web delivery.

Also by the text, the Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations website remained an essential tool for the media, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, Member States and the general public and, in that regard, reiterate the continued need for the Department to maintain and improve it.

In a section on library services, the Assembly would acknowledge the role of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, as part of the Department’s Outreach Division, in enhancing knowledge-sharing and networking activities to ensure access to United Nations knowledge.  The new approaches taken by the Library in particular the Personal Knowledge Management initiative would also be noted.  Further, the Assembly would reiterate the need to enable the provision of hard copies of library materials to Member States, and note the Secretary-General’s efforts to enrich, on a multilingual basis, the stock of books and journals in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, including publications on peace and security and development-related issues, in order to ensure that it remained a broadly accessible reservoir for information about the United Nations and its activities.

By further terms, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Department’s outreach services continued to work towards promoting the awareness of the role and work of the United Nations on priority issues.  It would welcome the movement towards educational outreach and the orientation of both print and online editions of the United Nations Chronicle and, to that end, encourage it to continue to develop co-publishing partnerships.

The Committee would have the Assembly note the importance of the Department’s continued implementation of the ongoing programme for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and request it to consider how best to maximize its benefits by reviewing its duration and the number of its participants.

Further to the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the important role of guided tours in reaching out to the general public, including children and students at all levels.  It would welcome the Department’s efforts in organizing exhibitions on important United Nations-related issues at Headquarters and other United Nations offices as a useful tool for reaching out to the general public.  The Assembly would request the Department to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil society relating to the Organization’s priorities and concerns.

According to a draft decision entitled “Increase in the membership of the Committee on Information”, also contained in the report of the Committee on Information, the Assembly would increase the Committee’s membership from 108 to 110 and appoint the Dominican Republic and Thailand as members.

Statements

NADJEH BAAZIZ ( Algeria) said that her delegation supported yesterday’s statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  She supported the Department of Public Information’s integrated communication strategy, as well as its role in the dissemination of information, as that process accelerated United Nations efforts in promoting peace and security.  She also applauded the Department’s work on important economic, social and environmental questions. 

At the same time, she said, the Department of Public Information must be aware that the lack of access to technologies remained an obstacle for developing countries, with which progress in technology was not shared.  The digital divide should be closed.  Information dissemination mechanisms, however, had improved as seen by the increase in visitors to the United Nations website.  As multilingualism remained a concern to Member States, she called for the six official United Nations languages to be given equal treatment on the website.  Radio remained the most used means of communication and therefore played a fundamental role in the dissemination of information.  She welcomed the Department’s efforts to improve radio’s international range.  While noting that the United Nations had a major role to play in press freedom, she called on the Department to increase journalist training programmes and allocate more resources to them. 

AMR ELSHERBINI ( Egypt) said that, in a world dominated by information and communication technology, the United Nations should continue to promote international cooperation in the field of media and information in order to narrow the gap between capacities in the developed and developing countries.  That should be done in parallel with efforts to promote the United Nations message and to meet the people’s need for credible and objective information.  He stressed the importance of multilingualism and balance between all official languages and the important role of the Department in promoting efforts of dialogue and understanding between different civilizations and cultures. 

He said the importance of the Department’s activities in raising awareness of the dimensions of and need for peace and stability in the region of the Middle East should also be emphasized.  That should be an objective and informative message, which revealed the real situation and contributed to reinforcing efforts aiming at ending the occupation.  Meetings such as the annual International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East represented an opportunity to push dialogue and communication between the Arabs and Israelis.  The media also had a role in assisting in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  On rationalization of the United Nations information centres network, he emphasized the importance of treating the issue in the framework of a dialogue between the United Nations and the concerned countries. 

MANSOUR ALÓLAIMI ( Kuwait) said he welcomed the role of the Committee on Information in efforts to close the digital divide and raising the public awareness of the United Nations in development work.  In this period of significant upheaval in such areas as information and communication technology, it was high time that new policies were undertaken in the information field.  He underscored in that regard the importance of cooperation within the United Nations system and the need to widen the scope of partnerships between the United Nations and civil society.  He urged the Committee on Information to take measures to provide assistance to developing countries. 

He said more must be done to ensure that information was not used to impose an ideological viewpoint, or to abuse religions and cultures.  Linguistic parity must be ensured for all official United Nations languages, including the Arab language, and persons with disabilities must gain better access to the websites.  In addition, Member States must fulfil their commitment to provide support to the Department, and partnerships and joint projects should be established to mobilize support for the Department’s activities.  His country had financed a number of leaflets and brochures addressing key issues.  It attached great importance to freedom of expression and had therefore promulgated a new law ensuring greater freedom of the press.  The Kuwaiti press was now playing a leading role in the Gulf region. 

NIPATSORN KAMPA (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), applauded the Department’s restructuring efforts, particularly in the areas of public outreach and partnership-building with local, national and regional media.  The ASEAN fully supported the Department in developing a proactive communications strategy to bring together the United Nations, its subsidiaries and the public.  She singled out the discussions on migration, sustainable development, Millennium Development Goals and African development, among others, in commending the Department’s campaign to promote the outcomes and ongoing initiatives of the 2005 World Summit.

She said the Department’s crucial role in bridging the information gap between the United Nations and the public was evident in the growing number of countries interested in joining the Committee on Information, noting Thailand’s membership application to that body.  Thailand and its partners would continue to assist the Bangkok-based United Nations Information Services in disseminating information on the United Nations work.  As the website would help achieve system-wide coherence, ASEAN urged the Department to boost efforts to enrich its website in local languages.  It also commended the Department’s efforts to comprehensively review its work, adding that those would contribute to the Organization’s overall reform.  She highlighted the “Unlearning Intolerance” seminar series in the context of battling extremism and prejudice.

YAN JIARONG (China), supporting the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, underlined that the Department was tasked with publicizing the United Nations work, raising awareness about the Organization and safeguarding its credibility.  She commended it for its reorientation, and believed its coordination had strengthened the United Nations capacity to disseminate information.  The Department’s emphasis on the culture of evaluation, its adoption of result assessment and monitoring, and application of the Annual Programme Impact Review mechanism would improve the effectiveness of its public information activities. 

She said that the next phase of public information activities should focus on the outcome document of the World Summit and on promoting United Nations reforms, including the creation of the Human Rights Council, Peacebuilding Commission and the Global Counter-terrorism Strategy.  The Department should publicize achievements of United Nations reforms to demonstrate that it was progressing with the times.  Further, the Department’s Campaign for Africa should be stepped up.  African countries were faced with problems and the United Nations challenge was to mobilize the international community to pay more attention to African development.  She hoped the Department would carry out more targeted activities such as “op-eds”.  It should also promote dialogue among different civilizations and her delegation supported its “Unlearning Intolerance” series and encouraged it to organize similar seminars.  Outreach activities should also be enhanced, with view to increasing exchanges with Member States.  When non-governmental organizations organized events at the United Nations, the Department should provide guidance and monitoring, so as to avoid incidents that might be unfriendly to the Member States.

LEE MAY LIN (Singapore), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of ASEAN, said new media technologies were both boon and bane to countries and organizations.  It had never been easier to communicate across the globe, but the sheer volume of available information meant that one’s message could easily be lost in the deluge.  The United Nations needed to ensure that its message remained clear and relevant.  Commending the Department for its “tireless” work, she said it had made enhancements to the United Nations website and instituted outreach programmes for different groups such as students, civil societies and faith-based communities.  It had also tailored its messages, for instance, in collaborating with MTV to produce programmes and webcasts for youth about the relief efforts following the Pakistan earthquake. 

She said that the global audience was becoming increasingly sophisticated and discerning, and the United Nations had to work hard to ensure that its voice was heard.  At the same time, it had to maintain its credibility through accurate, responsible, balanced and timely information.  Credibility took years to build, but it could be undermined in a second.  Once lost, it hardly mattered what one said.  The Department of Public Information would also need to explore new ways to engage stakeholders, through, among other things, enhanced cooperation with Member States as well as international, regional and local media organizations.  The media outreach and training programmes for media representatives from developing countries were a step in the right direction. 

U NAY WIN ( Myanmar), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of ASEAN as well as on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that Member States should receive first-hand information on the important events affecting the United Nations through official channels that included the Department of Public Information.  Measures the Department were taking to integrate the network of information centres into its overall communications strategies work plan was a step forward towards improving the quality service of the Department.  The establishment of country-level communications groups in early 2006 had been a significant achievement.  The cost-effective method of Internet broadcasting was becoming more and more popular in delivering information about major United Nations events in real time.  Webcasting should be expanded. 

He reiterated the important role the United Nations information centres were playing in developing countries and least developed countries in disseminating real time information about the United Nations and in providing information and communication technology.  Hopefully, the information centre in Myanmar would disseminate information on the activities carried out in Myanmar and the significant progress achieved in addressing the Millennium Development Goals.  The Department, however, must remain the official source of information in promoting the work of the United Nations, but it would be only as credible and effective as the Member States made it.  Hence, Member States and the Department must work closely as partners to ensure that the latter be held in high regard as the true voice of the United Nations. 

ADEEB ALTHOUR ( Yemen), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, thanked the Department for all its efforts to raise the visibility of United Nations activities and to disseminate the Organization’s message through modern means.  Today’s conflicts impacted all aspects of life -- cultural, economic and social.  That situation was exacerbated by epidemics and abject poverty, and required a greater awareness of the culture of peace and tolerance and dialogue among civilizations based on mutual respect. 

He said there was a need to ensure the functioning of the United Nations information centres in developing countries, as the general public should be kept informed about United Nations activities in areas of the maintenance of peace and security, and development.  The Department, in all its activities, did not attach the same priority to the Arab language as to the other official United Nations languages.  That situation should be rectified by stepping up the use of the Arab language; all languages should be treated in the same manner.  He supported the new strategy by which the Department aimed to establish new partnerships with Governments, private sector and civil society, in order to ensure that the United Nations voice resonated all over the world.

GUILLAUME NIAGRI BAILLY ( Côte d’Ivoire), noting that information and communication were at the heart of United Nations activities, welcomed the Department’s strategy to increase awareness about current challenges.  On thematic campaigns, he praised the Department’s role in promoting the Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission.  The information centres’ network played an important role in advocating peace, reconciliation and tolerance –- principles that were promoted through field teams and audio/visual initiatives.  The centres were invaluable in developing countries and should be increased in number according to needs of countries and regional groups. 

On using dialogue to promote understanding, he supported the Department’s efforts to ensure the consistency and coherence of United Nations messages, and the simultaneous distribution of information in all official languages.  On narrowing the digital divide, he advocated developing infrastructure that would allow media to implement its own policies on communication.  He pressed for strengthening the Department of Information’s capacities to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals through targeted information and partnership with civil society, among other initiatives.  For example, the Department could train more journalists in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, which would give them the most important information in times of crisis.  On freedom of the press, he supported a new world order of information that would be at the service of humanity.

FAISAL AL-ZAYANI (Bahrain), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Department had performed its information role in a steady fashion and had raised awareness among the general public on issues such as sustainable development, decolonization, the question of Palestine, human rights, the development of the Africa continent, dialogue among civilizations and other issues.  The Department had also played a critical and vital role in all areas relating to development issues. 

He said that the Department could also provide critical assistance in bridging the digital divide, as well as in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  The Assembly had called for the establishment of a new and more equitable order and efforts should be made to facilitate acquisition by developing countries of new communication and media technologies.  He also underscored the importance of conventional and traditional media in developing countries, underlining in that regard, the special importance of the United Nations information centres, which should be strengthened and revitalized.  The centres should not be closed or merged into regional offices without consultation with the host countries.  The Department should continue its information activities on the question of Palestine until a definitive solution was reached. 

GRACE MUJUMA (United Republic of Tanzania), supporting the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, encouraged the Department to continue efforts to disseminate information in vital areas, including the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, international peace and security and the revitalization of the United Nations.  Her delegation appreciated departmental efforts to take into consideration the views of Member States on the need to maintain the presence of information centres in developing countries, in light of those nations’ special needs.  She also acknowledged the revitalization of the United Nations libraries. 

She was concerned that the digital divide between developed and developing countries was widening, and called on the public information Department to partner with local and national radio broadcasters, as traditional communication means was used to transmit United Nations messages in developing countries.  She applauded the strong relationship between the public information Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for having completed two major guidance projects for the public information components of peacekeeping missions.  Capacity-building and technology improvement was crucial for disseminating information, as was increasing resources for the journalist fellowship programme.

MAMOUDOU MANA (Cameroon), in support of South Africa’s viewpoint on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said he appreciated the Department’s information campaigns on important matters including sustainable development, HIV/AIDS, Africa’s development, human rights and threats to international peace and security, among others.  It was clear that much of the violence in the world was due to prejudice and lack of communication, as shown by the polemic caused by the Pope Benedict sixteenth affair.  The media could not always be scapegoats, and the public information Department could play a more conciliatory role by promoting tolerance for different religions and beliefs.  Seminars such as that on “Unlearning Intolerance” should be continued. 

He said that traditional communications media, particularly radio, remained the main source of information for developing countries.  He encouraged the Department to boost partnerships with radio broadcasters at local, national and regional levels by transmitting broadcasts in local languages.  On the rationalization of information centres, he said opposition persisted; any rationalization proposal should be studied in close consultation with host States, countries served and interested regions.  The regional approach in Central Africa, which serviced Portuguese-speaking countries, matched the rationalization objectives identified by the public information Department, however, that undertaking must not undermine the functioning of the Yaonde centre, where United Nations actions required greater visibility.  That centre should be maintained. 

MARIE-ANDREE TRAORE ( Burkina Faso), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the question of information was an important one for developing countries.  Unfortunately, it was suffering the adverse effects of globalization.  Globalization had deepened inequalities between industrialized and developing countries.  In her country, great parts of the population did not have access to modern information and communication technology.  The information centres, therefore, had an important role to play by disseminating information about the United Nations. 

She said that centres’ rationalization was welcome if it was carried out in accordance with the initial plan.  In developing countries, the centres should be strengthened and their rationalization should be done on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the host countries and the countries in the region.  Savings in human and financial resources arising from centres’ closures in developed countries should be allocated to developing countries.  The information centre in Burkina Faso covered four countries in the Sahel:  Mali; Niger; Chad and her own country.  The centre received Government support through free access to premises and to radio and television time.  She stressed her country’s firm support for the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva and Tunis in 2003 and 2005. 

AMINE CHABI ( Morocco), supporting the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said information and communication should be at the core of the United Nations work, especially since the Organization had an undeniable comparative advantage to tap into the vast information sources generated by the technology revolution.  He supported the Department’s efforts to increase efficiency, adding that those were bearing fruit in the areas of website development and multilingualism.

He said that the overhaul of the information centres must consider their important role in developing countries, where there was a lack of infrastructure.  Dissemination of information in Africa was essential and, thus, African information centres must be maintained and other resources made available to them.  The centre in Rabat, Morocco was also important and Morocco welcomed expansion of the centre’s activities, including its partnerships with civil society and the media. 

On the Department’s reform efforts, Morocco supported its new strategic approach to communication.  Although it was early to gauge the strategy, he was certain of its success, particularly with its integration of a culture of evaluation.  More should be done, however, to increase public awareness about the question of Palestine.  Morocco appealed for linguistic parity of all official United Nations languages and reinforcement of the culture of multilingualism.  Cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should be increased to ensure impartial coverage of conflicts and sensitization about the outcomes of peacekeeping operations.

Closing Statement by the Under-Secretary-General

Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, SHASHI THAROOR thanked all delegates who had taken part in what had been a very rich debate on the work of the Department of Public Information.  He said the growing partnership between the Department and the Committee on Information had been a key element in redefining the Department’s role in a complex and evolving global media environment, paving the way for its renewal.  The general debate had clearly demonstrated how deeply committed Member States were to the United Nations and the ideals it espoused.  Note had been taken not only of approbation, but also of critical comments.

He said the number of informed and pertinent observations had made it clear that the Committee had well understood the importance of the United Nations story to be heard and understood by people all around the.  He assured Member States that both the letter and the spirit of the Committee’s recommendations would be followed.  He pointed out, however, that while the Department would like to carry out additional activities, that would be possible in most cases only with additional resources which only the Members States could provide. 

The current debate had come at the end of five years of reform within the Department, he said.  That process, as said earlier, was not really notable for the distance covered, but rather for the obstacles overcome.  The path taken by the Department was not different from that taken by the United Nations.  In its sixty-one years of existence, the United Nations had to reinvent itself continually in order to reflect and shape the priorities of an evolving world.  As a spokesman of the Organization, the Department had done likewise.  Sometimes, the Department had given the Organization a model for change.  He saw numerous structures in place to look forward to the future of the Department with confidence and hope. 

Action on Texts

The Committee then approved, collectively, the draft resolutions A and B, and the draft decision contained in document A/61/21, without a vote.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.