|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Information
2nd and 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)
GOVERNMENTS URGE DPI TO PROMOTE AWARENESS OF UN’S NOTEWORTHY ACHIEVEMENTS,
AS INFORMATION COMMITTEE CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE
Department’s Efforts to Improve
Quick Response Mechanism Welcomed in Countering Negative Criticism
With the United Nations gradually rebounding from nearly two years of negative publicity and scandal-driven media coverage, Member States today urged the Department of Public Information (DPI) to redouble its efforts to tell the “real” story, and to promote awareness of the world body’s noteworthy achievements, particularly in resolving conflicts and advancing global development goals.
As the Committee on Information continued its annual general debate, the representative of the Republic of Korea said that, although the image of the United Nations had been “badly bruised” by recent scandals, public opinion polls suggested that the majority of the world’s people wanted a stronger United Nations and believed that the Organization was central to resolving global conflicts.
“This is where we stand”, he said, stressing that it was vitally important for DPI -- the Organization’s “public voice” -- to continue to help people understand the reality of the United Nations and its hopes for the future. He was particularly heartened that DPI continued to support the Millennium Development Goals, to strengthen its interaction with civil society, and enhance its partnerships with academic institutions.
In a similar vein, the representative of the Philippines said that the Department had made significant progress in dealing with the image problem that had hounded the United Nations in the wake of controversies over the Iraq “oil-for-food” programme and the revelation of sexual exploitation and abuse involving peacekeepers. Through its proactive efforts, DPI had succeeded in inviting media attention towards more positive developments such as the 2005 World Summit.
He was convinced that DPI would be in a much better position to further project a positive image of the United Nations as a result of the culture of evaluation it had inculcated within the Department. He welcomed DPI’s efforts to improve its quick response mechanism as part of the lessons learned from the oil-for-food controversy. As a result, the United Nations could more quickly identify and respond to negative criticism.
India’s representative added that the United Nations information centres (UNICs) were crucial in enhancing the Organization’s public image and in disseminating its message, especially in the developing countries. “If the Department is the United Nations bullhorn, then it is the UNIC mechanism that gives its voice a local resonance”, he said, calling for adequate budgetary resources to be reassigned to secure effective functioning of UNICs in developing countries.
Looking ahead, he stressed the need for DPI to further intensify its efforts to meet the concerns and special needs of the developing countries in the field of information and communications technology. The digital divide remained vast, with huge segments of populations in developing countries deprived of the benefits of the information technology revolution. Traditional means of communication, including radio and print, retained tremendous relevance for disseminating the United Nations message in developing countries.
Emphasizing the critical need for DPI to boost its interaction with developing countries, Rwanda’s representative recalled that a recent General Assembly resolution had requested the Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme entitled, “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations”, as well as measures to mobilize civil society for Rwanda genocide victims, remembrance and education, to help prevent future acts of genocide. The responsibility for establishing the outreach programme had been assigned to DPI.
But it had subsequently come to the attention of Rwanda’s Permanent Mission that DPI was organizing events to commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the genocide and had, in accordance with the resolution, appointed a focal point for those activities. Unfortunately, DPI had consulted neither Rwanda nor the resolution’s other sponsors, to seek advice on the best means to achieve the objectives of the text. Preventing other acts of genocide, not only in Rwanda but also elsewhere, depended on collective action, consultation and cooperation, he said. The DPI had an important role to that end, but should, in the future, seek the views of concerned Member States in order for such undertakings to succeed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Cuba, Syria, China, Egypt, Sao Tome and Principe (on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries), Iceland, Algeria, Argentina, and the Russian Federation.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
The Committee on Information met this morning to continue its twenty-eighth session. [For further information on the session, including detailed summaries of the reports before the Committee, see Press Release PI/1708 of 21 April.]
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL ( Cuba) said that unfortunately, the gap between developed and developing countries in communication and information matters was widening, in spite of broad efforts to ensure that scientific and technical advances spread to different parts of the planet. Far from being instruments to advance more equitable development, new information and communications technologies had, in fact, contributed to worsening inequalities and injustices. They had become additional obstacles hampering progress for poor countries, he said. Indeed, while the developed world was experiencing an Internet boom, such advances had been difficult in countries of the South, which were still struggling to cope with poverty, illness, hunger and conflict.
He went on to give a few examples of the ways in which, he said, the “existing unjust international economic order and neo-liberal character” of globalization had helped just a few privileged countries to benefit from recent extraordinary leaps and science and technology. Only 15 per cent of the earth’s 6.5 billion inhabitants had access to the Internet; 51 per cent of those users were in the United States, Canada and Europe, with 2.5 per cent in Africa. Further, more than half the planet still did not have access to a telephone, which had been invented over a century ago, and 40 per cent of the world’s telephone lines were in developed countries, where just 15 per cent of the world’s population lived.
That representative imbalance also affected the dissemination of information, as evidenced by the information broadcast from the developing world that distorted, falsified, twisted or ignored news and events that occurred in developing countries. “This is why we need a new world information order”, he said, calling for practical, lasting and sustainable solutions, as well as stable and predictable funding to facilitate developing countries’ participation in the information society. At the same time, everyone should be aware of the role the United Nations could play in this regard, particularly the increasingly more critical part that United Nations information centres (UNICs) should play in disseminating the fair and balanced information the world needed.
Once more, he said his delegation felt compelled to denounce the “radio and television aggression” Cuba faced daily form the United States. Illegal radio and TV broadcasts sought, through false statements, distorted news and misleading propaganda to promote the Cuban people’s questioning of the Revolution, contempt for constitutional order in the country, and illegal emigration. In short, the broadcasts -- hours of weekly radio and television transmissions on some 24 medium and shortwave frequencies -- were fomenting an “artificial crisis” that would be used for eventual military aggression against Cuba. The programming was far from balanced and, of the 18 stations broadcasting the subversive programming, 12 had set their sights on Cuba, and three were owned by the United States.
On top of that, several other stations belonged to or provided services to organizations linked to well-known terrorists acting against Cuba from United States territory, with full consent of the United States Government. Indeed, that Government was set to spend more than $37 million to broadcast Radio and TV Marti in 2006 alone, he said. Such broadcasts were flagrant violations of the regulations established by the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). They also violated international law and interfered with Cuba’s sovereignty.
Over Cuba’s repeated objections, the United States’ “radio-electronic” warfare against Cuba continued apace, and in recent years even included Children, with 130 military aircraft serving as aerial platforms to boost Tele Marti’s signals, he stated. Still, thanks to the skill and ability of Cuban specialists and technicians, who had jammed the TV broadcasts and a great many of the radio transmissions, those efforts had failed. Cuba reaffirmed its condemnation of such aggression nonetheless, and rejected the intentions of the United States Government to maintain and even boost its illegal transmissions towards its territory.
HAYDAR ALI AHMAD ( Syria) said his country accorded considerable attention to new world information systems that were effective, fair, and designed to foster international peace and understanding. Such systems should be based on the free circulation of information in a way that reflected the United Nations’ principles. The Department of Public Information (DPI) was the voice of the Organization, publicizing its goals and activities. Focusing on United Nations resolutions, particularly those of the General Assembly and its Committees, was the Department’s main task, particularly in the field of combating foreign occupation, poverty, disease by mobilizing international society to fight those scourges.
He said his delegation noted the establishment by DPI of new partnerships with civil society, educational institutions and the private and public sector. Although he supported the Department’s efforts, he called on it to be more cautious while establishing those partnerships, as such partnerships could be used by extraneous information circles, the impartiality of which he did not trust to portray the United Nations message to the world. Other significant matters should be discussed by the Department, such as the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel’s continued occupation of the Syrian Golan, which had not been mentioned in the report before the Committee.
He welcomed efforts to organize the annual training session for Palestinian media practitioners. Given the tragic situation the Palestinian people faced, he urged DPI to continue such activities and implement the special programme on Palestine and give that programme more resources. He also welcomed the Department’s efforts to study the different manifestations of intolerance. In that regard, he encouraged DPI to continue its efforts to promote respect for all religions and civilizations and the importance of not attacking religious symbols, given the recent cartoons attacking the Prophet Mohammed.
He expressed concern regarding the lack of parity between the six official languages and called on the Department to tackle the situation by finding solutions to provide the United Nations website with inputs in the six official languages. He supported the technological yardsticks to develop information programmes on the website. The Arab page on the website still needed further material and human support, despite the efforts made by those in charge. He emphasized the need to make greater efforts to achieve full parity on the website and the equal distribution of human resources, taking into consideration the fact that Arabic was written in non-Latin letters.
He recalled General Assembly resolution 59/277, which called on the Secretary-General to enhance the United Nations website in 2006-2007. He regretted that the P-3 Arabic language post had been loaned out, and called on the Department to correct that situation. He also expressed concern regarding paragraph 48 of document A/AC.198/2006/4, which noted the intention to stop issuing the United Nations Chronicle in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish, and called on the Department to continue issuing the publication in those languages.
YOON YEOCHEOL ( Republic of Korea) said his delegation attached great importance to DPI’s work and noted with satisfaction that, over the past four years, the Department had improved its work by focusing on new strategic goals. By striving for greater effectiveness through targeted delivery of its communications services, by increasing its use of new information and communication technologies, and by expanding its civil society partnership base, DPI had significantly enhanced its efficiency. He was particularly heartened that DPI continued to support the Millennium Development Goals and to strengthen its interaction with civil society, particularly enhancing partnership with academic institutions.
He went on to express support for the Department’s efforts to rationalize the UNIC network, which would help focus their work on priority thematic issues and particular regional concerns. But such an exercise should not be seen as an end in itself, but should rather be a means to achieve the objective of making information about the United Nations and its mission more accessible to a greater number of clients without expending additional resources. The priorities of the rationalization process should be guided by the demand for the services provided by UNICs and the availability of alternate means of access to United Nations information.
Further, in developed countries where the Internet was widely used or where one of the six official United Nations languages was spoken, the world body’s website would soon obviate the need for UNICs, he said, expressing the hope that the rationalization process would be conducted in a manner that would strengthen the Organization’s information outreach to those Member States currently outside the scope of DPI’s information capacity, or which did not have wide access to the Internet.
Specifically on the United Nations website, he said that while his delegation recognized DPI’s efforts towards ensuring parity among the official languages on the site, it also understood that all the proposed improvements could not be undertaken simultaneously. Therefore, DPI could make more efficient use of its limited resources by giving greater priority to enhancing the website in the major languages that received the most traffic. On United Nations libraries, his delegation supported the new motto “From collections to connects”, as well as the proposals to change the name of Dag Hammarskjöld Library to the “Dag Hammarskjöld Library and Knowledge-Sharing Centre”.
Finally, he drew the Committee’s attention to the public perception and expectations of the United Nations revealed by some recent public opinion polls conducted by DPI. Although the Organization’s image had been badly bruised by recent scandals, the majority of the wider public wanted a stronger United Nations and believed the world body was central to resolving global conflicts. “This is where we stand”, he said, stressing that it was vitally important that DPI continue to help the public understand the reality of the United Nations and its hopes for the future.
SONG CHANGQING ( China) expressed appreciation for the work carried out by DPI in the past year and thanked the Under-Secretary-General for his detailed presentation. His delegation accorded great importance to the Committee, as it was an important organ of the United Nations, formulating United Nations information policy and providing guidance to the Department’s activities. It should play an even greater role in the field of public information. Regarding the review of mandates under way, both formal and informal proposals had been made regarding public information. China favoured the improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations and believed that all parties should carefully study the proposal to consolidate reports submitted by the Secretary-General. He also called for caution, however, regarding the proposal to biennialize public information.
Noting that the 2005 World Summit and its Outcome Document had injected new life into the United Nations, he said the Organization was at a critical juncture. The Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council had been recently established. Member States were working hard to implement the Outcome Document, and various reform processes were being actively pursued. The implementation of the Outcome Document was, however, an arduous task, as differences remained between the various parties. In that regard, he stressed the need to strengthen the voice of the United Nations and to send a positive message to the international community that the United Nations was determined to reform. He expected DPI to work effectively in that regard.
Since the Committee’s last session, the Department had cooperated closely with the relevant substantive departments to continue various thematic public information campaigns on such issues as the Millennium Development Goals, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), human rights and HIV/AIDS. The DPI continued to carry out educational and outreach activities for the public and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He appreciated that work and hoped that DPI would mobilize more NGOs from the developing countries to participate. While paying attention to the use of traditional media, DPI had been able to adopt new means of communications and technology, such as webcasting, and he encouraged the use of the six official languages on the website in furthering linguistic parity. He was pleased that the relation between United Nations Radio and United Nations Television and their Chinese partners was becoming more substantive. China would continue to support the United Nations public information activities and would work relentlessly to safeguard the credibility of the Organization.
ISMAIL KHAIRAT ( Egypt) expressed appreciation for the Department’s tireless efforts highlighting the role and works of the United Nations and conveying its message to the world. The work of DPI was especially critical in today’s challenging environment, where the role of the United Nations had expanded to address issues such as famine, desertification, grinding poverty, and spreading pandemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria and, more recently, avian flu. In addition to the works entrusted to it, the United Nations now also had a significant role to play regarding education and spreading the culture of peace and tolerance and boosting the concept of dialogue among civilizations. In all that, the work of the Committee and the Department was significantly important.
Turning to the reports before the Committee, he commended the ongoing efforts to rationalize the UNIC network, and highlighted those centres’ regional responsibilities as critical to expanding the United Nations message in a more efficient and effective manner. He stressed that it was important to allocate fixed and additional resources for the programme budget to boost the capabilities of UNICs to carry out their duties and effectively portray the United Nations to the average citizen, students and researchers all over the world, particularly in developing countries. On other matters, he expressed appreciation for DPI’s efforts to implement the Committee’s recommendations over the past three years on ensuring a culture of evaluation regarding the impact of DPI’s programmes and activities.
He went on to praise the diversity of DPI’s activities, including those with developmental, cultural and social impacts, and called on the Department to continue raising awareness to programmes and activities related to NEPAD initiative, which was a real symbol of Africa’s ownership in the future of the continent, as well as of the international commitment to help ensure the hopes of the African people. To that end, he called for further efforts to boost NEPAD’s international profile, to ensure that the success that had been achieved within that development framework, as well as the challenges facing the overall effort, were more widely known. Finally, he stressed that his delegation noticed an apparent shortage in terms of posting information on the United Nations website in a timely manner in the six official languages, and called for more efforts to ensure multilingual parity.
AJAI MALHOTRA ( India) said the United Nations had recently been achieving a concentrated dose of media attention as the result of the 2005 World Summit and its follow-up. Despite its image being affected by scandal-driven media coverage, the United Nations remained a pivotal global institution. It stood at the threshold of a new era, with a variety of opportunities and threats on its horizon. The DPI had a pivotal role to play as it was the conduit for the free flow of information between the United Nations and the peoples of the world. He welcomed DPI’s new strategic approach that combined realignment of resources and achieving greater effectiveness in its communications work through targeted delivery, enhanced use of information and communication technology, and the building of new partnerships with civil society organizations. The DPI would, by necessity, have to meet its goals with limited resources while functioning in an often unhelpful environment.
Looking ahead, he stressed the need for DPI to further intensify its efforts to meet the concerns and special needs of the developing countries in the field of information and communications technology. The digital divide remained vast, with huge segments of populations in developing countries deprived of the benefits of the information technology revolution. Traditional means of communication, including radio and print, retained tremendous relevance for disseminating the United Nations message in developing countries. In that context, he welcomed the recent initiatives by the United Nations Radio through integration of new technologies, which had broadened the scope of its broadcasts and expanded its outreach. The DPI must continually expand its partnerships with local and national broadcasts, especially in the developing world.
Core economic development and social issues remained the overriding priorities of developing countries, he said. He welcomed DPI’s focus on priority issues such as HIV/AIDS, human rights, NEPAD, the Millennium Development Goals and Palestine. He also favoured a strong relationship between DPI and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He welcomed the two major guidance projects for the public information components of peacekeeping missions and encouraged DPI and the Peacekeeping Department to implement a comprehensive communication strategy that highlighted success stories of peacekeeping.
The United Nations information centres were crucial in enhancing the United Nations public image and in disseminating its message, especially in the developing countries, he said. If the Department was the United Nations bullhorn, then it was the UNIC mechanism that gave its voice a local resonance. Adequate budgetary resources must be reassigned to secure the effective functioning of UNICs in developing countries. Noting that the rationalization of the networks of the information centres would continue, he encouraged DPI to consult closely with host countries, other countries served by the centres, as well as the region, in its efforts at further innovation. Developments of websites in local languages must also remain a primary DPI concern as it seeks to provide up-to-date information in the field.
He commended DPI on its redesign of the United Nations website and welcomed the new press release webpage and daily Media Alert. The website’s continued development was essential for user satisfaction. He supported DPI’s plans to modernize the website architecture so as to provide even faster access to features that users actually sought out. It was good that the past three years had witnessed a sharp rise in subscribers to the United Nations News Centre’s e-mail service and in readership of the print and online editions of the United Nations Chronicle. The possibility of subscribing to the United Nations News Centre’s e-mail service from the United Nations home page might be worth considering.
Outreach services of DPI, in particular its educational outreach, contributed to promoting awareness of the role and the United Nations work on priority issues, he said. He welcomed the Global Teaching and Learning project and accompanying CyperSchoolBus website, by which DPI had promoted innovative approaches to learning about the United Nations. He also favoured efforts to strengthen DPI’s focal point role for interaction with civil society and commended its efforts to improve the quality of information available to NGOs. The DPI would have to constantly appraise and adjust its activities in a timely manner to fast changing international challenges. Accordingly, a systematic “culture of evaluation” must guide its work. Training of staff to review the impact of their work was a natural follow-up to this emphasis on evaluation.
The Department’s challenge, he said, was not simply to make the United Nations voice heard loudly and clearly, but to simultaneously deliver a message that was easily understood, appreciated and assimilated. In doing so, it would need to constantly improvise, modernize and reinvent, seeking to tell the United Nations story in an effective and efficient manner.
DOMINGOS A. FERREIRA (Sao Tome and Principe), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), said that as DPI continued to ensure that the United Nations “story” was spread around the world, his Community contributed directly to disseminating information about the Organization’s work and values, through, for example, public Portuguese television, which had been broadcasting a series of programmes on United Nations activities in peacekeeping, human rights, disarmament and HIV/AIDS worldwide. Those and other televised reports were fundamental to publicizing the Organization’s work, from Timor-Leste to Africa, and particularly in Portuguese–speaking countries where the United Nations Portuguese voice was absent.
On DPI’s recent work, he said his delegation recognized the process of continued rationalization of the UNIC network, and also welcomed the strategic approach DPI had chosen, including the decision to boost investment in new information and communication technologies, expanding civil society partnerships, and bolstering the United Nations presence in key locations in order to enhance regional coordination capacities. At the same time, he stressed that the information centres gave the United Nations global voice a “local accent” and urged the Committee to give attention to the offer made by the Angolan Government to host a UNIC in Luanda.
And while the Secretary-general’s report noted that there were no resources currently available to cover the opening of a new office, and while the efforts of the Portugal desk in the Brussels United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) to disseminate information to Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa were certainly commendable, he reiterated that the Portuguese speakers on the continent, spread over five countries, remained largely beyond DPI’s coverage through its Africa UNICs. He stressed that Angola had also offered rent-free premises to house the centre, but added that the overall costs of setting up and running such an office would pale in comparison to the benefits that the African Portuguese-speaking community would obtain. He concluded his statement with praise for the UNIC in Rio de Janeiro, as well as for the significant work performed by the Portuguese Language Unit of the United Nations Radio, which distributed programming to some 1,000 radio stations and reached an audience of over 36 million listeners.
ELMER G. CATO ( Philippines) said his delegation had in the past two sessions expressed serious concern over the damage inflicted on the United Nations image by such controversies as the “oil-for-food” programme and the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving peacekeepers. It was heartening, therefore, to learn that this year would be a slightly different story due largely to DPI’s efforts to provide the world with a better understanding of the Organization. His delegation was pleased to note that DPI had made significant progress in dealing with the image problem that had hounded the Organization for the past two years. Through its proactive efforts, the Department had succeeded in inviting media attention towards more positive developments such as the 2005 World Summit. He was also pleased to hear about successful efforts to raise awareness of key issues affecting the United Nations.
He said his delegation was convinced that DPI would be in a much better position to further project a positive image of the United Nations as a result of the culture of evaluation it had inculcated within the Department. He welcomed DPI’s efforts to improve its quick response mechanism as part of the lessons learned from the oil-for-food controversy. As a result, the United Nations could more quickly identify and respond to negative criticism. He was encouraged by continuing efforts to work with media by providing the necessary services and, at the same time, entering into linkages with various news organizations worldwide.
He supported DPI’s efforts to involve children and youth in the Organization’s concerns in collaboration with educational institutions worldwide, he said. Towards that end, the Philippines encouraged DPI to consider discussing with Member States the possibility of including a subject on the United Nations as part of the school curriculum. The Philippines wanted to see the Department further improve its coordination with other substantive offices and United Nations agencies, particularly the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. He was pleased that steps had been taken to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in the United Nations mission area. He was also encouraged by the positive media coverage of peacekeeping missions resulting from a more proactive approach with the media in host countries. The DPI should play an active role in moulding public perception as the United Nations started to give shape to its peacebuilding capacity.
Calling for more efforts to bridge the digital divide, he commended DPI for its impressive work in using the Internet to reach out to a much larger audience. He also supported its efforts to further improve the United Nations website in all official languages and urged it to address Member States’ concerns over the disparity in the treatment of official languages. His delegation supported the allocation of additional resources for UNICs, especially those in least developed countries. He urged DPI to tap media at all levels of society, especially in least developed countries, to tell the United Nations story more convincingly. Traditional media should also be employed where it was most effective.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said he attached much importance to the work of the Department, which had shown an excellent ability to cater to the varied needs of its clients. The DPI had succeeded in responding to a changing environment and rapid technological innovations, while maintaining the basic, traditional means of reaching audiences far and wide, young and old, at all levels of development. He welcomed the identification of three strategic goals set by the Department, namely to enhance the communications work by pursuing well defined and targeted delivery of information, build partnerships with civil society, and exploit ongoing advances in information and communication technology.
He expressed support for the continued rationalization of UNICs around regional hubs and the creation of a network that more effectively addressed the needs of client audiences. Like many European countries, Iceland supported the work of UNICs, in particular the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe in Brussels, and stressed the importance of providing those offices with sufficient resources to enhance their programme activities.
On the modernization and integrated management of United Nations libraries, he said he was impressed with the scope of changes being undertaken, which would affect all aspects of the work of United Nations libraries. He also welcomed the Department’s continued efforts to improve the United Nations website which was an important source of information and was growing in popularity as illustrated by the increasing number of users. Full access to the Official Document System on the web would be another important step towards an open and transparent process of governing the United Nations. Advances in information technology were among the strongest driving forces behind increased productivity and wealth creation in many parts of the world. It was important, therefore, that information technological advances were made available throughout the world.
Credibility and worldwide understanding were fundamental to support for the United Nations, he said. Effective and targeted communication was a key tool for the United Nations in promoting global awareness and greater understanding of the Organization’s work.
MAHIEDDINE DJEFAL ( Algeria) said much remained to be done to ensure that the information gap that existed between developed and developing countries was erased. With that in mind, DPI, in its work, must not lose sight of the fact that many countries did not have the resources or the capabilities to take advantage of the current information technology boom that was sweeping the developed world.
Algeria would urge the Department to ensure that the rationalization of its work, as well as the activities and structuring of UNICs, took into account traditional forms of information and communication. Such a strategy would ensure that developing countries had the widest possible access to information about the work of the United Nations.
Turning to efforts to ensure parity among the six official languages of the United Nations on the world body’s websites, he said that as such initiatives continued it would perhaps be interesting to conduct a study of the profiles of the visitors to the various web pages as a way to not only get a more accurate snapshot of the users, but to get a better idea of what remained to be done to enhance language parity and meet the needs of the websites’ expanding audience.
He went on to applaud the work of the United Nations radio and broadcast media and welcomed DPI’s efforts to widen the scope of listeners and viewers, as well as to improve civic outreach, particularly in developing countries. To that end, he also expressed his delegation’s appreciation for the Department’s effort to bolster global support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), as well its efforts to organize an annual training session for Palestinian media practitioners. Finally, he said that Algeria was convinced of the benefits of the ongoing transformation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, and would stress that such positive changes should be accompanied by enhanced staff training.
MARCELO SUAREZ SALVIA ( Argentina) said he wished to express support for the role played by UNIC in his country. The Information Centre in Buenos Aires City, established in 1948, was the Department’s Spanish voice on the scene, mobilizing the backing of the people locally and regionally. The Centre also covered Uruguay. Located in the heart of Buenos Aires City, on premises of premium tourist interest, the local government made the space available free of charge. Its function consisted of promoting the Organization. Much work had been done last year surrounding the World Summit and its follow-up. The Centre had also developed its own website. With the economic crisis behind Argentina, the Government was exerting enormous efforts to make voluntary contributions to the Centre. The Foreign Affairs Ministry had managed to restore its backing to the Centre in 2004, and it had taken steps to make additional contributions to compensate for the funds it had not been able to make between 2001 and 2003.
He noted that Argentina supported and fostered a multilingual approach to the Department’s work. Although the United Nations Spanish language website had expanded in recent years, the quantity of documentation in Spanish fell short of what was provided on the English website. While he appreciated the enormous effort being made for the Spanish website, he felt it necessary to drive home the terms of the resolution calling for offices to provide identical translated input for the website. He also commended the work done by United Nations Spanish language radio and noted the major successes it had scored.
BORIS N. MALAKHOV ( Russian Federation) said that the past year had clearly demonstrated the demand for a systematic and long-term information policy covering the United Nations activities. So at this stage, providing clear and comprehensive information on the Organization’s work was DPI’s main task. Success in that regard would require DPI’s interaction and cooperation with all the institutions of the United Nations. The process of the Department’s reform as a whole was headed in the right direction, with visible results thus far being implemented.
Russia supported DPI’s willingness to focus on disseminating information crucial to the work of the United Nations, such as the maintenance of international peace, assistance in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, system-wide reform, and the prevention of conflict, among others. He said that, in its statement last year, Russia had emphasized the critical importance of cooperation between authorities and the media in countering terrorism and the responsibility of the media in covering terrorist acts. Last October, the Security Council had adopted a resolution on “propaganda and incitement of terrorism”, and it was necessary now to closely watch Member States’ implementation of that important decision.
He went on to say that while Russia was satisfied with the Department’s efforts to support and implement multilingualism throughout its activities, the delegation believed that it was still necessary to further boost the potential of non-English websites throughout the United Nations and its affiliated funds and programmes. Such a step would not require increasing the number of translators, since most materials already existed in the world body’s six official languages. On the effective work of the international radio broadcast service, Russia had been encouraged to see that in recent months, United Nations Radio had launched a number of special initiatives, including the project “60 Years in 60 Minutes”, by the Russia section.
At the same time, he stressed that the amount of information produced by DPI sometimes negatively affected the quality of its presentation. Obviously, more attention should be paid to both the language and style of the presentation of materials for the media. For instance, the DPI press releases often reflected the language of United Nations official documents, “written with dry, official language”, whereas materials submitted to the media should clarify the points of the official documents, rather than duplicate them.
Turning to the rationalization of UNICs, he said he was convinced that the overall process should take into consideration the opinions of interested countries and regional groups, as well as the availability of financial resources. It would be wrong to see the centres as merely intermediaries between United Nations news services and the local media. In that regard, UNICs should be staffed and funded accordingly. They should also serve as a link between the United Nations and civil society actors in their host countries.
PASCAL NYAMULINDA ( Rwanda) commended the work done by DPI this month regarding the implementation of resolution A/RES/60/225 on assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence. He drew attention, however, to the need to improve communication and consultation with permanent missions. In the resolution, adopted in December 2005, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme entitled, “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations”, as well as measures to mobilize civil society for Rwanda genocide victims, remembrance and education, to help prevent future acts of genocide. The Assembly further requested the Secretary-General to report back to it on the establishment of the programme within six months of the date of the resolution’s adoption.
The responsibility for establishing the outreach programme had been assigned to DPI, he continued. It had come to the attention of Rwanda’s Permanent Mission that DPI was organizing events to commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the genocide and had, in accordance with the resolution, appointed a focal point for those activities. It was unfortunate that DPI had not consulted the country concerned, Rwanda, or the resolution’s other sponsors to discuss its implementation and seek advice on the best means to achieve the objectives of the text. The only meeting that had taken place so far had been at the request of the Rwanda Mission. While DPI had organized several events to commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the genocide, it had not involved Rwanda or the other sponsors at any stage in the planning of the events.
Expressing concern about the lack of consultation and poor communication between DPI and the permanent missions, he said Rwanda, as the country concerned, should have been consulted as a matter of course. Given that the resolution called for victim remembrance and education, the views, expectations and opinions of Rwandan genocide survivors must also be sought. The Mission had made specific proposals to DPI in that regard, by working through a single focal point “Ibuka”, which was the umbrella association of survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The prevention of other acts of genocide, not only in Rwanda but also elsewhere, depended on collective action, consultation and cooperation among nations. The DPI had an important role to that end, but should, in the future, seek the views of concerned Member States in order for such undertakings to succeed.
* *** *