FOLLOWING INTENSE DEBATE, FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES AMENDED OMNIBUS TEXT ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

20 October 2008
GA/SPD/406

FOLLOWING INTENSE DEBATE, FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES AMENDED OMNIBUS TEXT ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

20 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/406
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th (resumed) & 12th Meetings (PM)

FOLLOWING INTENSE DEBATE, FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES AMENDED

OMNIBUS TEXT ON NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES

 

General Debate Opens on Information; Speakers Press United Nations to Develop

Civil Society Partnerships; Strengthen Political Influence, Narrow Digital Divide

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) would have the General Assembly reaffirm the inalienable right of the peoples of 11 of the 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories to self-determination by an “omnibus” draft resolution it approved today.

During the afternoon meeting, the Committee also kicked off its general debate on questions relating to information, although it postponed until tomorrow the scheduled address and interactive discussion with the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyotaka Akasaka.

The omnibus text -- on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands and included as the sixth draft resolution in the report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23) -- achieved consensus only after an amendment to its second operative paragraph was adopted by a recorded vote of 61 in favour to 40 against, with 47 abstentions.  (For details of the vote, see the Annex.)

The amendment, which struck the qualifying phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” from that operative paragraph, had been tabled by the United Kingdom, which argued today, as it had last week, that, not only was the new language inapplicable to the 11 Territories targeted in the resolution, but that it introduced conditions that could have unexplored ramifications.

As action was taken, delegations were clearly split between those that supported the text, which had been approved by consensus in the Special Committee in June, and those that did not.  Differences centred over the new wording, which, as Bolivia’s speaker said, acknowledged that there were two guiding principles in the decolonization process -- that of self-determination and of territorial integrity -- and those that believed the phrasing was unnecessary, as the representative of the United States said, and only served to divide the Committee.

By the terms of the amended resolution, the Assembly would further reaffirm that, in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right.  It would also address the questions of the 11 individual Territories, elaborating recommendations tailored to their specific circumstances.

During the general debate on questions relating to information, which followed the introduction of the report of the Committee on Information by that body’s Rapporteur, several speakers highlighted improvements in the two-part resolution adopted by the Committee.  Many also highlighted the work being done by the 63 United Nations Information Centres despite their limited resources.

The European Union had spared no effort to improve the efficiency of the Public Information Department, especially with regard to the network of United Nations Information Centres, and the Brussels regional centre could serve as a model for others, France’s speaker asserted.  Still, the United Nations must strengthen its political influence, develop partnerships with civil society, and be more actively involved in the international exchange of ideas.

Several speakers worried that the growing digital divide between developed and developing countries could limit opportunities for economic growth and foster inaccurate perceptions of world events.  Speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand’s representative said that misunderstandings and the misuse of information technology in the name of “freedom of expression” could breed resentment and hostility, which, in turn, could limit respect for the beliefs and rights of others.

Malaysia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that “lopsided” information placed mankind at a disadvantage, and those imbalances needed urgent redress.  He called for respect for the codes of conduct and professional ethics in the various information fields, and underlined the supportive role information and communications technology should play.

Several speakers called attention to continuing disparities within the Organization’s language services.  Much remained to be done in spreading the message of the United Nations to the world in at least the six official languages of the Organization, they said.  The representative of the United Arab Emirates stressed that improvement was needed in providing Arabic language services to bring them up to the same standard as the other five official languages.

The representatives of Chile, Saint Lucia, Algeria, United States, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Uganda, Egypt and Pakistan made general statements during action on the omnibus text and its amendment.

Speaking in explanation of vote on those drafts were representatives of Australia, Ecuador, Singapore, Venezuela, Jordan, Indonesia, Philippines, Guyana, Belize, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Guinea-Bissau, United Kingdom, Argentina, Spain and Algeria.

Brazil’s representative requested that its vote on the amendment be recorded.

Morocco’s representative spoke in exercise of his right of reply.

Also speaking during the general debate on information, were the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group) and Algeria.

The Fourth Committee will continue its general debate on questions relating to information and hear from the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Tuesday, 21 October, at 3 p.m.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take action on the draft resolution on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23, p. 64).  (For a summary of the text, see Press Release GA/SPD/400 of 10 October).

It was also expected to act on an amendment to part A of operative paragraph 2 of that text (document A/C.4/63/L.6).  (For a summary of the amendment, see Press Release GA/SPD/405 of 17 October).

Action was also scheduled on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.5).  (For further details on the draft text, see Press Release GA/SPD/403 of 15 October).

The Committee was also expected to begin its consideration of questions relating to information, for which it had two reports before it:  the report of the Secretary-General on that topic (document A/63/258) and a report on the thirtieth session of the Committee on Information (28 April to 9 May 2008) (document A/62/21 (Supp.)).  (For summaries of those reports, see Press Release GA/SPD/405 of 17 October).

Action on Draft Texts

The Committee Chairman, JORGE ARGÜELLO of Argentina, said that an agreement had been reached on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara, and that the draft text would be issued tomorrow as document A/C.4/63/L.7.

The Committee then took up the omnibus draft resolution VI on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in the report of the Special Committee on Decolonization (document A/63/23, p. 64), along with the amendment to part A of operative paragraph 2 of that text (document A/C.4/63/L.6).

Making a general statement, the representative of Chile said his delegation joined the statement made last week on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).  It also supported the statement made by the Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Marty N. Natalegawa of Indonesia.  Although Chile was not a member of the Special Committee, it supported the draft as it emerged from the Special Committee.  The current language was an elucidation on what had already been tacitly agreed by that body.

The representative of Saint Lucia, saying there had been an opportunity to reflect on the draft resolution’s language, urged his colleagues to move the focus of the current discussion from the administering Power to the resolution’s objective, namely, aiding the people of the territories addressed in the draft.

He said he worried that the Fourth Committee was not helping those people and might even be giving the administering Power “a way out” by debating the language in question.  The additional words would add nothing to the principle of self-determination.  Nor would they help the countries or the people that were targeted in the resolution.  Indeed, it would be a disservice if, by adding this language, the decolonization process was allowed to stall.

He said that if the Committee had been more vigilant in reviewing what had come out of the Special Committee, debates such as the present one would not be necessary.  He urged his colleagues to show such vigilance in the future.  He also urged them to stay on track with the whole question of providing the people of the territories an opportunity to advance the self-determination process.

The representative of Algeria said he supported the work being done by the Special Committee, as it bore testimony to the implementation of resolution 1514. He also said he supported the Committee for the quality of the work it carried out, while still within the established rules.  The Subcommittee had been subjected to criticism in the past by those who were disturbed by the concept of decolonization, and Algeria had most vigorously responded to attempts to be rid of the Committee’s mandate.

His only concern was to safeguard this process of decolonization for all Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The right to self-determination was a founding principle of the United Nations and a pillar of its actions, he said, stressing, therefore, that no ambiguity regarding this issue be raised.   Algeria believed that the wording of operative paragraph 2 (document A/C.4/63/L.6) had sparked a debate that had not been exhausted, and he hoped for more in-depth consideration of “this new wording”.

He expressed particular concern with the ramifications of the adoption of the new paragraph, and that the wording, as proposed, clearly introduced restriction to the right of self-determination that would most likely be used against the people of Western Sahara.  The General Assembly could “only be concerned about this”, he said.

He went on to say that the Fourth Committee had heard from one delegation, on Friday, questioning the decolonization agenda in Western Sahara, saying it was being taken up “illegally”.  The wording contained in operative paragraph 2 would impede upcoming negotiations on the future of that territory.  He appealed to the Committee to take no action hastily, so that the Member States could work on a wording that took into account the interests of all the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He said he fully supported the statement made by Saint Lucia and reiterated solidarity with those territories covered by the resolution.

The representative of the United States, emphasizing that his delegation had listened carefully to the debate, said it believed the proposed language was unnecessary and only served to divide the Committee, which had a long history of consensus on this draft.  He therefore urged the Committee to revert to the consensus language of previous years.

The representative of South Africa said that, although his country was not a member of the Special Committee, he had admired its work from a distance, as well as the way in which it had dealt with “very, very sensitive issues” with great care.  However, his delegation could not accept the language contained in operative paragraph 2 (document A/C.4/63/L.6), as it would put up another barrier for people seeking self-determination to cross, making it even more difficult for those Non Self-Governing Territories.

The right to self-determination was enshrined in the Charter without qualification and was a fundamental principle of international law.  It would, therefore, now set an unfortunate precedent, were it to be qualified in the Committee.  He said that his delegation could not be seen to have any sympathy for the colonizing Powers.

Now that the international community had “crossed the River Jordan”, in terms of considering colonialism to be unacceptable, it could not now turn its back on the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories by setting them with “another hurdle that they must cross”.  He said the paragraph should be taken back to the Special Committee and a “way out” found.  There is no way South Africa could support the current language, although there might have been good reasons for the sentiment to be included in the resolution, in paragraph 2, it was “totally misplaced”.

He said his delegation would be happy to support the rest of the resolution but could not be asked to join in putting another burden on people who seek self-determination which was difficult and unfair.  That was unfortunate, he said, as the resolution was otherwise very good.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the Committee of 24 had done important work over the years, and he did not want to reflect badly on what that body had accomplished.  But it was clear that the ramifications of its resolution had not been brought out in the Special Committee’s discussion.  It was also clear that the new language did not apply to the Territories that were the subject of the resolution.  It was right to return to the consensus language of previous years.  Further, it was clear that the language would have unexplored implications.  Self-determination was a fundamental principle of the United Nations, he said, adding, “We tinkered with the fundamental principle of the Organization at our peril.”

The representative of Morocco said he wanted to clarify the points made by Algeria’s delegate.  The decolonization in his country had been duly achieved with the signing of an agreement between the former Power, Spain, and the Kingdom of Morocco.   Morocco thus considered that decolonization had been achieved.  Indeed, the agreement reached on 14 November 1975 had regulated the transfer of the Territory from Spain to Morocco, resulting in the sovereignty of Morocco over the whole Territory.  He referred to the first line of the Madrid Agreement, in that regard.  In keeping with the principle of that agreement, the local Assembly had met in Layooune and expressed its full acceptance of that decolonization process.  Thus, the Madrid Agreement was an agreement concluded between sovereign States; it had been subjected to the Spanish and Moroccan authorities and was legally binding, internally.  In 1976, power had passed from the Spanish Government to Morocco.  Furthermore, Mauritania had relinquished its claims to Western Sahara.

The representative of Algeria said that this draft resolution might prompt restrictive interpretations and drew the Committee’s attention to the dangers of adopting it.  He offered members of the Committee his delegation’s reading of the draft and recalled resolution 1514 (1960), which defined free association with an independent State, integration into an independent State, or independence as the three legitimate options of full self-government, and it was addressed to the administering Powers. The delegation speaking before him [ Morocco] was not in a position to refer to Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter, as the Special Committee provided a forum for Member States to discuss the issue.

Uganda ’s representative said his delegation firmly believed in the principle of self-determination, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Any watering down of that principle would find no support from his country.  He also did not see the importance of proceeding with the proposed wording.  It was clear that there was some controversy, despite the Special Committee’s commendable work. If there was some language that had achieved consensus in the past, it should be reverted to now.  Thus, Uganda supported the proposal by the United Kingdom to do so.

Acting according to procedural rules, the Committee first turned to the draft amendment (document A/C.4/63/L.6).  A request for a recorded vote was made by Brazil.

Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Australia said his delegation concurred with the statements made earlier and today, particularly by the representative of South Africa, that the right to self-determination was one of the Organization’s fundamental precepts.  As expressed in the Charter and in covenants, that principle was not qualified by the sovereignty disputes.   Australia considered that that phrase should be removed from the omnibus text and supported the proposal by the United Kingdom to revert to consensus language.  Should it not be removed, his delegation would abstain in action on the omnibus text.

The representative of Ecuador said her country supported the statement made by MERCOSUR and the Special Committee Chairman.  It, therefore, supported the draft submitted by that body.  Recognizing the important role it played, Ecuador had applied to become a member Special Committee.

The representative of Singapore said that operative paragraph 2 was previously a balanced provision that enjoyed consensus.  Now, it was phrased in such a manner that implied conditionality.  The additional language changed the meaning of the paragraph and contravened the United Nations Charter.  For that reason, he said his delegation would vote in favour of deleting the language.

The representative of Saint Lucia said that he wondered if the people of the colonies listed in the resolution had access to television and the news, and if so, what they would think of the Committee debating their future for days and weeks without being able to reach a decision.  He did not think it was the intention of the Special Committee, or of the resolution, to jeopardize the future of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He asked his colleagues to examine their consciences and advance the decolonization process.

The representative of Venezuela, recognizing the role played by the Special Committee, said his country supported the draft as submitted.  Indeed, the text had been approved by consensus in the Special Committee.  The language in that draft would apply to all Territories considered by that body and was fully consistent with the language used in many reports that were created by the regional meetings held by the Special Committee.  His delegation thus supported the resolution as it now stood.

Bolivia’s representative said his country also supported the resolution as adopted by consensus in the Special Committee.  Operative paragraph 2 acknowledged that there were two guiding principles in the decolonization process -– the principle of self-determination and the principle of territorial integrity.  Thus, the consensus language arrived at in the Special Committee was fully in keeping with the decolonization process, as it was articulated in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, as well as the conclusions and recommendations of the regional decolonization seminars.

In a recorded vote, the Committee adopted the amendment to delete the phrase -- “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” in the second operative paragraph -- by a recorded vote of 61 in favour, to 40 against, with 47 abstentions (Annex I).

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Jordan said that no restrictions should be imposed on the right to self-determination.  His delegation had abstained because it had not received any instructions from the Special Committee on how the phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” applied to territories outside its consideration.

Jamaica’s representative said his delegation had voted for the amendment because it was concerned that the text had been a departure from previous years.  If approved as written, the resolution could be interpreted and applied to those cases where a sovereignty dispute existed, in ways that would set aside or abnegate the right to self-determination.   Jamaica fully supported the right to self-determination, which was elaborated in a number of United Nations resolutions, and could not support any conditionalities being placed on that right.  He further noted that sovereignty disputes were not relevant to any of the Territories included in the omnibus resolution.  That being said, his delegation fully supported the aim of the Special Committee to fulfil the goal of decolonization, particularly in the Caribbean region.

The representative of Indonesia regretted that the operative paragraph needed to be voted on.  He said that if there was any lesson to be learned from the previous week’s events, it would be that the Special Committee should reflect on the way it conducted its work, so that all concerns, wishes and aspirations could be reflected in its decisions.  He respected the Special Committee and its recommendations and could not but support the consensus decision that was reached by the Special Committee’s members.  The paragraph under consideration had obviously engendered much thought and consideration.  He agreed that the principle of self-determination should be without qualifications, but that the paragraph had addressed the importance of retaining territorial integrity.  He hoped that respect for the Special Committee would remain intact, and that its members and others would respect its consensus decisions.

The representative of Philippines firmly supported all efforts to bring about complete and speedy decolonization of all remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He also supported the concept that some involved sovereignty disputes as well.  In view of those “two sides of the coin”, the Philippines had decided to abstain.

The representative of Guyana said his delegation voted in favour of the amendment to resolution 6, because the original language proposed ran counter to principles of international law and of self-determination.  Sovereignty disputes did not arise in territories that were in the resolution, he said.  The language proposed was misplaced in the current context, and it significantly altered the consensus that had prevailed in previous sessions.  It created controversy that was better avoided, he added.

He said the right to self-determination was one of the founding principles of international law.  The exercise of that right in the decolonization process should not be conditioned or abrogated, regardless of existing disputes over sovereignty.  To add such language, as that proposed, could start an “uncertain and slippery path”.  He reaffirmed his continued support for the work of the Special Committee and hoped it would be possible to avoid the need to vote on the outcomes of the Committee’s important work.

Noting that those delegations who had voted for the amendment had been quite diverse but nevertheless unanimous in their support of self-determination, the representative of Belize said her delegation had weighed carefully the explanation given by the Special Committee for the inclusion of the phrase in question.  That explanation, however, had not been sufficient for her delegation to agree to a qualification of the right to self-determination.  Belize also agreed with the representative of Guyana that the placement of such language in a resolution addressing Territories where no sovereignty dispute existed was questionable.  She hoped that the basic right to self-determination, which was clearly at the heart of the Special Committee’s work, could be safeguarded.

Egypt’s representative said that while his delegation was convinced that no restriction should be placed on the right of peoples to self-determination, it had decided to abstain.  There was a lack of clarity on the legal consequences of the phrase in question, and his country believed that operative paragraph 2 should have no repercussions on those territories outside the Special Committee’s consideration, such as those occupied by the Israeli Powers in 1967.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said his delegation supported the work of the Special Committee, but believed that the right of self-determination of subjugated peoples should have no conditions.  For this reason, it had supported the amendment.

The representative of Guinea-Bissausaid he wished to draw upon rule 126 which says that members deciding to abstain were not considered to be voting.  He asked how it could be that delegations were explaining their abstentions, if by abstaining it meant that they were not voting.

Turning next to the omnibus draft resolution VI (A/63/23, p. 64), the Chair proposed that the Committee approve that text as just amended by consensus.

Making a general statement before action, the representative of Pakistan said his country had supported all efforts towards decolonization.  To that end, it had always worked to maintain consensus in its work in the Special Committee and in the Fourth Committee.  This year, his delegation had been unable to endorse new language in the draft resolution because it felt the principle of self-determination was enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  Pakistan was pleased that the amendment on the omnibus resolution had been approved and the consensus language restored.  As a result, his delegation supported consensus on the omnibus resolution.

The representative of Saint Lucia said he was pleased that the amendment had been approved and the Committee had returned to where it was last year.  He supported the proposal to pass the omnibus resolution by consensus.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution by consensus.

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Morocco said that his delegation agreed that the discussion did not relate to the matter of the Sahara, and that his earlier statement was prompted by “good faith” to bring clarification on a selective reading made on the principle declaration.  He said the Western Saharan dispute was a regional dispute, and should be dealt with on a regional level.  No Secretary-General report or Security Council resolution had described Morocco as an occupying power.  Therefore, there had been no war with another State nor a state of aggression, and Morocco had only acted in light of its territorial integrity under the United Nations Charter, and its decolonizing process had already been completed.

Speaking in explanation of position after action, the representative of the United Kingdom offered full support and said he was grateful to those who had supported the amendment.  He hoped the Committee would take note of the way that the United Kingdom had modernized its relationship with its overseas territories.  The resolution in question did not fully reflect that relationship and some of the language did not concur with the United Kingdom’s practice and views.  However, the United Kingdom was willing to cooperate with the Committee were it to recognize the modern nature of those relationships.

The representative of Jordan said he had wished to explain his vote, but would not need to make an explanation as the text had been adopted by consensus.

Regarding the omnibus resolution, the representative of Argentina restated his support for the decolonization process and to bringing an end to colonialism in any form.  The principle of self-determination was a fundamental human right which applied in all cases where people were subjugated to a colonial power.  He hoped those issues would be addressed in regions where sovereignty disputes did exist and wished to recall that Argentina did not share or agree with the proposed amendment.  He appealed to the delegations to more closely follow up on the work of the Special Committee in order to avoid discussions such as that which had taken place over the current resolution.

The representative of Spain said his delegation had joined consensus on the omnibus draft because it supported the right of self-determination.  Yet, that principle was not the only applicable one in cases where the decolonization process was under way.  Indeed, the principle of territorial integrity was also relevant, and that fact had been taken into account by the Special Committee in the original draft text.  His delegation regretted that there was no acknowledgment in the present draft of the range of situations that existed in the Territories.

The representative of Algeria welcomed the approval of the omnibus draft.  His country believed that self-determination was the right procedure for achieving decolonization.

Before concluding today’s action on the decolonization texts, the Chair said that the resolution on the question of Western Sahara would be acted on tomorrow.

With that, the Committee turned its attention to questions relating to information.  The Chairman recalled that the Committee on Information had been established in 1978 to review United Nations public information policies and activities and to provide policy guidance for the Department of Public Information.  The current discussion was of great value to the United Nations and its Member States in light of the increasing role of information in the decision-making of policy makers.

Introduction of Report of Committee on Information

AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI (Iran), Rapporteur of the Committee on Information, introducing the report (document A/63/21), noted that approval by the General Assembly of Antigua and Barbuda and Zambia to the Information Committee would bring that body’s total membership to 112.

He noted that the Department of Public Information had requested that the Information Committee review its Strategic Framework for 2010-2011 during this session.  Following consultations with Member States, however, it had decided to defer consideration of that document until its thirty-first session in 2009.

During the general debate held at its thirtieth session, the Information Committee had heard from 35 members and three observers.  Many speakers had emphasized the central role of the United Nations in global affairs, as well as the Information Department’s role as its public voice.  Several called for continued cooperation between that Department and the Information Committee, and highlighted the importance of achieving parity in the six official languages, saying more resources should be allocated for that purpose.  Several delegates had urged the Department to take all possible measures to strengthen the Information Centres.  Some had also urged that the success stories of United Nations peacekeeping from a national angle be highlighted.

Pointing to the reference in the report to a more detailed accounting of the progress made towards effecting the Department’s plans to have the UN Chronicle magazine evolve into a journal entitled UN Affairs, he said that a meeting with members of the Information Committee had been held on 16 September and a pilot copy of the journal had been available in mid-September.

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said activity reports with figures and comments were needed, which clearly assessed the results obtained, set out the difficulties encountered, and put a range of options on the table, in order for the Committee on Information’s mandate to be carried out.  Progress had been made in that respect and he encouraged further efforts.

He said that the European Union had set three priorities for the Committee’s thirtieth session:  to enhance the effectiveness of the Department of Public Information within a limited budgetary framework; make additional efforts towards multilingualism; and simplify the Committee on Information’s two-part resolution.  Delegations’ flexibility and spirit of compromise had helped energize the Committee.

The Union, aside from adopting the Committee on Information’s resolution, would continue to set those priorities, he said, adding that it had spared no effort to improve the efficiency of the Public Information Department, especially with regard to the network of United Nations Information Centres.  The Brussels regional centre could serve as a model for others.  Much remained to be done in spreading the message of the United Nations to the world in at least the six official languages of the Organization.  The United Nations must strengthen its political influence, develop partnerships with civil society, and be more actively involved in the international exchange of ideas.  Furthermore, transforming the UN Chronicle into the genuinely thought-provoking UN Affairs, aiming to be an authoritative voice on the issues of the United Nations agenda, would be an important tool with which to achieve those goals.

The first part of the resolution confirmed the European Union’s commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and of information, as well as those of independence, pluralism, diversity of the media, and ensuring that journalists could work freely and affectively, he said.  On the latter point, unfortunately, there had been no improvement in that situation since the Committee on Information’s thirtieth session in May.  He firmly condemned all attacks on journalists.  Although this year’s death toll of journalists was lower than in 2007, it was still much too high.  It was the international community’s collective responsibility to put a stop to those killings.

TUMASIE BLAIR (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the Information Department, as the public voice of the United Nations, played a key role in providing accurate, impartial, comprehensive and timely information to Member States and the international community on the Organization’s work.  A consistent message about the United Nations should be ensured.

He said that, while the Group of 77 and China had taken note of the pilot copy of the new journal UN Affairs, it had fundamental concerns regarding the journal’s respect for multilingualism, content and editorial policy, as well as the diversity and extent of its audience.  Any new publication emanating from or within the United Nations should encompass all six official languages.  If the journal’s publication went forward, UN Affairs should not only be initiated in all six languages, but continued on that basis.  The Department should also consider strengthening the journal’s editorial policy so that Member States had more opportunities to make comments and suggestions as they saw fit.

While noting that a greater appeal to academia was clearly needed -- and the idea for the journal had no doubt been borne of that need -- he stressed that the wide, core audience of the UN Chronicle should also be maintained.  Towards that goal, he requested the Secretariat to report as soon as possible on additional editorial policies for UN Affairs and the resumption of publication of the UN Chronicle until a final decision was made on the new journal’s publication.

WICHAYA SINTHUSEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that, while society was increasingly connected through various types of media, access was often taken for granted.  Unfortunately, not everyone lived in the digital era equally, and the stark contrast between the developed and developing countries and within the latter continued to deepen.  That situation was aggravated by the quality of information disseminated.  In that environment, the Department’s role had become more pertinent for the United Nations.

She said that priority should always be on ensuring the accuracy, credibility and availability of information on the Organization.  It should further engage a diversity of stakeholders in issues of common and shared concerns, and resolve misunderstandings and preconceived notions that polarized them.  Because information and the technology by which it was shared could open opportunities for economic growth and social development, while also posing challenges that widened disparities, it was worth remembering that the mere dissemination of information should not be an end in itself.  It should also be a means to help move people beyond facts towards better, more informed decisions and opinions.  Information infrastructures, therefore, should be developed and strengthened, particularly in developing countries.  Access to new knowledge and technology should also be ensured.  ASEAN commended the Department on that front and encouraged the United Nations and developed countries to continue narrowing the digital divide.

Fostering understanding among peoples with different ideologies remained a serious need, she said, adding that misunderstandings, as well as the misuse of information technology in the name of “freedom of expression”, could breed resentment and hostility.  That, in turn, could limit respect for the beliefs and rights of others.  Welcoming the Department’s initiatives to promote respect for diversity, including through the Alliance of Civilizations, ASEAN looked forward to further efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

Underlining radio’s role as the most accessible and affordable media for populations in many developing countries, she said traditional media should continue to be promoted in the digital era.  She noted the Department’s optimal use of different client-oriented media, as well as multilingualism.  She also encouraged stronger networking with civil society and local media by the Information Centres.  However, the work to rationalize the Centres’ work should continue.  Closer cooperation between them and their host countries was also needed.

EMMA RODRÍGUEZ (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that disseminating information was particularly important in the following areas:  activities to maintain peace; promoting human rights; achieving the Millennium Development Goals; combating crime and unlawful trafficking of weapons; terrorism; preventing HIV/AIDS; climate change; eradicating poverty and hunger; compliance with international law; and reform of the United Nations, among others.

She welcomed the cooperation of the Public Information Department with other bodies in the United Nations system, as that had led to a more accurate portrayal of activities.  Given the importance of peacekeeping operations, a close cooperation between the Public Information Department, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support was necessary for disseminating information on peacekeeping operations and endeavours.

It was a very positive sign that the 63 Information Centres were able to broadcast the message of the United Nations, despite scant resources, and she encouraged their ongoing support.  Regarding the use of new information and communications technology to convey United Nations messages, she said it was also necessary to use traditional mass media such as radio, television, and print media since those remained the prevailing media through which information was gathered in developing countries.

Stressing the importance of multilingualism, she asked the Department to continue broadcasting in various languages, including Portuguese and indigenous languages.  Persons with sight and hearing disabilities must also have access to United Nations materials in the six official languages, and should not be confined to the two working languages of the Secretariat.  It was a linguistically diverse world, and human resources should be tailored in that regard.

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the dissemination of discriminatory and distorted information about events taking place in developing countries continued unabated.  That lopsided information placed mankind at a disadvantage, and those imbalances needed urgent redress.  He, thus, called for respect for the codes of conduct and professional ethics in the various information fields and suggested that information and communications technology should play a supportive role in this regard.  Concerned with the growing digital divide, he further called on the international community to develop activities to reduce that divide.  That included universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory access to information and communications technology, as well as capacity-building.  He also called on all States to ensure that the information society was founded on respect for cultural, religious and ethnic diversity.

He said information technology should be harnessed towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality, ensuring environmentally sustainable development and developing the global partnership for development, among other goals.  It was essential to increase literacy in the developing world to enhance participation in the “information society”, which should be a people-centred and development-oriented information society.  The Movement regretted the persistent imbalances in the information field.  That negative situation had serious consequences and should be combated through international agencies such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Furthermore, Internet governance, the responsibility of all countries, should be carried out in accordance with the Geneva principle since that was a core principle of the information society agenda.

In his national capacity, he aligned himself with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN.  Malaysia was committed to narrowing the digital divide and it called on all Member States to redouble their efforts in that regard.  It also fully supported the work being done by the Non-Aligned News Network.

MOHAMED SOFIANE BERRAH (Algeria), supporting the statement by Antigua and Barbuda, said his delegation had closely studied the Department’s report and had remained abreast of its achievements in sending a credible message that reflected the Organization’s objectives.  He commended it for its work in creating new spaces for dialogue and making it possible to overcome obstacles and learn about shared endeavours to ensure peace and security throughout the world.  The work of the Department would be rendered more effective yet if it would decrease the information divide between the developed and developing world.

He said his delegation had closely studied the new publication UN Affairs and welcomed the choice of the food crisis as a first topic at a time when the world was dealing with that issue, which stood in the way of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Any shortcomings that still existed in the Department should be overcome by ensuring access by all peoples to information and by seeking multilingualism, balance and simplification to the benefit of all social classes.  In keeping with the principle of multilingualism and efforts to overcome the disparity in quality of submissions, production in Arabic should be improved and the Department should partner with translation entities throughout the world, including the Arabic translation institute, headquartered in Algeria.

Regarding the United Nations website, radio and television programmes, he said coverage of priority matters should be extended, particularly the planned reform of the United Nations and enhancing understanding by local communities of the work of the Organization, both at Headquarters and in the field.  Those outlets should seek to disseminate the culture of dialogue and mutual respect.  However, despite the advancement of communication technology, print media should be continued, as many throughout the world still depend on the printed word for information about the United Nations.

He welcomed the role of the Department in enhancing information activities, but was concerned to note the absence of any reference in the Secretary-General’s report to an awareness of the usurped rights of the Palestinian people, despite the “bitter reminder” at the sixtieth anniversary of their plight.  The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people must be recalled, he said, as well as the fact that collective punishments ran counter to both international law and the United Nations Charter.  His delegation was eager to cooperate in every way to ensure that the Department disseminated a message that sincerely reflected the collective effort to implement the objectives of the United Nations Charter.

SALEM MATAR SAIF AL SAEDI ( United Arab Emirates) said it was the international community’s responsibility to support developing countries by providing them with the necessary resources to use modern technology and to access knowledge.  An international code of ethics should be developed that would contribute to setting appropriate legal and moral standards and ensure impartiality, transparency and credibility in the transfer and use of information and in ensuring respect for human rights and religious beliefs and values.

In that regard, he expressed regret over the “persistence of inflammatory actions” against other religions, and emphasized the need to protect journalists, particularly in areas of armed conflict.  He stressed the important role of the Department in disseminating the political, economic, development and humanitarian goals and purposes of the United Nations.  In order to perform its responsibilities, the Department required the continued development of human, financial and technical resources.  That was particularly true in the provision of Arabic language services to bring them up to the same standard as the other five official United Nations languages, including for the website, legal documents, press releases, library, radio and television, and other United Nations information activities.

He also emphasized the need for transparency and impartiality in the Department and other United Nations bodies, particularly with regard to developing countries, climate change and the environment, organized crime and terrorism, as well as other preoccupying issues, such as the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.  The Department should promote its programmes, which revealed the suffering of the Palestinians under the “Israeli occupation crimes”, which were “in violation of international law” and the United Nations Charter.

The United Arab Emirates, he noted, had introduced new legislation guaranteeing objective, transparent and balanced information and freedom of expression, and had established the Abu Dhabi Free Information Zones, in addition to Dubai Media City, which hosted various satellite channels “reflecting its cultural and global diversity”.

ANNEX

Vote on Amendment to Operative Paragraph 2 of Draft VI on Remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories

The amendment (document A/C.4/63/L.6) to delete the following phrase “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” in operative paragraph 2 of draft resolution VI (document A/63/23) on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, was adopted by a recorded vote of 61 in favour to 40 against, with 47 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation, Senegal, Spain, Suriname, Syria, Tunisia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam.

Abstain:  Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Thailand, Togo.

Absent:  Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Yemen.

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