|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
13th Meeting (PM)
FOURTH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS CONSENSUS DRAFT RESOLUTION
ON WESTERN SAHARA FOR ADOPTION BY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Continuing Debate on Information, Speakers Applaud Work of Department
Of Information, Urge Greater Efforts to Advance Cultural, Interfaith Dialogue
Acting on the final decolonization-related text for its current session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon approved by consensus a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly welcome the commitment of the parties to the Western Sahara dispute “to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations”.
Following that action, the Committee continued its general debate on questions relating to information, hearing from 16 delegates during the afternoon meeting. Most commended the work of the United Nations Department of Public Information and its efforts to leverage both traditional and modern information technologies to convey the world body’s message to an increasingly large and more representative group of people.
By the terms of the draft approved on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.7), the Assembly would support the process of negotiations initiated and sustained by Security Council resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007) and 1813 (2008), “with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.
Further, the text would have the Assembly welcome the ongoing negotiations between the parties during four rounds of United Nations-mediated talks held in Manhasset, Long Island, just outside New York City, starting in the summer of 2007. It would also commend the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in this respect.
Speaking in explanation of position, Morocco’s delegate said the draft resolution was in line with legitimate expectations, particularly with regard to the developments of the past year, and would align the General Assembly with the Security Council regarding the issue’s treatment. He added that his country’s proposed approach to the conflict presented “sincere and serious means by which to solve this regional dispute”.
Algeria’s representative underlined the fact that, by reaching consensus, the Committee had once again reaffirmed that the question of Western Sahara was a question of decolonization, while also reaffirming the right of self-determination for the people of that Territory. For its part, Algeria welcomed the current negotiations and would be unstinting in its efforts to assist its fraternal neighbours to seek a just, lasting and final solution to the issue.
Echoing this support for the Manhasset negotiations, the representative of France, who spoke on behalf the European Union, stressed that a return to the situation prior to Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), which had launched those negotiations, would be a “major setback” for hopes of resolving the conflict, and would prolong an unacceptable situation for the population, especially in the refugee camps.
During the debate on information, Singapore’s representative praised the way the Department of Public Information had actively tailored its messages to meet different target audiences -- particularly by launching several projects with partners like filmmakers and screenwriters. Such initiatives allowed the United Nations to be better understood by a wider public. Other important initiatives included a documentary television series and a comic book featuring well-known Marvel superheroes, and she urged the Department to ensure that materials such as the comic book be allowed to reach other young people around the world.
Nevertheless, the representative of Colombia said this broadening audience created greater responsibilities and challenges in collecting and conveying information. Indeed, Indonesia’s representative said that, while the mass media was critical in fostering understanding and cooperation among faiths, cultures and civilizations, it either could spread a positive, unifying message or a divisive one. The United Nations Information Department played a vital role in sensitizing the media and eradicating the use of stereotypes. He, therefore, backed calls for that Department to support dialogue among civilizations and a culture of peace, as well as the Alliance of Civilizations.
Picking up that thread, the representative of Lebanon said that among the Department’s most critical efforts in supporting the role of United Nations in maintaining peace and security was its promotion of that dialogue among civilizations, which should seek to dispel “Islamophobia”.
Many speakers commended the Department’s special information programme on the question of Palestine -– particularly the training provided to young journalists from that region and the special brochure it had published.
The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, highlighting the role the media could play in promoting a dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, with a view to advancing the peace process, praised the Department’s initiatives in the field of media development. But he, like a number of other speakers, lamented that the Secretary-General’s report on information had not included, as it had in the past, a review of the Department’s work in addressing the situation of the Palestinian people.
Sudan’s representative pointed out that Palestinian question had been on the United Nations agenda for six decades, and programmes were needed to increase awareness to help ameliorate this conflict. He said the Secretariat should play a larger role in promoting understanding between the peoples and the principles of peaceful coexistence.
Also speaking during the general debate on information were the representatives of Syria, Yemen, Bangladesh, Japan, Philippines, Kuwait, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Burkina Faso and Peru.
The representatives of the United States and Cuba spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee is expected to continue its general debate and hear from the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information at 3 p.m., Wednesday, 22 October.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take action on a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.7), by which it would have the General Assembly support the process of negotiations initiated by Security Council resolution 1754 (2007) and further sustained by Council resolutions 1783 (2007) and 1813 (2008), with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. It would also commend the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy in this respect.
By further provisions of the text, the Assembly would welcome the commitment of the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations, in good faith and without preconditions, taking note of efforts and developments since 2006, thus, ensuring implementation of Council resolutions 1754 (2007), 1783 (2007) and 1813 (2008) and the success of negotiations.
It would also welcome the ongoing negotiations between the parties held on 18 and 19 June 2007, on 10 and 11 August 2007, from 7 to 9 January 2008 and from 16 to 18 March 2008, in the presence of the neighbouring countries under the auspices of the United Nations.
As it continued its general debate on questions relating to information, the Committee 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 Text
Taking up to the draft text on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.7), the Committee Chairman, JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina), made slight changes to operative paragraphs 2 and 3 in the French version of the text.
The Committee then approved the resolution without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position after action and on behalf of the European Union, the representative of France welcomed the approval of the text by consensus. Expressing the European Union’s full support for the Manhasset negotiations, he said a return to the situation prior to the adoption of the Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), which had launched those negotiations, would be a “major setback” for hopes of resolving the conflict, and would prolong an unacceptable situation for the population, especially in the refugee camps. Further, the construction a united, stable and integrated Maghreb was largely dependent on finding a solution to the Western Sahara conflict.
The representative of Algeria welcomed the draft resolution’s approval by consensus. By reaching consensus, the Committee had once again reaffirmed that the question of Western Sahara was a question of decolonization. At the same time, it had stated that the international community wished to see a successful conclusion to the issue. Further, the Committee had also reaffirmed the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. It also welcomed the resolutions that had launched the current peace negotiations, particularly the text that indicated that talks between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) and Morocco should continue without preconditions. His delegation could also welcome those negotiations.
For its part, Algeria would be unstinting in its efforts to assist its fraternal neighbours to seek a just, lasting and final solution to the issue. He extended thanks to those delegations that had agreed to co-sponsor the original draft of the resolution, and paid tribute to those that had made efforts to reconcile differences among the Committee members. He also thanked the Chairman for his work on that front.
The representative of Morocco welcomed the consensus adoption of the text, and thanked all delegations that were willing to assist the parties to the conflict in their negotiations. He said the text was in line with legitimate expectations, particularly with regard to the developments of the past year, which were the result of the international community’s endeavour to achieve a political solution. Morocco’s proposed approach presented “sincere and serious means by which to solve this regional dispute”.
He went on to say the incorporation of recent developments into the resolution, as well as the inclusion of references to Security Council resolutions 1783 (2007) and 1813 (2008) were positive steps forward. He called all parties involved to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations and to consider the accomplishments made since 2006. The adoption of the resolution placed the General Assembly in line with the Security Council regarding the treatment of the issue. He welcomed the “spirit of compromise and realism”, which had led to the adoption of the text by consensus, and said that the dispute should be overcome for the benefit, not only of the Maghreb region, but of all its international partners.
General Debate on Information
MANAR TALEB (Syria), aligning his statement with the statement made yesterday on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said his country attached great importance to the establishment of a new, more equitable public information system, which would emphasize the concerns of the world’s peoples -- particularly their diverse cultural values and their aspirations for an equitable world.
Syria had followed with great interest the Department of Public Information’s activities to disseminate information in a world replete with transboundary challenges. Those efforts highlighted the growing role of the United Nations in meeting such challenges. Particularly important in that respect was the dissemination of a dialogue of peace among civilizations, which furthered respect for others, he said.
Still, due attention should nevertheless be paid to certain issues and to the decisions of the General Assembly and its various committees. In that respect, he said the Department could intensify its work on foreign occupation, on the question of Palestine and on the prevention of interference in the internal affairs of States in ways that sought to divide them. While those efforts would be undertaken in the midst of other global challenges -- climate change and rising food insecurity, among them -- they remained important.
Indeed, emphasizing the Department’s demonstrated ability to cover those issues, he particularly underlined the attention it had already paid to the question of Palestine, including the training of journalists from the region and the issuance of the brochure on Palestine by the Department’s section on that region.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information, he stressed the expansion of United Nations Information Centres (UNICs) in developing countries, which would help build capacity and experience among young journalists from those States. He also stressed that more efforts were needed to reach parity among the official languages of the United Nations on its website, generally, and Arabic, particularly. He noted the Department’s positive response to requests in that matter, but urged the Department to make further efforts to reflect the suffering of the Palestinian people and to allocate greater financial resources to its information programme on that region. Stressing that the process of issuing a pilot copy of the UN Affairs to replace the UN Chronicle had been “shrouded in mystery”, he said his delegation would follow up during the deliberations on that issue.
In closing, he noted the Department’s role in promoting dialogue among cultures and stressed that the freedom of expression was a global right that should not be used to hurt others. He further emphasized the Department’s overall importance in raising awareness of the role of the Fourth Committee in the decolonization process, and of the Second International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism.
KHALID ALI ( Sudan ) expressed gratitude to the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report, and commended the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information for his continued efforts to develop the work of the Committee. The Sudan closely followed the work of the Department, and he said he hoped that the information system of the United Nations would be strengthened to better convey the Organization’s mission to promote peace, dignity and a mutual respect that was “far from selectivity and double standards”.
Furthermore, the digital divide must be minimized through new, creative means and methods, so that the United Nations could continue to communicate its voice and message to the people of the developing world. That should be done through traditional media, as well, and, importantly, in all official languages, he added. The Department should also expand its partnerships with more languages to extend the Organization’s reach.
He said the UN Chronicle was a publication that could still be improved and developed, and he looked forward to seeing the positive results and “success stories” written there of Sudan’s peace efforts in the future.
Turning to other matters, he said the Palestinian question had been on the United Nations agenda for six decades, and improved programmes were needed to increase awareness and training to help ameliorate that conflict. The Palestinian people were trying to establish an independent State, he said, and, although the Secretary-General’s report used to make note of such activities, this year, those comments had been absent. The Secretariat should play a larger role in promoting understanding between the peoples and the principles of peaceful coexistence.
MOHAMMED AL HADHRAMI (Yemen), aligning his statement with those made yesterday on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation supported the efforts to improve the Department of Public Information’s performance and the content of its message. He particularly underlined those initiatives made to mark the sixtieth anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Organization’s peacekeeping activities. He underscored the importance of the Department’s special information project on the issue of Palestine, and expressed regret that the Secretary-General’s report did not touch on that initiative.
Continuing, he said the Information Department should have the capacity to deal with those challenges that faced the world today, and to find different solutions to meet them. Noting the publication of the pilot copy of UN Affairs, which was meant to replace the UN Chronicle, he stressed that the new magazine should be published in all six of the Organization’s official languages. While he saluted the naming of a director for the Information Centre located in his country, he suggested that until that official was able to take up his position, a deputy should be named and dispatched. In closing, he paid tribute to the sustained efforts carried out by the Department to improve its performance and to achieve multilingualism and to promote dialogue among civilizations.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said there had been an increase in information sources, as well as increased access to those sources, and that the United Nations was making use of such technologies to convey its message to an increasingly large and more representative group of people. It was through that type of media that Ingrid Betancourt had been able to communicate to the world how the terrorists of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC) were trampling the rights of Colombian citizens, and had, thus, helped ensure support for the rights if those citizens, she said.
Along with the increasing use of new technologies, there had also been an increase by about 116 per cent in the number of audio and visual packages consulted through the Internet. The broadening audience had also given rise to greater responsibilities and challenges in collecting and conveying information. The work being done by the Department was very important in publicizing the principles and objectives of the Organization. The capacities of the Information Centres should be strengthened, she said, adding that the Department should continue to train the personnel of the regional centres so those staff could spread further knowledge in the regions in which they worked.
She urged that the Information Centre programmes be continued and developed further, and said that the Committee on Information must continue to pay attention to rationalizing its work, particularly taking into account the specific characteristics of each area where Centres were located. The Department had provided access to documents in more than 80 languages through the UNIC website, she said, welcoming the initiative designed to further such a culture.
Finally, referring to the UN Affairs publication, she noted that there was great merit in it as an “editorial proposal” and had listened with interest to the various viewpoints it contained. It was a pity, however, to have to choose between UN Affairs and UN Chronicle, as both had their purposes and audiences, and, ideally, both informational organs should be maintained. If that was not to be, perhaps a chapter in UN Affairs should be created and designed to better meet the needs of various topics for the academic community.
M. HERY SARIPUDIN ( Indonesia) reiterated his country’s appreciation for the Information Department’s work. In an increasingly complicated environment, it was a challenging assignment to disseminate as much information as the Department did to the whole world, often in real time, towards creating a positive image of the Organization. Use of the Organization’s website continued to grow and was an essential resource for news and information. Particularly commendable were the Department’s promotion of issues related to peacekeeping, the Millennium Development Goals, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In general, he said the Department’s worldwide network was increasingly more structurally sound and more efficient, and was increasingly able to take advantage of its systemic synergies. Progress had also been made through a highly professional communication strategy that focused on clear target audiences and appropriate new information and communications technology.
Despite those important strides, much remained to be done, he said. For example, the Department should recognize its indispensable role in maintaining momentum and keeping climate change in headlines around the world. As a troop-contributing country, Indonesia knew the value of disseminating accurate information on peacekeeping and was pleased with the cooperation between the Departments of Public Information and of Peacekeeping Operations, he added.
Regarding the challenge of promoting tolerance and harmony, he said the mass media was critical in fostering understanding and cooperation among faiths, cultures and civilizations. Yet, it could spread a positive, unifying message or a divisive one, and the Information Department played vital role in sensitizing the media and eradicating the use of stereotypes. While freedom of expression was a universal right that should be protected, it was best enjoyed if used responsibly. Thus, the challenge before the media was twofold: educating itself about broader issues, including faiths and cultures; and fostering respect among them. To that end, he backed calls for the Information Department to support dialogue among civilizations and a culture of peace, as well as the Alliance of Civilizations.
SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN (Bangladesh) said the Department of Public Information should continued to work to enhance its effectiveness, fulfil accountability, and actively engage in public relations activities in order to deliver its mandates in an effective and efficient manner. She supported the Department’s work through continued campaigns on issues of importance to the international community, such as United Nations reform, counter-terrorism, climate change, preventing genocide, the rights of women and children, HIV/AIDS, and developments in Africa, among others. The collaboration between the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as the role of the United Nations peacekeepers, should be better highlighted in the Department’s information products.
She urged the Department to publicize locally and internationally the services rendered by peacekeepers. Next year, Bangladesh would mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of its entry into the United Nations, and she, thus, encouraged the Department to produce a short video and radio programme to highlight that and other “landmark events”. Such acknowledgement would give the peoples of the featured countries a greater sense of ownership of the United Nations and its work. The Department should also do everything possible to support Information Centre staff, providing them with needed personnel and supplies.
She said Bangladesh had recently approved the “much-awaited” Right to Information ordinance, which ensured the people’s inalienable right to information, and was a significant step reflecting the democratic values the country was “relentlessly” promoting. Finally, she turned briefly to the issue of climate change. As Bangladesh was one of the most vulnerable countries in that regard, she urged the Department to enhance its strategic approach to disseminating information on that important issue.
WILLIAM HABIB ( Lebanon) said that, at a time when the international community was commemorating several milestone anniversaries, the challenges facing humanity, such as those tied to climate change and global economic health, should not go unnoticed. Indeed, the world’s peoples looked to the United Nations for the maintenance of peace and security, and the Information Department played a central role in disseminating information about that role. Among the Department’s most critical efforts in that regard was promoting the dialogue among civilizations, which sought to dispel “Islamophobia”. As the Department’s assigned tasks grew, transparency and objectivity would be increasingly needed to promote the Organization’s efforts towards human justice and progress, he added.
He commended the Department’s tireless efforts to fulfil its mandate pursuant to the General Assembly’s various resolutions, particularly highlighting its cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support. Noting the presence of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he said those efforts were effective. Efforts by the Secretariat to introduce new information and communications technology were appreciated and should continue to be pursued so that equality between the Organization’s official languages could be achieved.
Commending the Department’s special programme on Palestine, he underscored the importance of the training provided to young journalists from that region. Notwithstanding such vital efforts, the Department should step up its efforts in the political arena, particularly on the question of Jerusalem and the danger of ongoing Israeli excavations there. Full support should be lent to the Palestinian people in their efforts to establish an independent State.
Turning to the work of UNICs, he noted the Department’s efforts to enhance their capacities. He called on the Department, as well as the wider Organization, to work with host countries to build up those Centres, so they could fulfil their mandate. He particularly noted the work done by the Centre located in Lebanon in that regard, and also underlined the new central website for the Information Centres, which would be a valuable portal for communication between the United Nations and recipient host countries.
MIKIO MORI ( Japan) appreciated the promotion of public information conducted by UNICs in 80 local languages, and commended the Department of Public Information for improving its effectiveness. In the first half of the year, Japan had held various important events, including the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in July, which had been attended by the Secretary-General, in one of his two visits to the country. Japan highly appreciated the Department’s role during those visits, especially in arranging high-level meetings. Noting that the G-8 Summit had addressed development and African issues, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s personal initiative to mobilize the United Nations in implementing a comprehensive strategy for short- and medium-term food security.
In addition, he appreciated the Department’s work in strengthening the UNIC offices, saying that Japan had lent support in organizing a strategic communications workshop for Asia and the Pacific. In the field of peace and security, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had organized with the Department a peacekeeping seminar, in which the 140 participants had discussed various peacekeeping challenges. With its recent election to a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, Japan would play a more positive role in promoting peace. In closing, he expected the Department to implement its activities in a more efficient manner “than ever before”, and reiterated Japan’s continued support.
HILARIO G. DAVIDE ( Philippines) congratulated the Information Department for successfully promoting the “three pillars of the United Nations” -- peace and security, development and human rights. The results of the Department over the past year had been the outcome of its efforts to broaden its reach by strengthening relationships with Member States, the rest of the United Nations system and civil society, as well as effective utilization of traditional and non-traditional media. The Philippines was particularly pleased with the growing integration between a “better equipped and better trained” network of UNICs, services, and the daily delivery of news and information products, which helped generate positive public awareness of the United Nations and its mission.
He reiterated his country’s expectations that the Department make full use of new technology in order to bridge the digital divide and allow better and faster access to United Nations information. He applauded the Department’s efforts to propagate a culture of dialogue among civilizations and promote religious and cultural understanding as a main component of the interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace initiative within the United Nations.
Regarding the Organization’s contribution to the public perception of peacekeeping operations, he said it had heralded the accomplishments of the United Nations “Blue Helmets” and reached out to troop-contributing countries and positively projected their participation in the operations. He underscored the important role of the Department in helping the United Nations address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse, and noted the significant decline in allegations, which had been attributed to the increased public awareness the Department had generated.
TALAL A. AL SHATTI (Kuwait) commended the “salient and important role” of the public information administration in raising awareness about United Nations efforts, and its multiple constructive reforms in recent years to accompany the accelerated pace of developments in the field of information technology. He stressed the need to work on guaranteeing the free and equitable dissemination of information for all countries, adding that use of information must be limited to one of dialogue and interconnection between peoples and cultures. Highlighting the importance of equal treatment among the six official United Nations languages, he also called on the Department of Public Information to redouble efforts in providing assistance to developing countries.
Underscoring that journalists must be protected and that acts of aggression against them must be condemned, he also urged the public information administration to continue its efforts to cast light on the Palestinian question. For Kuwait’s part, he said the Constitution -– and the democracy enjoyed in the country –- contributed effectively to improving the performance of media institutions, television, radio and print, ranking them among leading countries. In closing, he reiterated Kuwait’s “total readiness” to cooperate in global efforts to achieve more media and press freedoms in a manner that did not contradict its Arab and Islamic traditions.
HO MOON SHIN (Singapore), aligning her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it was undeniable that developments in information and communications technologies had opened up vast and new opportunities for social growth and economic development. In this day and age, when information was so readily available and empowering, it had never been more pertinent to equalize the access to such information.
She said the Information Department had actively tailored its messages to meet different target audiences by launching several projects with partners like filmmakers and screenwriters, so that the United Nations could be better understood by a wider public. Examples of such activities included a documentary television series and a comic book. She urged the Department to ensure that materials such as the comic book be allowed to reach other young people around the world.
Notwithstanding the proliferation of information technology, she said that face-to-face communications at the local level remained instrumental in “getting the United Nations message across”. Hence, the Department should continue to collaborate with civil organizations to disseminate the Organization’s message to the wider community.
However, the ability to reach millions came with an equally great responsibility, and the Department and the United Nations must strive to maintain credibility through the sharing of accurate and balanced information. When scandals arose, such as the “oil-for-food” incident and abuse by peacekeepers, they must be addressed. Where allegations were proved false, the Organization should defend itself robustly; however, when proved true, it must accept that it was in the wrong and make sure the actions in question were not repeated.
She reiterated that all people should have freedom of opinion and expression, and must seek information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Without such information, they would be deprived of the knowledge of what their Governments and the United Nations were doing for them. In closing, she said: “When we seek the truth and speak the truth, we must do so respectfully and carefully, lest we overstep ourselves.”
KANG MYONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) commended the Department of Public Information for its activities on global issues of common concern, such as the food crisis, climate change and sustainable development, notably by steadily improving its “ways and means”, in line with the requirements of new realities. While information activities were important in promoting world peace and security, information technologies continued to be misused by certain countries in pursuit of “sinister political purposes”. A typical example of that was the United States’ “Radio Free Asia” programme, which targeted Asian countries, including his own. That violated the United Nations Charter and international laws stipulating State relations.
In that context, he said the first task was to establish a new and just information order, which had been urgently demanded by the developing countries that constituted the overwhelming majority of United Nations membership. There was a long way to go in establishing that order, due to the reluctance among countries that monopolized most information and communications means, he continued, urging States to take substantial measures. He also stressed paying attention to helping developing countries enhance their information and communication capabilities, and urged developed countries and international organizations to enhance cooperation that would enable technology transfer and investment. In closing, he looked forward to greater efforts by the Department to help train broadcasters and journalists in developing countries.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba), associating his delegation with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, said accelerations in the development of information and communications technology had not resulted in resolving the gap between rich and poor. Indeed, that gap was growing, and the talk of the so-called digital divide gave the illusion that the disparity was only a temporary and soluble matter. But the flow of information was produced in a very peculiar manner, and the news was spread or silenced according to biases that favoured the powerful. Lies were imposed. History was manipulated. Discrimination was legitimized. Freedom of expression and of information was insulted.
He said it was clear that a new world information and communications order was needed. Further, the underdeveloped world should receive special treatment in the United Nations information system. The Organization’s Information Centres, spread throughout the world, should play a more active role in disseminating balanced information. Broadcast mechanisms, particularly radio, should be promoted as a means of informing the vast illiterate populations residing in the global South. Despite its modest resources, Cuba had successfully implemented the literacy programme, “Yo si puede” (Yes, I can) in 15 countries. Using audio-visual aids and new information and communications technology, that initiative had broadened the scope and effectiveness of teaching materials, especially through the widespread use of radio.
Continuing, he denounced the well-known “television aggression” that the United States continued to wage against Cuba, openly infringing on the principles of the international law and the procedures of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Indeed, that Union had concluded at its last World Conference held in Geneva, that transmission from United States aircrafts to Cuba violated its radio-communications regulations.
Yet, each week more than 1,920 hours of radio and television were broadcast to Cuba through 32 different frequencies. The United States had, since 2003, used the Pentagon’s C-130 solo command aircraft to beam invasive signals. Several of the stations broadcasting in Cuba, such as Radio and TV Marti, were United States Government properties, while others were linked to well-known terrorists who lived in the United States and acted against Cuba. Cuba condemned such aggression and believed that choosing the kind of information the Cuban people wished to receive was a sovereign decision, he declared.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDREBEOGO ( Burkina Faso) said that the United Nations had launched a vast revitalization of its work and that process deserved to be better known throughout the world. In that important phase of its evolution, the Organization should do more in the information realm, and in that regard, greater efforts were required by the Secretariat and the wider United Nations family to ensure that the Information Department could play a better, more catalytic role in telling the story of the United Nations.
Yet, by linking all the regions of the world -- a feat it accomplished through its Information Centres -- the Department already played a vital role in promoting a positive image of the Organization, he said. It was a critical source of information on peacekeeping, the Millennium Development Goals, and Organizational reform. Through its Information Centres, it was also raising awareness, providing training and enhancing information-gathering in developing countries.
Among those Centres that played a central role in the international structure of the United Nations was the one located in Ouagadougou. Nevertheless, those Centres required greater resources if their performance was to be improved. In closing, he paid tribute to the role of the Committee on Information and said that, as a member of that Committee, his delegation would continue to play active role in its work.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ ( Peru), reiterating the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said he condemned the acts of violence committed against journalists in conflict zones. Protecting journalists and strengthening human rights were essential steps towards creating more robust international information centres, which would strengthen the United Nations in a coordinated fashion.
With regard to UNICs, abilities to handle certain issues varied greatly from region to region. It was necessary to continue working to make all UNICs more effective by ensuring they worked positively with one another, such as cooperation between Centres in Brazil and Mexico, and the Centre in Lima with the Organization’s system-wide campaign to end violence against women. Also, Peru’s Interior Club of Friends of the United Nations encouraged young people disseminate the message of the Organization in his or her own country, he added.
Regarding thematic issues, he underscored the importance of having the Department pursue work as proposed by the Secretary-General to realize concrete benefits that the United Nations could provide in areas such as response to natural disasters, climate change, the rights of migrants, peacekeeping and progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, among others. He said great importance should be attached to achieving parity among the six official languages, and meetings coverage should be conducted in the six official languages and not just the two working languages of the Secretariat. Additionally, the United Nations should continue to welcome visitors and should not see a reduction in the number of visitors being welcomed in Spanish.
Although aware that there was a need to constructively evaluate the activities of the Department, such as the publication of UN Affairs, that must be carried out to convey the work of the United Nations to the academic community without effecting the budget of others activities.
YUSSEF KANAAN, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, expressed his delegation’s deep concern and regret over the absence of information on activities and efforts undertaken by the Department of Public Information regarding the question of Palestine, in the report on questions relating to information. The Special Information Programme undertaken by the Department on the question of Palestine effectively contributed to the creation of an environment that was conducive to dialogue and support of the peace process.
Overall, the Department, especially the Section of Palestine, played an important and vital role, specifically through the organization of annual international media seminars on the Palestinian question and through its development of digital archives of film and video documentaries on the history of the Palestinian question. The participation of the Department in the field of media development, specifically in terms of a training programme for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists, was particularly important, especially considering the role the media could play in promoting a dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, with a view to advancing the peace process.
Israeli occupying forces continued to target journalists working to “convey the reality and truth about Israeli practices on the ground”, he said, highlighting a number of cases in which Palestinian journalists had been killed or harassed by Israeli forces. Grave violations of human rights against Palestinians were not limited to the occupying forces, but extended also to acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, such as the 18 October attack by settlers on a number of journalists covering the olive harvest of Palestinian farmers.
Palestinian people were deprived of the right of direct access to telecommunications services and information technology because of Israeli occupation. Thus, achieving development and advancing on the path of knowledge could not be realized without an end to that occupation. A just and comprehensive peace would guarantee security and stability in the region and would enable Palestinians to exercise their legitimate rights, including their right to use information technology and communications towards the achievement of sustainable development.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his Government had steadfastly observed its obligations, particularly of the International Telecommunication Union. But for 49 years, the Cuban people had been denied the right to choose their own representatives, to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal and to meet or organize freely. Indeed, the annual Country Reports on Human Right Practices had consistently and thoroughly documented years of abuses by the Cuban Government against Cuban citizens wishing to express their right to freedom of expression.
Journalists had been jailed and beaten, their homes had been raided and their paper, ink and fax machines seized. Anyone producing or circulating documents that did not identify their authors or their printing locations were threatened with imprisonment by the Cuban Penal Code. Due process was also routinely denied Cuban citizens. The Government placed severe limitations on freedom of speech and press as noted by the international non-governmental organization Reporters without Borders.
There were an estimated 225 prisoners of conscience detained in Cuba today, and as many as 5,000 people sentenced for “dangerousness” were living in the most inhumane conditions in the world. Further, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was denied access to those prisons and prisoners. In 2003, the Cuban Government had cracked down on peaceful human rights demonstrators, independent journalists and opposition figures, arresting 75 of them. As of August 2008, 55 of them remained incarcerated.
Given all that, it was clear that the Cuban Government’s opposition to Radio and TV Marti and its continued incarceration of prisoners of conscience was driven by fear of the consequences if the Cuban people to receive uncensored information about their own country and the rest of the world. He urged the Committee not to forget the plight of the Cuban people, who were bullied by the Castro regime and denied their rights to information and expression, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Exercising the right to reply, the representative of Cuba said that, in contrast to what the United States wished those in the room to believe, the radio and television aggression aimed at Cuba was carried out in full contempt for the rules that governed international relations. Cuba did not ask for those broadcasts and did not need them, she said. It was not for the United States to determine what information Cuba required, but the Cuban people who should determine how to be informed.
Those involved in the broadcasts to Cuba belonged to organizations that were directly linked to well-known terrorist elements that operated in the United States territory with full impunity, she said. It was deplorable that millions of dollars of United States taxpayer money was spent on broadcasts that “no one in Cuba wanted to hear or see”. She defended Cuba’s revolution, which had “freed the Cuban people from illiteracy since 1960”, and said they were capable of discerning among the “false, monopolized” information that was received from the United States, and genuine, balanced information.
She said Cuba worked to maintain human rights, and the Government that was reflecting that aggression was the least qualified to judge and inflict such things on her country. No one had asked the United States Government to treat Cuba in such a way, and it should learn to be silent and “at least show some shame” for the “infliction” it was bringing around the world. Those broadcasts were in violation of United Nations Charter and the ignored United Nations rules.
Additionally, she said that the United States Government was constantly “maintaining” Israel in its crimes against Palestine, as well as conniving to violate against human rights in Lebanon and Guantanamo. The United States representative had spoken of Cuba’s restrictions against dissidents, prisoners of conscience, and supposed journalists, but those were “simply a band of lackeys and conspirators” paid by the United States Government. By battling the enormous protectorate of the United States for decades, Cuba had exercised its independence and denounced the “genocidal blockade of all kinds” being carried out by the United States.
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