Fourth Committee, Reaffirming United Nations as Indispensable Foundation of Peaceful, Just World, Says Voice Must Be Heard Clearly, Effectively
Fourth Committee, Reaffirming United Nations as Indispensable Foundation of Peaceful, Just World, Says Voice Must Be Heard Clearly, Effectively
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
10th Meeting (AM)
Fourth Committee, Reaffirming United Nations as Indispensable Foundation
of Peaceful, Just World, Says Voice Must Be Heard Clearly, Effectively
Two Resolutions, One Decision Referred to General Assembly,
As Committee Concludes Debate on Questions Relating to Information
Reaffirming that the United Nations remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world, and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) emphasized the essential role of the Department of Public Information today, as it approved, without a vote, two draft resolutions and a draft decision at the conclusion of its general debate on information.
By the terms of an expansive resolution on United Nations public information policies and activities, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly request the Department to pay particular attention to poverty eradication, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, HIV/AIDS, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent.
While acknowledging the Department’s commitment to a culture of evaluation, the Assembly, also according to that text, would ask the Department to continue to evaluate its products and services, with the objective of improving their effectiveness. It would note the Department’s continued efforts to publicize the work and decisions of the Assembly, as well as its efforts in issuing daily Press Releases.
The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the Department’s efforts to enhance multilingualism in its activities, and stress the importance of ensuring that the texts of all new public documents, in all six languages, and information materials of the United Nations, are made available daily.
By other provisions, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations Information Centres in enhancing the public image of the Organization and in disseminating messages on it to local populations, particularly in developing countries.
A section on the Department’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping “gateway” on the United Nations website, and request the Department to continue to cooperate with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in raising the awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations.
The draft text also addresses such related issues as the digital divide, promotional campaigns, news services, traditional means of communication, the United Nations website, library services and outreach activities.
By the terms of the second draft resolution, on information in the service of humanity, the Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system and all others concerned to heed the call for a “new world information and communication order”, and cooperate and interact to reduce existing disparities in information flows at all levels.
The draft decision approved today would have the Assembly increase the membership of the Committee on Information from 112 to 113, by appointing Sierra Leone as a member.
During its general debate on questions relating to information, prior to action on the texts, speakers once again underscored the importance of freedom of expression and the Organization’s role in disseminating timely and unbiased information to the world at large. Calling the United Nations Information Centres the “eyes and ears” of the Organization, Pakistan’s representative said his delegation attached high priority to the Centres around the world, as they brought the United Nations to “the doorstep of the peoples of the world”.
Welcoming the way in which the Department had helped the public understand subjects of global concern, Congo’s representative said the Department must disseminate further information about United Nations peacekeeping operations. Urging the Department to continue its work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he underscored the need for information to play a prominent role in the dialogue among cultures and religions, and in the urgent responses to armed conflict and terrorism.
Along those lines, the representative of Bangladesh argued that the heroic story of peacekeeping operations remained largely untold. While voicing approval at the prominence given to the coverage of peacekeeping operations in the Secretary-General’s report, she said she could not recall seeing any Public Information Department product that had highlighted, for example, the sacrifice her country made with almost 10,000 peacekeepers currently serving and the loss of as many as 100 from 32 missions over the years.
Highlighting the importance of multilingualism in the Department’s work, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation would like to see the development of all forms of Russian-language information coverage in the United Nations. Although notable effort was being made in presenting information in Russian, the United Nations News Centre in Russian still had the status of a “pilot project” and was the least endowed in resources. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, should ensure its strengthening.
Also speaking during the general debate were the representatives of Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, Moldova, Iran, Colombia, Tunisia and China.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 16 October, to begin its general debate on the effects of atomic radiation.
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information, it had before it two draft resolutions and a draft decision, contained in the report on the thirty-first session of the Committee on Information (document A/64/21, Chapter IV).
It also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information (document A/64/262). (For a summary of that report, please see Press Release GA/SPD/428 of 13 October).
By the terms of draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s thirty-first session and entitled: “Information in the service of humanity”, the General Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system as a whole and all others concerned to heed the call for what has been termed, in the United Nations and at various international forums, a “new world information and communication order”. Towards that goal, it would have them cooperate and interact to reduce existing disparities in information flows at all levels, by increasing assistance for the development of communications infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, to enable them to develop their own information and communication policies freely and independently, and increase the participation of media and individuals in the communication process.
Also by the text, those countries and other entities would be urged to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks, and to resolutely condemn all attacks against them; to provide support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries; to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, and between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology; and to aim at providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their needs in the field of information, and to action already adopted within the United Nations system.
By the terms of draft resolution B, also contained in that report, entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the Assembly would reaffirm that the Organization remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful world, and that its voice should be heard in a clear and effective manner. In that context, it would emphasize the essential role of the Department of Public Information.
The Assembly would request the Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as poverty eradication, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, HIV/AIDS, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent. It would also request that particular attention be paid to implementing the internationally agreed-upon development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and raising public awareness of climate change, especially in the context of the forthcoming sessions of the Conference of the Parties and of the meetings of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, held in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008, and to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Also by the text, the Assembly would request the Department, acknowledging its commitment to a culture of evaluation, to continue to evaluate its products and activities, with the objective of improving their effectiveness, and to continue to cooperate and coordinate with Member States and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
The Assembly would note both the Department’s continued efforts to publicize the work and decisions of the Assembly, and its efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request the Department and content-providing offices of the Secretariat to ensure that United Nations publications are produced in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner and to continue to coordinate closely with all other entities, in order to avoid duplication.
The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the Department’s ongoing efforts to enhance multilingualism in all its activities, and stress the importance of ensuring that the texts of all new public documents in all six official languages and information materials of the United Nations are made available daily through the United Nations website and are accessible to Member States, without delay.
As for bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would call upon the Department to contribute to raising the international community’s awareness of the importance of the implementation of the outcome document of the World Summit on the Information Society.
Further to that draft, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations Information Centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the Organization to local populations, especially in developing countries.
The Assembly would stress the importance of rationalizing the Information Centres’ network, and reaffirm that such rationalization must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all Member States concerned, taking into consideration the distinctive characteristics of each region.
By further provisions, the Assembly would reaffirm the role of the strategic communications services in devising and disseminating United Nations messages, by developing communications strategies, in close collaboration with the substantive departments, United Nations funds and programmes, and the specialized agencies.
The Assembly would, by the text, express appreciation for the Information Department’s work in promoting, through its campaigns, issues of importance to the international community, and stress the need to continue the renewed emphasis in support of Africa’s development, to promote awareness in the international community of the nature of the continent’s critical economic and social situation.
A section of the text on the Department of Public Information’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly request the Secretariat to ensure the Information Department’s role in every stage of future peacekeeping operations.
In a related provision, the Assembly would also emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping gateway on the United Nations website, and request the Department to continue its efforts in supporting the peacekeeping missions to further develop their websites. It would also request the Information Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue cooperating in raising awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations, and in implementing an effective outreach programme to explain the Organization’s zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse, and to inform the public on the outcome of all such cases involving peacekeeping personnel.
In a section on the Information Department’s news services, the draft would have the Assembly stress, as their central objective, the timely delivery of accurate, objective, and balanced news and information emanating from the United Nations system in print, radio, television and the Internet, and reiterate its request to the Department to ensure that all news-breaking stories and news alerts are accurate, impartial and free of bias.
Regarding traditional means of communication, the Assembly would welcome the initiative of United Nations radio, which remained one of the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Information Department, to enhance its live radio broadcasting service by making more frequently updated reports in all six official languages and features available to broadcasters on a daily basis on all United Nations activities. It would also request the Secretary-General to continue to make every effort to achieve parity in the six official languages in United Nations radio productions.
The Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations website was an essential tool for the media, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, Member States and the general public, and in that regard, reiterate the continued need for the Department to maintain and improve it.
By the text, the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue to take full advantage of new developments in information technology in order to improve, in a cost-effective manner, the expeditious dissemination of information on the United Nations. It would also encourage the Department to consult with the Information Technology Services Division of the Department of Management and to explore ways of upgrading the technical capabilities of the service and providing it in all official languages.
In a section on library services, the Assembly would call upon the Information Department to continue leading the Steering Committee for the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries. It would also call upon the Department to continue to examine its policies and activities regarding the durable preservation of its radio, television and photographic archives, and to take action within existing resources in ensuring that such archives are preserved and are accessible.
Further, the Assembly would reiterate the need to maintain a multilingual collection of books, periodicals and other material in hard copy, and ensure that the library continues to be a broadly accessible resource.
By other terms, the Committee would have the Assembly request the Information Department to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil society, relating to those priorities and concerns of the Organization, identified by Member States. It would also commend, in a spirit of cooperation, the United Nations Correspondents Association for its ongoing activities and for its Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Scholarship Fund, and encourage the international community to continue its financial support for the Fund.
By further provisions of the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to the Committee on Information at its thirty-second session, and to the General Assembly at it sixty-fifth session, on the activities of the Information Department and on the implementation of all recommendations and requests contained in the present resolution.
Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to make every effort to ensure that the level of services provided by the Information Department was maintained throughout the period of the implementation of the capital master plan.
By the terms of a draft decision, which is also contained in the report and is entitled “Increase in the membership of the Committee on Information”, the Assembly would decide to increase the membership of the Committee on Information from 112 to 113, and to appoint Sierra Leone as a member.
AMR KAMAL ELDIN ELSHERBINI (Egypt), aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said he had been closely following the efforts to the Department of Information to promote the role of the Organization and to meet its objectives of disseminating and carrying out its mission to, among other things, promote international peace and security, and support human rights.
He said that it went without saying that the role of information technology and communications had become key in establishing international public opinion, and in the areas of international crises and development. That was a further burden for the Organization, and meant that there were additional responsibilities it had to bear. That included bridging the gap between the North and the South in terms of technology.
His delegation welcomed the efforts of the Department, which reported on the United Nations missions worldwide. Calling on it to continue its efforts, he said there was also a need for multilingualism and a balance among the six official United Nations languages. It was also necessary to diversify conventional media and modern forms of reporting, in order to bring people closer together and to enhance the Department’s role. His delegation hoped that the Department would improve the quality and content of media coverage, in order to raise awareness of United Nations objectives and to help promote the various United Nations initiatives. That would enable the further understanding of the United Nations. He also called for a strengthening of the United Nations Information Centres.
Finally, he stressed the need to ensure a balance among the six official languages in all spheres of information. Parity should also be ensured among those languages on the Organization’s website. Encouraging the Department to continue to pursue its efforts in informing about the Organization, he said that would assist Member countries’ economic and social development. His delegation was certain that the Department’s efforts would be crowned with success and that it would achieve its desired results.
JALIL SHAFQAT (Pakistan), expressing support for the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said his delegation was cognizant of the enormity of the challenges facing the Department of Public Information. At this critical time when the world was polarized and beset with misunderstandings, between and among societies, religions and cultures, the Department’s role was particularly important. He attached high priority to the United Nations Information Centres around the world, as they were the “eyes and ears” of the Organization and brought the United Nations to the doorstep of the peoples of the world.
He said that freedom of expression was a universal right, which should be promoted and protected. Pakistan was committed to freedom of expression and a free media, and was among the few countries where Government policies had created an enabling environment for the private sector as the engine of growth for electronic media. There had been a surge in private media in Pakistan, evidenced by the more than 22 television channels, 64 FM radio stations, 266 publications, and 14 news agencies, all operating independently. Those who enjoyed monopolies in technology had influenced world affairs by promoting their values. That affected the lives of millions, in countries that were unable to put their points of view across, owing to limited or no access to technology.
With regard to press passes during the high-level segment of the General Assembly, he said that Pakistan’s delegation welcomed the “red dot” system introduced by the Department. He proposed that an additional pass be issued to each Mission’s designated media, to help with coverage of proceedings.
FAISAL AL-ZAYANI (Bahrain) said that freedom of expression was one of the main cornerstones of democracy. Its enjoyment ensured the full realization of human rights, as well as the fundamental freedom of a people, as long as it was not indecent and did not harm faith or religion. Freedom of expression had been secured in all international instruments and norms, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was necessary to manifest the importance of the media and information, so that information might implement its great functions. It was also necessary to bridge the digital gap between the developed and developing countries, commensurate with the United Nations declarations aimed at making technology accessible to all.
He said that if the international community aspired to the establishment of a new world information order, communications should be characterized by justice and based on the free exchange of information. In addition, the dissemination of information should occur on a wider scale, in a way that was more balanced, in consonance with General Assembly Resolution 34/182, of 18 December 1979. Perhaps the proper approach towards realizing that goal should be cooperation aimed at developing the basic structures for communication and information, especially in the developing countries. That cooperation should be coupled with the development of human resources, which were indispensable for the improvement of the information systems in those countries. The easy flow of information in developing countries would require, in addition to equipment, attention to conventional means of communication, which quickly sent information to the masses, as those people were lacking in modern technology.
SULAIMAN AHMED AL-AQIL (Saudi Arabia) said that in light of the tremendous development achieved in telecommunications and media sectors, he called for the creation of “healthy environments” to disseminate the values of dialogue, tolerance and moderation. Towards cooperation and peace, constructive ties must be built between cultures, peoples and nations, and the dissemination of “all thoughts of hatred, exclusion and racism” must be prohibited.
He said that Saudi Arabia continued to take the necessary steps to combat terrorism, and had achieved great success through the adoption of “conversational and intellectual programs”. The 2005 conference on combating terrorism, held in Saudi Arabia, had been attended by experts and specialists from more than 60 countries and international and regional organizations. The “Riyadh Declaration”, adopted at the conference, confirmed the unanimous international will to confront terrorism and extremism.
Additional resources should be allocated to achieve parity among the official languages of the United Nations, as inequalities existed in the Arabic language section of the United Nations website, with regard to all activities of the Public Information Department, he said. Also, a global code of media ethics should be developed, in order to determine the appropriate legal and ethical standards to ensure the protection, security and safety of the media, particularly in conflict zones.
KIM CHOL MIN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) highlighted the important role that information and communication technologies played in promoting social development and improvement of human welfare. However, technologies were still in the hands of a few, and developing countries never enjoyed the benefits. What could not be overlooked was that certain countries used the technology “in pursuit of their sinister purposes”, instead of making them available to promote world peace, prosperity and justice. Those countries, taking advantage of their monopoly of the latest technical means, spread their own values and lifestyle, and disseminated distorted information, causing social chaos and instigating the overthrow of systems. Such was the case of the United States, which waged “psychological war” through Radio Free Asia. “This constitutes an outrageous violation of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter stipulating the respect for sovereignty, equality and non-interference in other’s internal affairs and the international law governing the relations among States,” he asserted.
He said that without reforming the current order in which developed countries monopolized information and communication, it was not possible to talk about justice and equality in international relations. He urged that priority be given to the establishment of a new a just world information and communication order, based on the principles of respect and sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, justice and objectivity. The gap in information and communication technologies between developing and developed countries was widening, and even now, developing countries did not have full and free access to certain technologies, owing to restrictions imposed by developed countries.
Bodies of the United Nations system, and developed countries, should set long and action-oriented targets to assist developing countries in their efforts to improve the infrastructure of information and communication, he said. They should take measures to enhance international cooperation, such as free access to and transfer of technology of information and communication, and train experts. His Government, despite difficulties from the economic embargo, had improved its information and communications infrastructure, which was the foundation of the information society. It was also increasing the role of national information.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDRÉBÉOGO (Burkina Faso), underscoring the importance that the Fourth Committee placed on questions of information, said that as a member of the Committee on Information, Burkina Faso welcomed the conclusions drawn by that Committee at its thirty-first session last May. His delegation hoped that the draft report submitted by the Information Committee would receive the Fourth Committee’s support, along with the draft texts on questions related to information. Information was one of the strategic tools available to the United Nations, and his delegation hoped that future efforts to reinvigorate the Public Information Department, as well as to improve its services, would be fully implemented. There was no doubt that such efforts would help to make the vast majority of the world’s population more aware of the role and goals of the United Nations. His delegation also welcomed the priority given by the Department to the relevant questions of peace, human rights, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals, among others. It was also necessary to continue pursuing efforts aimed at ensuring a greater balance among the six official languages of the United Nations when providing information.
He also welcomed efforts taken to improve and find new information technologies in the Department’s strategies. There should be cooperation among all stakeholders, in order to minimize the disparities in acquiring new information and communication technology. In addition, better access to the new technologies should be provided to developing countries. While the United Nations and the Public Information Department must keep pace with new developments, it was also necessary to take the developing countries into consideration, as they did not always have access to modern communication. He urged the international community to provide developing countries and their media, be it public or private, with all the necessary assistance to strengthen their human and technological resources.
Regional cooperation was also essential for building active partnerships, in order to bridge the digital divide and improve capacities and communication techniques for developing countries, he continued. The importance of United Nations Information Centres to local populations had been widely proven; unfortunately, the proper functioning of a number of those did not occur. Some of them, including the one in Ouagadougou, were now plagued by a lack of sufficient resources; it needed additional support from the Department to strengthen its capacities and improve its sufficiency.
NAYEF AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait) said the work of the Department and the reforms undertaken in the past several years had supported the rapid development of new media and its use by the Organization. However, information should not be used as a tool to impose any ideological culture. Rather, it should be used as a tool for dialogue among people and cultures. In that regard, multilingualism should be strengthened in the six official United Nations languages, including Arabic. He stressed the importance of the resolution of the General Assembly to that effect.
Speaking of the digital divide between developed and developing countries, he said that that situation should be remedied, and he called on the Department to focus more efforts on helping developing countries in that regard. The Department should also help journalists to work freely, and protect them in their work. It was also important for the Department to strengthen its efforts with regard to the coverage of the Palestinian question, and in “unmasking” the brutal activities of Israel vis-à-vis that population.
He said that the democracy developing in Kuwait and the freedom of expression guaranteed by its Constitution had made Kuwait a model in the field of freedom of expression for the press. Those freedoms would help Kuwait accomplish the development goals to which it aspired.
RUSLAN V. BAKHTIN (Russia Federation) said that his delegation generally commended the efforts of the Department, and noted the quality in the information provided in the coverage of current themes and crises. There was effective monitoring and timely reaction on the part of the Department, and his delegation had a positive view of the efforts of the Department’s leadership regarding the development of partnerships with non-governmental organizations and other such organizations. In addition, his delegation commended the work of the Department in popularizing the work of the United Nations among youth, as had been visible during the successful holding in April of the tenth MoscowInternational Model of United Nations 2010.
He said that an important aspect of the Department’s work was the implementation in practice of the principle of multilingualism. His delegation would like to see the development of all forms of Russian-language information coverage in the United Nations. A notable effort was being made in the presentation of information in Russian, although his delegation was concerned that the United Nations News Centre in Russian still had the status of a pilot project and was the least endowed in resources. His delegation would like Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka to ensure that it would be strengthened.
Much also remained to be done regarding Internet portals, which were part of the United Nations structure. For its part, the United Nations Information Centre in Moscow played an important coordinating role, and his delegation wished to highlight the efforts of that Centre, particularly in bringing attention to the areas of social corporate responsibility and human rights, among other things. His delegation also highly commended the work of the Russian-language United Nations radio. There were unique possibilities created by the current information and technology, but Member States should not forget the existing inequality of the access to that.
SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN (Bangladesh), aligning her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the G-77 and China, voiced approval at the prominence given to the coverage of peacekeeping operations in the report of the Secretary-General, but argued that the heroic story of those operations remained largely untold. She could not recall seeing any Public Information Department product that had highlighted, for example, the sacrifice her country made with almost 10,000 peacekeepers currently serving and the loss of as many as 100 from 32 missions over the years.
She said that such contributions must be recorded for today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders, and she pledged her country’s support to assist the Department in whatever way possible to make that happen. While welcoming the coverage of climate change, she also urged the Department to look at the human dimension of the doomsday scenario awaiting Bangladesh and other coastal countries, and to tell that story as it unfolded. In that area as well, she pledged her country’s support for the Department’s audio-visual units.
Last year, she recalled having also offered Bangladesh’s assistance to make Mother Language Day better known, in accordance with the country’s historic role in defending the right to speak in one’s mother tongue. Unfortunately, the Department had not made that a priority this year. She again offered cooperation to better tell the story of respective mother languages. Finally, she welcomed the Department’s use of networking media and urged adequate support for the United Nations Information Centres in least developed countries, noting that the centre in Dhaka had emerged as a key player in promoting the United Nations and its ideals.
RAPHAËL DIEUDONNÉ MABOUNDOU (Congo) said that the “incessantly” growing information and technology sectors required adapting old means of communication, in order to keep in step with modernity. It was necessary, therefore, to strengthen learning capacities in a world that was increasingly small, thanks to the progress of information technology.
He said that transparency, equity and coherence in the dissemination of messages should be the Department’s guiding principles. That would enable the Organization to perform its “noble task” with dignity. He welcomed the way in which the Department had helped the public understand subjects of global concern. That included the promotion and dissemination of the General Assembly’s messages. That effort must be based on a clear-cut mandate and be supplied with adequate funding in order to become more operational and more competitive. Cooperation had always existed between the Department and the Information Committee, to enable them to discharge their mandates. He also noted the important role of United Nations Information Centres, as the most direct means of communicating with the public. They were the “best guarantee” of reaching the widest possible swath of the public, making United Nations agencies more visible and accessible.
The Department must disseminate further information on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, he said. The request made by most Information Committee members in May to create a United Nations Information Centre in Rwanda, for the benefit of Portuguese speakers had his delegation’s support. He also endorsed the observance of World Day of Press Freedom and stressed the importance of its contributions to the enforcement of the right to freedom of expression.
Multilingualism and the use of all official languages should be the “guiding spirit” in the treatment of information. Information must play a prominent role in the dialogue among cultures and religions and in the urgent responses to armed conflict and terrorism. He urged the Department to continue to work in synergy with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
ALEXANDRU CUJBA (Republic of Moldova) welcomed the adoption of a more effective approach to the Department’s work, which was essential for promoting global awareness and better understanding of the Organization’s goals and achievements. The new approach would also mobilize support for United Nations actions in such priority areas as the development agenda, peace and security, disarmament and non-proliferation, climate change, and human rights. The Department’s activities should be continuously enhanced and reinforced on the basis of performance measures, and he welcomed the actions it had taken to increase its efficiency. He hoped that the use of new media would allow the Department to reach out to a much larger audience and respond more effectively to current challenges. The United Nations Information Centres and communications units in United Nations offices at the country level were the most direct means of communication with the “world public”.
He said that the Government of Moldova welcomed the continuous efforts of United Nations agencies in Moldova to increase the local population’s awareness of the Organization and broaden their information activity to the country’s entire territory. In close cooperation with local authorities, two United Nations Documentation Centres had been established as components of universities and city libraries, with a third set to open this month. The objective was to strengthen the links between the youth of Moldova and United Nations agencies, in order to increase participation in various United Nations activities. He also noted the positive experience of the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office in Moldova in establishing, through the United Nations Journalists Club, effective cooperation with both print and electronic media in the country.
Despite challenges facing the United Nations Information Centres, the Department should enhance the work of that network, in order to deepen the impact of public information. Towards that goal, steps should be taken to increase coordination and cooperation between Centres worldwide, and services should be improved at the regional and subregional levels, including their cooperation with and assistance to communications units of the United Nations offices in the countries where no such centres were in place. He stressed his country’s commitment to ensuring the freedom of expression, as provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of the press was crucially important to all societies and essential to democracy-building.
AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI (Iran), opened by referring to resolution 34/182 (1979) which said that the General Assembly should play the primary role in elaborating, coordinating and harmonizing United Nations policies and activities in the field of information, toward the establishment of a new, more, just and more effective world order information and communication order. He said that since the beginning, the Department of Public Information (DPI) was the voice of the United Nations and it promoted global awareness on the work by the Organization. Thus, he reiterated the conviction that DPI should always commit itself to reach out to the widest possible audiences, provide accurate, relevant, impartial, balanced and timely information to the international community.
He referred to the “desperate situation of the innocent Palestinian people” and added that the occupation of Palestine and denial of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination was the main reason for the continuation of the conflict in the Occupied Territories.” DPI should address what he called the gross violation of all human and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people living under occupation, especially perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity against them, as partly mentioned in the recent report of the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on Gaza. He mentioned that DPI should embark on better informing the public about the negative impacts of the humanitarian situation prevailing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Turning to other issues, he said media was an effective tool for the advancement of expansionist policies and promotion of certain cultures, and it was “used and abused” as a tool of cultural and political hegemony and was a way to “distort the realities, manipulate the public and induce them to support recycled or new big lies.” Thus, he said that we should not lose sight of the fact that media was being used to “distort the new realities”.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), expressing support for statements made on behalf of the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that the Information Committee’s report was a useful tool for Member States. Her delegation welcomed the work carried out by the Department, which continued to disseminate information on the Organization’s principle activities and objectives. Her delegation also recognized the role of the United Nations Information Centres –- which were located in 63 countries, including Colombia –- as a means of supporting activities carried out at Headquarters. Those Centres brought information on the United Nations to the most diverse audiences, including, among others, the general public, media, diplomatic corps, national and local authorities, and, in particular, educational institutions. All of those audiences benefited.
She said that the coverage carried out by the Department also served as a channel of information on issues such as peacekeeping, climate change, and respecting and promoting human rights. Taking note of Under-Secretary-General Akasaka’s remarks to the Fourth Committee earlier this week, she said that, with regard to the adverse impact of budgetary limits on the network of Information Centres, in particular, in providing services and information to local communities, her delegation reiterated its appeal that any decision on the issue must be taken in consultation with the host countries.
Multilingualism was key to United Nations efforts to ensure universal access to the Organization’s work, she said. In that respect, a main source of information was the press releases disseminated by the Department. On many occasions, those were only available in one working language of the United Nations. Her delegation welcomed efforts referred to in the Information Committee’s report to seek creative channels to disseminate information, and multilingualism must be a fundamental objective in that proposal. In that context, press releases should be published in all official languages of the United Nations. Colombia was fully committed to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and it welcomed the efforts of the Organization to maintain the objective, impartial, clear and consistent management of information, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
GHAZI JOMAA (Tunisia), aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, urged the international community to exert more efforts to address the issue of the digital divide. Bridging that gap would enable people around the globe to take advantage of technological advances and to take an active part in the information revolution. In that context, the Department had a leading role to play in promoting awareness of that issue in the international community. It was also important to pursue parity among the official United Nations languages, a goal which remained a high priority, as mentioned in the Secretary-General’s Report on questions relating to information. He understood that limited resources constrained achievement of that important goal, but that should nonetheless not prevent its realization.
He commended the Department’s endeavours on the question of Palestine, and encouraged efforts in that framework to educate the international community on the issue. The support of Member States was necessary on that and other matters addressed by the Department. He stressed that increased interaction between them and the Department was needed, in order to achieve the results hoped for by the Committee on Information.
LIU YUTONG (China), commending the Department for its work during last month’s summits, said that a more balanced and impartial information and communications order would help countries work together to address various crises and challenges. During the past year, the Department had disseminated information to people across the world in an objective, accurate and timely manner, thus helping people to appreciate the efforts made by the United Nations in various areas, as well as the measures taken and results achieved. It had played an exemplary role for the world media.
He said that news media, especially the mainstream Western media outlets with international influence, should follow the Department’s example in giving top priority to providing accurate information and balanced coverage. They should abandon biases and prejudices, and refrain from seeking sensational or dramatic effect simply to attract the attention of readers and audiences. In addition, news practitioners should not be opinion leaders or public opinion shapers, but rather, reliable information providers of objective, accurate and timely information. They should help their audiences to learn the truth and form their own opinions, attitudes and reaction. Only by developing a set of professional and ethical codes of conduct conducive to information dissemination, and forging an atmosphere for objective and impartial news coverage, could news media play a better role in media scrutiny and make an indirect contribution to world peace, stability, development and prosperity.
The Department should attach great importance to development, as developing countries formed the lion’s share of Member States, he said. Their Governments were shouldering the historic responsibility of developing the economy and improving the livelihood of their people. The Department should steer the media and the public through thematic publicity and information service, to form a correct understanding of the issues of development and draw their attention to its importance. That would help forge common ground on resolving those issues and prompt the international community to do what it could to assist developing countries. The Department should also continue to promote dialogue among civilizations. Finally, efforts should be made to accommodate the special needs of developing countries in gaining access to information.
Action on Draft Texts
Following the conclusion of its general debate on information, the Committee proceeded to consideration of two related draft resolutions and one draft decision.
Draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s thirty-first session (document A/63/21), is entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, while Draft resolution B, also contained in that report, is entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”.
The draft decision, also contained in the report, is entitled “Increase in the membership of the Committee on Information”.
The Committee then decided to take joint action on the drafts, adopting all three texts without a vote.
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