Public Information Department Applies Strategic Approach, Operational Upgrades, New Technologies to Evolving Communications Environment, Fourth Committee Told

19 October 2010
GA/SPD/459

Public Information Department Applies Strategic Approach, Operational Upgrades, New Technologies to Evolving Communications Environment, Fourth Committee Told

19 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/SPD/459
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)

Public Information Department Applies Strategic Approach, Operational Upgrades,

 

New Technologies to Evolving Communications Environment, Fourth Committee Told

 

Opening Information Segment, Public Information Chief Kiyo Akasaka Spotlights

Vastly Expanded Outreach, Social Media Use, Including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook

To tackle the challenges posed by a constantly evolving global communications environment, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, today told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) that the Department of Public Information was applying a strategic approach, upgrading operational infrastructure, and adopting new information and communications technologies.

During his comprehensive address at the opening of the Committee’s debate on information, Mr. Akasaka said that the Department, among its many initiatives, continued to produce press kits, print and video material, promote global and regional online competitions, and mobilize celebrities to champion the Millennium Development Goals and other topics important to the Organization.

He noted that the Millennium Development Goals summit last month was a communications success, garnering 12,000 reported articles from 17 September to 1 October.  It was also the main driver of media coverage on the Goals during that two-week period, with blogs establishing themselves as a major channel and comprising 27 per cent of all media coverage.  The website created for the summit, presented in six languages, received more than 90,000 page views each day.  Additionally, during the first week of the general debate, the UN.org website received nearly 1 million page views.

Much of the Department’s recent work had also focused on the human rights of women, he said.  To that effect, the Department continued to coordinate the United Nations Women Transition Communications Task Team, and lent support to the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The Department had also made advances in the use of new and social media by creatively repackaging products to be used via the Internet, thus vastly expanding its outreach, he said.  The Department maintained accounts on all major social networks, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the latter having some 100,000 followers.  Mr. Akasaka said he was also an occasional blogger on United Nations priorities, such as climate change and women’s empowerment, for The Huffington Post.

As for the United Nations News Centre, he said it had broken new records in terms of numbers of stories produced per day, and during the reporting period, had captured 4,650 images and accredited 1,775 journalists to cover the high-level meetings and general debate.  In the field, the United Nations Information Centres were devising innovative outreach programmes involving local youth and civil society, since youth were an important target audience.

However, he said, contributions to the Information Centres had dropped to more than half what they were some 20 years ago, and he urged hosting Member States to consider providing centres with rent-free or rent-subsidized premises.

Presenting information in all official languages was an ongoing challenge, he explained, as the need for more and faster translations had not been matched with an increase in resources.  Furthermore, the Department’s arrangements with academic institutions for pro-bono work could not be expanded, since its capacity to process externally-translated content had reached its limit.  Still, he said, the Department remained committed to finding ways, including through new technology, of achieving linguistic parity.

“Slowly but surely we have made progress both in terms of expanding our outreach and in developing and delivering the Organization’s messages on priority areas,” he said.  There were still many challenges, but he believed that the global public were essential partners, and must be informed and engaged, in the work to achieve the goals of the United Nations.

Following Mr. Akasaka’s address and interactive dialogue, the Committee began its general debate on information, with a number of speakers underscoring the fact that the United Nations Information Centres needed to be strengthened, as those acted as “spokespeople” for the Organization’s regional activities.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Belgium’s representative said that the Department played a crucial role in raising global awareness of the Organization’s key issues.  He welcomed the Department’s outreach activities to publicize the newly established gender entity “UN Women”, and he encouraged the Department to undertake more initiatives to promote women’s issues.

The Union encouraged the Department to continue to improve coordination, efficiency and integration of public information activities throughout the entire United Nations, and to identify cost-effective ways to disseminate United Nations messages in all official languages, he said.  Regrettably, over the past year, far too many journalists worldwide had been censored, jailed, kidnapped or killed for their work.  The Union strongly condemned attacks against journalists.

Several delegations stressed the need for the Department to not let some regions of the world fall victim to the digital divide.  Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Yemen’s representative said that the United Nations was the universal forum where many issues confronting the international community were debated.  However, many countries in the developing world still lacked the resources and technical means to access information about United Nations activities.

The Department, therefore, must reach out to the widest possible audience, and continue the use of traditional media, as that was still the primary communication means in many developing countries, he said.

At the start of the meeting, the Committee approved two draft texts on “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” and the “Question of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands”.  Both texts were approved without a vote.

Also speaking during the general debate were representatives of Peru, Indonesia, Senegal, Morocco, Cuba and Australia.

Contributing to the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Libya, Russian Federation and Jamaica.

Speaking during the action on draft texts were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Argentina, Spain and Saint Lucia.

At the start of the meeting, the report of the Committee on Information was introduced by that body’s Rapporteur.

The representative of Romania introduced the draft resolution on International Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 October, to continue its general debate on information.

Background

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take up questions relating information, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on that issue (document A/65/277).

That report highlights the Secretariat’s recent communications campaigns by the United Nations Department of Public Information on key issues, such as the Millennium Development Goals, international peace and security, human rights, the question of Palestine, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  Particular attention was also paid to the network of United Nations Information Centres, new information and communications technologies, and the global Model United Nations for students.

The report also describes activities undertaken in the first half of 2010 by the Department, through its three sub-programmes:  strategic communication services; news services; and outreach and knowledge-sharing services.

According to the report, the Department’s strategic communication services used thematic campaigns to focus on:  the Millennium Development Goals; the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; UN Women; International Women’s Day 2010; Nelson Mandela International Day; the Department of Public Information and United Nations peacekeeping operations; the question of Palestine; human rights; climate change and sustainable development; and NEPAD.

Through the United Nations Communications Group, the Department discussed a number of common priority issues, including public opinion polling, strategic communications on climate change, Millennium Goals success stories, and new media.  The report goes on to say that the Department discussed expanding partnerships for the United Nations Information Centres, including through the use of new media platforms, and by growing the use of local languages.  The Centres continued to serve as a direct point of access and information about the United Nations, and engaged new partners in their activities, including museums.

In terms of its news services, the Office of the Spokesperson conducted the daily noon briefing, which kept the press, delegations, and the public informed of the work of the Secretary-General and of developments throughout the United Nations system.  From July 2009 to 2010, that Office held 239 daily press briefings.  The United Nations website remained the main gateway to the World Wide Web for information about the Organization.

Preliminary reviews show two clear trends:  that the average number of pages viewed by a user during one visit was relatively constant across languages — approximately 2.7 pages per visit; and that the visits from various regions of the world were largely consistent with the usage of the language in that region.  The Department worked to further enhance the capacity of the UN NewsCentre to provide easy access to key source materials and related multimedia content on issues of the day.

The report states that United Nations Radio launched two special series on topics of global interest, Project 15 and The Census.  Despite the logistical challenges posed by the Capital Master Plan, United Nations Television continued to provide uninterrupted, high-quality live coverage of General Assembly and Security Council meetings and a variety of other activities taking place at United Nations Headquarters, including press briefings, media stakeouts and special events.  Alongside live coverage, United Nations Television continued to produce its flagship monthly magazine programme, 21st Century, andits UN in Action feature series.

In terms of meetings coverage, the Department continued to provide accurate, objective, comprehensive and timely coverage, in English and French, of all intergovernmental meetings held at United Nations Headquarters.  Generally posted on the Internet for global access within two hours after the end of a meeting, such summaries serve as a valuable resource for multiple users, from members of delegations and media professionals to students and educators.  Of a total of 2,010 press releases issued from February to mid-July 2010, 690 were devoted to coverage of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

The Department continued with the digitization of major General Assembly documents in English, French and Spanish, from the forty-second to forty-seventh sessions.  In terms of non-governmental organizations, the report says the 63rd annual United Nations Department of Public Information/ Non-Governmental Organizations Conference took place from 30 August to 1 September 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.

This year marked the 30thanniversary of the annual Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalists’ Fellowship Programme.  Journalists from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Mozambique, the Russian Federation, Togo, Uzbekistan and Zambia took part in the six-week programme.  Other activities included a “Citizen Ambassadors to the United Nations” video contest, and International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims, anInternational Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery, and the third annual observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

According to the report, more than 100,000 visitors took guided tours of Headquarters between February and July 2010.  The UN Chronicle continued, and the online version attracted more viewers.  I-Seek, the Secretariat Intranet, had firmly established itself as the internal communications platform at Headquarters and at all eight major United Nations duty stations and offices worldwide.  In addition, the United Nations communications campaign was also able to increase the reach of the Organization’s messages on the importance of an international climate change agreement.

In conclusion, the report states that an informed public was key to strengthening the role of the United Nations and support for its work.  The Information Department was tasked with providing the public with timely, accurate, impartial, comprehensive and coherent information about the Organization’s work.  It had been doing so by prioritizing its work, expanding partnerships with Member States, United Nations system organizations and civil society, and maximizing the use of new communications technologies.  As a result, significant progress has been made towards enhancing public awareness about the United Nations.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The representative of Romania introduced the draft resolution, “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” (document A/C.4/65/L.2/Rev.1), saying that the Working Group of the Whole had agreed to the text as amended.

Taking action on that draft, the Committee approved it without a vote.

The Committee then took up draft resolution VI contained in the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in document A/65/23, entitled “Question of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands”.

The representative of Syria, in his role as Rapporteur of the “Special Committee of 24”, introduced oral amendments to the text.

The Committee then approved that draft resolution, also without a vote.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the proposals to revise some of the language contained in the omnibus resolution on decolonization.  In that regard, he thanked the Special Committee and others involved in drawing up the text, but said he regretted that the Committee had not taken into account that the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories, which was now a modern one.

Regarding the Turks and Caicos Islands, he said that much progress had been made since the ministerial Government had been suspended.  The Governor had summarized those developments in an annual review.  The previous Government of Turks and Caicos had accumulated substantial debt, and the budget remained in deficit, leaving the mammoth task to balancing it.  Extensive public consultations had been undertaken in the territory, and the United Kingdom’s Government and the Governor had encouraged all sectors of society to take part in those consultations.  That would enable a new constitution to be put in place that was on sound financial and governance footing.

He said his country did not want to postpone elections longer than was necessary, and the suspension was not indefinite.  The current goal was to stabilize the economy and prepare for elections, and make further progress into criminal investigations.  The United Kingdom would issue a statement by the end of the year laying out important milestones that were needed before the elections could take place.  He also said that the building of an airport in Saint Helena was subjected to preconditions, and Saint Helena had responsibilities in that regard.

Also speaking after the action, the representative of Argentina said that it fully agreed with the right of free determination of all peoples subjected to colonial and foreign occupation, as laid out in the resolution.  He voiced support for the free determination of the peoples of the 11 territories considered in the draft resolution just approved.  Pursuant to that resolution, however, the principle of free determination was not the sole principle, but one of the two guiding principles to put an end to decolonization, such as when there were specific cases when the principle of territorial integrity must be applied.  One of those cases expressly described as special was that of the Malvinas Islands, which required specific treatment from the Decolonization Committee.  Argentina stressed its willingness to resume negotiations at any time with the United Kingdom, and to resolve the dispute on the Malvinas Islands and surrounding islands and maritime areas.

Also speaking after the decision, the representative of Spain said her delegation recalled that the principle of self-determination was not the only relevant principle, as in certain cases, the principle of territorial integrity also applied.  One of those cases was Gibraltar, the subject of a specific decision just adopted by the Committee.  She stressed that Spain was willing to move towards a definitive solution on Gibraltar that could only be the result of negotiations with the United Kingdom.

Also speaking after the decision, the representative of Saint Lucia thanked the United Kingdom and all others that had helped to achieve consensus on the resolution.  He said, however, that if, as the United Kingdom’s representative had said, the Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands was suspended because of a high debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, then all of the delegations present would not have constitutions, as most had extended their debt beyond a reasonable ratio.  That was not a reasonable basis for suspending a constitution, and ran counter to what the United Nations stood for.

When a particular group of persons exercised their right to elect their representatives, they chose those people they found most capable of running their affairs, he said.  When the United Kingdom had suspended the Constitution, which had been agreed by both the United Kingdom and the people of Turks and Caicos in 2006, it had also suspended the right to a trial by jury.  Saint Lucia did not see how that right was linked with good financial management.  It was important to be careful with the reasons given for the decision to suspend constitutions, and how that decision was explained to the world.  He hoped that today’s consensus was a sign that the United Kingdom would continue its engagement with the Special Committee towards the cause of self-determination.

Again speaking after the decision, the representative of the United Kingdom said that his country did not accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar or the people of the Falkland Islands did not have the right to self-determination.

Also speaking a second time after the decision, the representative of Argentina said that the Malvinas islands were part and parcel of the territory of Argentina, but were being occupied by the United Kingdom.  Those islands were the subject of a dispute between the two countries, and Argentina asserted its legitimate sovereign right.

Questions Relating to Information

SHEREE CHAMBERS (Jamaica) introduced the report of the thirty-second session of the Committee on Information (document A/65/21), in New York, from 26 April to 7 May.  Chapters 1 and 2, he said, dealt with organizational issues, and Chapter 3 provided a summary of the general debate.  Chapter 4 presented two draft resolutions.  Three reports of the Secretary-General and the Strategic Framework of the Department of Public Information for 2012 to 2013 had been submitted by the Department for the Committee’s consideration.  Kiyo Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, had introduced the reports of the Secretary-General.

She said that 35 members and one observer addressed the Committee, focusing on a wide range of issues, including:  the central role of the United Nations in global affairs and the Department as its public voice; the role of the Committee of Information and cooperation between it and the Public Information Department; the role of new media in promoting United Nations work; the importance of freedom of the press; and the need for achieving linguistic parity in the Department’s work.  The importance of closer cooperation between the Department of Public Information and the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support was stressed, and there had been a call to enhance the special information programme on the question of Palestine.  There had also been calls to strengthen the United Nations Information Centres, which faced budgetary constraints.

The final report also referred to an agreement reached between the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the European Union, and other Committee members, that there was a need to streamline the resolution on questions relating to information, she said, adding that the Committee had taken note of that agreement.  She expressed appreciation to the Chairman of the Committee on Information, Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima and the Vice-Chairs of the Bureau, and thanked the members of the Committee and its coordinators.

Statement by Under-Secretary-General

KIYO AKASAKA, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, noted that today’s meeting was taking place six months after the last session of the Committee on Information and provided the Department of Public Information with an opportunity to update Member States on the progress made to implement its General Assembly mandate.  The Secretary-General’s report (document A/65/277) highlighted the recent work of the Department, which continued to apply a strategic approach to its work in the areas of development, peace, security and human rights.  That work was characterized by advance planning, partnerships, clear organization and coordination, responsible use of resources and programme evaluation.

The Department was pleased to coordinate and lead the inter-agency communications task force on the Millennium Development Goal summit and its related events.  That had been a year-long process that had seen the use and mobilization of traditional and new media; the full involvement of the global network of United Nations information centres; and the creative engagement of civil society and in particular, young people.

He went on to say that the Department had coordinated system-wide key messages, produced press kits and other print, graphic and video material, developed and produced major global and regional online competitions with the Millennium Goals, and mobilized celebrities and others to champion those development targets.  The network of Information Centres had played an integral role, by organizing outreach events for the “Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty” Initiative.  The information centre in Cairo had organized a nationwide “Stand Up” campaign in Egypt that involved religious leaders who preached to their faithful in mosques and churches about the struggle to end poverty.  All in all, the Stand Up campaign engaged more than 30 million people in Egypt, or 40 per cent of the population.

The Millennium Goal summit laid the groundwork for the next five years, and had indeed, seen renewed political commitment as world leaders had come to New York with concrete plans for realizing the Goals by 2015.  There had also been overwhelming support for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which saw $40 billion in commitments.  “The [Millennium Development Goal] summit was also a communications success,” he continued, noting that according to the news compilation engine Factiva Monitor, 12,000 articles reported on the event from 17 September to 1 October 2010.  The summit was the main driver of media coverage on the Goals during that two week period.  Blogs established themselves as a major channel, delivering 27 per cent of all media coverage.

Turning to issues of peace and security, he said the Information Department continued to work closely with relevant Secretariat departments, including the Department of Peacekeeping and Field Support, the Department of Political Affairs, and the Office for Disarmament Affairs, as well as with the United Nations peace operations on strategic communications and support.  The Department developed guidance and was executing a communications strategy for the forthcoming Sudan referenda in January 2011.

He said the Department was also working with the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and with Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Political Affairs Department on communications for the presidential elections in the country set for the end of October.  The Department worked closely with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in promoting and clarifying to the media the Organization’s role in the September 2010 parliamentary elections.  The Department of Public Information would continue to plan for the transition of United Nations peacekeeping radio stations, as the potential basis for future independent nationwide broadcasters after peacekeeping operations had withdrawn.

In the area of human rights, he said the Department worked closely with United Nations system-wide partners and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in particular.  Much of the recent work focused on the human rights of women, and the Department continued to coordinate the UN Women Transition Communications Task Team, supported the communications and public information efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, and initiated a radio campaign with Radio Okapi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other peacekeeping radio stations.  He added that the campaign would be broadcast during the 16 “Days of Action” on ending violence against women, from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The Department made advances in the use of new and social media, as additional tools.  By creatively repackaging products and using the full power of the Internet, the Department had been able to vastly expand its outreach.  For the General Assembly’s high-level meetings and general debate, he said the Department developed a completely redesigned multimedia website.  All of its products were consolidated and presented in a unified page, from written statements by Member States, to webcast video of their statements, photos and press releases.  United Nations Radio’s Arabic, Russian and Spanish Units placed live webcast links of the events on their websites.  The “UN.org” site had received nearly 1 million page views during the first week of general debate and the website created for the Millennium Development Goals summit in six languages had received over 90,000 page views on each day of that event.

He went on to highlight other key progress during the review period covered by the Secretary-General’s report, including that the UN News Centre broke new records in terms of numbers of stories produced per day; UN Photo captured 4,650 images; 1,775 journalists were accredited to cover the Assembly’s high-level meetings and general debate; and the Department had produced almost 200 press releases in English and French, totalling 1,200 pages of coverage.

New media was integral to the Department and it now maintained accounts on all major social networks, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  The United Nations Twitter account, managed by the Department, had more than 100,000 followers.  He said he was an occasional blogger on The Huffington Post — where he examined United Nations priorities, such as climate change to women’s empowerment — from a more informal angle.  The Department was developing a new e-book collection which would be launched in 2011, and would initially feature as many as 1,000 United Nations-related titles.

Continuing, he said that in light of the changing reality of what and how news was produced, the International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, held in July in Lisbon, had examined the role of new media in fostering peace in the region.  Organized by his department in cooperation with the Government of Portugal, the July seminar had also focused on the role of Israeli and Palestinian women in achieving peace and security in the Middle East, in connection with the tenth anniversary later this month of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security.  He thanked Portugal’s Government for hosting the event, which was attended by 26 Israelis and Palestinians and 100 international participants.

Turning next to partnerships, a core aspect of the Department’s strategic report, he said efforts to deepen engagement with civil society were yielding “excellent results.”  The United Nations DPI/NGO Conference on Global Public Health, held in Melbourne in August, had seen participation of more than 1,700 delegates from 260 non-governmental organizations from 70 countries.  He thanked the Australian Government for its wonderful support in helping to organize the conference.  The Department’s recent practice of holding that annual joint civil society event away from New York had resulted in a more diverse, broader and deeper coalition of non-governmental organization partners from around the world.  He looked forward to working with Germany on next year’s UN DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn.

He went on to say that next month, the Department would see the official launch of the United Nations Academic Impact, an initiative aimed at engaging the United Nations to a new set of partners.  It aimed to bring the ideas of institutions of higher learning into the global arena, including the United Nations system.  More than 400 institutions in 87 countries were already members of this global network of minds.

“Outreach to young people is also yielding results,” he said, noting that youth from all regions had come together in August in Kuala Lumpur to participate in the second Global Model United Nations Conference organized by the Department on the theme “Towards an Alliance of Civilizations:  Bridging Cultures to Achieve Peace and Development”.  That conference brought together university-level students from more than 50 countries.  He thanked the Government of Malaysia and looked forward to next year’s conference in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

In addition, he said the Department had initiated a range of activities last August to promote the International Year of Youth, to ensure direct engagement of young people on key issues on the United Nations agenda.  The United Nations Information Centres had devised innovative outreach programmes involving local youth and civil society.  Special events marking the beginning of the Year were organized by the information centres.  Youth were an important target audience, and for example, he said the United Nations Outreach Programme had organized a community initiative called “From One Generation to the Next:  What Can We Learn from the Holocaust?”

As the United Nations Coordinator for Multilingualism in the Secretariat, he had a personal commitment to the area.  The Department continued to seek creative ways to promote multilingualism informally and formally.  It promoted linguistic diversity at the Information Centres, which produced information on the United Nations in over 100 languages, worked in more than 40 languages and maintained websites in over 30 local languages.  United Nations Spanish Day, on 12 October, was just one example of how official languages of the United Nations were promoted.

Presenting information in all official languages was an ongoing challenge, he said, adding that increasing levels of United Nations activity and information were not matched by an increase in the level of resources to accommodate the need for more and faster translations.  The Department’s efforts at pro-bono arrangements with academic institutions had reached a level where internal processing capability of externally translated content was already stretched.  He remained committed to finding ways, including through new technology, of bringing linguistic parity to the web.

Regarding the network of Information Centres, “which serve in a climate of growing budget constraints”, he said those outposts were key to the implementation of the Department’s communication strategies.  The good news was some progress was made to provide the Information Centres with safe and secure network connectivity with Headquarters and other offices.  There had also been some progress in improving physical safety and security of the information centre colleagues.  The Department was devoting considerable resources, including from its operational budget, to strengthen security in the field.  Security, whether in the form of equipment, premises or extra guards was costly, making host country support for rent and maintenance even more vital to communications operations around the world.

Moreover, he said that with rising operational costs, there had also been a decline in voluntary contributions.  Some 20 years ago, the number of annual contributions at times exceeded $2 million.  In 2008, contributions dropped to less than half of that, $966,000, and in 2010, declined still to further approximately $800,000.  There were many reasons, including changing Government policies and austerity measures brought on by the financial crisis.

Nonetheless, the decline in Government contributions to the Information Centres had impacted the Department’s ability to carry out its work in the field, and especially in those cases where such contributions funded the salaries of Information Centre staff, to maintain the viability of offices concerned.  He appealed to Member States that hosted Information Centres to consider providing them with rent-free premises or subsidized rent.  He expressed gratitude to the countries that provided support and contributions.

“The global communications environment — the where, what and how people consume news and information — is evolving constantly,” he said, and stressed that the Information Department was tackling such changes by applying a strategic approach, upgrading operational infrastructure, and adopting new information and communications technologies.  Member States were informed about emerging and other relevant issues that affected the Department on a regular basis.  Indeed, the Department’s dialogue with the Committee on Information on policy and programmatic aspects of work was a source of guidance.  The two intersessional briefings in March and September provided additional opportunities to exchange views on timely developments.

Mr. Akasaka was pleased that later this month, the Department would launch a new discussion forum that would bring Member States and senior United Nations officials face-to-face to discuss issues.  When he first addressed the Committee on Information in 2007, he had emphasized a firm commitment to work with Member States as partners in bringing to the world “amazing stories” about the United Nations.  “Slowly but surely we have made progress both in terms of expanding our outreach and in developing and delivering the Organization’s messages on priority areas,” he said.  While there were still many challenges, he believed that the global public were essential partners, and must be informed and engaged, in the work to achieve the goals of the United Nations.

Discussion

Beginning the discussion after Mr. Akasaka’s presentation, the representative of Libya said the Under-Secretary-General had highlighted the various important activities being carried out by the Department of Public Information, and that his delegation valued its many efforts.  Regarding the question of Palestine, he said that on the United Nations website there was an online booklet called “the question of Palestine and the United Nations”, which, when it was viewed in that way, posed technical problems to the online reader, as it was not always possible to access all parts of that booklet.

He also said that parts of that booklet carried “many ambiguities”.  That was particularly important because the Department not only reached millions, but had become a reference point for writers, researchers and academics as a source of official information.  In brief, he said, Libya wished to know how the booklet on Palestine was prepared, and if there had been any coordination with the parties concerned.  He also asked about the burning of the United Nations flag in Haiti, and wondered why that event had not been covered in the United Nations online press.

Responding to that representative’s questions, Mr. AKASAKA said that the booklet on Palestine and the United Nations had been revised a year ago.  It had been written and revised in consultation with the other concerned departments.  The booklet had also been shown to the parties concerned, and the Information Department had taken every care to be precise and impartial, and so far, had not been confronted with any issues regarding that publication.  If there was any incorrect or inappropriate parts in that booklet, he said, the Department was prepared to revisit and revise it if necessary.  Concerning the recent issue regarding the burning of the Koran, he recalled that the Secretary-General had made a very strong statement on that issue, which was available on the United Nations website.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted that the results of the Department, in terms of expanding the activities and outreach of the United Nations, had been “spectacular”, especially using new media accessible via the Internet.  He asked how progress was going with regard to expanding activities through traditional media, such as television and radio, and he asked what difficulties the Department had faced in developing new partnerships and forging new contacts in terms of broadcasting via radio and television.

Mr. AKASAKA answered that the Department had been successful in expanding its outreach activities both in traditional and new media.  It was trying to be as effective as possible in using all available tools.  Specifically on traditional media, he said some challenges and difficulties existed in keeping up with advanced technologies.  In the case of radio, the United Nations was not broadcasting from Headquarters because it did not have that capacity.  Rather, it produced radio programmes in eight languages; the six official languages, plus Portuguese and Swahili.  Those programmes were now placed on the United Nations website, and were directly downloadable by radio stations everywhere in the world.

He went on to say that the Department tried to make sure that radio stations would broadcast programmes in China, Europe, Africa and other parts of the world.  However, it was difficult to reach out to all the places the Department wished it could.  That was particularly true of conflict zones, where Government controls would not always allow the radio programmes to be broadcasted.

As for television programmes, Mr. Akasaka said the Department had been very successful in creating attractive products, many of which had received awards and were broadcast through international media such as CNN and the BBC, among others.  That was particularly true of UNifeed’s daily programmes.  He said television and radio continued to play an important role, together with new media.  Alas, more resources were needed to enhance such activities, and he expressed hope that through the Capital Master Plan, the Department would be given new television and radio studios so it could do more to expand the Organization’s network of television and radio programmes, as well as its printed publications.

Next, Jamaica’s representative asked about the print edition of the UN Chronicle, its distribution and the possibility of translating that publication into other languages.  Mr. AKASAKA answered that the Chronicle had maintained its level of subscriptions, and that it was also online in several languages.  However, there were some slowdowns with translation into other languages due to technical problems.  Regarding the print edition, he said the Department was trying to locate publishers in different regions, and he was in touch with the Mission of Bangladesh regarding a publisher in that country.  In addition there was a Korean pilot edition of Issue No. 1, which would be followed by Issue No. 2.  The goal was to widen regional distribution, and he would like to have Member States help with that.

To a query regarding details on Academic Impact, Mr. Akasaka said that initiative would be launched on 18 and 19 November by the Secretary-General.  There would be a concert by an Orchestra from China, on Friday, 19 November, in conjunction with that event.

Taking the floor again, Libya’s delegate said that in his earlier statement, he was not talking about burning of the Qur’an, but had actually asked about the peacekeepers in Haiti who had reportedly witnessed the burning of the United Nations flag there last week.  Mr. AKASAKA said he did not have any information on the issue, but he would check whether any statement had been produced on the incident, including by the peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Libya’s representative went on to ask about the work of the Alliance of Civilizations, and wondered whether there could be a code of conduct governing the use of information that would put standards forth for journalists.  Mr. AKASAKA noted that it would be difficult to initiate such standards, but it was up to the journalists themselves, and in the case of journalists accredited to the United Nations, there had been some discussions on the matter.  Yet, he did not see the final product as a code of conduct.

Statements

THOMAS LAMBERT (Belgium), on behalf of the European Union, said that the Department of Public Information played a crucial role in raising global awareness of the key issues of the Organization, such as the Millennium Development Goals, human rights, peacekeeping, peace-building, climate change, sustainable development, non-proliferation and rule of law.  He highlighted the Department’s system-wide campaign to build momentum for the Millennium Development Goals.  In addition, the European Union welcomed the Department’s outreach activities to publicize the newly established gender entity “UN Women”, the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, and the recent communication activities to raise awareness of the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  It encouraged the Department to undertake more initiatives to promote women’s issues.

He reiterated the priorities outlined during the Committee on Information’s thirty-second session:  to improve coordination, efficiency and integration of public information activities throughout the entire United Nations; to streamline the resolution on “questions relating to information”; and to identify cost- effective ways to disseminate the United Nations messages in all official languages.  In closing, the Union recalled that the General Assembly in its annual resolution on questions relating to information reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, and urged all Member States to ensure that journalists could perform their tasks freely.  Unfortunately, over the past year, far too many journalists worldwide had been censored, jailed, kidnapped or killed for their work.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 36 media professionals had been killed since the beginning of this year.  The European Union strongly condemned attacks against journalists.

WALEED AL-SAIYANI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, thanked Mr. Akasaka for his informative presentation on the activities of the Department of Public Information.  The close cooperation and partnership between the Department and the Committee on Information had always been the cornerstone of the Organization’s public information policies.  That was why it was of great importance to the Group of 77 to continue strengthening that partnership.  He was confident that the Public Information Department would continue to play a vital role as a public voice to promote the purposes and image of the United Nations.

He said that the Organization was the universal forum where many issues confronting the international community were debated.  However, many countries in the developing world still lacked the resources and technical means to access information about United Nations activities.  The Public Information Department, therefore, had the challenging task of reaching out to the widest possible audiences, and through its continued campaigns on issues of importance to the international community, was indeed advancing the United Nations work.

The Group of 77 appreciated and supported the work of the Department and looked forward to its continuation, he said.  The Group emphasized the importance of the Department’s Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, which raised awareness and supported efforts for achieving peace in the Middle East.  In that respect, the Group of 77 commended the Department for its implementation of that important Programme and, among other aspects, its annual training of Palestinian media professionals from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

He said that the role of the United Nations Information Centres was also of vital importance.  He, therefore, urged that all possible measures be taken to strengthen them, and he pledged the Group’s full support.  The Internet had become a very important source of information.  There were more than 1.9 billion Internet users in the world and, thus, more resources and efforts should be allocated to achieve full language parity.  He emphasized the importance of continuing the use of traditional media, as that was still the primary communication means in many developing countries.

MILAGROS MIRANDA (Peru) said her delegation appreciated the progress achieved in strategic communications by the Information Department, and believed that such efforts led to a better understanding of the Organization and better achievement of its goals.  She welcomed new actors and new technologies, and said the use of them must have an impact in bridging the gulf between developed and developing countries.  She supported the work of the Information Centre in Lima, and was grateful to the centre to help and train those in peacekeeping operations, especially for the work of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

She said that the Information Centres made it possible for people around the world to better understand the work of the United Nations.  She went on to note the importance of multilingualism in the work of public information, and asked what was being done to promote the United Nations official languages.  Progress in that area could be improved to ensure more inclusive systems.  At the same time, the Department’s work involving the languages must be carried out in close coordination of the Member States and the Secretary-General.

MOHAMAD HERY SARIPUDIN (Indonesia) commended the work of the Department of Public Information in support of three pillars of the United Nations, namely peace and security, development and human rights.  He called on the Department to continue dedicating efforts towards the objective of reaching out to the public by providing accurate, impartial and relevant information on the Organization’s broad activities.  The Department’s worldwide network was becoming structurally better and more efficient, and progress to that end had been helped tremendously by enhanced coordination of information within the United Nations system.  He wanted the Department to continue developing its ability to make the voice of the United Nations heard “loud and clear” and reach the widest audience.  The work of the United Nations Information Centres around the world in disseminating information was of tremendous importance.

As a troop-contributing country, Indonesia recognized the vital nature of disseminating information that highlighted United Nations peacekeeping success stories and that provided accurate information on the activities of United Nations peacekeepers.  He supported the call for the Department to use its worldwide presence to foster a dialogue among civilizations and culture of peace, as well as in promotion of the work of the Alliance of Civilizations.  With the diversity and potency of the tools at its disposal today, the Information Department could play a vital role in sensitizing the world wide mass media about the need to combat and eradicate the practice of media stereotyping.  In conclusion, he assured Indonesia’s full support as it promoted a positive public image of the United Nations.

MANSOOR CISS (Senegal) aligned his statement with that made by the delegate of Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and noted that the Information Department must continue to lend more support to the United Nations Information Centres.  Indeed, with more financial help, those Centres could play the role of “spokesman” for the Organization wherever they were.  Specifically, the Centre in Dakar could help host a regional bureau which might take up more of the concerns of the region.

He went on to note the need for more multilingualism, and a need for parity in the Organization’s six official languages.  Senegal appealed to all delegations to foster a spirit of partnership in order to make diversity of multilingualism a priority.  There was a need for balance between traditional and new media, in places such as Africa, which often saw no benefit from technology.  Bridging the digital divide between North and South was key.  In addition, Senegal was pleased that the Department continued to carry out its Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine.  He called on all delegations to support all decisions and recommendations on the information activities regarding Palestine.  He paid a tribute to information professionals, who often put their lives at risk, and who worked with skill to make the United Nations voices heard.

ALLAL OUAZZANI TOUHAMI (Morocco) said his delegation aligned itself with the statement made earlier by the representative of Yemen on behalf on the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  He welcomed the Department’s progress in expanding its reach.  Since information was a valuable commodity, the Department needed to be an interface between the United Nations and the public.  Thus, the 63 United Nations Information Centres were a privileged interlocutor, as they informed the public locally on what was taking place globally.  He noted the work of the Centre in Rabat, which informed the Moroccan public.

Continuing, he encouraged the Department to continue its outreach on the Question of Palestine, and regarding training of Palestinian journalists, stressed the importance of capacity-building.  He called for more resources to train such journalists, especially in the area of e-media.  He wished the Department could have greater access to the universities, and he welcomed the exchange of teachers and students through the Academic Impact initiative.  While the Department had had significant success in carrying out its mandate, much needed to be done, including ensuring closer communication between the Departments of Public Information and Political Affairs, which would help communicate the successes of the United Nations.

PEDRO NUNEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba), aligning his country with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said that for millions of illiterate people; what they needed was to learn to read and write first so they could exercise their own judgement and express themselves in true freedom.  The goal of providing information bristled with challenges:  the disparity in access of new information technology was increasing constantly.  Although more people were connected to the Internet, in many countries, the majority of citizens were without access.  In Africa, hardly 4 per cent had Internet access.  And thus, the flow of information was generated in a singular way.  The major media centres controlled information, and all too often, imposed lies and flouted freedom of expression.

Thus, he said it was important to think about ways to change those situations; it was in that endeavour that the United Nations had a vital role to play.  The 63 United Nations Information Centres around the world could play a role in disseminating information, taking into account their audiences.  He welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Information Centre in Luanda, Angola.  The use of radio must be enhanced, in order to provide information to the illiterate people in the South.  He welcomed the news that the Department of Public Information would broaden its network of broadcasters and that changes would be made to improve quality and use more languages.

Cuba remained the target of broadcasting aggression by the United States, he said.  That aggression was illegal.  The United States falsified information and distorted it, with the goal of interfering in Cuban broadcasts.  At the fifty-third meeting of the International Telecommunications Union radio board, the United States had been urged to cease that interference.  In addition, the Cuban Government denounced the illegality of those actions.  Cuba demanded an end to those illegal acts, as they undermined the country’s sovereignty and independence.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said his country had been pleased to have hosted the recent DPI/NGO Conference, “Advance global health:  achieve the Millennium Development Goals”, which 1,700 participants representing 260 non-governmental organizations from 70 countries and 100 accredited media had attended.  Australia had supported the attendance at the conference of up to 22 representatives from developing country non-governmental organizations, enabling, for the first time, non-governmental organizations from Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga to attend.  Those DPI/NGO Conferences served as an outreach service in support of the Public Information Department’s goals to foster and develop a worldwide understanding of the work of the United Nations.

Continuing, he applauded the many initiatives over the past year in the Department’s strategic communication services, including efforts to increase awareness of thematic issues through better coordinated communication campaigns.  One example of that was the United Nations Communications Group Task Force system-wide campaign leading up to the Millennium Development Goals summit, where he had observed a marked increase in media focus on global development issues.  Regarding climate change, a threat now to small island developing States, a more coordinated communications strategy was also evident, and he encouraged work in that area to continue.  On a regional level, the United Nations Information Centre for Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, located in Canberra, supported United Nations work by fostering cooperation between the Organization’s offices and strengthening partnerships with civil society and Government, among others.

The new redesigned website of the United Nations was also notable, facilitating usability and an increased capacity to host multimedia content, he said.  The Organization’s expansion into new media and social media tools was also commendable, as those methods engaged today’s youth.  However, he stressed, traditional media, such as United Nations Radio and United Nations Television, remained crucial outlets, especially to countries without easy access to new communication technologies.  The Australian Mission relied on UNTV as did Australian media outlets in keeping up with activities at Headquarters, and he pointed out that the UNifeed following Haiti’s earthquake demonstrated “how central UNTV can be when disaster strikes”.  The “Every Day” pocket information card was an example of the Department’s successful dissemination of information about the work of the United Nations through simple and accessible means.

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