Public Information Department is Public Voice of United Nations, Fourth Committee Hears, Charting Path in Two Drafts for Organization’s Mission to Spread Message

21 October 2010
GA/SPD/461

Public Information Department is Public Voice of United Nations, Fourth Committee Hears, Charting Path in Two Drafts for Organization’s Mission to Spread Message

21 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/SPD/461
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

13th Meeting (PM)

Public Information Department is Public Voice of United Nations, Fourth Committee

Hears, Charting Path in Two Drafts for Organization’s Mission to Spread Message

The Department of Public Information was the public voice of the Organization, and the promotion of multiculturalism and multilingualism must remain the hallmark of the United Nations, infusing efforts to achieve common undertakings and mature responses in every aspect of its work, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today just prior to its approval, without a vote, of two draft resolutions on questions relating to information.

By the terms of the resolution on information in the service of humanity, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly urge all countries and organizations of the United Nations system as a whole, to heed the call for a “new world information and communication order”, and to reduce existing disparities in information flows at all levels.

By the terms of a second, broad resolution on United Nations public information policies and activities, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly request that particular attention be paid to implementing the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and to raising public awareness of climate change.

Also according to that text, the Committee would 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 were made available daily through the United Nations website and were 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.  It would also have the Assembly 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.

A section of the text on the Department’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly stress the importance of enhancing the public information capacity of the Department in the field of peacekeeping operations, and would emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping gateway on the United Nations website, requesting the further development of the websites for peacekeeping missions.

The draft text also addresses such related issues as promotional campaigns, news services, traditional means of communication, strengthening dialogue among civilizations, library services and outreach activities.

During its general debate on questions relating to information, prior to action on the texts, representatives across a variety of regions heralded the accomplishments and efforts of the Department in bringing the message and mission of the United Nations to the world.

The representative of Bahrain noted the “astonishing” achievements of the Department, which he said worked tirelessly to mobilize efforts and raise awareness of the Organization in a targeted manner, putting all endeavours in the service of the public to promote United Nations products in the six official languages.

Representatives again called attention to the existence of a “digital divide”, however, particularly between North and South countries.  Congo’s representative said that in Africa, marginalized people were not informed of world problems or of their rights or responsibilities.  Thus, he said, it was important to maintain a balance between technologies so as not to exacerbate the gap.

Trinidad and Tobago’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that targeted and specific dissemination of correct information could contribute significantly to bringing about positive changes to the global audience served by the Department.

Noting that the United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean in Port-of-Spain disseminated and serviced the information needs of 19 English and Dutch speaking Member States and territories throughout the CARICOM subregion, she urged the Department to continuously review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to the Information Centres in developing countries and to provide them with the necessary budgetary resources to effectively fulfil their responsibility of bringing the world’s attention to the many activities of the United Nations.

Among other delegates, Jamaica’s representative addressed the issue of the permanent memorial initiative to establish a monument at the United Nations in honour of the victims of slavery, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and other atrocities.  He said his delegation remained committed to working closely with the Department to organize annual commemorative activities and to establish such a memorial.

The United States’ representative noted the efforts of the Department in addressing the commemorative events it dealt with regularly throughout the year.  She underscored the importance of ensuring robust programming for integral Department outreach activities, such as the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery, Holocaust Remembrance, the Rwandan Genocide, and similar United Nations programmes.  Her delegation would also encourage the Under-Secretary-General to identify ways to improve coordination, efficiency and integration of the Department’s activities throughout the entire United Nations system.

Also speaking during the general debate were the representatives of Tunisia, Russian Federation, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Nigeria, Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 22 October, to begin its general debate on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

Background

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information, it had before it two draft resolutions contained in the report on the thirty-second session of the Committee on Information (document A/65/21).

It also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information (document A/65/277).  (For a summary of that report, see Press Release GA/SPD/459)

By the terms of draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s thirty-second 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 further provisions of that text, the Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system as a whole, and all others concerned to provide all possible assistance to developing countries for the development of the human and technical resources that were indispensable for the improvement of information and communications systems in developing countries and support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes, such as those already operating under both public and private auspices throughout the developing world; to create conditions that would enable developing countries and their media, public, private or other, to have, by using their national and regional resources, the communications technology suited to their national needs, as well as the necessary programme material, especially for radio and television broadcasting; assist in establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels, especially among developing countries; facilitate, as appropriate, the access by the developing countries to advanced communications technology available on the open market; and to provide full support for the International Programme for the development of Communication of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in its support of both public and private media.

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 stress the importance of the provision of clear, timely, accurate and comprehensive information by the Secretariat to Member States, upon their request, within the framework of existing mandates and procedures, and request the Department to pay particular attention to peace and security, development and human rights and to major issues, such as the eradication of poverty, including the global food crisis, conflict prevention, sustainable development, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and the needs of the African continent.

It would also request that particular attention be paid to implementing the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and raising public awareness of climate change, especially in the context of the Conference of the Parties and of the meetings of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December 2009, and the forthcoming session in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010.

By a further term of the text, the Assembly would emphasizesthat the Department should maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and, where appropriate, other countries with special needs, and that the activities of the Department should contribute to bridging the existing gap between the developing and the developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications.

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 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.

It would also note the issuance of daily press releases, and reiterate the request to the Department to continue to improve their production process, keeping in mind the views expressed by Member States, including their views on expanding them to the other official languages, among others, through cost-neutral cooperative arrangements with academic institutions.

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.  It would also stress the importance of taking into account the special needs and requirements of developing countries in the field of information and communications technology for the effective flow of information in those countries.

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 Department’s work in promoting, through its campaigns, issues of importance to the international community, such as the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the progress made in implementing the internationally agreed development goals, United Nations reform, the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustainable development, disarmament, decolonization, human rights (including the rights of women and children and of persons with disabilities), strategic coordination in humanitarian relief, especially in natural disasters and other crises, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, the needs of the African continent, combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, dialogue among civilizations, the culture of peace and tolerance and the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, as well as prevention of genocide.

A section of the text on the Department’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly request the Secretariat to ensure the Department’s role in every stage of future peacekeeping operations.  It would stress the importance of enhancing the public information capacity of the Department in the field of peacekeeping operations and its role, in close cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, in the process of selecting public information staff for United Nations peacekeeping operations or missions.

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 Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue to cooperate in implementing an effective outreach programme to explain the zero-tolerance policy of the Organization regarding sexual exploitation and abuse and to inform the public of the outcome of all such cases involving peacekeeping personnel, including cases where allegations are ultimately found to be legally unproven, and also to inform the public of the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by United Nations Staff and Related Personnel.

In a section on the Department’s role in strengthening dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace as means of enhancing understanding among nations, the Assembly would requests the Department to continue to provide the support necessary for the dissemination of information pertaining to dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace, as well as the initiative on the Alliance of Civilizations, and to take due steps in fostering the culture of dialogue among civilizations and promoting cultural understanding, tolerance, respect for and freedom of religion or belief and effective enjoyment by all of all human rights and civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It would invite the United Nations system to encourage and facilitate dialogue among civilizations and to formulate ways and means to promote dialogue among civilizations in its activities in various fields.

In a section on the 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 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 Office of Information and Communications Technology 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 Department to continue leading the Steering Committee for the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries.  It would also commend the steps taken by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the other member libraries of the Steering Committee to align their activities, services and outputs more closely with the goals, objectives and operational priorities of the Organization.

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 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.

The Assembly would also ask the Department to continue to examine its policies and activities regarding the durable preservation of its radio, television, film and photographic archives and to take action in ensuring that the archives were preserved and remained accessible, including in the context of the construction work of the capital master plan within the overall budget of the plan.

By a section on outreach services, the Assembly would request the Department to continue the publication of the UN Chroniclewith a view to improving it further within existing resources and to report to the Committee on Information at its thirty-third session on progress in this matter, and reiterates its request to submit options for publishing the UN Chroniclein all six official languages.

By further provisions of the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to the Committee on Information at its thirty-third session, and to the General Assembly at it sixty-sixth session, on the activities of the 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 Department was maintained throughout the period of the implementation of the Capital Master Plan.

CLAIRE DE BOURG-EXETER ( Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said targeted and specific dissemination of correct information could contribute significantly to bringing about positive changes to the global audience that the Information Department served.  Thus, CARICOM wished to commend the work of the Department on key issues such as human rights and international peace and security.  She was pleased to note that journalists from Antigua and Barbuda and Haiti had participated in the 2010 Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist’s Fellowship Programme, and also expressed gratitude that the Department had provided balanced updates on Haiti.

She agreed the Internet was now a primary medium of communication but for many countries, traditional media remained primary sources.  CARICOM welcomed efforts to achieve linguistic parity and to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations around the world.  Continuing, she said the United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean in Port-of-Spain disseminated and serviced the information needs of 19 English- and Dutch-speaking Member States and territories throughout the CARICOM subregion.  The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continued to underwrite the rental cost of Information Centre’s office space, allowing it to utilize its annual budget allocation from the United Nations to more effectively carry out its communication goals.

She went on to say that the Information Centre could engage in more proactive outreach through the delivery of information products and services to the countries of the Caribbean that fell within its area of responsibility.  Recognizing the limitations of such Centres, the Department needed to review, on a continuous basis, the allocation of both staff and financial resources to those Centres hosted by developing countries.  In this regard, the Centres must be provided with the necessary budgetary resources if it was to effectively fulfil its responsibility of bringing to the world’s attention, the many activities of the United Nations.  In conclusion, CARICOM reiterated that it looked forward to continued cooperation and collaboration between the Member States, the Permanent Memorial Committee and the Department to not only ensure that the annual commemorative activities were a fitting and solemn tribute to the victims of slavery, but also in efforts to have a monument erected in their honour so that such a tragedy was never repeated.

YADH BOUSSELMI (Tunisia), supporting the statement of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, commended the Under-Secretary-General and the Department of Public Information for their efforts to make the communications sector of the United Nations more viable and responsive to the peoples around the world, who needed to be informed of the activities of the Organization.  The United Nations image was at stake, and its noble values should not go unnoticed.

He wondered about the absence in the Secretary-General’s report of coverage of International Youth Day, and called for bridging that gap through wider and stronger cooperation.  He said there was no doubt that that was a shared concern for all.  Much remained to be done in order to make the right to access of information technologies a concrete and permanent reality.  Endorsing the proposals and observations made by other representatives, he said he too advocated for the need to place emphasis on the question of Palestine, particularly through the United Nations website.  Also necessary was to improve the Arabic language section on the United Nations website.

RAYMOND O. WOLFE ( Jamaica) commended the entire Department of Public Information team for carrying out its work in an effective manner and ensuring that the activities of the United Nations were disseminated across the globe.  The Department was the public voice of the Organization and had innovative programmes, including the incorporation of new media on thematic issues, such as the Millennium Development Goals, UN Women, Nelson Mandela Day, climate change, and sustainable development.  The world was living in the information age, and developing and least developed countries were not exempt from that technological revolution.  At the same time, the cost of that technology prohibited easy access for a majority of peoples and, thus, traditional media remained an important means of disseminating information.  In addition, Jamaica supported the Department’s efforts to reach out to youth.

He said he was pleased at the Department’s efforts to improve the content of the UN Chronicle, with a view to enhancing its subscription base, and he noted the increase in readership of the online version for the English and French languages.  He also welcomed the publication of the online format in other United Nations languages.  The promotion of multiculturalism and multilingualism must remain the hallmark of the United Nations and should infuse efforts to achieve common undertakings and mature responses in every aspect of work.  Specifically, he noted the negative impact of the illicit trade in and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and urged the Department to raise awareness on that problem.  Lastly, he addressed the issue of the permanent memorial initiative to establish a monument at the United Nations in honour of the victims of slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  He remained committed to working closely with the Department to organize annual commemorative activities and to establish such a memorial.

ANTON USPENSKY ( Russian Federation) said that the achievements of the United Nations were for the benefit of all humankind, and thus, everyone had the right to be informed of them.  He said the Department of Public Information had a broad array of resources for disseminating information, traditional and new, alike.  The United Nations website’s updated design and improved structure allowed for broad access for the international community.  The work of the site should involve support for a high level of accuracy and speed of information.  In that regard, he wished to highlight the Russian language news centre, as those activities were especially needed, given the growth of electronic media and the increase in users of the Russian language segment.  The Department should strengthen the Russian language component at the United Nations, in keeping with the multilingualism goal.

In the context of developing information for the Internet, he welcomed the recent achievements in the field using additional resources, such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, which attracted young people to United Nations activities.  The Department should not forget, however, the existing inequality to access to such technologies around the world.  While in developed countries some 65 per cent of people used the Internet, only 10 per cent used it in developing countries.  A reliable support for the dissemination of information remained radio, television and print.  He also called for the restoration of radio broadcasting in the Russian language on Russian territory, which had been interrupted due to some technical difficulties.  He hoped that such interruptions could be avoided in the future.  The United Nations News Service provided prompt and precise reporting.  He also welcomed the enlargement of the Information Centres, as their strengthening was necessary for the focused provision of information about the United Nations.  He also drew attention to Russian Language Day, which this year had drawn a much interest.  Events such as those made it possible for people to familiarize themselves with the Russian language.

RAPHAËL DIEUDONNÉ MABOUNDOU (Congo) said new media played an important role in promoting United Nations actions, however, new technologies could exacerbate the differences between the peoples of the North and South.  In Africa, marginalized people were not informed of world problems or about their rights or responsibilities.  Thus, it was important to maintain a balance between technologies, so as not to exacerbate the divide.  In order to keep the Congo up to date in terms of technology and build an information digital economy society by 2015, it had developed a programme which would build a broadband infrastructure and make it possible for the country to have national networks that were close to international standards.

He said that, on 21 May, his Government had officially inaugurated a project on fibre optics, which would lead to the modernization of infrastructure, leading to a regular, essential flow of information.  It would be part of the implementation of a governance and transparency project financed by the World Bank.  In addition, Brazzaville hosted an ITU (International Telecommunication Union) conference, which produced major resolutions and the Brazzaville declaration, summarizing the commitment of African countries regarding information and communications technology.

His delegation welcomed the United Nations Information Centres, especially in Brazzaville, where the Centre had carried out a seminar based on race and skin colour, he said.  The Information Centres were a way to reach audiences, and should receive additional resources from Member States to conduct imperative communications campaigns and carry out their mission.  Congo believed multilingualism was essential, and he called on the Department of Public Information to increase its use of other languages.

FAISAL EBRAHIM AL-ZAYANI ( Bahrain), aligning his delegation with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said that he was aware of the astonishing achievements of the Department of Public Information in many fields.  His delegation greatly appreciated the role the Department had undertaken, as well as its impressive performance in mobilizing efforts to raise awareness in a targeted manner, and putting all efforts in the service of the public, by promoting United Nations products in the six official languages.  He further appreciated and took pride in the accomplishments of the Department, as he believed it was working tirelessly.  The public, hence reacted to those products, and the outputs became more effective.  That approach, as the result of a culture that took root a couple of years ago, promoted the positive aspects of performance and shunned the negative.  The approach also reflected the strategic efforts exerted by the Department with regard to the promotion of the major questions on the Organization’s agenda, mainly the Millennium Development Goals, human rights, the question of Palestine, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

He said that the salient role played by the Department was a mirror reflecting the desires and aspirations of the international community; it undertook multiple tasks aimed at transmitting the voice of the United Nations to the masses in the world at large.  Therefore, information assumed a great importance, given the pivotal role it played in promoting information, such the extremely critical task of bridging, if not eliminating, the gap or the digital divide between developed and developing countries.  The Department tried to be the driving force in the field of information and communication technologies, in order to achieve the tasks entrusted to it.  The United Nations Information Centres had become beacons of information and enlightenment, and were readily available sources of knowledge for the public.  They promoted United Nations activities and special events, and should be supported.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) endorsed the message of the Group of 77 and China.  Regarding information, special attention should be paid to United Nations activities, and as a member of the Information Committee, his country would spare nothing to be of support.  He was aware of the efforts to bring about balanced treatment of the languages of the United Nations, and he welcomed the fact that the Public Information Department had taken advantage of the new media, although better access to the countries of the South was needed.  The poorer countries needed traditional broadcasting media — radio, press and television — and it was important to support them.  Reducing the digital divide was key.

He said that the United Nations Information Centres were needed to strengthen the Organization’s information programmes, especially at the national and subregional levels.  He urged the United Nations to continue to support the Centres, and noted Burkina Faso’s support, which continued to do its level best by providing substantial support to its Centre.  That Centre benefited from free antenna time, which made it possible to broadcast television, and free radio time on national radio for a fortnightly programme on the United Nations activities.  He welcomed the comments by Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka concerning the Information Centre in Angola.  He hoped the Centre there would serve the countries of the region.

TILAHUN MAMO WOLDEAREGAY (Ethiopia), fully associated his delegation with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said the Public Information Department was at the centre of the United Nations effort to provide accurate, impartial and comprehensive information about the Organization’s work.  He acknowledged the role of the Department in that regard, but said the lack of resources and technical means in developing countries impeded some States from accessing and utilizing the Department’s outputs.  Hence, he was of the view that the United Nations, other pertinent organizations, and civil society should mobilize resources and know-how to close the digital divide between developed and developing countries.

He said it was clear that the Department was playing a crucial role and contributed significantly to raising global awareness on key issues, such as:  the Millennium Development Goals; human rights; peacekeeping; peacebuilding; climate change; and other agendas of vital importance to humanity.  Ethiopia, while appreciating what the Department had done so far, believed the system-wide campaign to build momentum towards achievement the Development Goals should be further enhanced.  The use of traditional media was still important, and thus, the United Nations, with its partners, should further enhance dissemination of information to peoples in as many spoken languages as possible.  That would enable the Department to have wider dissemination and reach of information, with an eye to closing the digital divide.

EILEEN MERRITT ( United States) said her delegation would continue to encourage the Under-Secretary-General to identify ways to improve coordination, efficiency and integration of the Department of Public Information’s activities throughout the entire United Nations system.  In that respect, she noted the efforts of the Department in addressing the commemorative events it dealt with regularly throughout the year, and encouraged efforts to enhance support for those activities.  She also underscored the importance of ensuring robust programming for integral Department outreach activities, such as the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery, Holocaust Remembrance, the Rwandan Genocide, and similar United Nations programmes.

RUSTEM ZHUMABEKOV (Kazakhstan) stated that it was necessary for the Department of Public Information to highlight the significance of the Security Council’s resolution 1325 (2000) on “women, peace and security” — including efforts to implement it — on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its adoption.  He noted that on the occasion of 29 August, the International Day against Nuclear Tests, the President of Kazakhstan unilaterally shut down the world’s second largest nuclear test site in 1991.  He said the significance of the International Day was “immense beyond doubt”, adding that it was used to the fullest for the purposes of disarmament and non-proliferation education and information.  In that context, he affirmed “It is evident that this global outreach would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of DPI and its divisions.”

Kazakhstan believed and supported the idea that closer and coordinated work between Department and the Committee on Information would “considerably enhance the efficiency and extent of coverage of public information” on the vast range of issues covered by the United Nations.  Also supported was the review of department’s to engage scientific and academics circles to find solutions for global concerns and the expanded use of the Organization’s official languages in order to reach wider audiences.  He noted with concern the Department’s diminishing budget, which greatly reduced the scope of its work.  “We call on all Member States to come forward to support the Department,” he stated.

MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) said the Department of Public Information and the Committee on Information had important roles to play.  Among the General Assembly’s important activities was the adoption of resolution 64/253, recognizing 21 March as the International Day of Nowruz, and he encouraged the Department to contribute to that commemoration and raise awareness about the event.  Given the continued digital gap between developed and developing countries, the Department could also play an effective role in the establishment of a new order of global information based on free circulation and balanced dissemination of information.  This could be done by enhancing the Department’s technological infrastructure on a continuous basis, especially in areas of public information and communications that were of special interest to developing countries.

The Department could also raise international awareness regarding the question of Palestine, with a view to shedding more light on the negative impacts of the illegitimate occupation of Palestinian land.  Given increasing acts of Islamophobia, a growing trend of intolerance towards Muslims, and mounting numbers of acts of violence against Muslims in some Western societies, he called upon the Department to use its worldwide presence in order to counter that phenomenon and foster respect for all religions and cultural values and religious tolerance.  United Nations Information Centres should maintain close consultations and better coordination with the host countries.  Turning to the Department’s multilingualism programme, he said efforts should go beyond the six official United Nations languages to include local languages widely regarded as the roots of great cultures and civilizations, including the Persian language, which was a unique source of integrity and solidarity among several nations in his region.

MARIA OLAYINKA LAOSE ( Nigeria) said that since it represented a predominantly young country, his delegation appreciated the Department of Public Information’s continued outreach to young people.  Indeed, a culture of peace could only be built through engaging youth.  Nigeria also prided itself as a pace-setter in freedom of the press in Africa, and condemned extrajudicial restrictions on journalists who sometimes paid with their lives for publishing their beliefs.  She encouraged the Department to continue reaching out to the global community, but said efforts should not be spared for regions that lacked internet access.

Information dissemination could also contribute to the success of peacekeeping operations, she said, as the reception of United Nations troops depended mostly on perception of host countries.  Well-targeted information to host countries before the arrival of peacekeepers could ensure the acceptability of a mission, enhancing the environment in which they were expected to work and helping to further the United Nations goals of international peace and security.

MAJDI RAMADAN ( Lebanon) aligned himself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said that the success of the advocacy role to promote the purposes and goals of the United Nations, and carried out by the Public Information Department, required strong partnership with the Committee on Information.  He further believed that the main underpinnings of that success rested on several elements.  First, it was key to reach out to the widest possible audiences, including in developing countries, which lacked resources and means to access information on activities related to the full range of issues on the Organization’s agenda.  Those issues included conflict resolution, peacekeeping, disarmament, sustainable development and human rights.  In that regard, he commended the Special Information Programme on the question of Palestine for raising awareness about the suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation and for advancing a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on Security Council resolutions.  He also praised the Department’s annual training programme, which had selected 10 young Palestinian journalists, eight of whom were women.

He said that expanded multilingualism in the activities of the United Nations was needed, including full parity for all websites.  Dissemination of information on United Nations activities should take place in local languages to the extent possible.  Bridging the gap between developed and developing countries was key, as well as strengthening the outreach of the 63 United Nations Information Centres.  That included bridging the gap between developed and developing countries in terms of access to information and communication technologies.  He commended the fact that the Centres produced information in more than 40 languages and maintained websites in 29 local languages.

SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN ( Bangladesh) said her delegation greatly appreciated the Department of Public Information’s emphasis on multilingualism, as well as Under Secretary-General Akasaka’s personal interest in language parity on the United Nations website and in other areas of the Organization’s work.  In that regard, he hoped the Department would pay particular attention to meaningful global observance of the International Mother Language Day, on 21 February 2011; with numerous small languages under threat due to globalization and economic disintegration, they needed to be strengthened.  Language represented cultural heritage, as well as the common bond of humanity, and Bangladesh would support the Department in any way possible to help keep small languages alive.

He also urged the Department to publicize, locally, as well as internationally, the services rendered by all United Nations peacekeepers.  The Department could further enhance dissemination of information about climate change — one of the most urgent issues of the time — to help tie together skills and knowledge across the globe and promote a common platform to collectively fight the challenges.  The Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace also asked the Department to develop and implement a communications strategy, so it must take the lead in a campaign that stressed commonality and highlighted ways for people to find solidarity through cultural exchanges.

RONNIE HARLESTON ( Sierra Leone) said that the work of the Organization’s network of Information Centres was a logical take-off to showcase the seamless flow of information globally, and to narrow the existing divide between the developed and developing countries in accessing information.  His country welcomed the efforts to improve United Nations radio stations and programmes.  In that regard, he noted that the conflict in Sierra Leone during the 1990s could provide a viable lesson because United Nations Radio had played a critical in the dissemination of information since, to a great extent, it had more reach than the national radio.

He singled out the collaborative efforts between the Information Centre in his country and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office there (UNIPSIL), in the promotion of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and the wider Organization’s work regarding the Millennium Development Goals.  They also collaborated to ensure the active participation of stakeholders, including the civil society organizations.  He urged the Department of Public Information to “spread the word and share the fun”.

Concerned by the increasing use of the online media and social networks like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, he said that trend was “a wake-up call” for developing countries looking to catch up with the flow of information and communications superhighway.  It further underscored the growing divide in the area of communication technology between Africa and the rest of the world.  Whereas the continent was making steady progress and more people could now access the Internet, African’s cumulative access to the Web only amounted to about 4 per cent of overall global connectivity.  A concerted effort was therefore fundamental if the global information landscape was to be changed.

He said Sierra Leone, for its part, was making tangible strides in transforming its information and communication sector.  New legislation had been enacted that ensured the transformation of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service into an independent broadcaster, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation.  A freedom of information bill was also due for enactment by the Parliament in that body’s upcoming session and would revolutionise citizens’ access to information from public officials.  A national information and communications technology policy, which made provision for the setting up of a national information and communications technology advisory council, had also been designed and efforts were under way to develop information and communications technology services in rural areas.

Action on Draft Texts

Following the conclusion of its general debate on information, the Committee proceeded to consideration of two related drafts.

Draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s thirty-second session (document A/65/21), 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 Committee then decided to take joint action on the drafts, approving both of them without a vote.

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