Highlighting Efforts to Expand Use of Traditional, New Media, Communications Chief Says Information Department Aims for Agility, Flexibility, Innovation

18 October 2011
GA/SPD/486

Highlighting Efforts to Expand Use of Traditional, New Media, Communications Chief Says Information Department Aims for Agility, Flexibility, Innovation

18 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SPD/486
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

10th Meeting (PM)


Highlighting Efforts to Expand Use of Traditional, New Media, Communications Chief


Says Information Department Aims for Agility, Flexibility, Innovation

 


As Fourth Committee Opens Information Segment, Kiyo Akasaka Emphasizes

Outreach, Partnership Programmes, Says Department’s Mission to Inform, Engage, Act


By broadening the use of different media platforms including traditional means of communication, as well as new media, and partners in outreach, the United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, today told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), his Department was fulfilling its mission to “inform, engage [and] act.”


Individuals reached through social media tools comprised one of the fastest growing audiences of the Department, he pointed out as the Committee opened its annual information segment.  He said that last month, the United Nations Twitter account had surpassed the 500,000 follower mark, and was now listed by external ranking services as one of the most influential social media accounts online.


He said that during the period of high‑level General Assembly meetings in mid‑September, the Department of Public Information had employed a combination of traditional and social media platforms to reach diverse audiences.  This year’s general debate had been the most‑watched ever.  Moreover, while organizing the first‑ever global conversation with the Secretary‑General on major social networking sites in September, the Department had solicited questions in multiple languages and had streamed the event live on such sites as Weibo, where it was interpreted into Chinese, as well as on Facebook, Livestream and the United Nations Webcast.


Emphasizing the multilingual make‑up of the Department’s products, Mr. Akasaka said that all content‑providing departments and offices were encouraged to produce materials in all official languages for posting on the United Nations website.  Multilingualism was also a key focus inUnited Nations Radio programmes and online news, which were produced in all six official languages, as well as in Kiswahili and Portuguese.  Improved editorial coordination had made it easier for United Nations Radio and TV producers and United Nations News Centre writers to conduct multilingual interviews with officials and staff at Headquarters and in the field, and then share the content across languages and platforms.


Further, he said that in order to reach users in developing countries who may have lower bandwidth and slower connection speeds, the Department had enhanced coverage of the General Assembly by posting separate audio files of every speaker in the original language spoken.  Emphasizing the work of UNifeed, the daily satellite news feed that reached over 500 TV networks around the world, he stated that since July, UNifeed had produced and/or distributed nearly 80 features on peacekeeping and political missions, including coverage of the events surrounding the independence of South Sudan, as well as the famine in the Horn of Africa, and the United Nations response to the historic developments of the “Arab Spring”.


Noting that the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) was 11 months old today, he said that more than 700 institutions of higher education and research in 108 countries had entered into this global intellectual alliance in support of the United Nations.  He also noted that an exhibit, “Design with the other 90%:  Cities,” and a series of related educational programmes, organized with the Cooper‑ Hewitt National Design Museum, a UNAI member, had officially opened in the Visitors’ Lobby yesterday.  It would run until 9 January 2012. 


“Agility and flexibility, innovation and fresh means of outreach, [and] an immediacy in communication that prompts an immediacy in response”, were the means that the Department of Public Information employed and continuously improved upon, Mr. Akasaka said.  As opportunities and challenges expanded, resources inevitably failed to keep pace and, all too often, shrank.  “We are called upon to do more with less.”  But, supported by a dedicated workforce as well as an energetic and diverse range of partners and constituencies outside, he said the Organization and the Department were able to “do more — with more” even as resources diminished.


Following that address and an interactive dialogue, the Committee began its general debate on information, with a number of speakers underscoring the fact that the Department of Public Information had an important role to play in bridging the digital divide between developed and developing countries. 


The representative of Chilewelcomed the spontaneity and agility of electronic communication butexpressed concern over the growing digital gap between North and South and stressed that traditional media such as radio, television, and written press should continue to be employed in order to convey the message of the United Nations.


Echoing other speakers, the representative of Argentina stressed that United Nations websites should be available in all the official languages of the Organization.  More resources and efforts needed to be allocated to achieve full parity in the United Nations website.  To that, Sudan’s delegate added that it was necessary to support developing countries to obtain access to new communication technologies.  Moreover, it was important to disseminate information, including press releases in all six official languages.


Indonesia’s representative said that the internet had proven to be the catalyst of change, and social media like YouTube and Twitter had been used to spread the message of democracy during what had become known as the “Arab Spring”.  While such examples demonstrated that the new media would bring positive outcomes, he warned that Internet had also been notoriously used to spread hatred and prejudice.  Given that challenge, it was imperative for the United Nations to strengthen its strategy to ensure that when using new media platforms, correct information was provided regarding the United Nations work and important issues.


At the start of its work today, the Committee adopted without vote a draft resolution on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


During the interactive dialogue with the Under‑Secretary‑General, other officials in the Department of Public Information addressed the Committee, including Stéphane Dujarric, Director of the News and Media Division; Mahbub Ahmad, Chief of Web Services; and Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division.


Also speaking during that dialogue were the representatives of Morocco, Russian Federation, Japan, and Nigeria.


During the general debate on information, representatives of Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Egypt, Venezuela, Senegal, and Israel also spoke.


The representative of Armenia spoke after action on the draft.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 October to continue consideration of questions relating to information.


Background


The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary‑General on Questions relating to information (document A/66/261), which highlights recent strategic communications work of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and reviews the activities of the network of United Nations Information Centres.  The activities undertaken by the Department from February to July 2011 include three sub programmes, strategic communications services, news services, and outreach services.  The thematic issues pertaining to strategic communications services include the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development and climate change, women’s issues, commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda, and the question of Palestine, among others.


Further to the report, United Nations Information Centres had been forging partnerships with media organizations, non‑governmental organizations and academic institutions, and using films and other visual materials for communications campaigns.  Increasingly collaborating with local broadcasters and making arrangements for joint productions, the United Nations Information Centre in Islamabad had arranged to broadcast 12 featured radio programmes in Pakistan in 2011, and the United Nations Information Centre in Mexico City would work with the Instituto Latinoamericano de la Comunicación Educativa in Latin America.


The Department also organized several training courses, including a workshop on new media, crisis communications and techniques for managing interviews and press conferences, held in Vienna, and the long‑distance learning course entitled “Writing for the Web”, to enhance the communications capacity of its staff, particularly in the field.  Funds have been approved for the construction of premises for a United Nations Information Centre in Luanda to serve the needs of the Portuguese‑speaking countries in Africa.


The report also says that the United Nations website was restructured to improve navigation and expand common branding elements.  Other key improvements include expansion of the site’s multimedia products and tracking web traffic through Google Analytics.  The United Nations News Centre produced more than 2,000 news stories in English and French alone, and many of these were picked up by media outlets.  United Nations Radio and United Nations Television produced special features, live coverage, and interviews.


Further, the Department’s flagship television news magazine series entitled “21st Century”, which was aired by more than 60 international broadcasters, won a gold medal at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards for a story on the role of the United Nations in the search for justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge.  Between March and June 2011, the Meetings Coverage operation produced 658 press releases in English and French, and the Media Liaison and Accreditation Unit processed 935 permanent and 830 temporary press accreditations.


The Department’s outreach services included the Global Model United Nations Conference, as well as creative initiatives such as the shooting of an episode of “Master Chef Australia” on United Nations premises during the tenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues.  The challenge for the amateur chefs was to be inspired by indigenous dishes.  A number of United Nations Messengers of Peace, as well as Goodwill Ambassadors, along with the Secretary‑General, recorded video messages of solidarity with the people of Japan in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


The report also notes that preparations were progressing for the Reham Al‑Farra Memorial Journalists’ Fellowship Programme, and the sixty‑first edition of the United Nations Yearbook was also launched — this year also as an e‑book.  With the reopening of a library training space, 1,370 staff members, delegates, and representatives of non‑governmental organizations attended library trainings.  The United Nations Twitter page was the top‑rated account in the United Nations system, and during the period it surpassed 400,000 followers.  Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr were effectively used for various purposes such as publicizing the Nelson Mandela International Day campaign, disseminating information on the Secretary‑General’s messages, and discussing the role of the United Nations in Haiti.


The Committee also had before it the report of the Committee on Information (document A/66/21), covering its thirty‑third session, from 27 April to 6 May 2011.  That report contains a draft resolution A, on Information in the service of humanity.  By that text, the Committee would have the Assembly urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system as a whole and all others concerned to disseminate information and communicate their views and their cultural and ethical values through endogenous cultural production, as well as to ensure the diversity of sources and their free access to information, towards “a new world information and communication order, seen as an evolving and continuous process”.


The report also contains draft resolution B, on United Nations public information policies and activities, by which the Committee would have the Assembly request the Secretary‑General, in respect of the those policies and activities, to continue to implement fully the recommendations contained in relevant resolutions.  It would further have the Assembly request the Department of Public Information to maintain its commitment to a culture of evaluation and to continue to evaluate its products and activities with the objective of enhancing their effectiveness, and to undertake endeavours related to bridging the digital divide, supporting United Nations Information Centres, providing strategic communications services, and other measures, including in regards to United Nations peacekeeping.


Also before the Committee was a draft resolution entitled International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, contained in document A/C.4/66/L.2/Rev.1.  By that text, the General Assembly would urges States that have not yet become parties to the international treaties governing the uses of outer space to give consideration to ratifying or acceding to those treaties in accordance with their domestic laws, as well as incorporating them in their national legislation.


Also by that text, the Assembly would urges all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.


By further provisions of that draft, the Assembly would welcome the continuous progress made by the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems towards achieving compatibility and interoperability among global and regional space‑based positioning, navigation and timing systems and in the promotion of the use of global navigation satellite systems and their integration into national infrastructure, particularly in developing countries.


Action on Draft


Speaking on behalf of the delegation of Romania, the Committee Chair introduced the draft resolution on International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/C.4/66/L.2/Rev.1).


Speaking before action on the text, the representative of Armenia said that it would be preferable to learn more about the Committee in the report which clearly noted that the Committee advised the Government of Azerbaijan to accede to the treaties on outer space.  She asked the delegation of Azerbaijan to provide the necessary information to enable its accession to the relevant international instruments.


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


Questions Relating to Information


Introducing the report of the Committee on Information, contained in document A/66/21, the Rapporteur of that Committee, MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI (Iran) said that the report consisted of four parts, with Chapters 1 and 2 providing an introduction to the Committee’s work and organizational issues, Chapter 3 summarizing the body’s annual general debate, and Chapter 4 presenting two draft resolutions adopted at end of the Committee’s thirty‑third session.


He said that at the start of that session, Kiyo Akasaka, United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Communications and Public Information, had introduced three reports outlining the work done by the Information Department in strategic communications services, news and media services, and outreach services.  A total of 27 members addressed the Committee on Information on wide‑ranging issues.  One speaker had emphasized the role of the Department as the “public voice” of the United Nations.  Some speakers had called for cooperation between the Committee and the Department.  Others made references to multilingualism and the importance of achieving parity in the six official languages of the United Nations system.


Further, he stated, the work of United Nations Information Centres was highlighted by a number of speakers.  Several had called for more vigorous efforts to bridge the digital divide.  While acknowledging the role of new media, they had stressed that traditional means of communication such as radio and print media should continue to be utilized.  Members also referred to the importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and said that Department of Public Information must play a more vigorous role in promoting dialogue between civilizations.  In that regard, speakers welcomed the dynamic partnership between the Department and civil society.  Finally, he noted the two draft resolutions contained in the report.


Statement by Under‑Secretary‑General


KIYO AKASAKA, Under‑Secretary‑General for Communications and Public Information, began by speaking of his visit to Romania earlier in the year during which he had met with diverse sections of the country’s vibrant population, including students at a Model United Nations, scholars at an academic conference, and senior Government ministers.  He was “deeply impressed” by their awareness of and interest in the United Nations.  The Department’s efforts to sustain that global interest were reflected in the Secretary‑General’s report (document A/66/261), which described activities undertaken by the Department of Public Information from February to July 2011 through its three sub‑programmes — strategic communications services, news services, and outreach services.


The Department, he said, was dedicated to communicating the ideals and purposes of the United Nations to the world; to interacting and partnering with diverse audiences; and to building support for peace, development and human rights for all.  “Inform.  Engage.  Act.  Indeed that is our mission statement,” he declared, adding that in line with that view, the Department’s principal focus was on broadening the use of different outlets and platforms — including traditional means of communication, as well as new media, and partners in outreach — in its coverage of the world of the United Nations.


He stated that one of the fastest growing audiences for that effort was individuals reached through social media tools.  The United Nations Twitter account in September had surpassed the 500,000‑follower mark, an increase of 400,000 followers during a one‑year period.  Two external ranking services, Klout and Retweet, had listed the United Nationsaccount, managed by Department, as one of the most influential social media accounts online.  During the period of high‑level General Assembly meetings in mid‑September, the Department’s experiences had demonstrated that using a combination of traditional and social media platforms was the most effective way to reach diverse audiences.  He noted that this year’s general debate had been the most‑watched ever.  The Department had posted nearly 900 clips for on‑demand access and had registered more than five million video views from 210 countries and territories around the world.


Noting that it was critical to enhance the multilingual make‑up of the Department’s products in order to sustain and broaden its base of engagement, he said that the Department continued to encourage content‑providing departments and offices to produce materials in all official languages for posting on the United Nations website, while pursuing opportunities with academic institutions to broaden the scope and improve the quality of a range of information materials made available online.  For the first time ever, a Department‑led effort had made it possible to have the online version of the General Assembly press kit produced and posted in all official languages. 


The Department of Public Information, he continued, had made every effort, within available resources, to produce and disseminate content, including United Nations Radio programmes and online news, in all official languages, as well as in Kiswahili and Portuguese.  Further, it had enhanced its coverage of the General Assembly by posting separate audio files of every address in the original language spoken.  That approach would be especially beneficial for users in developing countries who might have lower bandwidth and slower connection speeds.  At Headquarters itself, he said the Department had made sure to promote multilingualism on the United Nations in‑house TV network that was available in many parts of the complex.  Agreements had also been concluded with outside publishers for the French and Spanish editions of Basic Facts about the United Nations.


Proactively exploring licensing options with publishers around the world to translate or reprint United Nations titles in languages other than English, the Department had signed a number ofagreements, from July to September 2011, generating approximately 12,500 additional copies of such publications, produced at minimal or zero cost to the Organization.  Through the Department’s arrangements with the Google Book Program, a total of nearly six million pages of United Nations publications had been viewed so far this year, and as many as six out of the top 10 had been viewed in French or Spanish.  Further, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s website existed in the six official languages and it’s information training programmes, particularly those related to United Nations documentation, were offered in English, French and Spanish. 


He added that the Information Department had continually sought to enhance the journalistic quality of its products, including through an expanded and multilingual use of features, profiles and in‑depth interviews that provided a more compelling and comprehensive picture of the United Nations work.  A series of such interviews included senior officials and a Department of Peacekeeping Operations staff member who had been held captive while on mission in Sudan.  Improved editorial coordination had made it easier for United Nations Radio and TV producers and United Nations News Centre writers to conduct multilingual interviews with officials and staff at Headquarters and in the field, and then share that content generated across languages and platforms.


Turning next to the use of social media, he said that while organizing the first‑ever global conversation with the Secretary‑General on major social networking sites in September, the Information Department had solicited questions in multiple languages and streamed the event live on such sites as Weibo, where it was interpreted into Chinese, as well as on Facebook, Livestream and the United Nations Webcast.  In August, the United Nations Information Centre in Manila had used its official Facebook page to promote a photo contest organized by the United Nations Country Team in observance of the International Year of Forests in English and in Tagalog.  The Jakarta Information Centre actively used Twitter to reach out to local media on United Nations issues in Bahasa Indonesia; in less than four months the number of its Twitter followers has tripled.


Briefing the Committee on the global network of Information Centres, he said that they had played a key role not only in reaching audiences at the local, national and regional levels, but also in terms of the support and guidance that they provided to Special Envoys and other advisors involved in ongoing political discussions and developments.  Recent examples included the assistance provided by the Information Centres in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.  Those offices were an integral part of the Secretariat and were of value, not only to the Department, but also to other Departments and the wider United Nations system.


Noting recent tragic events in Nigeria, he said that the security of field staff was a priority issue, especially for the Information Department with its strong field presence, including offices in 63 locations around the world.  Several United Nations Information Centres had relocated over the past year or so for security‑related reasons, and more were planning to do the same.  Despite financial constraints, the Department was trying, to the extent possible, to ensure that all its offices met the minimum United Nations security standards.


Further, he said the Department had been at the forefront of efforts to develop and carry out a communications strategy for Rio+20 — the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  The Department had led a system‑wide effort to develop a unified and coherent global campaign aimed at the general public, along with issue‑oriented public awareness campaigns in key areas of concern for sustainable development.  An important element was to ensure that all the pillars of sustainable development — economic, social and environmental — were presented in an integrated manner.


He said that the final declaration and action plan of this year’s conference of the United Nations DPI/NGO meeting had included recommendations that would contribute to negotiations at Rio+20.  Entitled “Sustainable societies; responsive citizens,” the conference, which took place in Bonn, Germany in September, had attracted 1,300 participants representing 300 NGOs from 65 countries, including, for the first time, from the Middle East and North Africa (Iraq, Lebanon, and Morocco).


Environmental sustainability was also one of the key topics discussed at a forum hosted in July by the Niemeyer Center, in Asturias, Spain, to introduce producers, directors, writers and other professionals from the film and television industries of Spain, Portugal and Latin America to the work of the United Nations, in the context of the Department’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative.


Pointing out that this week marked the start of the annual global UN4U campaign — the outreach programme to schools — he said that over the next 10 days or so, the Secretary‑General and some 60 United Nations officials would visit 60 high schools across New York City to give students an overview of the United Nations and offer advice on how they could become more involved with United Nations issues.  A number of United Nations Information Centres were organizing similar UN4U outreach activities, he added.


Along similar lines, he said the Citizens Ambassadors video contest gave participants the opportunity to pitch an idea to the Secretary‑General that could change the world.  The winners would be invited to New York to visit the United Nations and to meet the Secretary‑General.


He went on to say that the Information Department had also continued its close cooperation with the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations, Field Support and Political Affairs, to promote and backstop United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions.  The new peacekeeping website, a joint effort by dedicated teams from the Information Department and the Organization’s peacekeeping Departments, was now available in all six official languages.  The Peacekeeping Departments had established a joint Web Editorial Board to review immediate priorities, strategic objectives and content management issues related to the website.


Since July, UNifeed, the daily satellite news feed that reached over 500 TV networks around the world, had produced and/or distributed nearly 80 features on peacekeeping and political missions, including coverage of the events surrounding the independence of South Sudan.  The United Nations Photo website continued to expand its gallery of images, providing a vivid illustration of all aspects of the United Nations work at Headquarters and in the field.  The Information Department had also organized photography exhibitions highlighting United Nations peacekeeping efforts.


The Department had produced a weekly document for the United Nations system, he said, on the crisis in the Horn of Africa and the Organization’s response.  United Nations efforts to alert the global community about the impending famine and to mount aid operations were continuously covered on all language versions of the United Nations News Centre portal and through United Nations Radio’s multilingual programmes.  UNifeed had produced or distributed more than 60 stories on the famine in the Horn of Africa, including footage of the exodus of Somalis to Kenya, and humanitarian aid and emergency food deliveries.  A similar approach was successfully used to highlight the United Nations response to the historic developments of the “Arab Spring.”  DPI had also been involved in providing support and advice to the pre‑assessment planning process for the envisaged political mission in Libya.


He said that the prospects for Arab‑Israeli peace had been the subject of the annual International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in July.  Co‑hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, that event had examined the role of the media and culture in creating conditions for peace in the region.  The Department, in close consultation with the Department of Political Affairs and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had revised and updated the permanent exhibit on the question of Palestine and the United Nations.


He said that the soft launch of that exhibit took place earlier this afternoon and would be followed by the formal launch on 29 November, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  The exhibit would be translated by the network of United Nations Information Centres into several languages, including Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Dutch, French, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Kiswahili, Persian and Russian.  Among the first to see the new exhibit would be 10 young Palestinian journalists — five men and five women — selected by the Department for its annual training programme, which would take place from 31 October to 2 December 2011, and would include training on Internet‑based media.


Regarding the 2011 Reham Al‑Farra Memorial Journalists Fellowship Programme, he said that 14 media professionals from developing countries and countries with transition economies had been brought to United Nations Headquarters to better inform them about the work of the Organization.  This year’s Programme included Fellows from the Bahamas, Barbados, Cameroon, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Kiribati,Oman, Palau, Swaziland, the Republic of Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates.


Noting that the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) was 11 months old today, he added that more than 700 institutions of higher education and research in 108 countries had entered into this global intellectual alliance in support of the United Nations.  A UNAI Forum organized by the Korean Council for University Education entitled “New Partners for Change:  UN and the World Academic Community,” had taken place in August in Seoul and was addressed by the Secretary‑General.  At the conclusion of the forum, the first meeting of UNAI global hubs took place.


He said that UNAI had also hosted a symposium in observance of the annual International Day of Peace at United Nations Headquarters, in partnership with Kyung Hee University in the Republic of Korea.  More than 3,500 students from 19 universities in that country had joined the event by video link.  He also noted that an exhibit, “Design with the other 90%:  Cities,” and a series of related educational programmes, organized with the Cooper‑ Hewitt National Design Museum, a UNAI member, had officially opened in the Visitors’ Lobby yesterday.  It would run until 9 January 2012. 


Continuing, he stated that the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme had expanded its outreach activities to educators across the world.  In July and August, three workshops were held in Kigali, New York and Washington, D.C., to underscore the universal lessons of the Holocaust as a signpost for genocide prevention.  The theme of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Observance was “Women in the Holocaust.”  The Programme was currently organizing a roundtable discussion, in partnership with the International Bar Association, to examine the failure of the judiciary in Nazi Germany to safeguard the rights of individuals, and the responsibility of courts and States to protect their populations today.  The discussion would take place on 9 November in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.  The theme for the 2012 Holocaust Remembrance Observance would be “Children and the Holocaust.”


“Agility and flexibility, innovation and fresh means of outreach, [and] an immediacy in communication that prompts an immediacy in response,” he said, were the means that the Department of Public Information employed and continually improved upon.  As opportunities and challenges expanded, resources inevitably failed to keep pace and, all too often, shrank.  “We are called upon to do more with less.”  Fortunately, he added, supported by a dedicated workforce as well as an energetic and diverse range of partners and constituencies outside, the Organization and the Department were able to do “more with more”.  He concluded by presenting the Department of Public Information public website to the Committee.


Following that presentation, MAHBUB AHMAD, Chief of Web Services of the Department of Public Information, explained certain features of the United Nations and Information Department websites, as well as highlighted ways the Department engaged the public on a variety of issues via the internet.


Discussion


Opening the discussion on those presentations, the representative of Morocco drew attention to the Department’s academic initiative, noting that 700 partner universities were taking part in the programmes.  He asked Mr. Akasaka to give his impressions on the initiative, and asked what he thought was necessary to bring that partnership to more countries around the world.  He further asked about the partnerships and license involved for radio and television initiatives of the Department, as those types of media tended to be the most accessible to populations.  Social networks had also played an important role, as was seen recently in the Middle East.  He asked what kind of procedure needed to be followed in order to set up partnerships with audio‑visual services so as to circulate documentaries on the work of the United Nations and its Information Centres.


Responding to the question, KIYO AKASAKA said that with reference to the UNAI project, to date, the Department was in contact with more than 700 universities and academic institutions.  As a result, there was a network of academics all over the world working on matters such as sustainable development and other issues closely intertwined with the objectives of the United Nations.  Countless seminars had been conducted on, among others, poverty reduction, public health issues, and human rights.  Before that project had been launched, there had been no real networking among academics working on almost identical matters, whereas now, the Department was in a position to work hand in hand with universities.  Seminars had been organized in Romania and Seoul, and more were being planned.  Academics had found new partners via UNAI and the Department hoped to broaden the network in order to achieve even more spectacular success.


Turning to the subject of radio, he said that the Department produced programs and made them available on the website for download.  Any radio station could make use of that resource and the same was true of television.  For radio stations and television channels that wished a more stable relationship, the Department provided a Memorandum of Understanding.


STÉPHANE DUJARRIC, Director of the Department’s News and Media Division, added that the Department worked in partnership with various national and private television and radio channels.  Radio programmes were broadcast in eight languages — the six official languages, along with Portuguese and Swahili.  The Department would soon be releasing the first French language version of the documentary, “21st century” and was constantly looking for new partnerships.


When delegations took the floor, the representative of the Russian Federation, while welcoming the great use of modern resources such as Facebook and Twitter in attracting new viewers and listeners, asked how the Department would be able to provide human and financial resources for such activities, bearing in mind budget restrictions.  There was the danger of redistributing resources away from traditional forms of information dissemination, which many regions of the world relied on. 


The representative of Japan referred to the messages received by his country from “Messengers of Peace,” such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Douglas, in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.  Such messages had been very inspiring, he said, and asked what other activities were being pursued by those envoys.


The representative of Nigeria referred to the Under‑Secretary‑General’s mention of the tragic incidents in Nigeria in his statement and stated that the Nigerian Government had taken bold steps to ensure that such events would not be repeated.  He wished to reassure the Committee that arrangements were being put into place to ensure that terrorism did not take root in Nigeria.  He added that the Information department should take bold steps, particularly in countries that were host to United Nations peacekeeping operations, to ensure that local populations were engaged and knew exactly what the those missions were doing in their countries.  He asked what steps the Department was taking to that end.


Responding, Mr. AKASAKA said that, regarding the question posed by the representative of the Russian Federation on whether the work on social media was taking resources away from traditional information sources, the Department had been trying to keep the resources for traditional communication tools uninfluenced by the move to use more social media.  While at the same time, the Department had been trying to find available resources from various departments to work on social media.  The combination of traditional means and new media was the most effective way to communicate.


Regarding the question posed by Japan’s representative, he said that United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors had been very active in the international programme for the International Day of Peace.  As for their other activities, many were staging concerts, for instance, to benefit peacekeeping operations.  However they tended to take their own initiative.  There were many things that the Department would like the Messengers of Peace to do, but unfortunately there was no budget for that aspect of the programme.  Still, the Department had managed to carry out some activities in which they had participated through the Outreach Division.  That Division would be able to provide additional information.


As for the question posed by Nigeria, he said the Department had been working closely with the Peacekeeping Department so that its activities would be understood and supported by the host countries peoples, as well as the other people in the world.  Peacekeeping Operations usually had their own budget for information programmes, such as for radio, as was the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In Haiti, there were 70 or 80 staff in the communication section of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations there handling press releases and website management, among other duties.  Exchange of staff between the Departments was also quite frequent.  However, each had its own budget.  The Departments had been working close together so as to help one another to ensure the effective communication of the endeavours of Peacekeeping Operations.


Mr. DUJARRIC said that the lines between new media and social media would soon be blurred.  Just as websites had been new 20 years ago, they were now ubiquitous.  The goal was to deliver messages in the best way to global audiences; different markets required different media.  Radio and television remained crucial for many parts of the world, but increasingly, populations demanded that they receive their information via new platforms.  The Department could not leave any technology behind, and choices must be made within existing resources.


Statements


DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina) speaking on behalf the Group of 77 and China, said that close cooperation and partnership between the Department of Public Information and the Committee on Information had always been the cornerstone of Department’s policies.  It went without saying that the United Nations was the universal forum where many of the international community’s issues and concerns were debated, however many countries in the developing world still lacked the resources and technical means to access information about the Organization’s activities and achievements.  The Department, through its continued campaigns on important international issues, was indeed advancing the work of the United Nations.  The Group therefore appreciated and fully supported the Department’s work.


He emphasized the importance of the Department’s Special Information Programmes on the Question of Palestine, which raised awareness about that issue and supported the efforts for achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.  He commended the Department for its implementation of that programme, and underscored many of its necessary and useful elements, including annual training for Palestinian media professionals from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  He reiterated the need for those and other activities undertaken by the Department and called for their enhancement and reinforcement.


He further said that the role of the United Nations Information Centres was of vital importance to the Group, as was the growing prevalence of the Internet as an important source of information.  In the latter regard, he stressed that United Nations websites needed to be available in all the official languages.  More resources and efforts needed to be allocated to achieve full parity in the United Nations website in order to fully take advantage of that very important resource.  While focusing on new forms of media, it was also necessary to continue the use of traditional media, including both radio and print, in disseminating information about the United Nations.


EDUARDO GALVEZ (Chile) speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Information Department had performed valuable work to promote the ad hoc thematic debates held by the General Assembly.  Turning to the issue of emergencies due to natural disasters, he said that such cases had been promptly and responsibly handled by the United Nations system and urged the Department to continue to update its communications network in order to foment coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations system’s protocol for coordination and response.


The Rio Group, he stated, welcomed the spontaneity and agility of electronic communication, but it was also concerned about the growing digital gap between developed and developing countries.  Traditional media such as radio, television, and written press should continue to be employed in order to convey the message of the United Nations.  Further, the Rio Group welcomed the intense work of the United Nations Information Centres.  He especially welcomed the establishment of a Centre in Luanda, Angola.  Stating that media should be used with full respect of the international legal framework, he expressed concern about the violation of radio-electronic frequencies.


One of the most valuable goals of the Rio Group, he said, was to achieve parity among the six official languages of the United Nations on a basis of equality.  The Group was concerned that, despite efforts to improve the multi-lingual contents of the United Nations website, the issue had in fact become more serious as the gap between Spanish and the other languages in respect to the English version had increased rather than diminished.  Taking note of the establishment and update of some thematic sections of the United Nations webpage in the six official languages, he added that much remained to be done and that the time had come to design a mechanism for dissemination of press releases in all official languages.


RODNEY CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recognized the Department for its role in disseminating information on the Organization’s work in support of development, human rights, and international peace and security.  He highlighted Department‑coordinated events in preparation for the 2012 International Conference on Sustainable Development, including those on forests, oceans, biodiversity and climate change.  A staff‑targeted campaign to reduce the use of paper was reflected in activities of the United Nations Information Centre for the Caribbean Region, in partnership with non‑governmental organizations, to promote the International Year of Forests on World Environment Day 2011.  Not a single sheet of paper was distributed during those activities, he added.


In addition to raising awareness and commemorating international days and years, the Centre in the region sought to widen its information network, strengthen its media relations and extend its outreach throughout the Caribbean, he continued.  From 2010‑2011, the National Information Officer had travelled to Belize and Dominica to network and raise media awareness about the Organization.  Coverage of matters on the United Nations agenda had increased.  Young journalists from Bahamas and Barbados were participating in the Reham Al‑Farra Memorial Journalists Fellowship programme, with the opportunity to work as reporters at Headquarters.


CARICOM looked forward to continued collaboration among Member States, the Committee on the Permanent Memorial to Honour Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Department to ensure that annual activities to honour those victims received the importance due them and to the establishment of a permanent memorial at Headquarters to ensure that that tragedy would never be forgotten or repeated.  He was also appreciative of the Department’s attention to items of importance to CARICOM, such as non‑communicable diseases, and expressed appreciation of its efforts to utilize social media to speed the dissemination of information.  He underscored the need for ongoing review of staff and financial resources allocation to United Nations Information Centres, urging strengthening of the Centre in the Caribbean, so that they could effectively discharge their responsibilities.


MOHAMMED SELIM ( Egypt) expressed interest in the work to strengthen the United Nations information system, in order to bring the Organization’s activities to the world.  He however echoed the concern expressed on behalf of the Group of 77 and China about some of those communication services.  He pointed to the awareness initiatives raised by the Secretary‑General regarding cinema and television employees who might be interested in projects in their field conducted with the United Nations.  He said however that the increasing burden on the Organization — in terms of enhancing international cooperation in information and reducing the digital divide between the North and South, and transmitting a fair and objective message — meant that the Organization’s message needed to be modernized, so a sincere message could be proffered regarding a culture of peace and tolerance.


He further said that services such as radio needed to be maintained, particularly for rural areas of the word that did not have wide scale access to electronic media.  To disseminate the United Nations message throughout the world, he restated support for multilingualism, and the balance between the six official languages.  Such parity would help build the vital role of the Department in forging a real dialogue between civilizations and cultures, and make people more aware of the objectives of the United Nations.


He also emphasized the strengthening of the Information Centres in Mexico City, Cairo and Pretoria, and he wished to see closer work with neighbouring regional areas.  It was necessary to expand the information structure of the United Nations, particularly in developing countries, the least‑developed countries, and in regions where there was conflict.  He said it was essential to achieve parity in the official languages, in the Organization’s website and elsewhere.  He also said that the information being disseminated regarding the question of Palestine should be emphasized, including Palestinian efforts to become a full Member State of the United Nations.  It was necessary to have global, objective news services, and to build the United Nations effort to achieve the just implementation of the Palestinian people’s rights.


JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said the Information Department’s work would not be complete until the United Nations message was transmitted with parity in the six official languages of the Organization.  He encouraged the Department to continue its thematic campaigns and promote new initiatives of relevant interest to the international community.  Regarding global dynamics of information and communication, he said his delegation was concerned by the digital divide between developed and developing countries.


He noted with concern the areas of imbalance within the Organization’s information structure, and said it was necessary to democratize the use of information and communication technologies for all peoples, particularly in the developing countries.  All countries should have equal access to such technologies, and for that reason, the necessary technical and human resources should be taken into account for the particularities of individual countries.  He expressed concern regarding certain “distorting campaigns” launched by powerful international members of the media to “deform the realities” of those living in developing countries, and said that media had failed to respect the sovereignty of nations.


He said the media was a highly positive resource if it was placed in the service of truth and the promotion of brotherhood between peoples.  However, it could be a harmful instrument if it was used to “reproduce backwardness and ignorance” and strengthen neo‑colonialism.  Public criticism and the debate of ideas were freely developed in Venezuela, he said.  Welcoming the efforts made by developing countries to set up their own sovereign communication and information networks, he said that Venezuela was actively entering satellite technologies spheres to further its communications capabilities.


M. HERY SARIPUDIN ( Indonesia) said the world had been witnessing the rapid development of information technology.  Not only had such transformation created a borderless society, but in so many ways, it had changed the way people interacted.  Social Media networks had become powerful tools for individuals, organizations, and corporations to sell products and ideas, and more importantly to relay messages.  The Internet had proven to be the catalyst of change.  Indeed, on several occasions, social media outlets like YouTube and Twitter had been used to galvanize a people’s movement by spreading out messages of democracy and rejecting authoritarianism and dictatorship, as clearly seen throughout the “Arab Spring”.


He said that such examples demonstrated that, given the right motif, the new media would bring positive outcomes.  By the same token however, the Internet had also been notoriously used to spread hatred and prejudice.  The same technology that relayed positive messages in real time, also catered to those who manipulated it.  Given that challenge, it was imperative for the United Nations to strengthen its strategy in using this new media platform to submit correct information regarding the United Nations work and issues of common concern.


In that regard, he was pleased to note that the Department had used new avenues to disseminate information on the key issues.  The Department played a vital role in sensitizing the global mass media about the need to project a culture of peace and values of tolerance.  He commended the Department for the implementation of its media programme on the Question of Palestine, as well as the annual training program for Palestinian media professionals, which was designed to help them develop their media capacity and skills.  He emphasized the significance of multilingualism in the dissemination of information of United Nations works, and he underlined that the use of all official languages in publications was crucial.


ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the G‑77 developing countries and China, said that his country encouraged the Department to continue making use of the Internet, new media, and social networks.  However, it was necessary to bear in mind the wide gap between North and South.  The Department should continue to focus on traditional media such as radio, television, and newspapers, which were the main vectors of communication in many developing countries.


By broadcasting information on all United Nations activities, the Department helped to raise awareness among local populations on peace and human rights.  Senegal welcomed the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, with a view to promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  His delegation was pleased with the Department’s ability to involve the United Nations Information centres in its outreach programmes.


Notwithstanding the countless resolutions adopted regarding the Organization’s official languages, he noted that multilingual services were not always provided.  In that light, he called on the Department to continue to improve the multilingual aspects of the United Nations system.  Information acted as a bridge for promoting knowledge and understanding between countries, and he paid special tribute to the daily work of the United Nations information and communications professionals.


ABUZIED SHAMSELDIN AHMED MOHAMED (Sudan), aligning his statement with that made on behalf of with the G‑77, said that information had become “a maker of news” in today’s world, and a catalyst on various political, economic and social fronts.  The Department played a pioneering role in disseminating information about decolonization, the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development.


Sudan welcomed the Information Department’s efforts for coordinating communication efforts for Rio+20.  Calling on the Department to focus on bridging the digital divide between the North and South, he said it was important to disseminate information including press releases in all the official languages.  It was also necessary to help developing countries to obtain communication technologies.  An intensification of effort was especially necessary to spread information on the question of Palestine and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.


Further, he said the current discussion provided a good opportunity to state that Sudan had taken steady steps on the path to peace, including conducting the referendum on self‑determination in South Sudan.  Sudan looked forward to highlighting that particular effort within the Department’s coverage.


IDIT ABU of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel commended the “Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme”, which she said continued to work tirelessly to promote Holocaust remembrance around the world.  The Programme paid tribute to the victims of that tragedy and honoured those who had survived by helping to ensure they were not forgotten, she said, adding that it had recently released a study guide and DVD focused on women in the Holocaust.  Israel also wished to commend the Programme for its emphasis on raising awareness among students and youth around the world, in particular through recent and upcoming regional videoconference sessions.  The programme was taking a flexible approach and using new technologies, as seen in a recent Twitter campaign that brought together young people from all over the world around the memory of Anne Frank.  Israel looked forward to the upcoming event on “Justice and Accountability after the Holocaust” in November 2011.


Despite such positive achievements, Israel remained concerned about the Palestinian Information Programme, which she said had been created by an anti‑Israeli resolution that “adopted and promoted one narrative” to the conflict.  Given the one‑sided mandate that had established the Programme, Israeli Government officials would not attend or participate in those seminars until a more even‑handed approach was adopted.  She reiterated that Israel would be willing to engage in the formulation of a more constructive and balanced resolution to mandate further activities.  Such a resolution must be aimed at the promotion of peace education, tolerance, mutual understanding and the prevention of incitement.


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