Language Parity, Importance of Information Centres, Department’s Effective Use of Resources among Issues, as Information Committee Continues Debate
Language Parity, Importance of Information Centres, Department’s Effective Use of Resources among Issues, as Information Committee Continues Debate
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Information
2nd Meeting (PM)
Language Parity, Importance of Information Centres, Department’s Effective
Use of Resources Among Issues, as Information Committee Continues Debate
The need to fully institute multilingualism in the Organization’s information services, shore up the network of the United Nations Information Centres and increase the cost-effectiveness of the Department of Public Information were among the priority issues put forth today by delegates, as the Committee on Information continued its general debate this afternoon.
Several speakers expressed concern that information products and services still were not equally available in the six official languages, particularly on the United Nations popular website portal.
“If the Department of Information is our voice to the world, then we need to make sure that this voice speaks as many languages as possible,” the representative of Costa Rica said, calling on everyone to work systematically towards that goal.
Argentina’s representative agreed and pointed to the multilingual mandate on public dissemination through the Organization’s website. While Spanish-language content on the site had expanded in recent years, it still paled in comparison to English-language content. More worrisome was the fact that daily press releases were only published in two of the six official languages.
“This is inadmissible,” he said, pointing to the Secretariat’s confirmation during last year’s Committee session that no mandate existed restricting dissemination of the releases in the Secretariat’s working languages — English and French. He called for immediate dissemination in the other four languages. As a first and immediate step, a strategy could be devised for publication of the press releases in the rest of the official languages at regular intervals and during predetermined time-frames, within existing resources. Languages could even rotate in a provisional initial stage. He praised the cooperative agreement with the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina to translate a wide range of United Nations information material into Spanish and called on the Organization to seek out more such agreements with other academic institutions in order to bolster multilingual content.
Other speakers lauded the value of the global network of United Nations Information Centres, located in 62 countries, and stressed the need to bolster their role as information hubs through advanced technology, more alliances with local media, civil society and academic actors, and better coordination with the Department in line with the “Delivering as One” principle.
Egypt’s representative supported the Centres’ efforts to give visibility to the Organization through the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while still relying strongly on traditional mass media, particularly in areas with scant access to sophisticated technologies. He reiterated his call to enhance the UNICs in Cairo, Mexico City and Pretoria, and their cooperation with neighbouring countries in spreading the United Nations message.
Pakistan’s representative said the Centres were a vital source of information and a bridge between developed and developing countries in terms of access to information and communication technologies. He called for adequate funding for all of them and for the restoration of full services to the Centre in Islamabad.
Delegates also praised the Department’s efforts to forge and develop alliances, enhance work structures, reorganize processes and use new technologies to make communications more efficient and extensive. Costa Rica’s representative said that, in the face of limited resources, to meet the unlimited demand for communications services, all States must ensure their contributions to the Organization were up to date and they must be realistic in defining expectations and mandates.
The representative of the United States applauded the Department for proposing in its 2012-2013 biennium budget to spend about $5 million less than in its 2010-2011 budget by introducing modern information management technologies, making wider use of the Internet and social media, and deploying online reporting and management tools.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Brazil, Zambia, Belarus, South Africa, Cuba, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Spain, India and Venezuela.
The representatives of the United States and Cuba also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m., on Wednesday, 25 June to conclude its general debate.
The Committee on Information met this afternoon to continue its general debate. (For more information, please see Press Release PI/2022 of 20 April.)
MIAN JAHANGIR IQBAL (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that “we live in a world of dizzying information flow that has set off an intense competition among media outlets.” In that environment of information flow, getting a message across was a challenge. At the same time, modern technology and the internet had opened up unprecedented possibilities of connectivity and outreach. He commended the Department’s work as the public face and voice of the United Nations. It had synergized traditional and new media technologies. Without traditional means of communication, the United Nations message would not reach the world’s poorest populations, particularly in developing countries. New media, on the other hand, provided a dynamic asset both in terms of improving the networking capacity of the Organization and of providing timely information to a varied array of actors.
He attached great importance to United Nations Peacekeeping missions across the globe. As one of the largest troop contributors, he urged the Department of Public Information to continue lending support to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) in raising awareness about the new ground realities, far reaching successes and challenges of peacekeeping operations. He also welcomed that the peacekeeping websites were available in the six official United Nations languages. On the Information Centres, he said their importance could not be over-emphasized. They were a vital source of information and a bridge between developed and developing countries in terms of access to information and communication technologies. He urged that they receive adequate resources, and also urged that the Department consider restoring full services to the Centre in Islamabad.
He said that while freedom of expression was a fundamental right which needed to be promoted and protected, it should not be abused to create fissures between various cultures, civilizations and religions. The Committee had a central role to ensure that the United Nations public information policies were geared towards forging greater harmony and mutual respect among peoples belonging to various societies, cultures and religions. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of accurate, objective and balanced news and information services in print, radio, television and over the internet. In addition, he emphasized the need to strengthen technology, multilingualism, and partnerships in all areas and supported the continuation of outreach to civil society, efforts to improve access to library services and a wide range of other initiatives.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said with the advance of traditional and modern means of communication, and taking into account the support of the Department of Public Information, she was confident that the international community would be able to further learn about the importance of the upcoming “Rio+20” Conference. Further, the activities of the Department must take into account the linguistic diversity of peoples everywhere and, in doing so, would contribute to improving the accountability of the United Nations programs. She called for more efforts to be undertaken in that regard by the Portuguese Unit of United Nations Radio. She stressed that the Unit reached as many listeners as most of the other units that broadcasted in the Organization’s official languages.
She emphasized the need to reduce the digital divide between developed and developing countries. In addition, she remained strongly convinced of the importance of promoting synergies between traditional and new media. “In many countries, modern technology is still scarce and traditional means of communication remained as the most effective tool to spread the message of the United Nations,” she said. She expressed support for the work of the United Nations Information Centre in Rio de Janeiro, which had tirelessly served as the voice of the United Nations in Brazil for almost seven decades. Furthermore, Brazil welcomed the decision to establish an Information Centre in Luanda, thus enabling the United Nations to reinforce its presence in Portuguese-speaking countries and work closer with them in addressing their specific needs and challenges. She hoped that the Centre could be fully operational before the end of the year. She also expressed support to the work undertaken by the Department under the Special Information Programme on the question of Palestine.
CAROL ARCE (Costa Rica) said the Secretary-General’s reports were informative and showed the proactive and efficient manner in which the Department was carrying out its set mandate. She lauded the efforts by the Department’s three divisions to forge and develop alliances, enhance work structures, reorganize processes and use new technologies as tools to make communications more efficient and extensive. Such technologies allowed information to reach people directly and faster, and they also empowered traditional media to facilitate information in a timely, accessible manner, particularly to people who still lacked access to digital networks. The Department had managed to leverage resources and generate efficiencies. But, much worked remained. The distance between aspirations and need and the resources to meet them was still great. She noted the need for further cooperation in communications between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support, and the Department of Political Affairs, as well as the need to further communications work concerning the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, human rights, the question of Palestine, and development in Africa, among others. The upcoming Rio+20 Conference would require huge communications efforts.
She stressed the importance of multilingualism in the Organization’s communications flows. “If the Department of Public Information is our voice to the world, then we need to make sure that this voice speaks as many languages as possible,” she said. That could not be achieved by a simple decree. Everyone must work toward that goal systematically. In the face of unlimited demands but limited resources, there were no magical solutions. To facilitate work, all States must ensure their contributions to the Organization were up to date and be realistic in defining expectations and mandates. Moreover, efficiency must go hand in hand with necessary reform. The communications strategy for 2014-2015 was in line with those goals. It was important to strengthen the role of the Information Centres as information hubs through modernization of their technology, the creation of alliances with media, academic entities and other local actors, as well as through the use of national languages, and coordination with the Department in line with the “Delivering as One” principle. He called for stronger efforts to expand the network of alliances with the Department. The Organization’s work with non-governmental organizations, the Academic Impact, the media and various publishing houses showed much potential.
MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia) said the United Nations Information Centre in Lusaka had enabled the Zambian people to acquire much valuable knowledge. Understanding of the Organization had been made easier thanks to the availability of major United Nations publications in Zambia’s seven major local languages. The Secretary-General’s visit to Zambia in February prompted more Zambians to research in-depth the United Nations role. The Information Centre in Lusaka remained a hive of physical and electronic activity. He recognized the important role of information and communications technology in achieving the internationally agreed development goals. His Government was committed to ensuring the free flow of information and it was in the process of enacting a freedom of information law, which would create a system of checks and balances and result in enhanced accountability and transparency in governance.
The media should be encouraged to be more proactive and more responsive to the informational needs of Zambians, she said. The Zambian Government was in the process of restructuring State media, so it could operate independently without political interference, and it was setting up television stations in all of the country’s 10 provinces to cover all districts. The link between the media of the United Nations and Zambia should be strengthened. The development of social media and other instruments would be helpful, in that regard.
MANIEMAGEN GOVENDER (South Africa) said that the voice of the United Nations must be heard by all people and its message must reach all corners of the world. That message determined the effectiveness of the United Nations worldwide. The Department had a critical task of promoting the United Nations brand around the world and promoting its core principles, such as promoting human rights. The Department must be well positioned to continue its task to inform and engage the work and purposes of the United Nations, he said. He was mindful of the vast opportunities that new communications and technologies provided for the eradication of poverty. Those new technologies offered the opportunity to connect with people worldwide. He recognized the notable disparity between developed and developing countries to access of technologies and the digital divide. Therefore, it was necessary for the Department to provide the necessary support to United Nations media centres worldwide.
He commended the efforts of the Department in promoting the live webcast discussion, which were vital in opening up a dialogue in real-time. He supported the establishment of United Nations Information Centres in Rwanda and Angola, and hoped that those offices would become operational as soon as possible. He said these offices would be instrumental in reaching the Portuguese speaking populations in Africa. In addition to various programs, he was encouraged by the Africa Renewal publication, which he said provided somewhat of a blueprint to economic recovery on the continent. Lastly, he believed that the Department had a crucial role in promoting the decolonization principle of the United Nations.
AHMED SHARAF MORSY (Egypt) lauded the Department’s efforts to bolster the Information Centres. The Secretary-General’s report had highlighted the importance of communications strategies to generate awareness of United Nations activities. He lauded the efforts of the information services in the last few months in creating visibility on the United Nations role concerning the question of Palestine, the Millennium Development Goals, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), climate change, sustainable development, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), peacebuilding, UN-Women and other activities of extreme importance. He commended the Secretary-General’s initiative for mobilizing societies and for partnering with the entertainment industry to mobilize global opinion on topics of extreme importance. International cooperation would help bridge the digital information gap between the South and North. He called for new policies that would bring the United Nations closer to its goals of spreading peace and tolerance in the world.
He supported the Information Centres’ efforts to give visibility to the United Nations, and their use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to do that. Still, a strong focus must remain on traditional mass media, which were the main communication source in many areas. Information on the United Nations must be disseminated in Arabic in radio and television programmes in Africa and the Middle East. To spread the United Nations message worldwide, there must be a focus on multilingualism and new content. The United Nations must foster its impartial image and balance information at Headquarters with that distributed at media centres worldwide. He reiterated his call to enhance the Information Centres in Cairo, Mexico City and Pretoria and their cooperation with neighbouring countries.
He called for enhanced use of the six official languages on the United Nations website and simplifying content of the web pages to make them more accessible to everyone. The Organization’s information services must do a better job of creating awareness about the question of Palestine and the human suffering of the Palestinians. He reiterated the Department’s important role of enhancing efforts to achieve a just peace in the Middle East through its information services.
CHERITH A. NORMAN (United States) commended the Department’s efforts to proactively seek innovative ways to achieve results with fewer resources. She lauded the Department for proposing in its 2012-2013 biennium budget to spend about $5 million less than in its 2010-2011 budget by introducing modern information management technologies, making wider use of the Internet and social media, and deploying online reporting and management tools, while at the same time recognizing the continuing need for traditional media to reach all populations with information about the Organization’s critical work. She continued to encourage the Department to improve efficiency and effectiveness in achieving its mandate within available resources, particularly as resources were scarce. With upcoming events like the Rio+20 Conference, she strongly encouraged increased collaboration and synergies between the Department of Public Information and the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management to further enhance services and achieve greater efficiencies.
Noting that 3 May would be World Press Freedom Day, she quoted United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who at last year’s commemoration of the Day noted that a free press was essential for an empowered citizenry, Government accountability and responsible economic freedom. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — which stated that everyone had the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through media and regardless of frontiers — was more relevant in the current digital age than it was six decades ago.
GERARDO DÍAZ BARTOLOMÉ (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, supported the work of the United Nations Information Centres as elements of key importance in disseminating the “public face and voice” of the Organization while communicating with local audiences in their languages. He was pleased that the Information Centres were increasingly using social networking tools to disseminate information, including local languages, as they contributed to expanding outreach and leveraging communications campaigns. He also expressed his satisfaction with the Information Centre in Buenos Aires, which since its establishment in 1948 had been the voice in Spanish of the Department in the field and had mobilized support for the United Nations.
He shared the Department’s understanding of the importance of speaking to people in their own language, and that was why he strongly supported and promoted its commitment to multilingualism. He commended its effort to make its website attractive, complete and fundamentally multilingual. He also renewed his support for the search for cooperative agreements with academic institutions to expand the scope and improve the quality of a wide range of multilingual information material that was published online. He was proud that the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina was the first university in Latin America to have joined such an arrangement. In addition, he was happy to see that the United Nations Spanish website had expanded in recent years, although he was concerned that the contents available at the Spanish website continued to be much lower than at the English website.
In that context, it was an even bigger concern that there had been no progress at all on the elaboration and dissemination of daily press releases, which continued to be published in only two of the six official languages. “This is inadmissible,” he said. He wanted to be clear on the issue. He was not referring to the working languages of the Secretariat, but to the multilingual mandate on public dissemination through the United Nations website, which demanded full respect for the necessary parity among the six official languages. In fact, the Secretariat itself had, at the thirty-third session of the Committee, confirmed that no mandate existed deciding that dissemination of press releases should be restricted to the working languages of the Secretariat. Thus, the call for compliance with the existing mandate to disseminate the United Nations voice in its six official languages should be renewed, granting the Department the necessary resources to that end. At the same time, neither could the mandate be conditioned to resource availability, as the Committee was not the appropriate forum for such a discussion.
He said he was not alone and the same concern had been expressed by most delegations that had taken the floor. That was why he urged that a strategy be designed using creative schemes that would allow the publication of daily press releases in all official languages. For example, as a first and immediate step, a strategy should provide for the elaboration of press releases in the rest of the official languages, at regular intervals and during predetermined time frames, within existing resources. Languages could even rotate in a provisional initial stage, he said. Lastly, concerning traditional media, he commended the work done by the team of the United Nations Radio in Spanish and their important contribution to the increase of the United Nations Radio and Television services as a whole. He believed it was important to continue to employ traditional media in conveying the message of the Organization, as they constituted the primary means of communication in most developing countries.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the accelerated development of technology had had a significant impact on all aspects of the economy and society. Unfortunately, there was a digital divide, which was responsible for increasing the social and equality divide, as well. Those people were mostly located in developing countries, in which only 15 per cent of their populations were connected to the internet and enjoyed access to new forms of media. Developed countries monopolized information services and manipulated the information that went out into the world, he said.
“Without further delay we must think of ways that would promote a more social way to decrease the technological divide,” he said. Through the role of objective news, he said, the disparity must be closed. He denounced the aggressive use of radio and television by the Government of the United States in Cuba. The World Radio Communication Conference, he said, had concluded that the United States had not eliminated its prejudicial interference of radio broadcasting in Cuba. He said that the United States broadcasted radio programmes full of lies, with the purpose overthrowing the constitutional order. Illegal broadcasts aimed at Cuban territory were a violation of the free determination of its people. Cuba denounced those illegal acts and urged that those acts be stopped immediately.
ELLEONORA TAMBUNAN (Indonesia) commended the growth of the United Nations website, with the increase in the number of page views of the site. That had boosted the outreach efforts of the United Nations. But, that was just a start. There were still vast populations worldwide that had yet to be reached. Better outreach to them, including through peacekeeping training centres, was necessary. The Department had done well in generating international awareness about the Palestinian situation. She encouraged the Department to continue and to spare no effort in achieving peace in the Middle East. Language was one of the most fundamental tools for achieving the United Nations objectives. Therefore, the Organization should treat the official languages with equal respect and reach into as many languages as possible. She welcomed creation of the United Nations Information Centre in Luanda.
Information distributed through the United Nations website and social media networks was attracting more attention worldwide, she said. By embracing emerging technologies, the United Nations had broadened its global audience. She emphasized the need to continue efforts to close the digital divide in developing countries. She supported the Department’s plan to focus on certain priority themes, while still focusing on traditional media. She called for stronger United Nations partnerships with regional and subregional organizations and for greater communications efforts on disaster-risk reduction. The Department should develop strategies with other international organizations to enhance access to information in rural areas, in particular.
SHULI DAVIDOVICH (Israel) welcomed the Department’s open-minded and modern approach in embracing new communications tools and technologies to reach new global audiences, particularly young people. She lauded its constructive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders and its continuing efforts to advance innovative partnerships and programmes. Two weeks ago, Israel partnered with the Department to commemorate the fourth annual World Autism Awareness Day. It also hosted with the Department a presentation by Shai Ginott, an Israeli photographer and mother of an autistic child, which highlighted the challenges of raising an autistic child and lent a powerful voice to families coping with autism. Last Thursday, her Government and the Department commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, with an exhibit in the United Nations lobby and a round-table discussion that was attended by more than 500 people. That event helped the United Nations transmit critical lessons about the dangers of hatred, racism and xenophobia to future generations. She announced a new State-run Holocaust Studies Programme that would issue scholarships to 30 educators from universities worldwide that were part of the United Nations Academic Impact.
She was encouraged by the wide range of work that the Holocaust Outreach Programme continued to perform and noted the events that highlighted the impact that the Nuremberg and Eichmann trial had on accountability in the twenty-first century. She expressed concern over the disturbing proliferation of individuals and organizations that denied the Holocaust, among them the head of a United Nations Member States. The Department could play a critical role in pushing back against such dangerous tides. She expressed concern over the Palestinian information programme, saying that it was based on an anti-Israel General Assembly resolution and offered a narrative of the region that was biased and misleading. Given the one-sided mandate that established the programme, Israeli Government officials would continue to be obliged to not attend or participate in those seminars until a more even-handed approach was adopted. Israel was willing to engage in drafting a more constructive and balanced resolution to mandate future activities. Such a text must be aimed at promoting peace education, tolerance, mutual understanding and the prevention of incitement.
TAKAHIRO NAKAMAE (Japan) said that the Department played a “crucial role” in the United Nations with regards to international peace and security, human rights, and climate change, among others. Without such important work being done effectively and efficiently, the United Nations would not gain the essential support necessary from the international community to be of service in the world. Therefore, it was imperative that the Department continued to identify priorities and strategically communicate them to the world, promptly and accurately, about the roles and missions of the United Nations. In particular, the effective and efficient management of the 57 United Nations Information Centres around the world, including the Tokyo Information Centre, was needed to mobilize the interests of the global community and foster awareness of the United Nations priority agenda. Japan had supported the Tokyo Information Centre for 10 years, most recently with a contribution of more than $300,000.
He also emphasized the problem of a growing information gap between developed and developing countries, which he said continued to affect the balance of public information activities in areas where the people need it most of all. He said Japan appreciated the Department’s efforts to combine traditional and new communication tools in this “new world of information and communication order” so that countries on both sides of the gap could participate in raising awareness of their nationals of the important work of the Organization. In this regard, Japan expected the department to continue to exercise fiscal disciple and increase its efforts to enhance the efficiency of these activities. He hoped that would occur through the promotion of greater internal communication, networking closely with relevant United Nations agencies and coordinating closely with civil society, business, and other relevant groups on the ground in order to function better with existing resources.
“Last year’s tragedies following the Great East Japan Earthquake have reminded us all that although we live in a very diverse world, we also share many commonalities,” he said. Japan continued to share the lessons learned from its experiences with the hope of preventing such disasters and reducing the damages they cause. The rapid response of the international community following the disaster was a testament to effective international cooperation, he said. He expressed his appreciation to the Department for their work to create and transmit heartfelt messages of solidarity with the people of Japan to be viewed on the internet and which “encouraged the Japanese people and revived their spirit for recovery”. The Department’s work in facilitating important events in the aftermath of the earthquake and on its anniversary was imperative in making the events memorable, he said.
ESTHER FELICES ZUBIRI (Spain) said it was important to facilitate coordination among all units of United Nations Radio. For many communities around the world radio was the only means of communication and the only way that allowed the public to be heard. Radio was an essential form of communicating, she said. It was also essential when providing relief in emergencies. However, there were still a billion people who did not have access to radio and, therefore, it was necessary to enhance support for United Nations Radio programmes by expanding its partnerships with broadcasters worldwide. Radio risked being displaced by new information mediums that States can give privilege to because of its timeliness. She stressed the need of communications, particularly to marginalized groups in developing countries, and emphasized the need to promote development though radio. Furthermore, specific programming for an International Day of Radio would encourage attention to be drawn to that very important source of media, she said.
RAJESH MISHRA (India) aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the debate provided an occasion to reiterate the central concerns of the Member States over the process of dissemination of information. Furthermore, he added that the defining characteristic of the work of this Committee was connected to its relationship with the Department and its ensuing cooperative effort to continually improve the delivery of relevant information to millions across the world. He emphasized the need to use the widest possible range of technologies to make the work of the Department accessible across the digital divide, making it an effective channel for the flow of information between the United Nations and the peoples of the world. It was essential that the end product offered by the Department was dispensed through a wide spectrum of media channels, ranging from webcasts and podcasts to the traditional and very cost-effective means of communication, such as radio and print.
While appreciating the efforts to expand social media accounts and United Nations Webcast, he encouraged the Department to further increase the number of media outlets using United Nations Radio programmes, by expanding its partnerships with broadcasters in various parts of the world. He considered the network of United Nations Information Centres as crucial in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating its message, particularly in the developing world. He hoped that the Department would further deepen and strengthen its coverage of the most noteworthy activities of the United Nations, in particular those that directly impacted upon the lives of ordinary people. Those included humanitarian activities, and also the work performed by United Nations peacekeepers in strife-torn lands.
ADELA LEAL-PERDOMO (Venezuela) stressed the high value of the Department’s work in generating greater awareness about the United Nations goals. But, he did not believe its goal would be a reality, as long as the message was not disseminated in the six official languages. She encouraged the Department to continue exploring ways to promote its effectiveness. Expansion of any existing programmes should be done within the United Nations framework and intergovernmental character in order to maintain its authority, strengthen its interaction with other parts of the United Nations and prevent the duplication of efforts and resources. The United Nations must only work with outside organizations within defined limits, in accordance with United Nations protocol and with the previous consent of Member States. The Organization’s information services must take into account the realities of all countries, so that the United Nations message would appropriately and effectively reach target audiences in their language. It was necessary to explore new ideas and intensify existing programmes and make effective use of traditional media.
She suggested expanding partnerships with radio and television broadcasters, including State-run broadcasters, to transmit the Organization’s message. They would, in turn, provide feedback on United Nations programming. She lauded the work of the United Nations Information Centres network and called for its expansion. The Seventh Ministerial Conference on Information of the Non-Aligned Movement promoted creation of an information society geared towards development, and it expressed concern over the global imbalance in information. The Margarita Declaration adopted by Venezuela in 2008 urged the adoption of measures to democratize the availability of information and communications technologies to benefit all countries, particularly developing countries. All countries must have equal access to information and communications technologies. To that end, the necessary technical and human resources must be made available for all States.
As the digital divide was increasing between developed and developing nations, it was necessary to help the latter build their own means of communications, she said. Venezuela was working to do that. The State-run Simon Bolivar satellite, in operation since 2008, facilitated access to and transmission of data via the Internet and telecommunications to the poorest, most remote areas. Such services had enabled Venezuela to serve the satellite needs of neighbouring countries. This year, Venezuela would launch a second satellite to enable it to track natural disasters and their impact on land and agriculture. She expressed concern that freedom of speech existed in some places, but not in others. Powerful communications media were distorting the reality of information in the developing world, instead of promoting social responsibility. “Communication malpractice” was happening worldwide. “Information silence” was used to quiet social protest. Information services should be put in the service of honesty, culture and social justice, but it could also be harmful if used to promote ignorance, violence and to reinforce a colonial mindset.
Rights of Reply
The representative of the United States, responding to the statement by Cuba’s representative, said the United States took its obligations very seriously, including its obligations under the Constitution of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The United States supported the right of the Cuban people to freedom of expression and the free flow of information. The United States had, and would continue to have, a policy to broadcast information to the Cuban people out of concerns for their welfare and based on the fact that they did not have access to information. The United States efforts towards the Cuban people were positive. In the last few years, the Obama administration had expanded family travel to Cuba and authorized United States businesses to negotiate agreements to facilitate various types of communications objectives, among other things. The United States did so because it promoted the free flow of information and freedom of expression.
Responding, the representative of Cuba said that it was the daily broadcasts from war planes that interfered with Cuban transmission and were a clear violation of Cuba’s electronic space. “How is it that the United States can justify violating electronic space?” he asked. That was not helping to soften the Cuban blockade and it prevented the United States companies who were interested in investing in communications companies from being able to do so, he said. The Government of the United States was using new technologies to overthrow the Cuban revolution. He urged the United States to immediately end the aggression.
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