Department to Ensure Parity, Says Under-Secretary-General as Session Ends
Following two weeks of intense negotiations, the Committee on Information emphasized today the importance of using all official United Nations languages — Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish — and of ensuring their full and equitable treatment in all activities of the Department of Public Information.
Taking action on two draft resolutions on the final day of its thirty-sixth session, the Committee approved them, without a vote, for adoption by the General Assembly. It also adopted the report of the session, presented by Rapporteur Chibaula David Silwamba (Zambia).
By the draft’s terms, the General Assembly would request the Department, as a matter of priority, to design a strategy to ensure the equitable use of all the official languages through “creative schemes in a cost-neutral manner”, by the Committee’s thirty-seventh session at the latest. It would also emphasize the importance of eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the five others.
Addressing Committee members, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said he looked forward to developing partnerships further and finding creative ways to address that question. “[The Department] will work with you to find ways to ensure linguistic parity,” he said. “Our task at the Department of Public Information is to tell the United Nations story, but the story we would like to tell would not be complete without hearing your voices.”
Committee Chair Lyutha al-Mughairy (Oman) thanked all participants for their constructive dialogue and efforts to reach agreement. “The draft resolution [B] has been the result of intense negotiations among delegations,” she said. “Communication, dialogue and understanding are at the heart of public information and, by definition, should be at the strategic core of this Committee.”
Draft resolution B, titled “United Nations Public Information Policies and Activities”, comprises seven main areas: introduction; general activities of the Department of Public Information; strategic communications services; news services; library services; outreach services; and final remarks.
By other terms of the text, the Assembly would welcome the work carried out by United Nations information centres, stressing the importance of rationalizing the network. It would request the Secretary-General to continue to make proposals in that direction, including through the redeployment of resources, where necessary.
In the area of strategic communications, the Assembly would note with appreciation the Department’s work in promoting issues of importance, such as the United Nations Millennium Declaration, poverty eradication and conflict prevention. Further, it would request the Department to contribute to the observance of International Mother Language Day, on 21 February; the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on 25 March; Nelson Mandela International Day, on 18 July; and the International Day of Nowruz, on 21 March.
As for news services, the Assembly would recognize the important role of the Department’s television and video services, by further terms of the text. It would also take note of recent efforts to make available online broadcast-quality video for streaming or downloading by smaller broadcast outlets. It would welcome the sustained efforts of United Nations Radio, among the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department and an important instrument for conducting the Organization’s activities.
Concerning library services, the Assembly would commend the steps taken by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, and member libraries, to align their activities, services and outputs more closely with the Organization’s priorities. It would reiterate the need to maintain a multilingual collection of books, periodicals and other materials in hard copy and electronic formats.
Regarding outreach services, the Assembly would encourage the Department to make the UN Chronicle available in paperless editions only, with a view to expanding the service to all six official languages, within existing resources, and to report to the Committee on the matter at its thirty-seventh session.
By the terms of draft resolution A, titled “Information in the service of humanity”, the General Assembly would urge countries, United Nations organizations and all others concerned to cooperate with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels, by increasing assistance for the development of communications infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard for their needs.
The Assembly would, by further terms, urge parties to assure journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; provide support for the strengthening of their training in developing countries; enhance regional cooperation among developing countries; and aim to provide all possible support to developing countries and their media — public, private or other.
Commenting on the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Bolivia’s representative said the resolutions aimed to strengthen the work of the Department.
A representative of the European Union Delegation expressed hope that the texts would provide constructive guidance following the fruitful, collaborative discussions that had taken place over the past weeks. She expressed regret, however, that the Committee had taken action on a draft resolution available in only one official United Nations language, contrary to procedures and the discussions on multilingualism. The lesson learned was that early preparation was needed to ensure ample time for the translation of the text into all the official languages. While that was a complex process, all participants should make every effort to ensure that drafts would be shared and adopted in all official languages, she said.