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23rd Session (2001)

General Debate: Guyana

Statement by Ms. Koreen Simon, Representative of the Republic of Guyana (2 May 2001)

Mr. Chairman,

My congratulations to you and to the new bureau members on your recent election. I wish you all well as you perform your duties over the next two years. Let me take this opportunity also to welcome to the Committee Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information. I hope that during his tenure he will bring to the Department new impetus that would enable it to effectively and efficiently meet the challenges it will no doubt face as it tries to keep pace with the information and communication revolution.

Mr. Chairman,

We fully support the statement made by Jamaica on behalf of CARICOM and offer these additional comments.

The world has seen remarkable advances in the field of information and communication in recent years. Information can now be made available through different media to people in the most remote regions of the world who have the appropriate technology to access it. Disparities exist, however in the availability of technology, since the latest and most advanced technology is produced in developed countries where it is widely accessible. In contrast, many developing countries do not have the infrastructure and financial and other resources to benefit from advances in technology.

Through technology, developed countries have greater control over the dissemination of information, with several undesirable consequences. One such is the unevenness in flow of information and its bias in favour of those who control it. Another consequence is the loss of a potential benefit to peoples in conflict and to social and economic progress in developing countries because of the lack of the required technology to access information.

These consequences could be averted if developing countries were to be given the necessary resources to enable them to advance technologically and to channel appropriate information to those who can benefit from it. Effective information and communication systems have been proven to enhance the economic and social progress of developing countries and strengthen peace and international understanding. As was the case in 1978 when the Committee on Information was established, there is a need now, to make maximum use of all avenues of cooperation for the development of information and communication capability of developing countries. Training and equipment needs have to be addressed.

As developing countries we rely on the United Nations to provide assistance that would enable us to meet our information and communication needs and the Department of Public Information has served us well in this respect. The Department of Public Information continues to provide a useful service aimed at fostering better knowledge around the world of the aims and achievements of the United Nations and at strengthening the image of the Organization. Through its information centers, people in developing countries can benefit from information that is most appropriate for their circumstances. Information centers should therefore be given adequate resources to ensure that the needs of those who could benefit most from receipt of information are met.

As a traditional means of disseminating information, radio continues to be the most widely used medium available in developing countries. Its capacity to serve the needs of developing countries should therefore be optimized. Judging from the report of the Secretary-General, the pilot project for international radio broadcasting has made a positive contribution to the lives of people who cannot be reached by other media. We join with those who have called for a continuation of the project beyond this year and we hope that that adequate funding would be provided which would enable it to continue to serve regions of the world that would benefit most from it. We also hope that the Department of Public Information will continue to include specific programmes addressing the needs of developing countries in both its radio and television programming.

The Internet is undoubtedly a splendid tool for disseminating information, but limitations on access have to be taken into account. In this regard, we note that, as stated in the report of the Secretary-General on equitable disbursement of resources to United Nations Information Centers, Africa and the Middle East, the two regions most affected by conflict, together account for only one percent of Internet users worldwide. This is clearly a digital divide that must be bridged.

Through information centers, people in different regions of the world can obtain information about the activities the United Nations and the impact of these on their lives. Advances in technology can afford those countries that do not have information centers to have easy access to the material provided. Efforts should be made to ensure that all centers are equipped to disseminate information using current technology. Such an approach could benefit the Caribbean, since the center in Trinidad and Tobago must serve the entire region. Yet unlike some information centers which are equipped with Web sites, the Trinidad and Tobago center is not. We hope that resources will be provided to enable those centers that have no Web sites to launch one as soon as possible. We also hope that resources will be equitably distributed among centers so that they will be equally equipped to carry out their functions.

Information centers feed on information provided by the United Nations and its organs, and through the Department of Public Information, information about the United Nations is disseminated globally. In this information age, the Department of Public Information must keep pace with advances in technology and be equipped with the resources that would enable it to perform its functions effectively.

The United Nations Web sites have become popular sources of information about the activities the Organization is engaged in. Commenting on their design, we would recommend that links to the site index and the organization chart be prominently displayed on sites to assist persons unfamiliar with the workings of the United Nations as well as persons who need quick access to specific information to find the information they need. Moreover, in the designing of Web pages, due consideration should be given to the technological limitations of developing countries since complex designs do not allow for quick downloads.

The United Nations Web sites can also serve as useful sources of income generation for the United Nations if they are e-commerce enabled. The Bookstore is one area that could benefit from this service. We hope that in the future efforts will be made to explore fully the income-generating potential of its Web sites.

The Dag Hammerskjöd library is a useful documentation source of United Nations activities and also non-United Nations publications held in collection. The availability of its UNBISnet catalogue of United Nations publications and documentation to the public through the Internet is indeed welcome, and we look forward to the addition of new services that would benefit member States and the public.

Mr. Chairman,

When world leaders met in September 2000, they declared that the central challenge they face today was to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for the world's people. Information flow has improved through globalization and it could contribute positively to the plight of people in need of change. The United Nations Department of Public Information can contribute to making globalization a positive force for the world's people and as members of this committee we can help to make it happen.

UN Web Services Section, Department of Global Communications, © United Nations