Role of Communications Not Just Supportive, but Integral to Creation of Policy, Programmes and Change, Information Committee Told

28 April 2011

Role of Communications Not Just Supportive, but Integral to Creation of Policy, Programmes and Change, Information Committee Told

28 April 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Information

Thirty-third Session

2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Role of Communications Not Just Supportive, but Integral to Creation of Policy,

Programmes and Change, Information Committee Told


United Nations Information Chief Asks Delegates to Convince Colleagues on Budget

Committee to Translate Expressions of Support into Provision of Required Resources

Stressing the important role of the global network of United Nations information centres in carrying out regional strategic communications campaigns, the Organization’s top communications official this afternoon called for the requisite resources to strengthen those centres and the Department of Public Information as a whole. 

“We have proven that communications cannot just be a supportive endeavour — it must be integral to the creation of policy, programmes and change.  And, for communication to be successful, it must be locally and popularly sustained,” Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said as the Committee on Information concluded its general debate today.

Mr. Akasaka asked delegates to convince their colleagues in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the need to translate expressions of support into a provision of the resources required.  He also affirmed the Department’s commitment to work with the Angolan Government to set up the proposed Centre in Luanda, Angola at the earliest opportunity.

The Department must continue to be a convening forum for ideas that served a global unity of purpose and understanding, he said, and added that the next seminar in the “Unlearning Intolerance” series would take place next week.  In addition, the Department would continue to build the bridges of dialogue and outreach that could help face the aberrations represented by the burning of a Koran, the destruction of Bamyan statues and the denial of the Holocaust.

Addressing the concerns of many speakers during the two-day general debate, he agreed that multilingualism was essential in bridging the digital divide.  Despite resource constraints to supply the content in all official languages, the United Nations use of the multiple language sites had increased steadily over the years. 

Several speakers said the Department’s efforts would be more effective if they focused on overcoming the digital and information gap between the North and the South, and helped build a more equitable world information order.  Such a move would help create new spaces to disseminate information about the Organization’s noble objectives in a comprehensive, accurate and balanced manner, they said.

According to the representatives of Iran and Venezuela, that would also rectify the current media monopoly enjoyed by certain developed nations that constantly tried to distort facts and fabricate events.  To do that, the Department must continuously enhance its technological infrastructure, with a special focus on the interests of developing countries.  In that context, Algeria’s representative called for efforts to improve the multilingual content of the United Nations website and cautioned care in the use of social media that could worsen information imbalances in developing countries. 

Other speakers lauded the efforts of the information centres to disseminate information in local languages and called on countries that hosted the centres to work closely with the United Nations to ensure their effective functioning and financing.  Zambia’s representative assured that his Government would continue to give rent-free office space to the United Nations Information Centre in Lusaka, which had been a “beacon of good work” of the United Nations.  Bangladesh’s representative, noting that in some countries United Nations information centres were the sole source of public information on crucial global issues such as the Millennium targets, HIV/AIDS, climate change and communicable diseases, strongly opposed any move to close them or curtail their operations.

In addition, delegates cited the importance of continuing the Department’s Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine and its annual media training programme for Palestinian journalists, particularly in the light of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people.

Also speaking today were the representatives of India, Costa Rica, Senegal, Syria, Egypt, Russian Federation, Mexico, Japan, Israel, United Republic of Tanzania and United States.

An observer for Palestine also spoke. 

The Committee will meet again on Friday, 6 May, to conclude its session.


The Committee on Information met this morning to continue its general debate.  (For more information, please see Press Release PI/1976 of 26 April).


MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India) lamented that despite the impressive performance of the Meetings Coverage Section, which had produced 2,481 press releases between July 2010 and January 2011, the Organization’s press briefings remained off limits to delegates.  The Committee’s focus must be on how to make the Department of Information’s work as pertinent and accessible as possible to the largest number of users.  To achieve that, the widest possible range of technologies must be harnessed and the United Nations end products must be dispensed through a wide spectrum of media channels.  He fully supported efforts to create a more linguistically equal world, in which information was disseminated in all languages.  He called for further promoting multilingualism in the Department and for language parity on the Organization’s website.

He said the United Nations should strive to strengthen, and not weaken, the network of United Nations information centres.  He encouraged the Department to work closely with information centre host countries towards that goal.  Adequate budgetary resources should be made available to strengthen public outreach and ensure effective functioning of the information centres in developing countries.  The Department should also work with the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support to closely highlight the United Nations peacekeeping success stories and provide accurate, timely and impartial information on peacekeepers’ activities.  The Academic Impact programme would help build stronger ties between the Organization and institutions of higher learning.  Indian institutions accounted for the second largest number of institutions participating in the programme.   The University of Calcutta was Academic Impact’s global hub for peace and conflict resolution.  The Indian Council for Cultural Relations would organize an authors’ colloquium on “Unlearning Intolerance” at Headquarters on 5 May. 

MARCELA ZAMORA (Costa Rica) said the Secretary-General’s reports showed the growing importance of communication and information in the United Nations.  As developing countries had limited access to technological resources, it was important not to neglect the essential role of traditional media.  Also essential was to continually seek to expand education and embrace with vigour within the framework of opportunities provided by new media, which were essential to promote effectiveness and openness.  The United Nations had effectively used new media.  She hoped that impetus would be maintained, hand-in-hand with reducing the digital divide and promoting the free use of the web. 

She lauded the Department’s work on development, particularly its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and in peacekeeping, as well as its interest in using media to promote peace in the Middle East.  The Special Information Programme on Palestine was particularly important to promote capacity-building in that region.  It was important to use communications tools to generate information on climate change, particularly in the context of the upcoming Rio+20 Summit.   She stressed the need for language parity in the United Nations daily work and on its websites.  At the same time, she noted with concern the United Nations limited financial resources and the subsequent impact on the Department.  She called on Member States to fulfil their financial obligations to the Organization and on the Department to maximize efficiency.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the most important mission of the Department of Public Information should be to provide all people with accurate, balanced, comprehensive, timely and relevant information on the tasks and responsibilities of the United Nations in an impartial and transparent manner in order to strengthen international support for the activities of the Organization.  He welcomed the role of the Department in holding the first official commemorative ceremony of the International Day of Nowruz in March, and encouraged further activities in raising awareness of that event. 

With the so-called digital divide remaining a challenge to developing countries, he encouraged the Department to help establish a new order of global communication based on free and balanced dissemination of information.  It was regrettable that certain developed countries, by taking advantage of their monopoly of modern communications technology, were continuously trying to distort facts and fabricate events and realities.  That required the Department to enhance its technological infrastructure on a continuous basis, with a special focus on the interests of developing countries.  He also emphasized the Department’s important responsibility in raising international awareness on the question of Palestine, in order to shed more light on the negative impacts of the occupation on the humanitarian situation. 

He also called upon the Department to use its worldwide presence to counter the Islamophobia and defamation of Islam represented by the recent burning of a Koran in the United States, through promoting tolerance and a dialogue between civilizations and cultures.  Affirming the importance of the Department’s worldwide Information Centres, he urged closer coordination between them and their host countries, provision of new technologies and adequate resources and careful attention to the cultural, social and economic character and needs of different regions.  He reiterated that the Department should continue to diversify its efforts to encompass, not only the six official languages of the United Nations, but also those local languages that were widely regarded as the roots of great cultures, including the Persian language.

FETHI METREF (Algeria), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commended the Department’s efforts to create new spaces that allowed the Organization’s noble objectives towards attainment of sustainable development to be disseminated worldwide.  The Department’s efforts would be more effective if they focused on overcoming the knowledge gap between developed and developing countries and helped create a more equitable world information order.  In that context, he called for efforts to improve the multilingual content of the United Nations website and cautioned care in the use of social media that could worsen information imbalances in developing countries.  For that reason, he stressed the need to enhance services in traditional media, such as print. 

He welcomed the dissemination of the review of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other information relevant to developing countries, and praised the Department for its efforts to promote awareness of the situation of Palestinians and to train Palestinian journalists.  Also welcome was the dissemination of efforts to defeat terrorism, as well as the information on initiatives to complete the decolonization process.  He called for adequate support to the Information Centres and enhancement of their local programmes, and reiterated the priority of widely disseminating information on the importance of achieving peace and respect for human rights, and all the other objectives of the United Nations Charter.

EL HADJ MAGATTE SEYE (Senegal) said it was essential for the United Nations to fully embrace information and communications technologies, which played a major role in transforming many societies.  He encouraged the Department to continue to strive to capitalize on the Internet and new media, such as social networking sites and mobile devices.  It was important to close the information divide between the North and the South and to bolster the global digital solidarity fund.  He called for expanding the scope of information products, while still relying on traditional media.  He lauded the fact that the Department continued to underscore Africa’s priority needs and NEPAD’s work.  By disseminating and broadcasting in a rational way, the Department strongly helped raise awareness among local African populations of priority issues like peace, development and human rights.

He also welcomed continuance of the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine and encouraged the Department to bolster efforts to promote the inalienable rights of the Palestinians to live in a free and independent State.  He commended the Department’s efforts to integrate information into the information centres so they could inform people locally in their own languages about the United Nations work and support implementation of United Nations goals.  It was important to strengthen the information centres’ network.  The Senegalese Government hosted a United Nations Information Centre in Dakar, and he urged host countries to financially support information centres in their capitals.  He lamented that the United Nations multilingual services for Member States were not always provided with the requisite funding, stressing the need to improve multilingualism at the United Nations.

IHAB HAMED (Syria) said public information was important in building societies and informing people.  Syria was in the process of creating a modern information law that responded to the aspirations of the Syrian people, advanced the goals of greater freedom and transparency, and gave journalists more incentives.  The Committee and the Department had a huge responsibility in spreading information and improving the general image of the United Nations, particularly as the world increasingly was facing transnational challenges.  He called for a new outreach role of the United Nations and stressed the importance of having reliant and honest United Nations sources.  He rejected the reliance on information sources that were not objective and that were distorting recent events in the Arab world and disseminating false information.

He welcomed the Department’s efforts to improve the United Nations website and to make it truly multilingual.  He commended efforts to the bolster the Arabic website and called for its further strengthening.  He urged the Department to reinforce the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine and related efforts, particularly in the light of the suffering of the Palestinians.  Freedom of expression was a universal right, but it could not be used to insult others’ feelings, heritage of cultural beliefs.  Everyone must cooperate with the Department to spread the United Nations message.

NIHAL SAAD (Egypt) supporting the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed appreciation for efforts made to emphasize the role of the United Nations in the question of Palestine, sustainable development, NEPAD and other issues to which her country attached priority, as well as heightening awareness of the role of different cultures in promoting the Organization’s objectives.  She hoped that such efforts could be strengthened in the Arab region.  More just and equitable dissemination of information could better spread the message of peace and tolerance.  She supported the information centres, including their use of Twitter and YouTube, but also stressed that radio was the most widespread and accessible medium in developing countries, and should retain an important role.

She also emphasized the importance of multilingualism and balance between the six official languages, particularly on the Internet, where there had been a delay in achieving such balance.  In all media, she hoped for programmes of higher quality, depicting the activities of the Organization in an objective way, including those concerning efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories since 1967.  She expressed support for enhancing the network of information centres, and encouraged the Committee and the Department to continue to do their parts in helping to achieve the lofty objectives for which the Organization had been established.

IGOR EVDOKIMOV (Russian Federation) said that, in general, the Department of Public Information was successful in coping with its main task of informing the world public about United Nations activities, and he supported the model of strategic planning that involved the setting of communications priorities followed by detailed development of media campaigns.  The set of tools used to achieve those goals was also reasonable and effective reallocation of resources allowed the Department to actively use modern multimedia technologies.  He favoured a balanced approach in the use of such new media as well as in traditional media.  He welcomed in that regard work to maintain and enhance television and radio broadcasting, while noting the positive effects of the use of Internet-based resources such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

During 2010, he said, the Department had provided adequate coverage of the spectrum of items on the Organization’s agenda.  He welcomed, in particular, the focus on liberators of Nazi concentration camps as an important element of the memorials to the Holocaust, as well as programmes such as “A World without Nazism”, which helped to promote the understanding that the Holocaust was not only the tragedy of the Jewish people but of humanity during the Second World War.  Pointing to a trend among some countries of glorifying Nazi collaborators, he reiterated that such depictions were incompatible with those countries’ commitments under the United Nations Charter.  In the context of intercultural dialogue, he looked forward to further discussing Russia’s initiative to create a consultative council of religions under the aegis of the United Nations.

Affirming that musical concerts were an important part of cultural understanding, he welcomed the presentation of Turkic music from many countries in March and heralded an upcoming presentation of Slavic music on 24 May in the General Assembly Hall.  He also welcomed the Department’s efforts to promote youth programmes and cooperation between the United Nations and institutions of higher learning.  He stressed that emerging imbalances between languages, such as in social media, should not become an excuse to deviate from the principle of multilingualism in the Department’s programmes.  Partnerships should be strengthened to help continue the effort to achieve language parity.  His country was supportive of all forms of Russian-language information.  The Russian news service of the United Nations was an indispensable part of the daily news menu in the country, for everyone from schoolchildren to professional journalists.

He termed successful the holding of commemorative days to celebrate each of the official languages of the Organization, particularly the Russian Language Day, which marked the birthday of the poet Alexander Pushkin, noting that this year his country planned to continue the initiative.  He also welcomed the establishment of the country-level United Nations-Russia Communication Group and its activities.  He stressed that any initiative aimed at developing the professional skills of the Public Information Department’s staff would produce positive results.  He also encouraged the provision of equal opportunity for staff in information centres, praising the work of the staff of the Moscow Centre.  He finally commended the Department’s efforts to foster partnerships at all levels.

JORGE VALERO (Venezuela) said the Seventh Conference of Ministers of Information of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, currently chaired by Venezuela, had agreed to promote the building of an information society.  The Declaration of Margarita, adopted during the Conference, had called for measures to make information and communications technologies more democratic and beneficial to all, particularly in developing countries.  Everyone should have equal access to such technologies, and the requisite financial and human resources must be provided towards that end.  Many communications and information media had wrongly been called independent.  They demanded freedom of expression, but assumed no social responsibility.  He denounced the campaigns of powerful global media that distorted the reality in developing countries.  Media was a positive resource when it was used to promote respect and cultural diversity, but it was lethal if used to spread ignorance or to strengthen neo-colonial liberation. 

He said that freedom of expression was unrestricted in Venezuela, but he regretted that some media in Venezuela serviced imperial powers and narrow national interests, undermining the stability of the State.  He supported efforts in developing countries to create their own sovereign information networks.  Noting Venezuela’s progress in satellite technology, he noted that the Simon Bolivar satellite, which covered national telecommunications needs, had been functioning since 2008.  The Venezuelan Government had installed digital telecommunications in schools in 2009 to promote technology as a tool for youth development.  It also had created Telesur, a television channel that helped to overcome the information imbalance between the North and South, as a viable alternative to global media monopolies.  Hundreds of new, alternative communications media had emerged in Venezuela.  Such knowledge and experiences would be shared with other countries in the context of South-South cooperation.

RAUL VARGAS (Mexico) stressed the importance of the Department’s strategic communications services and its evaluation of communications campaigns and programmes.  It was important to fully coordinate efforts to optimally use United Nations information resources.  He pointed to the strong collaboration between the Mexican Government and the United Nations Information Centre in Mexico City on various projects that sought to disseminate the Organization’s work among local youth.  It was important to use new social media platforms, which could foster social and political mobilization.  That was illustrated by the favourable social response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and recent events in North Africa and other regions.  He commended the website of UN Women, and called on other United Nations websites to follow that lead in providing practical, user-friendly information.  

He stressed the importance of using strategic communications to ensure that the public had a proper understanding of the United Nations peacekeeping mandate.  He welcomed collaboration between the Departments of Public Information and Peacekeeping Operations in that regard.  Full access to information was not just a human right; it was important for promoting socio-economic development and education.  He stressed the need for language parity in the United Nations information programmes.  He thanked the Department for disseminating information about the events of last year’s Climate Change Summit in Cancun.

KATSUHIDE ARIYOSHI (Japan) said he hoped that the Department of Public information would continue its efforts to enhance effectiveness and accountability, while proactively conducting the public relations activities of the United Nations and providing timely, accurate, impartial, comprehensive, coherent and wide-ranging information.  In the context of the recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated his country, he extended his people’s deep gratitude to the News and Media Division of the Department for creating what he called heartfelt video messages of solidarity which, posted on YouTube in both English and Japanese, had inspired courage and energy for recovery.

He welcomed the comprehensive coverage given by the Department to the priority activities of the United Nations, and said that the work of the Information Centres, including the one in Tokyo, was invaluable in raising the profile of the Organization’s activities.  He commended the Department for working towards enhanced effectiveness and more streamlined operations.  He also expressed appreciation for efforts to capitalize on the synergies between traditional and new communication tools, as the international community worked to address the digital divide between developed and developing countries.  It was important to maintain the balance through activities targeted to both audiences.

In addition, he said, the Department should emphasize fiscal discipline and promote greater internal coordination, networking closely with other United Nations organizations and building partnerships with civil society and other groups, within its existing resources.  He expressed appreciation for the arrangements made by the Tokyo Information Centre during the visit of the Secretary-General to Japan last year, of which a highlight had been his attendance at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.  It was indispensable for the Centre to continue its efforts to ensure accountability.  Japan intended to maintain close cooperation with the Department in that effort and to continue its support for all the Department’s activities.

HAIM WAXMAN (Israel) welcomed the Department of Public Information’s flexible approach in embracing new communications tools to reach new audiences, particularly young people, as well as its engagement with a wide range of stakeholders to advance innovative partnerships and programmes, including Academic Impact, for which Hadassah College in Jerusalem served as a hub.  Israel was also honoured to contribute to thematic information initiatives that sought to inform, educate and inspire, such as the commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day earlier this month, for which the country had hosted a screening of an Israeli television series featuring the issue.

He said his country also deeply appreciated the wide range of work performed by the Holocaust outreach programme, including the remembrance activities carried out in Information Centres around the world, which were even more critical as the time of those horrors became more distant and as individuals and organizations that denied the Holocaust proliferated, including the leader of a national Government.  He remained confident that the programme would continue to enjoy the appropriate resources to enhance the scope of its activities.

He remained concerned, however, about the Palestinian information programme, which he said was based upon an anti-Israel General Assembly resolution that focused on one specific conflict and offered a narrative of the region that had been biased and misleading since its inception.  In that light, Israeli Government officials would continue to be obliged not to attend or participate in those seminars until a more even-handed approach was adopted.  He reiterated Israel’s willingness to help formulate a more constructive and balanced approach, aimed at the promotion of peace education, tolerance, mutual understanding and the prevention of incitement.  He reiterated his country’s commitment to the productive and cooperative work of the Department.

MUYAMBO SIPANGULE (Zambia) assured that the United Nations Information centre in Lusaka would continue to occupy rent-free premises so it could continue to make the United Nations work visible through its outreach programmes.   That Information Centre in Lusaka, in operation since 1975, also served Botswana, Malawi and Swaziland.  It had been a “beacon of good work” of the United Nations and therefore should be strengthened.  The information centres had played a role in the positive move to liberalize media operations, as seen in the resurgence of privately owned print and electronic media, operating alongside State-owned media.  The information centres were a medium of social change and must be strengthened.  The power of the Internet should not supplant the unique and vital role of such traditional media as newspapers, radio and television in disseminating the main messages of the United Nations, as traditional media remained the primary means of communication in many developing countries.

SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN ( Bangladesh) stressed the Department’s important role in publicizing the work of United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding worldwide.  There was a dire need to highlight the role of the valiant female Bangladeshi peacekeeping unit deployed in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake there.  Bangladesh, as the worst possible victim of climate change, sought greater United Nations cooperation to support developing countries facing similar problems.  “The conscience of the world’s power brokers won’t be stirred unless [the Department of Public Information] helps spotlight the cases of such countries,” she said.  The Department could positively contribute by highlighting the effects of climate change and the serious consequences of people in resource-constrained countries.  “As time is running out at an alarming pace, we insist on proactive actions in building awareness, facilitating preparedness and averting further deterioration in this regard,” she said. 

She lauded the Department’s efforts to post website content in local languages, including the initiative of the United Nations Information Centre in Dhaka to promote the use of Bangla on its website.  While the world increasingly embraced the Internet, for most people in developing countries, radio remained the key information source.  In Bangladesh, there was a new focus on developing community radio programming targeting rural populations, including in remote regions and islets.  The Department could help Bangladesh and other coastal countries make the best use of community radios, which could save lives and property.  In some countries, United Nations information centres were the only window to the world of public information on crucial global issues, such as the Millennium Development targets, HIV/AIDS, climate change and communicable diseases.  “We strongly oppose any consideration either to further curtail the operational abilities of these centres or close any one of them,” she said.  The Department, Member States and the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) must find ways to keep them fully operational.

MAURA MWINGIRA (United Republic of Tanzania), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the importance of the activities of the United Nations news services, particularly radio.  She commended the Department of Public Information on the able and professional manner it discharged its mandate in that area, even under difficult resource constraints.  She was very impressed with the huge increase in the reported number of users of the Kiswahili radio website and she welcomed the increase in the number of radio stations in that language, including in her country, calling that a major achievement.  With 200 million Kiswahili speakers, many in post-conflict countries, that language was a major communication tool for the United Nations.

In that light, she appealed for the continued strengthening of United Nations Kiswahili radio, including a swift increase in staffing, to ease the workload of current staff and to increase the quality of the programming.  Recognizing the financial constraints under which the Department operated, that matter should be among the top priorities in the days ahead.  She also underscored the importance of the United Nations Information Centres, reiterating that any further rationalization of their network should be undertaken on a case-by-case basis in consultation with host States.

BRUCE RASHKOW (United States) said that the Department of Public Information, along with other parts of the Organization, must continue to improve its efficiency and effectiveness to achieve its mandate within available resources.  Further ways to improve coordination and integration of its activities should be identified.  Member States had a duty, in that effort, to prioritize existing activities and scrutinize proposals for new ones.  In that vein, he underscored the importance of ensuring adequate programming for integral outreach activities, such as the Holocaust Remembrance programmes recently presented.

Noting that World Press Freedom Day would be commemorated on 4 May, he stressed that a free press was fundamental for true democracy and it was important that the Committee recall the affirmation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone had the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. That affirmation was perhaps more relevant now than ever, he suggested.

YUSSEF KANAAN, a representative of the Permanent Observer of Mission of Palestine, commended the activities of the Department’s Palestine Section in connection with the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, such as the international media seminar on Middle East peace, held in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2010.  He regretted that the “Question of Palestine” link on the United Nations homepage had been replaced by a “Situation in the Middle East” link when the homepage was re-designed and called on the Department to re-establish the former link.  He hoped that the increased responsibility of the Palestine, Decolonization and Human Rights Section would not hinder its ability to effectively carry out issues related to the Special Information Programme and that it would receive sufficient funding and staff.  Until now, the Programme’s mandate had not been fully implemented.  That included the Assembly’s request for the Department to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, and to expand its collection of audio-visual materials on the Question of Palestine.

He stressed the importance of the Department’s annual training programme for Palestinian journalists and broadcasters.  Regrettably, Israel continued to obstruct opportunities for Palestinians to progress, including in the context of the training programme.  Israeli occupying forces continued to systematically and deliberately target journalists working tirelessly to convey the grim reality of Israel’s policies and practices.  They attacked and arrested Palestinian and foreign journalists covering peaceful protests in Palestinian cities, particularly the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin, against Israel’s annexation wall and settlements.  He called on the Committee and relevant global organizations to bolster efforts to protect Palestinian and foreign journalists and ensure they could work without censorship and the threat of military force.  Israel should be held accountable for all its crimes against Palestinians, including journalists and media personnel.

Information technology and telecommunications gave the Palestinian people a chance to join the communications revolution, a main pillar of socio-economic development, he said.  He called on the international community to support Palestine’s right to directly access telecommunications services and information technology and to call on Israel to immediately cease its unlawful control of the Palestinian frequency spectrum.  The development of the telecommunications and information technology sector was an integral part of the Palestinian two-year State—building and institution-building plan, which was to be completed by August.  The only obstacle to its full realization was the ongoing Israeli occupation.

Closing remarks

KIYO AKASAKA, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, thanked participants in the general debate, saying that “We have proven that communications cannot just be a supportive endeavour — it must be integral to the creation of policy, programme and change.  And, for communication to be successful, it must be locally and popularly sustained.” 

Reiterating the importance of work at the local level, he welcomed the notion of a regional strategic communications campaign to focus on regional issues.  In that context, he thanked the many representatives who had spoken highly of the work of the United Nations information centres and their contribution to multilingualism.  In regard to the proposed Centre in Luanda, Angola, he affirmed the Department’s commitment to work with the Angolan Government in order to establish the Centre at the earliest opportunity. 

That said, he appealed to delegates to convince their colleagues in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the need to translate expressions of support into a provision of the resources required to strengthen and enhance the Information Centres and the Department as a whole.  Noting references to the need for more training of staff, he said that a communications training workshop for colleagues from centres in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries was planned for June in Vienna, for which funds from the Office of Human Resources Management would be used. 

He affirmed that communications were not only important to mobilize a global response in times of calamity, but also to help unite peoples and cultures through collective commemorations.  In that vein, he said that the Department was delighted to commemorate the inter-civilizational legacy of the poet Rumi and the season of renewal represented by Nowruz.  The Department must continue to be a convening forum for ideas that served a global unity of purpose and understanding; the next seminar in the “Unlearning Intolerance” series would take place next week.  The Department would continue to build the bridges of dialogue and outreach that could help face the aberrations represented by the burning of a Koran, the destruction of Bamyan statues and the denial of the Holocaust.

He agreed that both social media and more traditional media were important in that regard.  Multilingualism was also essential in bridging the digital divide.  He clarified, however, that not all content presented on the website was produced by the Department, with much of it produced by various offices that did not have the resources to supply the content in all official languages.  The Department faced similar resource constraints.  Despite all the challenges, the use of the multiple language sites had increased steadily over the years. 

Noting that delegations had stressed the importance of peacekeeping information, he committed to continuing that flow with United Nations partners, conveying also the constraints and challenges facing peacekeepers and placing emphasis on their responsibility to protect civilians.  He said the Palestine Information Programme reflected the commitment to contribute to an environment that supported the peace process.  He pledged to strengthen still further the content of journalist training programmes and noted the request for greater access to Headquarters for press officers from Permanent Missions.

He said he looked forward to continuing his dialogue with the Committee on those and other issues through the Bureau and at intersessional meetings.  He was confident that negotiations within the Working Group would yield a resolution that gave the talented and creative women and men he led both recognition and direction.  In that regard, he requested mandates for which the Department was given the necessary resources to fulfil.  Noting that the Department would continue to be guided by the many mandates already assigned to it by the General Assembly, he stressed that their reiteration or reaffirmation was by no means essential. 

Finally, he requested support, in the Committee’s resolution, for activities and programmes initiated by the Department, independent of specific requests or mandates, because it felt that they served the larger purpose of the Organization.

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