Committee on Information’s Thirty-fourth Session to Be Held at Headquarters 27 April - 4 May

20 April 2012

Committee on Information’s Thirty-fourth Session to Be Held at Headquarters 27 April - 4 May

20 April 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release

Committee on Information’s Thirty-fourth Session to Be Held


at Headquarters 23 April - 4 May


The thirty-fourth annual session of the Committee on Information, the intergovernmental body charged with reviewing progress in the field of United Nations public information, will take place at Headquarters from 23 April to 4 May.

During the two-week session, delegations are expected to undertake a wide-ranging review of the Department of Public Information and its three subprogrammes — the News and Media, Outreach and Strategic Communications Divisions.

The Secretary-General observes in his report on strategic communications services that the Department works to deliver its message to targeted audiences by identifying communications priorities in advance and collaborating with all United Nation partners to ensure the optimal use of resources.

While still relying on traditional means, such as radio, television and print, particularly in areas with limited Internet access, increasingly, the Department has drawn on social media tools, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, as well as other innovative communications technologies, to convey the United Nations story to varied audiences worldwide.  Last year, the Department launched United Nations profiles on Google+, Storify and Tumblr.

“Use of these interactive platforms broadens the reach of the messages of the United Nations and contributes to the overall transparency and accountability of the Organization,” he states.

Moreover, the global network of United Nations Information Centres, located in 62 countries, continues to serve as the “public face and voice” of the Organization, tailoring overall communications strategies to meet local communities’ needs in more than 150 languages.

Similarly, in his report on news services, the Secretary-General notes that by expanding the use of multimedia, web-based and mobile platforms, the Department has been able to reach a more diverse, younger audience.  Last year, the Department organized the first-ever global conversation with the Secretary-General on major social networking sites, soliciting questions in several languages and streaming the event live in four official languages on Facebook, Livestream and the United Nations Webcast, as well as translating it into Chinese on Sina Weibo.

With language parity remaining a key goal in all its activities, the Department continues working with the Secretariat to bolster content on the United Nations website in the six official languages.  Overall, more than 8,000 multilingual pages were added last year, with content in Arabic receiving a boost, thanks to a new translation arrangement with the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  Views of the YouTube channels in Spanish and French rose to 19,500 and 60,000 respectively; the Weibo channel in Chinese hit the 1 million mark.  The fan base on the Spanish-language Facebook page, which hosted a live conversation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights last December, jumped 300 per cent.

Finally, in his report on Outreach Services, the Secretary-General states that the Department focused on “proactive and targeted” engagement with key constituencies in 2011 and that during the next two years, it will expand its reach to young people, forge new partnerships and take steps to modernize the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

The Department solidified its mandate among traditional audiences in the general public and civil society, especially young people.  By the end of 2011, more than 770 institutions of higher learning and research in more than 110 countries had joined “Academic Impact” — a global university initiative launched in 2010 to align such institutions with the United Nations in support of universally recognized principles in human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution.

Established in 1978, the Committee on Information examines United Nations public information policies and activities in light of evolving international relations, and evaluates the Organization’s progress in the information and communications field.  The 113-member Committee is also mandated to promote a more effective global information and communications order to strengthen peace and understanding.

Report Summaries

According to the Secretary-General’s two-part report Activities of the Department of PublicInformation:  strategic communications services (document A/AC.198/2012/2), the strategic communications services are responsible for helping to fulfil the United Nations substantive goals by strategically communicating the Organization’s activities and concerns to achieve the greatest public impact.  To do that, the services devise and implement communications strategies on priority issues and provide communications support for key United Nations events and initiatives.

The first part of the report covers the Department’s communications campaigns, which support the three pillars of the world body’s work — development, human rights and peace and security.  In the area of peacekeeping, the Department comprehensively redesigned its peacekeeping website, which is now available in all six official languages and features joint online thematic communications campaigns of the public information and peacekeeping departments.  In November, for the first time ever, the website surpassed 700,000 page views over a 31-month period.

Both departments worked closely to provide strategic communications support to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) in the lead-up to that country’s referendum last July, as well as to UNMIS’ drawdown and the subsequent start-up of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

The Department produced a regular background guidance document for the United Nations on the crisis in the Horn of Africa, and it worked closely with the Department of Political Affairs to craft the Organization’s response to developments in Libya.  It set up specific websites featuring multimedia material on the thirtieth anniversary of the International Day of Peace and the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

To build momentum for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro, the Department chairs an inter-agency task force that brings together some 20 United Nations partners to discuss a common strategy, develop joint communications products and coordinate messages.  Its “Rio+20:  The Future We Want” global campaign has been set up to help people better understand sustainable development and share their ideas via a global online platform.

Other thematic communications strategies detailed in the report focus on the Millennium Development Goals; counter-terrorism; ending violence against women; the question of Palestine; human rights; the International Year for People of African Descent; and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The second part of the report highlights the work of the 62 United Nations Information Centres, which adapt overall United Nations communications priorities into local communications strategies for local audiences in their own language.  It states that preparations are well under way for the creation of an information centre in Luanda, Angola, which, when opened, will further strengthen the United Nations ability to engage Portuguese-speaking audiences throughout Africa.

The Centres’ knowledge of countries in the Arab region proved to be invaluable in helping the Organization deal with the rapidly changing political dynamics in the Middle East in the past year, the report finds.  When established in September 2011, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) first used the Centre in Tripoli as its operations base; the Centre’s information assistant provided the Mission with communications support during Libya’s transition phase.  The Director of the Centre in Sana’a handled media relations for the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General for Yemen, helping to correct misconceptions about the Organization’s role in mediating the conflict.

According to the report, recent attacks on United Nations premises have led to the introduction of stricter security measures.  Six Centres are expected to relocate during the current biennium owing to security concerns and at least three will reduce their office size in order to remain in security-compliant premises.

The Secretary-General’s report on Activities of the Department of Public Information:  news services (document A/AC.198/2012/3) outlines key advances in promoting the United Nations work through print, radio, television and webcast, as well as audio and visual products.

It says that last year, United Nations Radio focused on improving the effectiveness of its radio operations and expanding multimedia content on its website.  It signed on 150 broadcast stations to carry its programming, while expanding its reach through social media networks to nearly 63,000 followers, a 300 per cent increase over the second half of 2010.

United Nations Television continues to provide live coverage of meetings and other events at Headquarters; produce varied news and feature-style programming; and generate video material for a growing number of web and mobile platforms, the report states.  A French-language version of 21st Century, the Department’s flagship television programme, is being developed.  A pilot version in Arabic of UN in Action, a series of short television stories that highlight critical United Nations issues, has been distributed to potential Arabic-language broadcast channels.

The Department continues to focus on expanding live streaming and on-demand video on the web to help audiences worldwide follow proceedings in real time.  In September, the number of video views nearly quadrupled compared with the same month the previous year.  Use of the United Nations Channel on YouTube has increased steadily to more than 20,000 subscribers and friends, as new content is added daily.  The number of pickups of the daily feed provided by UNifeed, an inter-agency platform that enables broadcasters to download breaking video news and features in broadcast-quality formats via the Internet, continue to expand, reflecting the increased demand for free, quality content at a time of shrinking budgets for media outlets and the growth of small community and web-based television outlets.

The report notes that the following on social networks of the United Nations News Centre, long one of the most popular portals on the Organization’s website, increased dramatically to close to 40,000 fans on Facebook and 14,000 followers on Twitter.

In the area of press release distribution, the Department’s Meetings Coverage Section between July 2011 and January 2012 produced 2,361 releases — 11,803 pages in English and French — including year-end round-ups of the Security Council and General Assembly.  That output, available in hard copy at Headquarters and distributed worldwide via the Internet and the United Nations Information Centres, also included:  445 releases on the sixty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly; 390 on meetings and statements of the Security Council; and more than 1,100 on statements by, and messages from, the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, as well as material from other United Nations offices and departments; and nearly 500 summaries of press briefings of the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson and other press conferences held at Headquarters.

Also covered in the report are other services — such as support to the media, placement of op-ed articles, as well as the growth and improved presentation of the United Nations website to include better use of statistics, multilingualism and access for persons with disabilities.

Finally, the Secretary-General’s report on Activities of the Department of Public Information:  outreach services (document A/AC.198/2012/4) states that the mission of the Outreach Division is “to strengthen international support for the role and activities of the Organization by informing the public about the goals, priorities and concerns of the United Nations and by engaging in an interactive dialogue with its global constituencies”.  The report details work geared towards students, teachers and civil society, and notes the expanded use of social media platforms to enlarge the Division’s constituency and further broaden global ownership of the United Nations.

It highlights several initiatives in 2011, including the annual DPI/NGO Conference on “sustainable societies:  responsive citizens”, held in Bonn, which attracted 1,300 non-governmental organization representatives;the third global Model UN Conference, held in Incheon, Republic of Korea in August 2011; and the annual United Nations student conference on human rights, which encouraged students to make recommendations on how to fight discrimination in their schools and communities.  During the yearly “UN4U” project, which took the United Nations story to education institutions worldwide, the Secretary-General launched the countdown to the United Nations Population Fund’s “7 Billion Actions” campaign before an assembly of 450 students on United Nations Day.

The report states that, as part of the Department’s celebrity advocacy efforts, several Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace spoke to more than 300 students in the United States and Canada on the theme “peace and democracy:  make your voice heard” during a student observance of the thirtieth anniversary of the International Day of Peace.  The Secretary-General launched his Creative Community Outreach Initiative, a one-stop shop for advice and support to writers, directors, producers and broadcasters interested in covering United Nations issues.

The United Nations Visitors Centre website launched in 2010 to provide visitors with information on guided tours, exhibits and lectures received 237,487 visits and its Facebook page has more than 2,000 fans, the report notesAs part of ongoing efforts to gear guided tours more towards children, hands-on interactive displays, such as a peacekeeper’s helmet that visitors can try on, have been added.  During a video contest on the United Nations YouTube channel, citizens worldwide were invited to propose one idea to the Secretary-General to make the world a better place.  The three winners later met with the Secretary-General to discuss their ideas.

Also according to the report, activities designed to build on past successes include the Department’s invitation, for the thirty-first consecutive year, to young journalists from developing countries to participate in the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalists’ Fellowship Programme.

In other developments, the Department also launched IWitness, a searchable collection of Holocaust survivor video testimonies and resource materials, and marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg trials with a round-table discussion on the trials’ impact on the development of international jurisprudence.

The Department’s first educational calendar, The United Nations Making a Difference, which highlights the Organization’s work in advancing women’s rights, clearing landmines, fighting hunger, fostering democracy, meeting humanitarian needs and other diverse areas, was published in the six official languages.  While traditional book sales remain strong, the Department continues to expand production and distribution of digital and print-on demand products.

As for library services, the report notes that Dag Hammarskjöld Library completed its review of the United Nations Depository Library Programme, which revealed that 70 per cent of readers preferred documentation in a digital format.  Based on those findings, plans are under way to develop an institutional repository for the Organization’s digital resources, as well as give United Nations staff better and remote access to relevant electronic resources.  The Library has begun using social media platforms to inform the public about newly released publications, reports and information-related activities.  This year, the Department will lead a review of the activities of United Nations libraries worldwide to increase policy coherence and cooperation and to harmonize systems.

The report notes that the Capital Master Plan has affected the Department’s outreach services due to the lack of dedicated infrastructure facilities catering to visitors, non-governmental organizations and student groups.  Guided tours will continue to operate in the General Assembly building until the beginning of 2013.

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