Department of Public Information Seeking New Ways to Enhance Multilingual Reach, Impact, Says Under-Secretary-General, as Committee Concludes Debate

PI/2164
28 April 2016
Thirty-eighth Session, 4th Meeting (AM)

Department of Public Information Seeking New Ways to Enhance Multilingual Reach, Impact, Says Under-Secretary-General, as Committee Concludes Debate

Inclusivity, multilingualism and a balance between new and traditional forms of communications were critical in the work of the Department of Public Information, especially around the Sustainable Development Goals, Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Cristina Gallach said today, as the Committee on Information concluded its general debate.

“We are conscious of the need to balance our outreach and content production in the increasingly popular social media platforms with those in traditional media,” Ms. Gallach said in response to questions and observations made during the debate.  “We heard you loud and clear.”  In that context, she emphasized the Department’s efforts to streamline workflows and operations to ensure efficient resource use.

To a number of comments about multilingualism, she said the request for press releases to be published in all six official languages of the United Nations was an issue of common sense.  “If we are not communicating consistently in all official United Nations languages, we are not reaching as many stakeholders as possible,” she agreed.  Yet, the Department remained constrained by resources provided by Member States.  “Without additional staff members, it will not be possible to produce press releases in other languages.”

Nevertheless, she said, the Department was seeking creative ways to enhance its multilingual reach and impact, notably by bringing together various news platforms in each language into one website; creating apps enabling mobile access to news in multiple languages; and ensuring on-demand webcast for plenaries of the General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council in all official languages by September.

It also planned to develop media accreditation mechanisms in multiple languages, she said, and establish an audio-visual archive website in multiple languages to bring the Organization’s common heritage closer to the people.  Multilingualism had factored into the Department’s activities from the outset and the coming years would see an increase in multilingual content.

She went on to say that the Department maintained its governance role regarding websites under the “un.org” domain name, underscoring that any new websites must conform to the multilingual and accessibility standards.

Regarding the use of hashtags, she acknowledged the importance of having social media content that met the needs of different language audiences.  The selection of hashtags had been given careful consideration for each campaign and issue, taking into account global conversations in the digital sphere.  In the future, the Department would work to ensure that hashtags reflected Member States’ concerns.

Turning to the global network of United Nations information centres, she thanked delegates for recognizing their work and acknowledged the substantive support provided to them by Member States.  Critical work by United Nations information services in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi had been seen in their support for — and coordination with — United Nations entities based at those duty stations, efforts that had gone “above and beyond” their year-round activities.

Further, she said, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Brussels, which served 22 countries in Europe, had established an “extremely productive” relationship with European institutions, working side by side to promote a common agenda.

On strengthening interaction between Headquarters and the field, as well as personnel and resources for the information centres, she said any help that Member States could provide would be invaluable.  Many centres had taken the lead in partnering — inside and outside the Organization — to promote the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and had received strong support from developing countries in that regard.  She encouraged developed countries to become more involved.

In the area of peace and security, she underlined the importance of communicating the Organization’s work on peacekeeping and conflict prevention and resolution.  The Department would look for “more and varied” partners to amplify key messages and content related to peacekeeping, including in local languages.

More broadly, she said the Department would raise the profile of the human rights agenda, in concert with relevant United Nations offices and departments.  Seeking partnerships with civil society and academia was also important, she said, emphasizing:  “Our focus is on generating creative ways of mobilizing the public, particularly young people.”

To a question about shop.un.org, she said the Department had launched an e-commerce platform in all official languages in January.  The website allowed users to order United Nations publications in print or digital form by using environmentally friendly and cost-effective print-on-demand and digital distribution systems.  In February, it had launched the United Nations iLibrary, allowing the public to read, search and share publications.  She thanked delegates for acknowledging the contribution of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, the audio-visual archives and the Department’s publications and editorial operations.

She had taken note of the observation that the Secretary-General’s reports had become less analytical and forward-looking.  While the increase in the Department’s activities made it difficult to portray all work within the “strict” word limits, the reports provided a “considered, consolidated” review of work that included substantive ideas for how the Department could innovate.

For example, she said, the reports this year had looked ahead to how the Department could train its news and content producers in multimedia production; create cross-divisional teams during crisis situations to ensure rapid, coherent communications responses; and organize content production around languages to ensure greater capacity.  She looked forward to reporting on those efforts — and more — at the next session.

She was keen to ensure that she had answered all questions as fully as possible in a spirit of transparency and collaboration.  The Department was “at your disposal” to continue any discussions.  She looked forward to the outcome of deliberations in the coming days and the strategic guidance the Committee would provide through its recommendations to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session.

The Committee on Information will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 May, to conclude its thirty-eighth session.

For information media. Not an official record.