13 May 2003
UN Indispensable Foundation for Peace; Must Have Clear, Effective Voice, Reaffirms Information Committee in Comprehensive Draft Text
Emphasizes Information Department's "Essential Role"; Welcomes Steps towards Restructuring, Encourages Continued Reorientation
NEW YORK, 9 May (UN Headquarters) -- Concluding its 2003 session this afternoon, the Committee on Information approved a comprehensive draft resolution, which would have the General Assembly reaffirm that the United Nations -- the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world -- must be heard in a clear and effective voice. In that context, the Assembly would also emphasize the essential role of the Department of Public Information (DPI).
The Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, said the Committee's endorsement of DPI's structural changes and its guidance at a time of renewal and transformation meant a great deal to him and his colleagues. Through the consensus adoption of the resolution, members had pronounced themselves on the key issues and clearly outlined the path they wished DPI to take. The Department would not interpret the session as giving grounds for complacency, as reform was an ongoing process.
Under a provision of the draft, the General Assembly would welcome the steps taken towards restructuring DPI, and encourage the Secretary-General to continue the reorientation exercise and efforts in improving its efficiency and productivity, including through wide-ranging and innovative proposals.
In that connection, the Assembly would welcome the progress achieved since the commencement of the reorientation exercise in enhancing DPI's performance and effectiveness. It would also welcome the decision to implement an annual programme impact review making self-evaluation a party of the daily work of all programme managers, with a view to institutionalizing performance management.
The text approved today also expresses deep concern about the disparities between developed and developing countries and the consequences "of every kind" arising from those disparities. By its terms, the Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and others to cooperate and interact, with a view to reducing disparities in information flows at all levels.
In the section of the text on new priorities for the Department, the Assembly would welcome the new structure that include strategic communications services, news services, library services, and outreach services.
Regarding the United Nations' messages, the Assembly would request the Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and the needs of the African continent. It would request DPI to pay attention to the issues in the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.
Also by the text, the Assembly would welcome the ongoing efforts of DPI to enhance multilingualism and emphasize the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all the official languages in all activities of DPI.
Towards bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the involvement of the Department in raising global awareness of the World Summit on the Information Society.
Emphasizing that the United Nations Information Centres, or regional hubs, as applicable, were the "field voice" of DPI, the Assembly would welcome ongoing efforts to review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to the Centres, with a view to possibly transferring resources from the Centres in developed countries to those in developing countries, emphasizing the needs of the least developed countries, and to other activities of high priority.
Concerning traditional means of communication, the text noted with satisfaction the success of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations, and endorsed the Secretary-General's proposal that the pilot project be made an integral part of the Department's activities.
Introducing the draft report, which contains the draft resolution and a summary of the debate, Committee Rapporteur Janice Miller (Jamaica) said that the Committee's support for DPI's new operating model had been unambiguous. The world more than ever needed a stronger, more efficient Organization, and a stronger, more focused DPI. The debate had reaffirmed the new directions the Department was taking to make its work more effective. With its four new subprogrammes, the Department was better placed to reflect the work of the Organization.
The draft report of the Committee was adopted, as orally revised, following proposals by representatives of Lebanon, United Republic of Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and Singapore. The Committee also adopted a draft decision to increase its membership from 99 to 102, with the admission of Switzerland, Suriname, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), the representative of Morocco congratulated the Chairman for his faith in the Committee's work, as well as the Bureau for its active support of the session. He also thanked the Committee's Secretary for her invaluable role in guiding the Committee, and paid tribute to the main negotiating partners. He thanked the Under-Secretary-General for presiding over the Department and wished him success in his challenging role.
On behalf of the European Union, the representative of Greece also congratulated the Chairman for the able manner in which he conducted the Committee's work. He thanked the other members of the Bureau, and recognized the constructive role played by the Group of 77 in negotiating the texts. He paid tribute to Mr. Tharoor for his untiring efforts in steering DPI through its reorientation process in today's challenging environment. He also thanked the Committee Secretary for her invaluable experience.
Speaking as an observer of the Committee, the Canadian representative recalled the importance his delegation and that of Australia had attached to the reform process, especially in the areas of the regionalization of the United Nations Information Centres, library reform and the restructuring of the publications board. He was still disappointed, however, that the Committee had not built as much momentum on what the Secretary-General had started. At the same time, he recognized that reform was an ongoing process, in which there would be continued opportunities to collaborate.
Also reiterating that reform was a process, the representative of the Republic of Korea said more deliberations were needed on issues such as the rearrangement of the Information Centres and multilingualism.
After serving as a new member in the current session, the representative of Saudi Arabia pledged his country's effectiveness in the field of communication.
In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (Bangladesh) said that, with the adoption of the reports, the Committee had taken forward 99 steps -- as many as the members that comprised it (now 102) -- in achieving the targets it had set for itself. The United Nations faced myriad challenges. Against that matrix, the Committee had called for a more focused and re-energized DPI. It was a clear reiteration of the Committee's strong confidence in the chairmanship of Mr. Tharoor, in according the Department a new strategic direction. The Committee had assisted the Department to better define its challenges, retooled it to more adequately address them, and provided it with a road map for its future policies and programmes.
Summary of Draft Resolution
As the Committee on Information met this afternoon to conclude its current session, it was expected to act on a two-part draft resolution (documents A/AC.198/2003/L.2 and L.3) to be submitted to the General Assembly's fifty-eighth session.
By terms of part A of the resolution, entitled "Information in the service of humanity", the Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact to reduce existing disparities in information flows, by increasing assistance for communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries. This should be done with due regard to the needs and priorities of those countries, and in order to enable them to develop their own information and communication policies.
The Assembly would also urge all concerned to ensure that journalists have the opportunity to freely and effectively perform their professional tasks, and condemn all attacks against them. They would also be urged to provide support for the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries. Regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries and between developed and developing countries would be sought, to strengthen communication capabilities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology, especially in training and information dissemination.
Among other things, the Assembly would seek all possible support and assistance for: the development of human and technical resources indispensable for improvement of information and communication systems in developing countries; the creation of conditions that will enable developing countries to have communication technology suited to their needs; establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels; and the facilitation of developing countries' access to advanced communication technology available on the open market.
By part B of the text, on United Nations public information policies and activities, the Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations remains the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world, that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner, and emphasized the essential role of the Department of Information (DPI) in that context.
Regarding the subject of the United Nations' messages, the Assembly would reaffirm the central role of the Committee on Information in United Nations public information policies and activities, including the restructuring process of the Department, and the prioritization of its activities. It would welcome the continued constructive interaction between DPI and Committee members.
The Assembly would call upon the Member States to ensure, to the extent possible, that recommendations relating to the programme of DPI originated and were considered in the Committee.
Further, the Assembly would request the Department, following the priorities laid down by the General Assembly in the medium-term plan and using the Millennium Declaration as its guide, to pay particular attention to such major issues as the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism, and the needs of the African continent.
The Assembly would further request DPI to pay attention to all major issues addressed in the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals in carrying out its activities.
Concerning the general activities of DPI, the Assembly would welcome the steps taken towards the restructuring of DPI, and encouraged the Secretary-General to continue the reorientation exercise and efforts in improving the Department's efficiency and productivity, including wide-ranging and, possibly, new innovative proposals, taking into account the broad principles and directions contained in the present resolution.
The Assembly would welcome the progress achieved since the commencement of the reorientation exercise in enhancing DPI's performance and effectiveness. It would also welcome the decision to implement an annual programme impact review making self-evaluation a party of the daily work of all programme managers, with a view to institutionalizing performance management.
It would encourage the Secretary-General to strengthen the coordination between DPI and other departments, including the designation of focal points to work with substantive departments to identify and target audiences and develop information programmes and media strategy for priority issues, and emphasize that public information capacities and activities in other departments should function under DPI's guidance.
Under a further provision, the Assembly would appreciate DPI's continued efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request it to continue providing that invaluable service to both Member Sates and media representatives, while considering possible means of improving their production process and streamlining their format, structure and length, keeping in mind the views of Member States and the fact that other departments might be providing similar or overlapping services in that regard.
It would also acknowledge the mission statement proposed in the Secretary-General's report on the reorientation, which reads, as follows: "The Department of Public Information's mission is to help fulfil the substantive purposes of the United Nations by strategically communicating the activities and concerns of the Organization to achieve the greatest public impact."
A further term of the text would welcome DPI's new operating model as described in the reorientation report, which, among other things, recognizes that content generation emanates from the other departments and offices of the Secretariat and organizations of the United Nations system, while content coordination and refinement, as well as content presentation and distribution, were the primary responsibility of the Department, working in close cooperation with the media, Member States and civil society partners.
On multilingualism and public information, the Assembly would welcome the ongoing efforts of DPI in that regard, and emphasize the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all activities of DPI.
Towards bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would welcome DPI's contribution to publicize the Secretary-General's efforts to close the digital divide as a means of spurring economic growth and as a response to the continuing gulf between developed and developing countries, and, in that context, requested it to further enhance its role in that regard.
The Assembly would also welcome initiatives undertaken by DPI for the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. It would commend the Secretary-General for the establishment of the United Nations Information Technology Service, the Health InterNetwork, and the Information and Communications Technology Task Force with a view to bridging the digital divide and as a response to the continuing gulf between developed and developing countries.
Noting the Secretary-General's report on programmatic aspects of the proposed programme budget for 2004-2005 for DPI, the Assembly would welcome the new subprogramme structure that includes: strategic communications services; news services; library services; and outreach services.
Concerning United Nations Information Centres, the Assembly would emphasize that the Centres, or regional hubs, as applicable, as the "field voice" of DPI, should promote public awareness and mobilize support for the work of the United Nations at the local level, bearing in mind that information in the local languages has the strongest impact on the local populations.
It would welcome ongoing efforts of DPI to review the allocation of both staff and financial resources to the Centres, with a view to possibly transferring resources from the Centres in developed countries to those in developing countries, emphasizing the needs of the least developed countries, and to any other activities of high priority, such as multilingualism on the Web site and evaluation of services.
Regarding promotional campaigns, the Assembly would stress the need for the renewed emphasis in support of Africa's development, in particular, by the Department to promote awareness in the international community of the nature of the critical economic and social situation in Africa and of the priorities of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
With respect to news services, the resolution stressed that the central objective of the news services, implemented by the News and Media Division, is the timely delivery of accurate, objective and balanced news and information emanating from the United Nations system in all four mass media -- print, radio, television, and Internet -- to the media and other audiences worldwide with the overall emphasis on multilingualism.
Concerning traditional means of communication, the text noted with satisfaction the success of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations and endorsed the Secretary-General's proposal that the pilot project be made an integral part of the Department's activities.
The Assembly would note the efforts being made by the Department to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations all over the world in the six official languages, plus Portuguese, as well as, where possible, in other languages. In that regard, it would stress the need for impartiality and objectivity concerning the information activities.
It would reiterate its appreciation for DPI's efforts in creating a high-quality, user-friendly and cost-effective Web site, and encourage it to continue to take the necessary measures to ensure accessibility to it by persons with disabilities. It would note with concern, however, that the multilingual development and enrichment of the Web site had been slower than expected, owing to, among other factors, a lack of resources.
Regarding library services, the Assembly would welcome the creation of the Steering Committee on the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries to develop and implement strategy to achieve a more modern, efficient and accessible system. In recognition of the importance of the depository libraries in disseminating knowledge about United Nations activities, it would urge the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, in its capacity as the focal point, to take necessary initiatives towards strengthening such libraries by way of providing regional training and other assistance.
The Committee on Information consists of 102 Member States: Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, and Kazakhstan.
Members also include, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Switzerland, Syria, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The Bureau is composed of the following members: Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Chairman; Larbi Djacta (Algeria), Marius Ioan Dragolea (Romania), Sebastiao Filipe Coelho Ferreira (Portugal), Vice-Chairmen; and Janice Miller (Jamaica), Rapporteur.
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