|For information only - not an official document.|
|14 November 2000|
Speakers in Fourth Committee Stress Importance of UN Information Activities
In Areas of Concern to Developing Countries
Role of Information Activities in UN Peace Operations Also Supported
NEW YORK, 13 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) resumed its general debate on questions relating to information this afternoon.
As it did so, the representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, described the "digital divide" as perhaps the most critical problem worsening the existing gap in information and communication technologies between the developed and developing countries. United Nations public information activities should be sustained in areas of concern to developing countries and countries in economic transition, including economic and social development, poverty reduction, debt relief, health, education and elimination of illiteracy.
He said other areas of concern to developing and transition countries were women’s and children’s rights, the plight of children in armed conflict, the sexual exploitation of children, the eradication of drug trafficking and environmental issues. The Group also supported United Nations public information activities in the fields of disarmament, peace-making, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping operations and decolonization.
Cuba’s representative, expressing concern about the integration of the Information Centres with field offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the Centres must play an essential role in the dissemination of information about the United Nations and Member States. While today’s globalizing processes had largely been founded on scientific and technological advances that had brought immeasurable benefits, it was a bitter contradiction that the greater the technological advances made, the greater the division between the developed and developing countries. Technological progress must unite and not divide countries further.
The representative of the Central African Republic stressed the priority importance of radio for developing countries. While it was hoped that international solidarity would help to bridge the information technology gap, radio remained the most accessible media to the vast majority of the world’s people. The Central African Republic therefore welcomed the United Nations pilot international radio broadcast project, especially since much of that effort had been addressed to Africa.
Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Japan, North Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, and Guinea.
Cuba’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 14 November, to continue its general debate on questions relating to information.
Committee Work Programme
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on questions relating to information. (For background please see Press Release GA/SPD/204 issued this morning.)
KIYOTAKA AKASAKA (Japan) said his delegation shared the views expressed by the Netherlands on the United Nations making the best use of information technology. He also agreed with the Secretary-General’s report on the importance of outreach to non-governmental organizations through new information technologies. As the largest contributor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Japan shared the view of the Department of Public Information (DPI) that further coordination between resident coordinators and United Nations Information Centres was necessary to strengthen outreach, he added.
Japan, he said, was also keen to see the United Nations develop a stronger partnership with the media through appropriate and timely dissemination of updated information. The United Nations World Television Forum taking place next week was a valuable initiative. Radio was important for people in developing countries, and he hoped that the DPI would continue to enhance its radio broadcasting capacity within the resources allocated in the current biennial budget, and that tangible results would be produced in many countries.
He said that Japan strongly supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to improve United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in the related area of public information. However, he noted, the number of peacekeeping operations rose and fell, while the demand for the Organization’s public information services tended to be stable. Therefore, due account should be taken of the structure of the institutions providing public information so that they could operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. In closing, he stressed Japan’s appreciation of, and continued support for, the Department of Public Information.
RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said mankind faced great contrasts on the threshold of the new millennium. Today’s globalizing processes had largely been founded on scientific and technological advances that had brought immeasurable benefits, which should be reflected in the well-being of all people. But it was a bitter contradiction that the greater the technological advances made, the greater the division between the developed and developing countries.
He said that with more computers concentrated in the United States than in all other parts of the world, there was a tendency to reinforce cultural models that were unfavourable to the developing countries. The new world economy, which was based on knowledge, was transforming information into a commodity that was more valuable than traditional goods. Profit had been imposed beyond the needs of private research, and private research was concentrated on the needs of wealthy consumers.
Technological progress must unite and not further divide countries, he stressed. If a new world information and communications order was to be achieved, developing countries must be encouraged to become active players in the development of resources, and be assured of a more equitable share of the benefits of technological advances.
He said the United Nations Information Centres must play an essential role as links in the dissemination of information about the United Nations and Member States. Cuba was concerned about the integration of the Information Centres with field offices of the UNDP, particularly since the centres had not achieved all their objectives.
Information was an ideal instrument for enhancing peace and security, he pointed out. Its use for the subversion of other countries was illegal and must be rejected by Member States. Information must not be used for criminal or terrorist purposes. His country denounced the electronic activities carried out by the United States. Its electronic warfare against Cuba not only subverted his country’s sovereignty, but was a flagrant violation of international law, promoting violent, subversive and terrorist actions against Cuba. Nevertheless, all such efforts had failed due to the expertise and initiative of Cuban technicians and to the resistance of the Cuban people. Cuba would continue to adopt any measures to repel such actions.
LARRY CARP (United States) said that the United States associated itself with the statement made previously by the Netherlands on behalf of the Western Europeans and Others Group. He commended the Department of Public Information on many of its efforts, particularly the Millennium Summit promotional campaign and the United Nations Web site. In the effort to reprioritize all efforts in the light of that Summit, however, the Department should regularly re-program its financial staff and resources to address priority needs. In that regard, he was pleased to see the DPI’s involvement in peacekeeping reforms as regarded information. Adequate information infrastructure in any peace operation was critical to its success and the safety of its personnel, something underscored in Sierra Leone this past May. He supported the idea of a rapidly deployable, or “surge” capacity for public information in peace operations.
He questioned, though, the efficiency of having 65 Information Centres when there was a United Nations presence in multiple ways in many countries. He said that all United Nations offices should coordinate their outreach activities, thereby freeing up funds and staff to be directed towards current priority areas, including peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The Organization’s Web site had proven to be a very useful tool, even though the current infrastructure could not fully support the demands placed on it. He asked the Information Technology Services Division to do everything possible to ensure that necessary electronic communications receive the required technological support. He also advocated making the Optical Disc System available on the Internet, with all the Organization’s parliamentary documents available in the six official languages.
Certain publishing activities of the DPI, he said, could be handled in a more cost-efficient manner, for example the Press Release compendium of General Assembly resolutions was duplicated by the official record supplement. He supported initiatives to bridge the digital divide, especially the Health InterNetwork and the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITes), which involved outside partnerships, as well as initiatives of the Group of Eight Industrialized Countries and various United Nations agencies. He asked the representative of Cuba to focus on enhancing the Department’s efforts in such areas as security in peacekeeping operations, in which many of the Group of 77 nations were involved. He pledged the support of the United States for the efforts of Under-Secretary-General Hogen to meet the many challenges faced by his department.
C. A. ONONYE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that while recognizing the unprecedented developments in information and communication technologies, the Group remained cognizant of their negative impact, including the marginalization of developing countries and those in economic transition. The digital divide was perhaps the most critical problem worsening the existing gap in information and communication technologies between the developed and developing countries.
United Nations public information activities in areas of concern to developing countries and countries in economic transition should be sustained, he said. Those concerns included economic and social development, poverty reduction, debt relief, health, education, elimination of illiteracy, women’s and children’s rights, the plight of children in armed conflict, the sexual exploitation of children, the eradication of drug trafficking and environmental issues. The Group also supported United Nations public information activities in the fields of disarmament, peace-making, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping operations and decolonization.
As the most accessible communication technology, radio remained critical to developing countries and countries in economic transition, he said. The Group supported the Secretariat’s efforts in promoting global outreach though broadcasting arrangements with partner radio stations in most regions of the world. While emphasizing the use of the six official languages in broadcasting, the use of local languages was highly encouraged.
The Department’s “face-to-face” programmes of public information remained important. Those included guided tours, group programmes and special activities for students and teachers. The Group supported the promotion of video conferencing and web-based education projects by the Department, and it was hoped that they would be easily accessible to the users, especially in developing countries and those in economic transition.
HONG JE RONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the main objective of international public information activities should be the establishment of a new and just information order. Rapidly developing information and communication technologies were among the major factors shaping the world and promoting the well-being of humankind. However, the benefits were confined to only a few countries, whereas the majority of developing countries remained on the margin of the public information field. In addition, there were persistent efforts to disseminate, on a large scale, particular ideologies, cultures and values to others, and to distort the realities of specific countries by mobilizing the monopoly of public information and communications technologies, thus misleading world opinion.
Consequently, the time-honoured cultures of developing countries were fading away and mistrust was burgeoning among countries, he said. All those factors constituted potential threats to the prosperity of mankind and to the maintenance of international peace and security. In order to overcome such phenomena, Member States must pursue in their public information activities the strengthening of international cooperation and promote sustainable development on the basis of respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Attempts to create chaos and disorder and to instigate anti-government forces in other countries through mass media must also end.
He said there was a need to provide developing countries with opportunities to participate in international public information activities. That could be achieved when developing countries enhanced their own information capacity and by collective efforts through cooperation in that area. For such efforts to succeed, they should be supported by international assistance such as transfer of technology, training of experts and financial investment.
Regarding the enhancement of United Nations public information activities, he stressed the need to ensure impartiality and objectivity and to increase the coverage of developmental issues, which the developing countries were most concerned about. In addition, the United Nations should pay special attention to narrowing the gaps between the North and the South by providing financial and material assistance to developing countries in the field of public information.
ALEXANDRINA-LIVIA RUSU (Romania) said that her country shared the views expressed previously by the Netherlands on behalf of the Western Group. She underlined the importance of the United Nations Integrated Information Centre in Bucharest. About 8,000 people in the past year had been provided with services. Many highly valued the Centre’s reference library. The Centre also produced a great number of printed articles and news broadcasts -- more than 1500 in the past year -- and had organized more than 20 conferences. It had also helped launch the first scholarship for Romanian journalists training in the United States.
The Centre Bucharest had also, she said, co-sponsored many events with members of civil society and the business community, strengthening those partnerships and focussing attention on key United Nations issues. In a project entitled “Expanded UN Libraries”, the Centre, in cooperation with the Romania Country Office of the UNDP had offered computer equipment to 15 university libraries in the country. Romania strongly reiterated its support for the functional autonomy of all Information Centres. She also supported the Secretary-General’s initiative to create United Nations Houses in the field and maintained the offer to establish such a house in Bucharest.
KIRILL SPERANSKY (Russian Federation) said that the accelerated development of technologies and telecommunications, alongside the benefits stemming from spreading opportunities for international cooperation, created conditions for the emergence of a new confrontation in the international arena over the information issue. As it was important to counteract attempts to use technical achievements for purposes inconsistent with general progress, the Russian Federation had introduced a draft resolution, “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”, for consideration by the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly.
He noted the inequality between developed and developing countries in access to the newest achievements of modern technologies. That problem had been mentioned at the G-8 Summit in Okinawa, where, alongside other documents, the “Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society” had been adopted, calling on both the private and public sectors to bridge the international information and knowledge gap.
He said that while he favoured the establishment of a modern global information society, guaranteeing freedom of expression and equal participation, it was necessary to remember the possible negative consequences of globalization, such as the threats of obliteration of national self-expression and unification of cultures. Such threats problem could be overcome through harmony in the development of culture and ethics alongside development of economic, political and scientific spheres of society.
FERNAND POUKRE-KONO (Central African Republic) stressed the importance of information to the activities of the United Nations. He hoped that the new challenges faced by the Organization in the twenty-first century would be widely disseminated. In the reorientation of information activities, he stressed the importance of radio as a medium. The rapid development of new information technologies had widened the information gap, and he hoped that international solidarity would help to bridge it, however, at present, radio remained the most accessible media to most of the world’s people. He therefore welcomed the pilot radio project from the DPI, especially since much of that effort had been addressed to Africa.
He hoped that the excellent public awareness-raising campaign that had led up to the Millennium Summit would be extended well beyond that meeting. He also expressed appreciation for the information component of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic, whose impartial, varied broadcasts had been enjoyed by listeners for many years, along with those of Radio Africa. He hoped that both would get full support from all Member States.
BALLA MOUSSA CAMARA (Guinea), associating himself with the statement by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said a strategy to shrink the gap between the developed and developing countries was needed. The highest priority should be to facilitate the scientific and technological development of the developing countries, so that they could become active players and not merely users of the technology.
He said that his country welcomed the policy to ensure greater decentralization of activities in the field. Guinea reiterated its wish to host the West African subregional antenna for the United Nations international radio broadcasting capacity in its capital, Conakry. The world must be better informed about the daily struggle waged by developing countries against the problems of development, peace or armed conflict. It was necessary that Africa’s struggle in a unfavourable international environment be known to all those who wished to enter the new century determined to tackle the great challenges facing it.
Right of Reply
Mr. DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, told the representative of the United States that his country had always been prepared to work constructively for the security of peacekeeping personnel, 80 per cent of whom were from fraternal developing countries. The issue raised by the United States delegate was related to an agenda items other than information. For Cuba, information questions were of great significance, especially with respect to illegal broadcasts to Cuba.
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