29 October 2003


NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- Praising the recent reforms within the Department of Public Information as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on information questions this afternoon, delegates underscored the importance of sensitizing, informing and educating the wider public on the work of the United Nations.

Singapore’s representative noted that, as the voice of the United Nations, the Department’s message faced the danger of drowning in the flood of information competing for the world’s attention.  In order to be heard, the message must be clear and focused, and engage the widest possible audience.  A proactive approach, underpinned by a strong and coherent communications strategy, was necessary if the Organization was to engage and convince the public of its relevance as a multilateral institution, he added.

Several speakers expressed their support for the initiative to create a regional information hub in Western Europe, but called for prudence in applying the same principle to United Nations information centres elsewhere in the world. India’s representative urged circumspection in applying the hub approach to other regions, saying that the Department should proceed on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the countries concerned.

At the same time, some delegates highlighted the work of United Nations information centres operating at the country level.  Japan’s representative said his country’s Government attached great importance to the information centre in Tokyo, to which it had contributed some $200,000 annually in recent years. Similarly, Jamaica’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations Information Centre in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

However, while many representatives called for the diversion of funds released by the closure of information centres in Western Europe to centres in developing countries, the representative of the United States questioned the advisability of shifting such resources prior to the region in question undergoing a regionalization examination process.  Regarding the Secretariat’s effort to achieve language parity on the United Nations Web site, he said the Organization’s six official languages were spoken by less than 40 per cent of first-language speakers worldwide.  To better carry out the Department’s basic mandate, it would be more beneficial to post the texts of important United Nations materials in other languages additional to the official six.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, stressing the importance of traditional media, noted that, in 2002 alone, more than 133 million people had tuned in to hear United Nations radio programmes in the six official languages and in Portuguese.  Many other speakers highlighted the important contribution of such traditional media in disseminating information about the United Nations to a wide audience, even as delegates called for a narrowing of the information and communications technology gap between developing and developed countries.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Egypt, Bangladesh, Singapore, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Russian Federation, Bahrain, Switzerland, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 29 October to conclude its general debate on questions relating to information.


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on questions relating to information.  [For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/271 of 27 October 2003.]


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