5 May 2005

Concluding Current Session, Committee on Information Reaffirms United Nations as “Indispensable Foundation” of Peaceful, Just World

Says UN’s Voice Must Be Heard in Clear, Effective Manner, Emphasizing Essential Role of Department of Public Information

NEW YORK, 3 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Committee on Information, reaffirming that the United Nations remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner, emphasized this afternoon the essential role of the Department of Public Information (DPI), as it approved a two-part draft resolution and a draft decision and adopted the report on its 2005 session.  The Committee took all those actions without a vote.

By the terms of draft resolution B, entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the General Assembly would also reaffirm the central role of the Committee on Information in United Nations public information policies and activities.

The General Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the United Nations to local populations, especially in developing countries.

Also by the text, the Committee would have the Assembly stress the importance of rationalizing the network of United Nations information centres, and, in that regard, request the Secretary-General to continue to make proposals in that direction, including through redeployment of resources where necessary, and to report to the Committee on Information at its twenty-eighth session.

The Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General on further rationalization of the network of United Nations information centres, and, in that regard, recognize the constraints of further regionalization as described in paragraph 25 in the Secretary-General’s report.

Further, the Assembly would reaffirm that rationalization of the network of United Nations information centres must be carried out in consultation, on a case-by-case basis, with all concerned Member States in which existing information centres were located, the countries served by those information centres and other interested countries in the region, taking into consideration the distinctive characteristics of each region.

On multilingualism and public information, the Assembly would welcome the ongoing efforts of the DPI to enhance multilingualism in its activities, and encourage the Department to continue its endeavours in that regard.  It would emphasize the importance of ensuring the full, equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all activities of the Department of Public Information.

With respect to the Department’s general activities, the Committee would have the General Assembly reaffirm that DPI was the focal point for information policies of the United Nations and the primary news centre for information about the United Nations, its activities and those of the Secretary-General.

Regarding strategic communications services, the text contained a section on DPI’s role in United Nations peacekeeping by which the Assembly would commend the efforts of the Secretary-General to strengthen the public information capacity of the Department for the establishment and functioning of the information components of the United Nations peacekeeping operations and of political and peacebuilding missions.

The Assembly would encourage the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue their cooperation in raising awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations.  It would also encourage the DPI to continue to provide the necessary support for the dissemination of information pertaining to dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace.

Regarding news services, the text contained a section on traditional means of communication, by which the General Assembly would stress that radio remained the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department of Public Information and an important instrument in United Nations activities, including development and peacekeeping, with a view to achieving a broad client base around the world.  The Assembly would also encourage the Secretary-General to achieve parity in the six official languages in United Nations production.

Also by the text, the General Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations website remained a very useful tool for the media, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, Member States and the general public, and, in that regard, reiterate its appreciation for the efforts of the DPI in creating and maintaining it.

The Assembly would, by other terms, recognize the efforts made by the Department of Public Information to implement the basic accessibility requirements for persons with disabilities to the United Nations website, call upon the Department to continue to work towards compliance with all levels of accessibility requirements on all pages of the website, with the aim of ensuring its accessibility by persons with different kinds of disabilities.

Regarding library services, the General Assembly would call upon DPI to continue to lead the Steering Committee for the Modernization and Integrated Management of United Nations Libraries, and encourage its member libraries to coordinate closely and to establish time frames for the fulfilment of its programme work.  It would take note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the review of the operations and management of United Nations libraries and request the Steering Committee to continue to pursue new strategies for their work.

Also by the text, the Assembly would reiterate the need to enable the provision of hard copies of library materials to Member States, and note the Secretary-General’s efforts to enrich, on a multilingual basis, the stock of books and journals in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, including publications on peace and security and development-related issues, in order to ensue that it remained a broadly accessible reservoir for information about the United Nations and its activities.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would acknowledge that the outreach services implemented by the Department of Public Information continued to work towards promoting the awareness of the role and work of the United Nations on the priority issues.  It would welcome the movement towards educational outreach and the orientation of the UN Chronicle, both print and online editions, and, to that end, encourage it to continue to develop co-publishing partnerships.

The Committee would have the Assembly note the importance of the Department’s continued implementation of the ongoing programme for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and encourage it to consider how best to maximize its benefits by reviewing its duration and the number of its participants.

Also, the Assembly would reaffirm the important role of guided tours in reaching out to the general public, including children and students at all levels.  It would welcome the Department’s efforts in organizing exhibitions on important United Nations-related issues at Headquarters and other United Nations offices as a useful tool for reaching out to the general public.  The Assembly would request DPI to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil society relating to the Organization’s priorities and concerns.

By the terms of draft resolution A, entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, the General Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructure and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard to their needs and the priorities attached to such areas by those countries to develop their own information and communication policies freely and independently, and increase the participation of media and individuals in the communication process.

Countries would be urged also to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; to provide support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from public, private and other media in developing countries; to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in the areas of training and dissemination of information; and to aim at, in addition to bilateral cooperation, providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their needs in the field of information and to action already adopted within the United Nations system.

By approving the draft decision, the Committee decided to increase its membership from 107 to 108, appointing Austria as a Committee member.

Prior to action on the drafts, Muhammad A. Muhith (Bangladesh), Committee Rapporteur, presented the draft report on the twenty-seventh session (contained in documents A/AC.198/2005/L.1, A/AC.198/2005/L.2, and A/AC.198/2005/L.3), saying that the first document introduced the Committee’s work and organizational questions relating to the session, the second provided a summary of the debate, and the third contained the two draft resolutions and the draft decision.

Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said in concluding remarks that the growing partnership between DPI and the Committee constituted a key element in the Department’s renewal.  With the completion of DPI’s reorientation process, it had reached a turn in the road, but a turn in the road was not the end of the road, and the Department must continue its course.  As the intense negotiations went on, and the consensus adoption of the Committee’s report had demonstrated, there was deep commitment to upholding DPI’s role as the Organization’s “public voice”.

Expressing appreciation for the members of the Committee’s bureau, he said they had helped to forge harmonious cooperation and had facilitated fruitful discussions behind the scenes.  Special tribute should also be paid to the coordinators from the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and from the European Union, who had devoted long hours to reach consensus.  Representatives from Japan, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea and the United States had also played important roles as facilitators.

Also making concluding remarks, Committee Vice-Chair Souad El Alaoui (Morocco) noted that the Committee had unanimously reaffirmed that the United Nations remained the indispensable foundation of a peaceful and just world, and that its voice must be heard in a clear and effective manner.  The DPI had an essential role in achieving that end.  Intense negotiations had been held on the resolutions just approved, and special tribute was paid to the President and coordinators from the Group of 77 and China, as well as to Luxembourg, as the current President of the European Union.

Janice Miller (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the text was a result of long, arduous and sometimes difficult negotiations, but the Group was glad that consensus had been achieved.  The Group of 77 and China understood that rationalization of DPI meant improving its effectiveness and efficiency and also that, given the importance of the United Nations information centres to the developing countries, rationalization should not affect existing centres in developing countries.

The Committee on Information will meet again at a date to be announced.

* *** *