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PI/2124
28 April 2015
Thirty-seventh Session, 2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Discuss Merits of New Media, United Nations Information Centres, as Committee on Information Continues General Debate

As large segments of the world’s population relied on traditional media for information on the United Nations and world affairs, delegates warned about the dangers of the digital divide, while hailing the broad reach of new media in disseminating the Organization’s message, as the Committee on Information continued its general debate.

The representative of Burkina Faso, noting the mainstreaming of social media in the Department of Public Information’s work, said that while those new types of media had an important role, they were inaccessible to many people in developing countries due to the lack of internet access or illiteracy.  As such, traditional media, namely radio, television and the written press remained essential.

Brazil’s representative agreed, noting that according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), while internet access was limited in much of the developing world, 75 per cent of households in developing countries had radios.

The representative of Belarus said the decline in traditional information materials in the Russian language had restricted the work of civil society and educational institutions in his country.  Belarus did receive materials in English, but they were of no practical use.

Guatemala’s representative, also concerned by the digital divide, said that even so, the Department should continue to use social media networks in all languages, as they helped to generate awareness about the United Nations work to the global public.  In particular, efforts should be redoubled to disseminate information about the specific functions of each peacekeeping mission to avoid creating false expectations among local populations.

The representative of Pakistan, as one of the contributors of troops to peacekeeping operations, underscored the importance of close cooperation between the Departments of Public Information, Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support.  “We are meeting at a time when several conflicts that have religious ingredients are creating discord and tension around the world,” he said, expressing the hope that the proposed documentary on peacekeeping operations would appropriately highlight the challenges faced by peacekeepers and their success stories.

Similarly, Senegal’s representative stressed the need for the Public Information Department to cooperate with other Departments at a time when a high‑level independent panel was considering the future of peacekeeping operations.  He also called for an effective outreach strategy focused on the needs of the African continent, in order to help eradicate the major scourges it faced.

He was one of several delegates welcoming the dynamism of the United Nations Information Centres, which worked with scholars, local leaders, and journalists in local contexts.  The centres provided information on a broad array of the Organization’s activities including lessons learned from past crises, delivering early warnings in some regions and highlighting local responses to United Nations issues, among other topics.

The representative of India said that the centre in New Delhi, for example, was celebrating “Panchtatva” with concerts highlighting the five elements of air, water, fire, sky and earth to promote understanding of climate change and its impact on humans.  He called those centres “the voices of the United Nations to the world”.

Colombia’s representative agreed.  Noting that information should be provided in a clear way and disseminated in accordance with local needs, he said that the centre in Bogota, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, had disseminated information to millions of people in that time.

Delegations continued to stress the fundamental importance of multilingualism for the effective dissemination of information.  Mexico’s representative said that people in different parts of the world had different primary concerns, which should be the focus of the information they received.  Thus, translating materials from French or English, addressed to speakers of those languages, was not sufficient.  Materials should be created in all official languages to address the areas of interest to their respective speakers, and the 2016-2017 programme budget should ensure that the Department had the staff needed to do so.

At the opening of the meeting, Paraguay was welcomed as a member of the Committee.

Also participating in today’s debate were representatives of Portugal, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Ukraine, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Israel, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Libya, Iran, Costa Rica, United Republic of Tanzania, as well as the State of Palestine and the International Organization of la Francophonie.

The Committee on Information will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 29 April to conclude its general debate.

Statements

SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) thanked the Department of Public Information for its continuous efforts to highlight the achievements of the United Nations and supported the Department’s initiatives and awareness programmes.  He welcomed the use of social media.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ digital campaigns acknowledging the contributions of 110 countries to United Nations peacekeeping was a step in the right direction.  Those countries should have greater say in peacekeeping decision-making.  The United Nations Information Centres were “the voices of the United Nations to the world”, he said.  In that light, the centre in New Delhi was celebrating “Panchtatva” with concerts highlighting the five elements of air, water, fire, sky and earth to promote the understanding of climate change and its impact on humans.  He expressed appreciation also for the Department’s efforts to strengthen and expand partnerships with institutions of learning under its Academic Impact initiative.

FILATENI COULIBALY (Burkina Faso), aligning with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the importance of the Committee on Information’s work, which furthered the follow-up to the Organization’s outreach efforts.  Noting the mainstreaming of social media in the Department’s work, he said that while those new types of media played a role, they remained inaccessible to many people in developing countries due to the digital divide or illiteracy.  Thus, traditional media, namely radio, television and the written press, remained important.  Still, he commended the Department’s work to digitize the Organization’s archives.  Multilingualism was important.  Implementing General Assembly resolution 67/292 would promote the required linguistic parity.  He commended plans to ensure that the Department would have more resources for the 2016-2017 programme budget towards that end.  Regional United Nations Information Centres were important.  The one located in Ouagadougou helped deliver early warnings in the region, among other activities, such as an exhibit on the genocide in Rwanda and the lessons from it, as well as disseminated information on United Nations peacekeeping.  Those centres should be strengthened to enable them to fulfil their mandates.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, said that the Department played a fundamental role in disseminating information about the Organization to the “peoples of the United Nations”, honouring the spirit of the Charter.  Encouraging the strengthening of multilingualism, she said that Portuguese was a common language of some 250 million people, making it one of the world’s most spoken languages.  Her delegation therefore welcomed the Department’s efforts to work with Portuguese — including through the United Nations Information Centres, the Portuguese Unit of the United Nations Radio and the availability of some print and digital publications in Portuguese — and strongly encouraged its further use.  The continuing work to establish the full version of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) website in Portuguese was an important step in that regard.

GABRIEL ORELLANA ZABALZA (Guatemala) expressed interested in the themes brought up yesterday by several delegates, including those representing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Group of Friends of Spanish.  Multilingualism was crucial for all of the Department’s work, and all languages should be treated equally.  Moreover, the Organization’s linguistic structure should be revised to reflect the linguistic diversity of its Member States.  The digital divide between the developed and developing world was of concern, he said, calling for the continued use of traditional forms of media.  The Department should also continue to use social networks in all languages, which helped to disseminate the work of the United Nations to the public around the world.  He recognized the need to redouble efforts to disseminate information about the particular functions of each peacekeeping mission and avoid creating false expectations among the local populations.  He reiterated his delegation’s support for the work of the Department and hoped that its important objectives would be met.

MASOOD ANWAR (Pakistan), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, expressed hope that the Department would continue efforts to increase its media visibility and keep up with the fast-developing social media networks, as well as make the best use of new tools.  As one of the largest troop-contributing countries, Pakistan hoped that the proposed documentary on peacekeeping operations would appropriately highlight the challenges faced by peacekeepers and their success stories.  His delegation continued to underscore the importance of close cooperation between the Public Information Department, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support.  “We are meeting at a time when several conflicts that have religious ingredients are creating discord and tensions around the world,” he said.  In that regard, the promotion of understanding, tolerance and harmony was needed.  The Public Information Department should step up its efforts through the media to defuse those tensions and promote interfaith harmony.

DMITRY MIRONCHIK (Belarus) welcomed the progress made by the United Nations News Service, which rapidly prepared information in all United Nations languages.  The Department was increasingly effective in using social media to disseminate information.  That ensured the broadest audience, especially of young people, and engaged them through interactive activities.  Leading television and radio stations broadly used the Organization’s materials, disseminating the information to the entire country.  There had been a positive public response in Belarus to the “2015: Time for Global Action” campaign.  In commemorating the Organization’s seventieth anniversary, the feats of the victors who had founded it must be highlighted.  The Department should cover all events about the Organization’s founding.  While commending the broad use of new media, he stressed the need for continued use of traditional media.  There had been a decline in such materials in Russian, which restricted the work of civil society and educational institutions in Belarus.  While his country did receive such materials in English, they were of no practical use.  Stressing the important role of the United Nations Information Centre in Minsk, he noted that its budget remained at the 1995 level, which limited its effectiveness.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said the United Nations message should reach the largest possible number of people.  In the developing world, where new technologies were limited, it was important to produce information in the traditional media as well as new platforms.  Information should be provided in a clear way and disseminated in accordance with local needs.  The United Nations Information Centre in Bogota, celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, had disseminated information to millions of people in that time.  Turning to linguistic parity, she stressed the importance of producing press releases in Spanish.  A clear solution must be found.  He asked the Department to present a strategy that would meet the need.  For the second consecutive year, the Spanish‑language web page received the second highest number of hits.  Such data should be referenced when making decisions.

JO JONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, expressed appreciation for the Department’s steps to revitalize the work of public information on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.  Such measures were the main tool to inform the international community of the Organization’s activities.  Public information activities should not be strictly technological.  While the rapid development of technology enabled public information and communications to impact all aspects of political, social, economic, cultural and other areas, he was concerned that the use of social media could politicize the information being disseminated by countries that had control of such technologies.  The Organization’s public information should serve all Member States equally and impartially.

OSCAR LEÓN GONZáLEZ (Cuba), aligning with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Group of Friends of Spanish, said that the work of the Department should be strengthened and expanded, as its activities had the potential to broaden the Organization’s audience.  Given the fact that some 781 million adults and 126 million young people around the world were illiterate, it was crucial to continue to use traditional communication media such as radio and television.  He reiterated the need to involve Member States in the process of drafting guidelines for the use of new technology.  The question of multilingualism and the parity of language use was a crucial one.  Recognizing the Department’s efforts in that area, he encouraged the inclusion of necessary resources to produce materials in the six official languages.  The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons and climate change were the greatest threats to humanity; the Department’s work was critical to raising awareness of those problems and efforts to solve them.  The Department also had important work to do in the areas of eradicating colonialism and promoting the rights of the Palestinian people.  The use of radio and television to intervene in the affairs of sovereign States was illegal, as was the use of computerized systems to commit aggressions against other nations.  Such violations of international law must end, he stressed.

YEGOR PYVOVAROV (Ukraine), expressing gratitude for the Department’s “intense” and “fruitful” work, encouraged the United Nations Radio Service to further utilize social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  The Committee was essential to bring the Department in line with current trends and to “get the UN’s voice out worldwide”.  Noting that the Department’s activities this year would highlight the end of the Second World War, he said that as a country which had suffered greatly during that war, Ukraine regretted that it was now once again suffering from aggression at the hands of “yesterday’s ally and neighbour”.  Ukraine firmly opposed attempts by any country to rewrite the history of the Second World War, in particular to call other countries fascists, or to take on all the glory of the war for itself.  Massive amounts of “Soviet-style” information propaganda were being used to create and fuel conflicts.  In the last few months, Ukraine had been the victim of such actions, and it remained disappointed by the lack of reaction by the United Nations to condemn the producers of propaganda and the distortion of facts.  Multilingualism was indeed important, but multilingual propaganda and lies would negatively impact the world.

GORGUI CISSE (Senegal), joining with the Group of 77 and China, said the international community’s continued attention to public information was a positive trend that would help create a more peaceful world.  Information and communications technology brought nations and peoples together, “shrinking time and space”.  The Department should better report on the Organization’s activities, in such areas as environmental sustainability, peace and security, among others.  At a time when a high-level independent panel was considering the future of peacekeeping operations, there should be more engagement between the Departments of Public Information and Peacekeeping, among others.  He called for an effective outreach strategy focused on the needs of the African continent, in order to help eradicate the major scourges it faced.  He welcomed the dynamism of the United Nations Information Centres, which worked with scholars, local leaders, and journalists in the local contexts.  Senegal continued supporting the centre in Dakar.  Senegal remained committed to linguistic diversity, which was the “backbone of the international system” and which strengthened the principle of equality between States.  Parity between languages required constant vigilance, especially at a time when the international community was crafting the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, applauded the Department’s efforts to broaden the dissemination of information through the use of modern information systems.  While information technology provided tremendous outlets for creating awareness, it was still at a rudimentary level in developing nations, which underscored the need for continued use of traditional platforms.  He called on countries with advanced information systems to boost assistance to developing countries in their efforts to bridge the digital divide.  Noting that this year marked the fifteenth anniversary of the International Mother Language Day, he said it was a fitting occasion to appraise efforts to achieve linguistic parity in the United Nations system.

RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ (Mexico), aligning with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Spanish, acknowledged the work of the Spanish-language United Nations Radio and United Nations Television teams.  While supporting the use of new technologies, he said, traditional media was the principal source of information on what was happening at the United Nations and in the world for much of the world’s population.  Stressing the need for multilingualism, he said translating materials produced in English or French was not sufficient as they were geared towards the interests of speakers of those languages.  Thus materials should be created in all official languages in order to address the areas of interest to their respective speakers.  The programme budget for 2016-2017 should ensure that the Department had all the staff it needed to do so.  Only with timely, objective and precise information on the Organization’s work would the world understand the multiple activities it carried out.  He also appealed to the Department to strengthen engagement with partners such as academia and civil society.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, in exercise of right of reply, noted with interest that the representative of Ukraine had referenced the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, in which Ukraine had participated as part of Soviet troops to defeat fascists.  Others had been condemned at Nuremburg for the collusion with the Nazis.  The current situation in Ukraine was horrendous.  Journalists were being killed and television stations closed, depriving Russian-speakers of access to information.

In response, the representative of Ukraine said he had not referred to the Russian Federation by name in his statement, and therefore expressed surprise that the Russian delegate had spoken in exercise of the right of reply.  Noting the Russian expression, “A hat is burning on the thief’s head,” he suggested that might be the reason.  He said it was ridiculous to hear about freedom of the press from the Russian Federation, where the media was strictly controlled.  He also noted that there was not a single Ukrainian-language newspaper in the Russian Federation and that the Russian Federation had closed the only Crimean Tatar‑language television station in Crimea.

Statements

AVIVA KLOMPAS (Israel), recalling the words of a Hebrew University professor that “thou shall not be a victim, thou shall never be a bystander, and thou shall not be a perpetrator”, said that the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War was an opportunity to safeguard the message “never again”.  This past year had seen unprecedented levels of violent anti-Semitism worldwide.  “The United Nations must take its rightful place at the forefront of the battle to turn back the tide of hatred,” she said.  Earlier this year, the Assembly held a special session concluding in a joint statement from 50 countries calling for the eradication of anti-Semitism and urging a follow-up to the 2004 “Unlearning Intolerance” series.  This year marked the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Holocaust Outreach Programme, she said, thanking the Department for its work in Holocaust remembrance and education.  Nevertheless, Israel remained deeply concerned about the Department’s Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, which offered a biased and misleading narrative.  The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine, while not a part of the Department, was using social media to disseminate materials to promote anti-Israel messages.  Circulating such discriminatory materials under the banner of the United Nations was both an injustice to Israel and a blemish on the Organization’s stated valued of integrity and impartiality.

HENRY SUÁREZ (Venezuela), aligning with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Group of Friends of Spanish, said the Department’s efforts had raised the profile of the United Nations work, notably the campaign to spotlight women’s empowerment and the fights against HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus.  He rejected the maintenance of colonialism and foreign occupation, and supported the right of all people to self‑determination.  He was pleased that the Department was working closely with the Special Committee on Decolonization to promote a free, independent Palestine.  He called on Israel to end its occupation.  Venezuela backed the balanced use of the six official languages in the Department’s services and products, and called for creation of a fair, free world information order.  “We are still far from having a more inclusive and democratic society,” he said, rejecting the “distorted” information on developing countries.  Special attention was needed to overcome the digital divide in the way information and communication technologies were managed, which put a rift between developed and developing countries based on their technical capacity.  Some world powers were inappropriately using such technologies to violate the sovereignty of other States, in particular the right to privacy, he said, and rejected those illegal practices.

CHUNG BYUNG-HA (Republic of Korea), noting that the global network of the 63 United Nations Information Centres played a vital role in mobilizing support for the Organization’s work, proposed to host the sixty-fourth one.  The new centre would elevate the Korean people’s awareness of United Nations-related issues, considering the country’s special relationship with the Organization, and could encourage their active engagement in and stronger support for its activities.  The Republic of Korea had transformed from an aid recipient country to a full-fledged donor nation within one generation.  It was committed to scaling up its contribution and paying back the Organization in kind for coming to the Korean people’s aid during its most difficult time.  The new United Nations Information Centre in his country could deliver the Organization’s messages, including its priorities and challenges, as information in local languages had the strongest impact on local populations.  It could also be an effective vehicle to share the Republic of Korea’s development experiences with the world, taking advantage of advanced information and communications technology.  The Government was also offering rent- and maintenance-free premises in hosting the proposed centre, and was willing to cover set-up, operational and local staff expenses.

VACHARA PAWUTIYAPONG (Thailand), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, noted that the Department connected the work of the United Nations to the people it ultimately served, which was of particular importance this year as the direction and priorities of the global development agenda were being charted.  He called on the Department to raise awareness of and widely disseminate information on the three upcoming high-level meetings in that regard: the Third International Conference on Financing for Development; the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda; and the 2015 Climate Change Summit.  He expressed appreciation for the Department’s ongoing outreach activities for young people, in particular those of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and said it should promote the culture of peace, tolerance and mutual respect in youth programmes.  The Department should continue efforts to mainstream multilingualism in all its activities, in particular through the use of local languages in the United Nations Information Centres.  Praising the use of information and communications technology in disseminating the Organization’s message, he stressed that traditional media should remain the primary means of communication in the developing world.

MOHAMED H. S. ELMODIR (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that information and media through its various means — television, radio and the internet — had great impact on individuals and groups.  Information had become one of the most important pillars of civilization today.  The Department bore a great responsibility in keeping the world informed.  Therefore careful attention must be paid to content, which should be based on the culture of peace, as information on all challenges facing the global community was disseminated.  He emphasized the need for technological training and the importance of the United Nations Information Centres, which played an important role in raising awareness of local populations of the Organization’s activities.  Turning to multilingualism, he called for linguistic parity in the Department’s work, requesting that press releases and other materials be issued in Arabic.  He emphasized the importance of informing people around the world on the question of Palestine.

HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, supported the free and unbiased flow of information and believed that, in that process, cultural diversity should be respected.  Sacrilege, blasphemy and other acts that create hatred must be avoided.  In light of the urgency of the fight against violent extremism, the promotion of moderation and tolerance within and among nations was a key area of work for the Department.  Thus, the dissemination of information about measures and initiatives adopted by the United Nations organs and its Member States should figure highly on the agenda of the Department.  The dialogue among civilizations and cultures, as well as the 2013 “a world against violence and violent extremism” initiative of the President of Iran were among those initiatives that could increase a better understanding among peoples and contribute to creating friendship and stronger ties among them.  The Department should also focus on the question of Palestine, which was at the heart of the Middle East’s larger problems.  In that connection, he emphasized the responsibility of the United Nations in raising international awareness of that critical issue.

ERIKA ALMEIDA WATANABE PATRIOTA (Brazil), aligning with CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, encouraged the Department to continue communicating the Organization’s ideals in as many languages as possible, taking into account the linguistic diversity and the technological divides among countries.  Stressing the importance of using traditional as well as modern means of communicating, she noted limited internet access in many developing countries, while, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 75 per cent of their households had radios.  Thus, traditional media and radio in particular should have a special place in the Department’s strategic planning.  She noted further that 2.8 billion people spoke one of the six official United Nations languages, which meant that half the world’s population could only be reached in languages other than the official six.  She welcomed the use of 23 local languages in the Organization’s information products in 2014 and encouraged expansion of that number.  She further underlined the important role of the United Nations Information Centres, which mobilized support for the Organization’s work among local populations and welcomed the increasing involvement of civil society in the Organization, encouraging the Department to continue to develop activities with the academic community and non-governmental organizations.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), aligning with the Group of 77, CELAC and the Group of Friends of Spanish, attached particular importance to the initiative to empower youth.  Information and communication technologies enabled young people to participate in their societies and to maintain and promote peace.  They strengthened the capacity of traditional media to generate content.  More importantly, they enabled people to generate their own content.  The Department should continue its cooperation with other United Nations system entities.  He commended the digitization of the Organization’s library files and the improvement in access of Organization’s website to persons with disabilities.  He was pleased that, with the completion of the Capital Master Plan, the Department was providing services to the public, including people with disabilities.  The voice of the United Nations must be carried across the world in as many languages as possible in all media.  All the Organization’s web pages should appear in all official languages, and webcasts should be available in other languages as well.  Open, transparent and multidirectional flows of information were essential to sustainable development and other goals.  Boosting the capacity to submit content was essential to enable universal participation in global issues.  He welcomed steps taken throughout the world to maintain net neutrality.

MAURA MWINGIRA (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, noted with appreciation the Department’s support of the Swahili radio unit, which had resulted in the addition of six new partners.  Traditional media, both radio and print, were here to stay, particularly in the developing world.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, an observer for the State of Palestine, aligning with the Group of 77 and China, thanked the Department for its commendable efforts, including through the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine.  That programme was instrumental in raising the international community’s awareness and support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination.  In addition, she affirmed the importance of the Department’s continued assistance to the Palestinian people in media development through the annual training programme to Palestinian broadcasters and journalists from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Regrettably, Israeli occupying forces and Israeli settlers continued to systematically and deliberately, and with impunity, commit acts of violence and provocation against Palestinian and foreign journalists in the Territory, including East Jerusalem, to prevent them from conveying the grim reality of Israel’s illegal and aggressive policies.  Citing several recent examples, she said that freedom of expression also continued to be suppressed by Israel through the ongoing campaign of arrests and detention of Palestinian and foreign journalists and photographers.  In that regard, she referred to Israel’s non‑compliance with Assembly resolution 68/163 of 2013 on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, noting that Israel continued to behave as a “State above the law” while the international community stood helpless.

PATRICIA HERDT, a representative of the International Organization of la Francophonie, thanked the Department for its work, which had included organizing a contest on the values of peace.  Noting an increase over the past year in the number of French-speakers worldwide, she stressed that multilingualism and a culture of diversity were at the heart of the United Nations work.  Indeed, during the year when the post-2015 development agenda would be adopted, the full participation of all countries in the decision-making processes of the United Nations was critical.  Her delegation welcomed the creation of a multilingual portal for sustainable development, noting that multilingualism was also a key factor of transparency in the Organization’s work.  She recalled the holding of a round table on the International Day of la Francophonie — the Day of the French language at the United Nations — which had been organized with the Group of Friends of Spanish.   While the last few months had been marked by attacks on journalists and the freedom of the press around the world, the Francophonie reaffirmed its commitment to that ideal.  She also reaffirmed the availability of the Francophonie to help the Department address multilingualism.

For information media. Not an official record.