29 April 2015
Thirty-seventh Session, 4th Meeting (AM)

Department Committed to Transparency, Multilingualism, Mix of New and Traditional Media to Convey UN’s Story, Under-Secretary-General Tells Information Committee

Transparency, inclusivity, multilingualism and a balance between new media and traditional forms of communications were paramount in the work of the Department of Public Information, Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, told delegates as the Committee on Information concluded its general debate.

“First and foremost, multilingualism represents a priority for the Department — we factor it into all of our planning and decision‑making to ensure that we can reach as broad a public as possible as we tell the UN story,”  she said, responding to observations and questions raised by delegations over the previous two days.

That was part of the Department’s transparent, comprehensive approach to address such core United Nations issues as promoting development, strengthening human rights and combating intolerance, bolstering international peace and security, and improving the humanitarian response to people in crisis, she said.

The Department remained steadfast in its commitment to provide content on its various websites in all of the Organization’s six official languages — Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish — as well as access for people with disabilities, she said.  The Public Information Department also oversaw the websites of other Secretariat departments, to ensure they conformed to the agreed standards of multilingualism and accessibility, and strove to ensure all multimedia news media platforms were as multilingual as possible.  Copies of the statistics on their use disaggregated by language were available, she said.

In response to requests from Member States, the Department continued to identify ways to issue press releases of United Nations meetings in all six official languages, Ms. Gallach said, and the Secretary-General had requested resources for that purpose as part of a broader proposal for funding, mindful of Member States’ concerns for financial prudence and efficiency.  The Department also continued to seek other ways of enhancing its multilingual capacities, such as its arrangements with universities in China and Spain to translate content, and was seeking like partnerships for other languages with other countries.

She said both social media and traditional means of communication were integral to ensuring that all members of the global family could hear and be part of the United Nations work.  Along with the Office of Information and Communications Technology, the Department was working to launch a database listing the Organization’s social media accounts in all languages and asking colleagues system-wide to enter their information into that new tool whose content should be updated throughout the year.

She also stressed the importance of the staff of the United Nations Information Centres around the world, which were “at the very front line in reaching out across the digital divide, as well as furthering the multilingual agenda that we are all committed to”.

Detailing numerous United Nations programmes they promoted, Ms. Gallach recalled the “Remember Slavery” programme and noted their contributions to the exhibit, and accompanying DVD in all official languages, of the Holocaust Outreach Programme.  With the support of those United Nations Information Centres, the exhibit was also mounted in Dutch, Portuguese and Swahili and seen in 20 countries.  It highlighted the link between the founding of the United Nations, the Holocaust and the end of the Second World War, with testimony provided by veterans and Holocaust survivors.

The United Nations Information Centres were the most cross-cutting and collaborative member of a United Nations country team, she said, working with a diverse array of partners to launch reports, promote campaigns and support visiting senior United Nations officials.  They maintained strong relationships with local media, many members of whom came to the United Nations as fellows in the Reham Al-Farra Programme, which this year intended to select 15 candidates each from a different country.

Among other issues she touched on, Ms. Gallach noted the Department’s information support to peacekeeping and special political missions on the ground as well as participation in planning for peacekeeping operations, and assessments of public information activities in the field.

Along with the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Department was promoting the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, by creating and maintaining websites for the Conference in all languages, designing and printing the press kit, covering the Conference, as well as employing social media accounts, such as Twitter, to promote its deliberations.

The Department was also exploring how best to implement Assembly resolution 69/22 of 25 November 2014 on the question of Palestine, including with regard to relevant audiovisual material and fact-finding missions to the region by journalists.

In addition, she noted the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s digitization of 300,000 documents containing some 3 million pages, accessible online in all official languages, as well as the 100,000 documents digitized by the United Nations Library in Geneva.  An estimated 17 million documents remained to be digitized, of which 4 million, considered of particular importance, were the current focus of the digitization project.

The Committee on Information will next meet to conclude its session Friday, 8 May at a time to be announced.

For information media. Not an official record.