Closing its annual session today, the Committee on Information approved two draft resolutions, the second of which also stresses that Member States should refrain from using information and communications technology in contravention of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolution B — “United Nations global communications policies and activities” – by which it encouraged Member States to consider better methods of cooperation in addressing threats posed by the use of information and communications technology for terrorist purposes, consistent with international law.
The Assembly would note, by further terms, recent trends that contribute to undermining credible, transparent and fact-based information. It would encourage the Department of Global Communications to continue to promote unbiased and impartial information about the work of the United Nations, to identify specific proposals in this regard and to report thereon to the Committee on Information at its forty-first session.
Further by the text, the Assembly would reiterate its growing concern that the issuance of daily press releases has not been expanded to all official United Nations languages, as requested in previous resolutions and with full respect for the principle of parity of all six official languages. It would reiterate its request that the Department design, as a matter of priority, a strategy to deliver daily press releases in all six official languages through creative schemes, in a cost-neutral manner and in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, and report to the Committee at its forty-second session.
Also by the text, the General Assembly would note with concern that the multilingual development and enrichment of the United Nations website in certain official languages has improved at a much slower rate than expected, and in this regard urge the Department, in coordination with content-providing offices, to advance actions to achieve full parity among the six official languages on the United Nations website. The Assembly would underline the Secretariat’s responsibility to mainstream multilingualism into all communication activities, within existing resources.
The General Assembly would, by further terms, underline that reform of the Department, with a view to adapting its capacity and work to current trends of global communications, should take into account the priorities set out by the Committee as the main subsidiary body mandated to make recommendations relating to the Department’s work. It would stress the importance of the Secretariat providing clear, timely, accurate and comprehensive information to Member States, upon their request, within the framework of existing mandates and procedures.
By other terms, the Assembly would emphasize that the Department should maintain and improve its activities in areas of special interest to developing countries and, where appropriate, other countries with special needs, and that its activities should contribute to bridging the existing gap between developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communication.
The Assembly would acknowledge and support the Department’s continued use of Portuguese, Kiswahili, Urdu, Bangla, Hindi and Persian in addition to the official languages, with a view to reaching the widest possible spectrum of audiences and extending the United Nations message to all corners of the world. In terms of traditional media, the Assembly would welcome the sustained efforts of United Nations Radio, and request that the Department continue to build partnerships with local, national and regional broadcasters.
Also by the text, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the Organization’s public image and disseminating its messages to local populations, especially in developing countries, bearing in mind that information in local languages has the strongest impact on local populations, and in mobilizing local support for the work of the United Nations. To bridge the digital divide, the Assembly would request that the Department raise awareness about Internet use.
Draft B also covers the Department’s strategic communications services; promotional campaigns; role in peacekeeping operations, special political missions and peacebuilding; its part in strengthening dialogue among civilizations; news services; the United Nations website; library services; and outreach services.
According to draft resolution A — “Information in the service of humanity” — the General Assembly would urge all countries, and the United Nations system as a whole, to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of press freedom and freedom of information, as well as independence, pluralism and media diversity. Further, it would urge them to recognize the call for “a new world information and communications order, seen as an evolving and continuous process”.
Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the Committee, noted that delegates attending the forty-first session highlighted the importance of multilingualism, emphasizing the need to promote different languages and reduce differences between the six official United Nations languages in all the Organization’s work. While digitization has led to increased use of new information technologies, especially social media among young people, traditional media such as radio and television remain important in those areas lacking access to the Internet, he said.
Noting the potential of new media to promote universal values, he nevertheless underscored the need to react to disinformation campaigns that sometimes target some fundamental areas of the Organization’s work. The United Nations must have the means to anticipate and react to negative campaigns while ensuring that information is neutral and appropriate, he added.
The two texts (document A/AC.198/2019/L.3) will be submitted for consideration by the General Assembly.
Following the Committee’s adoption of its draft report, Alison Smale, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, said: “My Department, and I personally, look forward to each year as a source of encouragement for what we are striving to achieve and as a source of guidance on what we could be doing even better, or differently or, in some cases, perhaps not at all.” She announced that her term will end at the end of August.
The representative of the United States took the floor in explanation of position, saying that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is non-binding in nature and, therefore, creates neither rights nor obligations under international law, nor financial commitments. While applauding the call for shared responsibility, including national responsibilities, she said a State can fulfil such a responsibility in accordance with its own national policy and priorities. The United States delegation did not participate in the intergovernmental negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration, she said, recalling that her delegation voted against it when the General Assembly took it up. The United States, therefore, disassociates itself from the operative paragraph containing a reference to the Compact, she said, adding that it also disassociates itself from operative paragraph 46 since United Nations campaigns should promote human rights for all. She also disassociated her delegation from operative paragraph 66, saying it contains a reference to the right to development, which is not recognized in core United Nations human rights conventions.