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4 May, 2013

U.N. Committee on Information Urges Systemic “Culture of Communications and Transparency”


New York, Department of Public Information, 2 May 2013 – Concluding its two-week annual session this afternoon, the Committee on Information emphasized that public information and communications should be at the heart of the United Nations’ strategic management, with a “culture of communications and transparency” permeating all levels so the Organization could best promote an informed understanding of its work among people around the world.

In such pursuits, the Committee emphasized the essential role of the Department of Public Information (DPI) in ensuring the United Nations’ voice was heard in a clear and effective manner, as it approved by consensus two draft resolutions to be forwarded to the General Assembly for adoption at its sixty-eighth session. Together, the texts formed chapter IV of the draft report of the thirty-fifth session, which the Committee also approved by consensus.

“DPI is the public voice of the Organization,” said Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in closing remarks, and its tone was shaped by the Committee. Partnership with the Committee was essential in defining the Department’s role in a complex and evolving global communications environment. Applauding what he called one of the most collaborative and constructive sessions, he said today’s adoption was the product of patient negotiations.

“The passion it generated — and the careful consideration that went into its crafting — reflect the seriousness of your pursuit and the great care you attach to the work of this Department,” he said. Indeed, the resolution provided a clear road map for the Department to forge ahead and he was confident that its partnership with the Committee would grow in the year ahead. “I promise to do everything possible to make this happen,” he said, underscoring that it would work hand in hand with Member States in pursuit of common goals.

Draft resolution B, entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, comprises seven main areas: an introduction; general activities of the Department of Public Information; strategic communications services; news services; library services; outreach services; and final remarks.

By its terms, the Assembly would request the Department to maintain its commitment to a “culture of evaluation” and continue evaluating its products and activities with a view to enhancing their effectiveness. The Department must prioritize its work programme in order to focus its message and match its programmes with the needs of its target audiences, on the basis of improved feedback and evaluation.

In the area of multilingualism, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of ensuring equitable treatment of all the United Nations official languages in all the Department’s activities, whether based on traditional or new media. It would reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to ensure that the Department had appropriate staffing capacity in all the official languages to undertake its activities and to include that aspect in future programme budget proposals for the Department.

By other terms, the Assembly would stress the importance of rationalizing the network of United Nations Information Centres, reaffirming that such work must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all concerned Member States. It also would stress the importance of efforts to strengthen outreach activities to States outside the network.

In terms of strategic communications, the Assembly would appreciate the Department’s work in promoting, through its campaigns, issues of international importance, such as the United Nations Millennium Declaration, United Nations reform, poverty eradication and conflict prevention. It would request the Department and its information centres to widely disseminate the outcomes of and follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June 2012.

As for news services, the Assembly would recognize the important role of television and video services provided by the Department, taking note of recent efforts in making available online broadcast-quality video that could be streamed or downloaded by smaller broadcast outlets without access to satellite feeds. It also would welcome the sustained efforts of United Nations Radio as among the most effective and far-reaching traditional media available to the Department.

Concerning library services, the Assembly would welcome the completion and inventory of 67 years of United Nations audiovisual history, encouraging the Department to prioritize collaborative arrangements for the digitization of those archives in a cost-neutral manner, and to report to the Committee on that matter at its next session. Regarding outreach, the Assembly would request the Department to continue publication of the UN Chronicle, with a view to improving it in a cost-neutral manner and also to report to the Committee at its next session.

By the terms of draft resolution A, entitled, “Information in the service of humanity”, the Assembly would urge all countries, United Nations organizations and all others concerned to cooperate with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows — at all levels — by increasing assistance for the development of communications infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard for their needs.

Further, the Assembly would urge parties to ensure journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; to provide support for strengthening their training in developing countries; to enhance regional cooperation among developing countries and aim to provide all possible support to developing countries and their media — public, private or other.

After adoption, Fiji’s delegate commended the work of all involved for their spirit of cooperation, which, she said, had collectively brought about resolutions that supported the Department’s work in projecting the United Nations’ image. The resolutions showed the “right balance” in many aspects, such as between new and traditional media; the work of the information centres and partnerships; and the need to archive both historical and new documents.

In her closing remarks, Committee Chair Lyutha al-Mughairy (Oman) said the past two weeks had been “significant”, as delegates had called for a stronger, more effective and more united world body. Most speakers had emphasized the Organization’s central role in global affairs and the Department as its public voice. They had voiced support for the Department’s work, and those views had been expressed “in clear terms” in the draft resolutions. In that context, she paid tribute to the coordinators of the “intense” negotiations that had led to their approval.