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    UNIS/PI/193
      4 November 1999
    Developing Language Versions of Web Site Promises Wider Access, Lower Cost,
    Under Secretary-General Tells Information Committee

    Members Agree to Defer Adoption Of Report Pending Finalization of Texts

     NEW YORK, 3 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, told the Committee on Information this morning that further development of the language versions of the Web site would result in greater access to the language sites and decrease the cost per usage of those sites.

     As the Information Committee, meeting in resumed session, continued its consideration of upgrading United Nations Web sites in all languages, Mr. Hogen replied to questions posed by delegations during the Committee’s Monday meeting.  He said the Department of Public Information would continue to publicize the language versions of its Web sites to interested audiences, as well as analyse users’ response with a view to taking into account their needs and interests in order to make the sites richer and more interesting.

     To a previous question concerning a feasibility study on the distribution of high-fidelity United Nations radio programmes over the Internet, the Under- Secretary-General said the pilot study had been completed.  The Department had begun to develop an integrated digital multimedia system to manage photographs, radio, video and their corresponding data.  Meanwhile, a complementary audio pilot test had introduced electronic dispatches of United Nations radio programmes in high- fidelity format.

     Also this morning, delegations submitted a number of proposals for inclusion in a revised draft resolution and draft decision on information, to be recommended for adoption by the General Assembly.  Following submission of the proposals, and a discussion of the absence of several delegations due to an overlap with a meeting this morning of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the Committee decided to meet in a working group on Friday morning to finalize the texts, and then convene a plenary meeting to adopt them.

     Statements and proposals were made by the representatives of the Netherlands, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Argentina, Guyana, Iran, Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria and Ecuador.

     The Committee will meet on Friday, 5 November, at a time to be announced.

     Committee Work Programme

     The Committee on Information met this morning, as part of its resumed twenty-first session, to continue preparation of its report for adoption by the General Assembly.  The Committee was expected to focus on a further report of the Secretary-General on ways to achieve linguistic parity among United Nations Web sites (document A/AC.198/1999/9.  The Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, was expected to reply to questions posed in the Committee during its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on Monday, 1 November.   (For a detailed summary of the Secretary-General’s report, see Press Release PI/1194 of 1 November.)

     The report had been submitted in response to a request of the Secretary-General to further develop his proposals pertaining to proposal “C”, that would seek only to make available elements in each of the languages to the extent allowed by available funding for that purpose.  In the present report, three proposals had been outlined as sub-options under option C.

     [The General Assembly last year requested the Secretary-General to submit proposals on the question of linguistic parity among United Nations Web sites.  The Secretary-General’s previous report on the issue (document A/AC.198/1999/6) outlined three proposals.  Proposal A would ensure full parity among all Web sites in official languages by the end of 2001; proposal B would achieve the same objective over a longer period of time; and proposal C would seek only to make available elements in each of the languages to the extent allowed by available funding.]

     In addition to the full report, the Committee had before it two corrigenda (documents A/AC.198./1999/Corr.1 and Corr.2). By the first, in Annex III of the report, under the column headed “Cost”, against “Total annex III”, the number “6,969,400” should replace “6,810,100”.

     Under the second corrigendum, the corner notation of the cover, the number of the session should read “twenty-first session”.  In paragraph 15, the document number in the penultimate sentence should read as follows: “(A/AC.198/1999/CRP.1)”.  In paragraph 41, the sum cited in the first and second sentences should read: “US$ 13,522,450”.)  In Annex III, under the column headed “Cost”, against “Total post costs” the figure should read “6,443,900”.

     Statements

     KENSAKU HOGEN, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, answered questions raised by delegations earlier in the week during deliberations on the report of the Secretary-General on the multilingual development, maintenance and enrichment of United Nations Web sites (A/AC.198/1999/9).

     To the assertion by the representatives of the Russian Federation and Spain that the level of usage of the language sites should not be a criterion of further multilingual development, Mr. Hogen said that when the language versions of the Web site were further developed, it would result in a larger number of accesses to the language sites and decrease the cost per usage of those sites.  The Department would continue to widely publicize the language versions of its Web sites to interested audiences.  It would also continue its efforts to analyse the feedback from users, with a view to developing information that would take into account their needs and interests.  That would make the sites richer and more interesting.

     He said that the representatives of Côte d’Ivoire, Russian Federation, Syria and Spain had requested addition information on aspects of sub-option C-3.  That sub-option would seek to establish a sound foundation for the current maintenance and enhancement activities of the Web site, with provision of content in other languages related to the level of usage of the Web site in those languages.  It would also seek to carry out monitoring of usage levels and have additional modules made available on an ongoing basis as usage levels increased.  Modules would not necessarily be translated in their entirety or into all languages, but every effort would be made to adapt for Web publishing the multilingual audio-visual products already available in the conventional format.  The delegates’ specific questions had concerned “modules” and “elements”.

     ”Modules”, he explained, were the main thematic areas of action and activities, such as peace and security, economic and social development, and human rights, while “elements” were specific documents and Public Information products that better illustrated those thematic categories.  The Committee would continue to place emphasis on the textual content of the sites, in keeping with views expressed by Member States.  Work on the audio-visual aspects would concentrate on strengthening the electronic delivery and promotion of the conventional audio-visual products, including radio programmes and photographs.

     The Under-Secretary-General said that the representatives of Spain and Syria had noted that the implementation of sub-option C-3 would not result in linguistic parity.  He shared their concern, but said that in view of the cost of implementing other options, sub-option C-3 represented the most realistic approach and would establish a sound foundation for further development of the Web sites.

     In response to comments by the representative of Indonesia, he said that a pilot study had been completed on the distribution of high-fidelity United Nations radio programmes over the Internet, and that the Department had begun to develop an integrated digital multimedia system to manage photographs, radio, video and their corresponding data.  The Department had introduced electronic dispatches of United Nations radio programmes in high-fidelity format for redissemination to the World Radio Network, based in London, and to China Radio International, based in Beijing.

     He then turned to remarks by the representative of Syria on a request by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that a feasibility study for the development of the United Nations Web sites be submitted to the General Assembly at its current session.  He recalled that a similar study would be required to assess the needs for implementation of sub-options C-1 and C-2, outlined in the report of the Secretary-General.  The cost of such a study would amount to $100,000 over and above the current request under section 23 of the proposed programme budget for the 2000-2001 biennium.

     With regard to discussions held in the Committee last May on the issuance of press releases in other official languages, a question raised by the representative of Spain, he pointed out that the current programme budget referred to the production of press releases in English and French, covering public meetings at Headquarters as well as the activities of the specialized agencies.  The Department continued to look into creative ways of improving the content of the language versions of the United Nations Web sites.

     Mr. Hogen noted that the representatives of Guyana, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and of Syria, had referred to the late issue of the Secretary-General’s report.  He regretted the delay but asked for understanding, since the report contained complex technical information, and extensive consultations with the Department and at the Secretariat were necessary in its preparation.

     DEXTER WILBURG (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said the Group was not sufficiently represented at the meeting to take a firm position in response to some of the matters raised.  He also requested that a written form of the statement made by Under-Secretary-General Hogen be distributed to members.

     He then proposed an amendment by the Group of 77 to paragraph 35 of draft resolution B, contained in the report on the twenty-first session, held last May (document A/54/21).  The new paragraph 35 would read, as follows:

     “Takes note with appreciation of the efforts of the Secretary-General to develop and enhance the Web site in all official languages of the Organization and requests him to continue to develop proposals for consideration by the Committee on Information at its next session, stressing that the achievement of this goal should be done in a cost-effective manner and with a focus on textual content.”

     [Draft resolution B concerns the consolidation of the role of the Committee on Information as the main subsidiary body of the General Assembly mandated to make recommendations relating to the work of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat.]

     ELHASSANE ZAHID (Morocco), Committee Chairman, said the delegation of Ecuador had proposed the addition of a new paragraph to resolution B, as follows:

     “Welcomes the establishment of the Geneva Diplomatic Community Network (GDCNET) which has improved the dissemination of information among the Permanent Missions, the United Nations Office and other international organizations based in Geneva, and requests the Secretary-General to continue providing his support to this important programme.”

     The CHAIRMAN also recommended that the draft decision concerning an increase in the membership of the Committee, also contained in the report on the twenty- first session (document A/54/21), include Liberia as a member.

     Following discussions concerning the overlap of the morning meeting with one of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), and the readiness of delegations to take a decision on the proposals made today, it was agreed to adjourn the meeting.  The working group of the Committee would meet on Friday morning to consider the proposals, and then move into a plenary meeting for the adoption of a revised draft resolution B and draft decision.

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