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    Press Release No:  UNIS/PI/204
    Release Date:    15 May 2000
    Information Committee, Concluding Session, Hears Calls to Rectify “Imbalances” Of Global Information, Technology Revolution 

    NEW YORK, 12 May (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly would express its concern that the information and communications technology gap between the developed and developing countries continued to widen, and that most developing countries were not benefiting from the information revolution, by the terms of a two-part draft resolution approved this afternoon as the Committee on Information concluded its twenty-second session. 

    In that regard, according to part B of the draft, the Assembly would underline the necessity to rectify the imbalances of the global information and technology revolution in order to make it more just, equitable and effective. Part B of the text was approved as orally amended. 

    By other terms of the text, the Assembly would emphasize that the reorientation of the Department of Public Information should improve its activities in areas of special interest to developing and other countries with special needs, including those in transition, in order to bridge the information and communications gap between the developing and developed countries.  

    The Assembly would welcome the development of the United Nations News Service, by further terms of the draft. It would request the Secretary-General to ensure that the News Service, the United Nations Web site, the Secretariat's publications and other information services contained comprehensive, objective and equitable information about the issues before the Organization. 

    According to the draft, the Assembly would underline the continuing importance of traditional mass media channels to disseminate information on the United Nations.

    It would also encourage the Secretary-General to continue taking full advantage of the Internet and other recent developments in information technologies to improve the dissemination of information about the Organization, taking into account its linguistic diversity. 

    The Assembly would welcome the Secretary-General's progress report on the implementation of the pilot project on the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations, and the redeployment of the necessary resources for that purpose. It would declare its intention to examine the final report on the results of the project before the end of 2001, with a view to taking a decision on the matter during its fifty-sixth session. 

    The Assembly would further note with great concern the existing imbalance in the resources available to the information centres in developing and developed countries, and request the Secretary-General to examine the situation thoroughly. While emphasizing that resources should be commensurate with the mandated programmes and activities of the centres, the Assembly would express deep disappointment over the reduction of more than 40 per cent in their staffing during the last decade. 

    According to part A of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate in reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries to enable them and all their media to develop their own information and communication policies. Part A was approved unanimously. 

    Before approving the draft resolution, the Committee heard amendments proposed by the representatives of Nigeria (on behalf of the “Group of 77” Non- Aligned States and China), Syria, Cuba, Pakistan, United States, Algeria and Iran. 

    Also this afternoon, the Committee elected Alejandra Martha Ayuso (Argentina) as one of its three Vice-Chairmen, following the departure of Holger Martinsen (Argentina). 

    As the session ended, Kensaku Hogen, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, and Committee Chairman Elhassane Zahid (Morocco), made closing remarks. 

    During the two-week session (1-12 May), the Committee considered the Secretary-General’s reports on the Millennium promotional campaign; multilingual development and enrichment of United Nations Web sites; reorientation of United Nations public information and communications activities. It also considered reports on the allocation of regular budget resources to United Nations information centres in 1999; integration of the centres with UNDP field offices; guidelines for the functioning of information centres integrated with UNDP field offices; activities of the Joint United Nations Information Committee (JUNIC); and a proposed medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005. 

    On the session's opening day, Mr. Hogen said that the Department of Public Information would take a dramatic step this year towards direct dissemination of major news on United Nations developments to radio stations around the world in all six official languages. The Department had redeployed $1,760,300 from its approved programme budget for the 2000-2001 biennium, a reflection of its commitment to the project. 

    Outlining actions to reorient the Department’s activities, he cited the live satellite broadcast to media and special gatherings around the world of the Secretary-General’s Millennium Report to the General Assembly. Another innovative action concerned background briefings for Headquarters-based  Committee on Information correspondents and for editorial writers, columnists and reporters in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The impact of those briefings had resulted in unprecedented coverage. 

    The ensuing general debate focused on concern over the widening gulf between the developed countries and the developing world amid rapid technological advances. Some delegations noted that state-of-the-art technologies in mass communications had rendered the world a neighbourhood, but not a community.

    Notwithstanding various measures undertaken or under implementation, the question was the extent to which the Department’s reorientation would meet the aspirations of the developing world, and succeed in correcting the present bias in the field of information and communication.  
    Delegations also observed that a sizeable percentage of the population in developing countries -- the traditional reservoir of support for the United Nations -- was not fully aware of the full range of the Organization’s activities. They urged a greater focus on publicizing the Organization’s activities and achievements in social and economic development. 

    Regarding press freedom, other delegations expressed alarm over the killing of journalists while they were carrying out their duties. Condemning the use of violence to silence journalists or obstruct their work, they said that attempts to control or influence the media in order to distort or suppress information or opinions must also be condemned, as must the use of media to incite ethnic hatred and violence. 

    Some delegations noted that while the process of forming a global information community was picking up pace, progress in information technology had also created new potential threats. There was a need to prevent the use of information media for terrorist and criminal aims. New information technologies often brought the danger of eroding the identity of nations and of standardizing culture. It was felt by other delegations that there was no reason to hold out hope for the globalization process, unless and until there was a basic change in the current international system at the economic, technical and information levels. 

    Following the general debate, the Committee held two meetings during which delegations raised questions about particular concerns relating to reports submitted by the Secretary-General. Responses to those questions were provided by Mr. Hogen and senior officials of the Department of Public Information. Those officials were Salim Lone, Director, News and Media Division; Raymond Sommereyns, Director, Library and Information Resources Division; Thérèse Gastaut, Director, Public Affairs Division; Oluseye Oduyemi, Executive Officer; and Mahbub Ahmad, Chief, Information Technology Section; Leona Forman, Chief, Information Centres Service; and Yousef Hamdan, Chief, Centres Operations Section. 

    Committee Work Programme 

    As the Committee on Information met this afternoon to conclude its work for this year, it was expected to take action on a two-part draft resolution (contained in document A/AC.198/2000/L.3) to be submitted to the General Assembly's fifty-fifth session. 

    By the terms of resolution A -- Information in the service of humanity -- the General Assembly would urge all countries, the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard for their needs and priorities, and in order to enable them and all their media to develop their own information and communication policies. 

    The Assembly would also urge all concerned to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and to condemn resolutely all attacks against them; and to support the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries. They would be urged to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in training and dissemination of information. 

    Also by the draft, the Assembly would urge all those concerned to aim, in addition to bilateral cooperation, at providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their interests and needs in the information field and to action already adopted within the United Nations system, including: 

    The development of the human and technical resources that are indispensable for the improvement of information and communications systems in developing countries; the creation of conditions that will enable the developing countries and all their media to have, by using their national and regional resources, the communication technology suited to their national needs, as well as the necessary programme material, especially for radio and television broadcasting; assistance in establishing and promoting telecommunication links at the subregional, regional and interregional levels, especially among developing countries; and the facilitation of access by developing countries to advanced communication technology available on the open market. 

    By draft resolution B -- United Nations public information policies and activities -- the General Assembly would express its concern that the gap in information and communications technologies between the developed and developing nations has continued to widen, and that most developing countries are not benefiting from the present inequitable information and technology revolution. In this regard, the Assembly would underline the necessity to rectify the imbalances of this global information and technology revolution in order to make it more just, equitable and effective. While taking note of the Secretary-General's report on the reorientation of United Nations activities in the field of public information and communications, the Assembly would encourage him to continue the exercise, while stressing the need to take into account the views of Member States. It would emphasize that, through its reorientation, the Department of Public Information should improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries and other countries with special needs, including those in transition. Such reorientation should contribute to bridging the existing gap between the developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications. 

    Also by the text, the Assembly would underline the continuing importance of traditional mass media channels to disseminate information on the United Nations, and encourage the Secretary-General to continue to take full advantage of recent developments in information technologies, including the Internet, to improve, in a cost-effective manner, the dissemination of information about the Organization, taking into account its linguistic diversity. 

    By further terms of the draft text, the General Assembly would welcome the Secretary-General's progress report on the implementation of the pilot project for the development of an international radio broadcasting capacity for the United Nations and the redeployment of the necessary resources for this purpose. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to the Committee's twenty-third session a progress report on the results of the project's implementation, and declare its intention to examine, before the end of 2001, the final report on the results of the project with a view to taking a decision on the matter during its fifty-sixth session. 

    Also by the draft, the Assembly would stress that radio is one of the most cost-effective and far-reaching media available to the Department of Public Information and an important instrument in United Nations activities, such as development and peacekeeping. It would encourage an increase in the number of programmes on United Nations Radio in all available languages, on the United Nations Internet site. The Assembly would also take note of the Department's efforts to disseminate programmes directly to broadcasting stations all over the world in the six official languages, and stress the need for impartiality and objectivity concerning United Nations information activities. 

    The Assembly would encourage the Department to continue to include, in its radio and television programming, specific programmes addressing the needs of developing nations. It would request the Secretary-General to implement fully the recommendations contained in Assembly resolution 38/82 B of 15 December 1983 with regard to the introduction of full programming in French and Creole in the work programme of the Caribbean Unit of United Nations Radio. 

    While encouraging the Secretary-General to strengthen the Department's public information capacity with a view to drawing international attention to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, the Assembly would welcome the Department's decision to launch a new Web site to publicize the Year. It would request the Secretary-General to continue to implement a promotional campaign to ensure that the Year will enjoy the broadest international support. The Assembly would also take note of the Secretary- General's report on the Millennium promotional campaign, and encourage him to continue to implement effective public information programmes in that regard so as to ensure that the Millennium Summit's outcome is widely disseminated and enjoys broad international support. 

    The Assembly would, by further terms of the draft, welcome the development of the United Nations News Service and request the Secretary-General to ensure that the Secretariat's publications and other information services, including the Web site and the News Service, contain comprehensive, objective and equitable information about the issues before the Organization and that they maintain editorial independence, impartiality, accuracy and full consistency with General Assembly resolutions and decisions. 

    Recalling its resolution 54/82 B of 6 December 1999, requesting the Secretary-General to continue to study ways of rationalizing and effecting equitable disbursement of available resources to United Nations information centres, the Assembly would note with great concern the existing imbalance in the resources available to the centres in developing and developed countries. It would request the Secretary-General to examine the situation thoroughly and stress the need to revitalize centres that are currently not operational. It would also request the Secretary-General to look into the possibility of appointing directors to centres under temporary management of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure their autonomous status. 

    While emphasizing that resources should be commensurate with the mandated programmes and activities of the United Nations information centres, the Assembly would express deep disappointment over the reduction of more than 40 per cent in their staffing between the early and closing years of the last decade, and acknowledge the generous contributions by several host governments, as well as the partnership with UNDP and other United Nations system and local partners.

    The Secretary-General would be requested to continue the policy of cost-effectively integrating the centres with UNDP field offices and, whenever feasible, on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the views of the host country. 

    Further, the Assembly would encourage the Department, in cooperation with the countries concerned and the relevant bodies of the United Nations system, to continue to take appropriate measures to enhance world public awareness of the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster; and the problems and needs of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, which has been affected by nuclear tests. It would also urge the Department to take the necessary measures to achieve the major objectives set forth in the Secretary-General's report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. 

    By other terms of the draft, the General Assembly would express its full support for wide, accurate, equal and prompt coverage of United Nations activities through the improvement of press releases, which should bring out the intergovernmental aspect of the Organization's work and deliberations. It would stress the importance of issuing press releases in all the official languages of the United Nations. 

    The Assembly would welcome Liberia and Mozambique to membership in the Committee on Information, by other terms of the text.  

    Also before the Committee was its draft report (document A/AC.198/2000/L.1), which states that the Chairman informed the Committee that Armenia and Libya had requested to become members. Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Azerbaijan, Lesotho, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia participated as observers. The Holy See also took part as an observer. 

    Also listed are the following specialized agencies which participated: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Labour Organization (ILO), World Health Organization (WHO), and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) and the World Association of Former United Nations Internes and Fellows Inc. took part in the session as observers. 

    The Committee also had before it the draft report containing the session's general debate and consideration of substantive questions (document A/AC.198/2000/L.2). 

    Statements 

    ELHASSANE ZAHID (Morocco), Committee Chairman, announced the departure of HOLGER MARTINSEN (Argentina), Vice-Chairman, and called for nominations to fill the empty post. 

    DOMINGO BLANCO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, nominated ALEJANDRA MARTHA AYUSO (Argentina) for the remainder of the 1999-2000 term. She was elected unanimously. 

    Mr. ZAHID, Committee Chairman, thanked the outgoing Vice-Chairman for his work and dedication. 

    YAYAN MULYANA (Indonesia), Rapporteur, then introduced the Committee’s draft report, contained in documents A/AC.198/2000/L.1, L.2 and L.3. He said that document A/AC.198/2000/L.1 covered, among other matters, the appointment of Liberia and Mozambique as new members, the election of officers and adoption of the agenda, as well as the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. Document A/AC.198/2000/L.2 included a summary of the Committee’s general debate and consideration of the reports submitted by the Secretary-General. Document A/AC.198/2000/L.3 contained draft resolutions A and B, whichn included orally- introduced amendments. 

    He then introduced a series of amendments to draft resolution B, in paragraphs 16, 25, 26, 31, 43, 45, 47, 49 and 50. Mr. ZAHID read out an amended version of paragraph 1 bis of draft resolution B, which had been accepted in formal consultations. 

    Action on reports 

    The report contained in document A/AC.198/2000/L.1 was adopted unanimously. 

    The report contained in document A/AC.198/2000/L.2 was adopted unanimously, with subsequent amendments to be delivered to the Rapporteur. 

    The Chairman said that in a letter to him, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kensaku Hogen, had stipulated that the proposed amendment to paragraph 43 would not need any additional financial resources. 

    Draft resolution A was adopted unanimously. Draft resolution B was adopted unanimously, as orally amended. The Committee then adopted the draft resolution as a whole. 

    Mr. ZAHID, Chairman, drew the Committee's attention to applications by the delegations of Armenia and Libya for appointment to the Committee on Information. It was decided to appoint the two delegations to the Committee, increasing its membership from 95 to 97. 

    The Committee then adopted its report for submission to the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly. 

    KENSAKU HOGEN, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in his closing remarks, expressed his pleasure at seeing the Committee reach its final resolution by consensus after a very fruitful discussion. Delegates had put forward a number of new ideas which had been noted, and which would help carry forward the reorientation of United Nations public information and communications activities. 

    Mr. Hogen said that the close and friendly working relationship between the Committee and the Department of Public Information was of immense value for the Department and for the Organization as a whole. He would endeavour to strengthen those relations further, and to ensure continuing harmony between the needs and views of Member States and the work of the Department.

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