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1. In paragraph 12 of its resolution 59/126 B of 10 December 2004, the General Assembly noted the Secretary-General’s proposals and actions to improve the effective and targeted delivery of public information activities, including the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI), in accordance with the relevant resolutions and decisions of the Assembly, and requested the Secretary-General to report to the Committee on Information in this regard at its twenty-seventh session. In paragraph 15, the Assembly took note of the reorientation exercise in enhancing the performance and effectiveness of DPI, and also requested the Secretary-General to report on progress achieved in this regard to the Committee on Information at its twenty-seventh session.
II. New strategic approach of the Department of Public Information: opportunities and challenges
A. A question of credibility: responding to unfounded criticism
4. Over the past 12 months, the United Nations has been in the eye of a media storm in many parts of the world. Amid allegations of corruption, mismanagement and a lack of transparency and accountability in some of its activities, its efficiency, effectiveness and relevance have been publicly and persistently challenged. The nature of these criticisms has varied widely: the Organization’s image in the Middle East continues to be buffeted as developments unfolding in Iraq and in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have prompted controversy with regard to the role of the United Nations; in North America and in parts of Europe, there has been strong criticism of alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for-food programme; and there has been similar concern voiced over charges of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping operations.
6. The image of the United Nations in the Middle East region continued to be of particular concern. To this end, a follow-up meeting to the September 2002 workshop on this issue was held in Beirut in May 2004 to implement a coordinated public information strategy in the region aimed at explaining the Organization’s role and activities in the various areas of concern in the region. In addition, with financial assistance from the United Nations Foundation, the Department held two media workshops — a week-long session in March 2004 for senior Arab commentators, who were given the opportunity to hear from and debate with senior officials about the Organization’s role in the region, and a two-week programme in November-December 2004 for Arab radio and newspaper journalists, who were briefed on the work of the Organization and its various intergovernmental bodies. Moreover, as part of an annual programme, the Department hosted a seven-week training programme for 10 Palestinian media practitioners from October-December 2004. This programme, designed to provide skills training as well as media exposure to young professionals from the occupied Palestinian territories, has brought to United Nations Headquarters some 80 Palestinian media practitioners since it was first mandated by the General Assembly in 1995.