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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
Distr.
GENERAL
A/C.4/51/SR.10
4 September 1997

English
Original: Russian

FIFTY-FIRST SESSION
Official Records


SPECIAL POLITICAL AND
DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE
(FOURTH COMMITTEE)
10th meeting
held on
Wednesday, 7 November 1996
at 10 a.m.
New York


SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 10th MEETING

        Chairman:
Mr. KITTIKHOUN(Lao People's Democratic Republic)
        later:
Ms. LEONCE-CARRYL
(Vice-Chairman)
(Saint Lucia)


CONTENTS

AGENDA ITEM 87: QUESTIONS RELATING TO INFORMATION (continued)

The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.


AGENDA ITEM 87: QUESTIONS RELATING TO INFORMATION (continued) (A/51/21 and A/51/406)

/...

30. Mr. ZAKI (Egypt) ...

/...

33. With respect to the Department's programme for Palestine, his delegation was concerned that the only concrete measure that programme provided was the training of Palestinian journalists. His delegation hoped that the six components of the programme would be fully carried out, and expressed its conviction that the majority of States taking part in the vote on a resolution on that question would support it, since the question of Palestine remained unresolved. The peace process in the Middle East region was encountering serious problems, and the Palestinian people were still isolated and could not exercise their legitimate rights. In that regard, his delegation requested DPI to continue its efforts, together with the Palestinian people, to implement all aspects of the programme for Palestine, particularly activities involving the dispatch of fact-finding missions to the occupied territories.

34. Mr. WILMOT (Ghana) said that his delegation fully subscribed to the statement made by the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77. He was pleased to note the increasing coordination and cooperation between the Department of Public Information and other departments of the Secretariat and hoped that that process would enable the Department of Public Information to pursue more effectively its mandate, which was to promote the greatest understanding of the activities of the United Nations throughout the world. For all that, the Department should be more balanced in its coverage of the activities of the Organization, which were of great interest to the majority of Member States. In that connection, he noted with regret that the Department had ceased issuing press releases on the work of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and that there were no items relating to decolonization on the United Nations Home Page on the Internet. Those lapses were a matter of serious concern to his delegation and to several others, as had been indicated in the statement made by the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the States members of the Group of 77. He called on the Department of Public Information to address that problem immediately.

35. It was to the credit of the Department of Public Information that, despite serious financial constraints, it was continuing to carry out its important programme of guided tours at Headquarters, as well as other measures, to organize seminars and to issue many publications. It was also important that the Department, in cooperation with other departments and United Nations agencies, was endeavouring to keep abreast of technological developments in the information sector and to share the technology acquired with Member States, mainly through the Permanent Missions, almost 120 of which were already connected to the Internet through the UNDP dial-in service. His Government attached the greatest importance to the work of the United Nations Information Centres. Despite its serious economic constraints, it continued to provide free premises for the Information Centre in Accra.

36. His delegation had noted with interest the proposal of the Department of Public Information with regard to the request of the Committee on Information for an evaluation of the work of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. It had thought that the Department had wisely given due consideration to the need for transparency and the reflection of different points of view in the selection of consultants to conduct the evaluation.

37. The tremendous impact of information technology on social and economic development, culture, education, health, human rights and other spheres of interest could not be over-emphasized. That explained his delegation's deep interest in all activities that might be undertaken to ensure that developing countries, with the assistance of the United Nations system, benefited fully from the information revolution. However despite repeated calls for a new international information and communication order, the rich industrially developed countries of the North and the developing countries of the South still did not have equal access to information technology; that created a deeper divide between information "haves" and "have nots". A small number of powerful companies in countries of the North retained monopolies in the sphere of communications and engaged in biased reporting on events within the developing world, where communication had received the attention of the participants in the Fifth Conference of Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries, held at Abuja, Nigeria, in September 1996.

38. Mr. AL-RUMAIHA (Qatar) said that, on the threshold of a new millennium, the idea had arisen of establishing a new world order which would ensure peace, security, development, stability and prosperity for all mankind. The mass information media were called upon to play an enormous role in that connection, using the most modern technology and means of communication, including electronic communication and satellite communication. For that new world, it was also necessary to have a new world information and communication order, characterized by the presence of a new information strategy, which would ensure the free flow of information and equal access to the information capital available.

39. In that connection, it was essential to resolve the questions relating to the inequality of rights of the industrialized countries and the developing countries in the field of information. The developing countries must be given access to communication technology. They must be helped to strengthen regional and international information and communication networks and to create new information centres in the regions which would allow increased activity in that field and ensure the creation of a new information and communication culture. Such a strategy in the information field should also provide for the pluralism and independence of the mass information media. In that connection, he expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Information for holding a seminar in Sana'a, Yemen, in January 1996 with the participation of UNESCO. That seminar had led to new approaches to problems in the field of information and communication in the Arab countries. Qatar, for its part, had recently adopted a new strategy in the field of information and communication, based on the principles of the freedom, objectivity and accuracy of information.

40. Mrs. RODRIGUEZ-SIFUENTES (Mexico) said that, in the current circumstances of an increasingly interdependent world, the strengthening of international cooperation in the exchange of information was becoming particularly important. In that connection, her delegation supported the draft resolution on information in the service of humanity, submitted by the Committee on Information. It believed that one of the most important elements underlying the Committee's work was a more equitable and effective international information and communication order, aimed at strengthening international peace and mutual understanding. The broader and more effective dissemination of information on United Nations measures would help to confirm the positive attitude of public opinion to the aims and purposes of the Organization. At the same time, careful consideration should be given to the question of how the Department of Public Information would carry out a greater volume of work with reduced resources, as the Assistant Secretary-General for Public Information, Mr. Samir Sanbar, had stated at the previous meeting.

41. Her delegation had carefully studied the report of the Secretary-General on questions relating to information (A/51/406) and noted with particular satisfaction the work on the dissemination of information on such extremely important areas of activity as development, decolonization and disarmament, which the Department was carrying out with the limited resources at its disposal. The dissemination of information on questions relating to disarmament enabled public opinion to follow carefully efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, which posed a threat to the very survival of humanity. Moreover, primary attention should be paid to activities relating to the dissemination of information on United Nations peacekeeping operations.

42. Activities relating to the dissemination of information on the United Nations was undoubtedly one of the fundamental means of supporting the authority of the Organization, and the strengthening of those activities was a complex task which was in keeping with the purposes and principles of the Organization and encompassed the very varied areas of United Nations activities.

43. Mr. ZAKARIA (Indonesia) said that with the emergence of new and advanced communications technologies, the very concept of national borders had become obsolete and nations and peoples were linked together as never before in history. The application of fibre optics technology had transformed the world into a single information area, with all its ramifications. There was great potential for solving some of the critical problems facing mankind, such as promoting international peace and development. However, the current world information and communication system was still characterized by an imbalanced flow of information and lack of access of developing countries to communications technologies. While developed nations were successfully applying the principle of the "free flow of information", the call of developing nations for a "free and balanced flow of information" had largely gone unheeded. In many cases information was being utilized to serve the interests of the developed nations to the detriment of developing countries.

44. The situation had created a virtual monopoly of a small number of States in that important field. Developing nations were currently operating less than 25 per cent of the world media disseminating information to their own communities while 75 per cent of the media from developed countries disseminated information to the global population. That dominance was being used to promote their economic, political, social and other interests, which were in many instances incompatible with the interests of developing countries.

45. The participants at the Fifth Conference of Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries had stressed the need to establish a new world information and communication order on the basis of the principles of independence, progress, democracy and mutual cooperation. The Conference had emphasized the strengthening of South-South cooperation, which was not intended to replace North-South cooperation but to enhance the principle of collective self-reliance. In that regard, it had proposed that international information centres of non-aligned countries should be established to complement the efforts of the non-aligned news agencies pool and their broadcasting organizations.

46. The pressing question of a balanced flow of information had been considered within the framework of the topic entitled "Communication in the service of humanity" at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris in 1995. The participants had indicated that the utilization of information technology within the global communications network exerted a great deal of influence on social, cultural and economic life in both developed and developing countries. His delegation appreciated the efforts of UNESCO to assist developing countries in enhancing their communication and information capabilities and in facilitating access to technologies through the International Programme for the Development of Communication. Furthermore, Indonesia commended the Department of Public Information and UNESCO for holding training programmes and seminars for journalists from developing countries. His delegation was pleased to note that a seminar for countries in Central and Eastern Europe was to be held in Bulgaria in 1997.

47. For its part, Indonesia had endeavoured to enhance multilateral, regional and bilateral cooperation with other like-minded States in order to promote information technology among developing nations, especially non-aligned countries, member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and neighbouring Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. Indonesia had also carried out communication and information training programmes for media personnel from countries of the Asian Pacific and African regions through technological cooperation among developing countries. His delegation supported the efforts of the Department of Public Information to inform the world public about the activities of the United Nations. Indonesia believed that the Department should be strengthened so that it could meet the new challenges facing the Organization in the post-cold-war era. It also noted the Department's successes, such as the dissemination of information through the Internet and CD-ROM, and also the issuance of publications such as the Blue Books Series, the Yearbook of the United Nations, the UN Chronicle and others.

48. Mr. RI (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that the need for the establishment of a new international order in the political and economic fields as well as in information and communication was being increasingly felt and his delegation considered that the process of the establishment of the new order should be commensurate with the trend of globalization of information and communications. Inequality between developed and developing countries in the field of information continued to be a hindrance to the formation of new and fair international relations. While some developed countries were taking advantage of their monopoly of modern information and communication technology, developing countries did not enjoy their due share in international information activities. The United Nations should pay attention to that situation and take active measures to resolve it.

49. International efforts were needed to develop the national information system in developing countries in order to reform the existing international structure of information and create a new international information order. In that respect the United Nations should continue to pay close attention to strengthening national information centres and training technicians and experts of developing countries. The United Nations information centres could play an important role in facilitating contacts and cooperation between developing countries and the United Nations in the field of information. His delegation felt that in considering the question of integrating United Nations information centres into local UNDP offices, full account should be taken of the views of the countries concerned.

50. The Department of Public Information should make sure that all of its publications contained objective and accurate information. It was regrettable that the information on the Korean question contained in some of the Department's publications was quite contrary to historical facts.

51. The efforts of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries to contribute to the development of world information and establish a new international information and communication order should be duly noted. Both the Fourth Conference of Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries held in Pyongyang in June 1993 and the Fifth Conference held in Abuja in September 1996 had stressed the imbalance of relations in the field of international information and urged the international community to participate actively in the establishment of a new international order in the field of information and communication. The participants at the Fifth Conference had agreed to establish new international information centres in several member countries as an important step towards strengthening South-South cooperation in the field of information and communication, based on the principle of collective self-reliance. His delegation believed that the establishment of the information centres within the context of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries would promote inter and intra-regional cooperation in the field of information and communication and also contribute to the revitalization of the information and communication organizations of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the establishment of an equitable new international information and communication order.

52. Mr. GUANI (Uruguay) said that his delegation fully shared the view of the Assistant Secretary-General for Public Information that the dissemination of information on questions relating to international development continued to be a priority. However, the increasing shortage of resources and the administrative and other limitations were an obstacle to the full implementation of activities in that area. Those working with the media must be guaranteed the right to carry out their professional obligations freely and effectively.

53. With regard to the work of the Department of Public Information, his delegation continued to be concerned about the financial situation in the Secretariat. Although, as noted in the report of the Committee on Information, the Department was successfully maintaining an appropriate quality in its work despite limited resources, such strategic areas of activity as health, problems relating to poverty and development, disarmament and the maintenance of international peace and security were extremely important and the difficult financial situation should therefore not be used as a pretext for reducing the effectiveness of work in those areas. In that connection, in considering the relevant sections of the proposed programme budget for the biennium, the Organization should make the general needs known and appropriate the resources necessary to meet them.

54. One of the most important goals was the achievement of progress within the Interdepartmental Working Group on Media Strategies for Peacekeeping and Other Field Operations on the initiative regarding the inclusion of information components in peacekeeping operations, which could cover rapidly deployable forces and could help to ensure that the Department of Public Information was represented in such operations.

55. His delegation believed that, after consultation with the Governments of the host countries and with the appropriate departments of the organizations of the system, information centres in developing countries should be combined with field offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

56. His delegation was pleased to note the existence of the United Nations Home Page on the Internet. Other effective ways of informing public opinion were exhibitions devoted to such important problems as the catastrophic consequences of the use of anti-personnel land mines. Uruguay had participated in the mine-clearing work in Mozambique and Angola and Uruguayan field personnel had shown the useful role played by United Nations programmes for the dissemination of information. The great significance of United Nations video materials should also be noted, in particular, as should the contribution of the guided tours programme to the work of the Organization.

57. Mr. AL-ATTAR (Syrian Arab Republic) ...

/...

58. His delegation supported the statement made by the representative of the Group of 77 and wished to make a few comments. First, the establishment of a new world information and communication order entailed consequences for the free exchange of information and the freedom of the press and should be based on respect for the sovereignty of countries and non-interference in their internal affairs. Second, respect for the traditions and cultures of other peoples meant that the influence of information on the formation of public opinion should not be used to discredit peoples with a different culture. Third, in the dissemination of information, it was essential to demonstrate objectivity, impartiality and an absence of bias. Fourth, it was important to offer technical cooperation to the developing countries in the field of information, so that they could have a balanced and fair exchange of information with the developed countries. Fifth, the financial crisis of the United Nations should not be used as a pretext for preventing the Department from carrying out its functions and disseminating information on such problems as the question of Palestine.

59. From the time it had been established, the Department had attached due significance to the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. Recent events showed that peace had not yet been established in the region. The situation of the Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories was deteriorating on account of the intensification of repression. It was for that reason that the Department should make the facts widely known and emphasize the importance of ensuring a just and lasting peace in the region.

/...

66. Mr. SAI (Algeria) ...

/...

67. While supporting the statement made by the representative of the Group of 77, his delegation wished to dwell on some of the more interesting points in that statement. First, his delegation could not accept the idea floated by certain countries that the managerial staff at information centres, their tasks and the nature of their functions, should be reviewed with a view to downsizing them. Secondly, DPI should concentrate its attention on issues of decolonization and social and economic development. Thirdly, while welcoming the idea of strengthening the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, his delegation believed that any new assessment of its activity should be carried out with the participation of one or more experts from developing countries. Finally, regarding the programme of DPI with regard to Palestine, it was essential to note the provision of technical assistance to Palestinian mass media, in particular through the organization of courses of instruction and in-service training for Palestinian journalists.

/...

75. Mr. SIMOES (Brazil) ...

/...

77. His delegation also recognized the important role of public information in the context of peacekeeping operations. Cambodia, Mozambique and Angola were examples of the importance of information in consolidating the peace process. The activities currently being undertaken by DPI concerning the peace process in the Middle East and assistance to the Palestinian people had also played a vital role.

/...

86. The CHAIRMAN proposed that the representatives of Israel and Kuwait should be included in the list of speakers, at their request.

87. It was so decided.

/...

The meeting rose at 12.40 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of the publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-794, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.


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