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Source: Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
18 October 2007


General Assembly
GA/SPD/376

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly
Fourth Committee
7th Meeting (AM)

TELLING UNITED NATIONS STORY REQUIRED METHOD, PURPOSE; AS ‘MEGAPHONE’, DEPARTMENT

OF PUBLIC INFORMATION GUIDED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S VISION, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

Under-Secretary-General for Communications, Public Information Highlights
Strategy, Including Integrated Use of Traditional, New Information Technologies


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Background

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to take up questions relating to information, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on that issue (document A/62/205), updating the reports submitted to the Committee of Information at its twenty-ninth session, held from 30 April to 11 May.

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Under-Secretary General’s Statement

KIYO AKASAKA, Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to Information (document A/62/205), said his Department had been accurately described by one delegate as the “megaphone” of the United Nations.  Through written words, images and voices, it brought the story of the United Nations to the world.  That work was done with a purpose and a method, and was guided by the Secretary-General’s vision to communicate to the global public based on positive results.

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In areas such as human rights, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Brussels had developed a website in connection with the upcoming sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, he noted.  That website would be part of a system-wide United Nations campaign scheduled to launch in December.  In terms of the Middle East, the Department’s annual international media seminar now included representatives of Israeli and Palestinian civil society groups and created a forum for practical people-to-people contact.  Seminar participants had set up a Steering Committee composed mainly of Israeli and Palestinian mayors and had identified five projects in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory aimed at addressing critical public services.

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Questions and Answers

The representative of Iran asked to hear more about the Department’s work on promoting a dialogue among civilizations, to which many Member States attached great importance.  He also noted that many United Nations information centres in developing countries suffered from a lack of resources and were using obsolete equipment.  He asked what the Department proposed to do about that problem.

A representative from the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine expressed appreciation for the Special Information Programme for Palestine, as highlighted by Mr. Akasaka in his statement.  It provided opportunities to journalists to gain skills that they might not have otherwise acquired.  Also, it brought together Israeli and Palestinian journalists, along with members of civil society, to complement efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the question of Palestine.

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Responding to Iran’s delegate, Mr. AKASAKA said the Department was engaged in a number of activities to promote dialogue among civilizations, such as seminars on unlearning intolerance; exhibits on ceramics by Palestinian and Israeli craftsmen; and global training seminars, arranged at no cost to United Nations, on holocaust remembrance and averting genocide.  There were also cultural programmes, such as the event commemorating Rumi, the Sufi poet, and the concert by the East-West orchestra.  A forthcoming issue of the United Nations Chronicle would be devoted to work being done to address racial discrimination, and a seminar on combating hatred was expected to be held on 8 November.

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He thanked the representative from Palestine for her comments, adding that the Department was preparing its next media seminar for 2008.  Hopefully, that seminar would enhance the dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian participants.  He voiced appreciation for the work of local government officials and non-governmental organizations to help organize discussions on infrastructure, water and environmental issues.

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Libya’s representative asked why insufficient time was given to the Department’s visits to Palestine, and why there was not a greater focus on Palestine.

The representative of Egypt, supporting statements made by the representative from Palestine on the need for the Department to step up efforts to convey information on what was needed to achieve peace in the Middle East, said the United Nations should be objective in describing facts and events on the ground there.  He asked about the Department’s efforts on Palestine, as well as the sometimes days-long delay between posting information online in English and making it available in other languages.

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In response to the questions from Libya and Egypt, Mr. Akasaka noted that the permanent exhibit on Palestine had been updated.  The booklet on Palestine, which explained the history of and debate on Palestine, had also been updated.  The training programme for Palestinian media had accepted 10 journalists and would begin on 5 November.  He expressed hope that both political and economic issues would be well addressed by those efforts, as well as the media seminar.

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General Statements

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MANAR TALEB ( Syria) said that his country attached great importance to the establishment of a more just and fair information network, which expressed mutual respect, equality and tolerance.  ... Other issues that should be studied were Palestine, the Syria Golan Heights and intercultural dialogue.  The United Nations also had a contribution to make in dealing with foreign occupation and mobilizing the international community to combat various scourges and wipe them out.

... The Department’s symposium on the Middle East had been welcome, as had been the training it offered Palestinian journalists.  The role the Department could play in encouraging intercultural dialogue could build bridges between different peoples.  ...

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For information media • not an official record

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