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Source: Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
22 October 2008


General Assembly
GA/SPD/408

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



Sixty-third General Assembly
Fourth Committee
14th Meeting (PM)
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INFORMATION’S MISSION ‘CENTRAL TO AND INSEPARABLE
 
FROM’ OBJECTIVES AND AIMS OF UNITED NATIONS, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD
Under-Secretary-General for Communications, Public Information Highlights
Information Department’s Successes, Expanding Mandate, Shrinking Resources
Emphasizing that the Department of Public Information’s mission was “central to and inseparable from the objectives and aims” of the United Nations, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information today spotlighted the myriad new challenges that Department was tackling, particularly as it coped with budget constraints and worked to maintain its essential services during the historic renovation of the world body’s Headquarters complex, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its consideration of questions relating to information. /... Following his address, the Under-Secretary-General answered questions from the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Senegal, France, Syria, Japan and Argentina, as well as the observer for Palestine, on a range of topics from the Department’s efforts to enhance multilingualism to the reason for the omission in the Secretary-General’s report on information of any mention of Palestine, and the Department’s plans for transforming the UN Chronicle magazine into the UN Affairs journal.

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He further said the Secretary-General’s report on information was not a comprehensive overview of the Department’s work, but rather a review of some of its activities.  Due to timing, there had not been enough updated information available on the Department’s programme on training journalists from Palestine to be included in this year’s report, but he would be happy to include information on those activities next year.

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Background As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information, it had before it two draft resolutions and a draft decision contained in the report on the thirtieth session of the Committee on Information (document A/63/21, Chapter IV).  It also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information (document A/63/258).  (For a summary of that report, please see Press Release GA/SPD/405 of 17 October). /...

The Fourth Committee played a “catalytic” role by serving as a bridge between the Committee on Information and the regular session of the General Assembly, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, KIYO AKASAKA, said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on information (document A/63/258).

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He said the Department’s training programme for Palestinian media practitioners, and annual media seminar on peace in the Middle East, reflected its commitment to provide assistance to the Palestinian people.  The training programme, which began its six-week run earlier in the week, was aimed at strengthening the skills and capacity of 10 Palestinian journalists.  Another key element of the Department’s work in that area was its annual international media seminar on peace in the Middle East.  This year’s seminar, organized with Austria, was scheduled from 2 to 3 December in Vienna.

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Interactive Dialogue

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The representative of Syria...then asked why there had been a delay in convening the sixteenth annual seminar for information media regarding peace in the Middle East, to be held in Vienna.

The observer for Palestine asked why the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information, while addressing many issues, had completely ignored the activities and efforts undertaken by the Department on the question of Palestine on General Assembly resolution 62/258.

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Responding to Syria’s question regarding the sixteenth international media seminar on peace in the Middle East, Mr. AKASAKA said that it had been delayed because the Department had approached several Member States to host the seminar, but it had taken “some time” to receive replies, consult with the host Government, and convene the seminar’s important participants, among other factors.  Regrettably, the seminar could not take place before the summer break and, due to the heavy schedule of autumn events, had to be organized in Vienna in early December, with the kind help of the Government of Austria.  For next year onwards, however, the Department wished to return to the normal time schedule for this meeting as the middle of the year gave the best timing for the conference.

On the question posed by the observer for Palestine, regarding the information lacking in report 63/258, he [Mr. AKASAKA] said that report concerned activities that had been taking place since the meeting of the Committee on Information, which met each year in May.  The report was not a comprehensive overview of the Departments work, but rather a review of some of its activities.  He said he mentioned the Department’s programme on training journalists from Palestine, and would be happy to include information on those activities next year.  However, due to timing, this year there had not been enough updated information available on activities relating to the Departments programmes on the question of Palestine.

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As a follow-up to the question from the observer for Palestine, Syria’s speaker said his delegation had noted reports elsewhere about the modernization of the Department’s activities regarding Palestine.  Yet it still did not understand why the whole section on that topic had disappeared from the Secretary-General’s report on information.  Indeed, at least a reference to the booklet on the question of Palestine published by the Department should have been made.

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Responding to Syria’s question, he [Mr. AKASAKA] said that, even though a section on the question of Palestine had not been included in this year’s report, it did not mean that question was not given the attention it deserved from the Department.  Indeed, the Department’s programme to train Palestinian journalists was moving forward.  In the future, the Department’s work on the question of Palestine would be included in the Secretary-General’s report.

Statements

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ENTISAR MOHAMED ETOMZINI ( Libya) said that, although she appreciated the efforts of the Department included in the information report, she expressed concern that no mention had been made of the question of Palestine.  She said that attention should not only be given to the “holocausts and massacres of the past”, but that today’s massacres should be given the same importance.  In that regard, she said that the ongoing violence against Palestinians was a “war crime and a crime against humanity”.

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AMR EL SHERBINI ( Egypt) ...

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While his delegation supported the increasing diversity of its initiatives, he encouraged the Information Department to strengthen its consultations with Member Countries and especially those that hosted the Information Centres.  It should also continue to implement outreach programmes on the question of Palestine and continue to make the situation of the Palestinian people known.  Indeed, it was regrettable that the Secretary-General’s current report on information had not included any mention of that question, he added.

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AVIVA RAZ-SHECHTER (Israel)...

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Israel believed that the United Nation’s limited resources, including those of the Information Department, should be used as efficiently as possible.  For that reason, despite its confidence in the Department’s admirable work, Israel was disappointed in the Special Information Programme on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  That programme published a one-sided, biased and misleading picture of the actual facts in the Middle East, she said.  Israel believed that by allowing the existence of the Programme, the United Nations wasn’t addressing more pressing priorities.

In closing remarks, Mr. AKASAKA expressed appreciation to all the delegations for their comments and support, as well as their critical comments on his Department’s activities.  Delegations had mentioned many issues that were important to the Department, including the publication of UN Affairs, the question of Palestine, peace in the Middle East, enhancing multilingualism, the role of United Nations Information Centres around the globe, and many others.  He appreciated the comments, and hoped to continue the dialogue as the Department’s work was guided by the Member States.

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For information media • not an official record


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