Statement by the Permanent Mission of the Argentine Republic to the United Nations
The Argentine Delegation wishes the best of success to you and all members of the Bureau, renewing its full commitment to contributing to the work of this 36th session of the Committee on Information (COI).
We commend the intense and excellent work of the Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, as well as that of the Department of Public Information and the COI Secretariat. It is a work that does not finish on this annual occasio
n but goes on throughout the year and which deserves our sincere recognition.
We cannot but also commend the work made by the team of UN Television and UN Radio, the Web Section, the News Centre and the Library, especially their Spanish units, as well as the UN Information Centres, for their dedication in the significant work they carry out.
Associating ourselves with what was expressed by the G77 and China, CELAC and the GAE, we once again reiterate Argentina’s full support for the work of the United Nations Information Centres as elements of key importance in disseminating the “public face and voice” of the Organization while communicating with local audiences in their languages and acting as true bridges of multilingualism. We therefore encourage the Department to continue supporting them and strengthening their structure regarding both staffing and equipment. We commend the work done by the UNIC in Buenos Aires, focal point of digital communication of the UN system in Argentina that designs and manages several websites and Spanish profiles of UN Argentina.
My Delegation joins the Department of Public Information in understanding the significance of speaking to the people in their own language. That is why we strongly support and promote its commitment to multilingualism.
In this spirit, Argentina is very proud to have taken the initiative to promote the establishment of the “Group of Friends of Spanish at the United Nations” (GAE), whose Charter (A/67/998) gives true testimony of the commitment that encourages Spanish-speaking Member States to the United Nations in promoting multilingualism and, in this context, Spanish language as an official language of the United Nations and working language of the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Security Council. On behalf of the Group we have already referred to the purposes and principles that encourage us, renewing the full willingness of our Group to help strengthen the existing mandate on multilingualism.
We commend the efforts made by the Department to make the United Nations website truly attractive, complete and, fundamentally, multilingual. In this regard, we appreciate the updating of several thematic pages in the six official languages although disparity in the use of certain official languages with respect to other continues to be alarming. Even worse is that, despite the strong existing mandate of multilingualism from the planning stage, exceptions remain and several entirely new pages and products are developed only in one or two of the six official languages. In this context, my Delegation fully agrees with you, Madam Chairperson, on the need to increase the resources available to the DPI. If this is not possible, as has been the case, “the priorities of the Department must be reordered to better accommodate the requirements of multilingualism.”
We are pleased that the Department has expanded its outreach through the use of social media in all official languages. We do support the use of this valuable resource and its contribution to multilingualism, but we stress the importance of creating contents in Spanish and other official languages to avoid further arguments on budgetary matters and staffing needs to broaden contents only created in English. It should always be taken into account that social networks are “additional” in nature to the UN website, which is not replaced by them nor do these additional resources constitute a solution to the increasing linguistic disparity of the website.
Once again, Argentina is pleased that the United Nations website in Spanish has expanded over the last years, an evidence of which is the growing number of visits to it. Once again, after English, Spanish has once again been the second language of visits in 2013. Visits to the UN website in Spanish amounted to 20% of the total, after English (59%), as reflected by the Secretary General in his report A/AC.198/2014/3 on the activities of the Department. And we are glad that the Secretary General has admitted that there is an outstanding debt regarding Spanish language “on the basis of statistics that show a high demand for and usage of United Nations information materials in Spanish”.
Nevertheless, despite the strength of these statistics, we remain concerned that the contents available in the Spanish website still continue to be much lower than those in the website in English. That is why we once again urge the Department of Public Information to guide itself by its own statistics and adjust the linguistic contents of the website to the true demand of the public, including its linguistic dimension. We are aware that it is also the responsibility of all offices of the Secretariat to provide the Department with information in the six official languages. We urge all offices of the Secretariat to fully comply with their duty to provide their contents in all official languages, while ensuring their quality.
It is evident that linguistic parity must also reach daily press releases that continue to be available in only two out of the six official languages, despite the reiterated mandate of the General Assembly to safeguard the necessary parity also in this specific issue.
We would like to recognise the efforts recently made by the DPI and welcome the acknowledgment made by the Department in the Secretary-General’s report (A/AC.198/2014/3) that it will begin to deliver press releases in Spanish as part of a strategy that should gradually add the rest of the official languages. We cannot agree more with those who have highlighted the value of press releases as the only way to ensure transparency, accountability and institutional memory in many cases, besides the immediate availability of information they provide. So much so that, almost 70 years after the foundation of our Organization, it is high time that the rest of official languages receive the same benefit.
At the same time, however, Argentina is very concerned over any attempt to link this important initiative to budgetary issues as occurred in the past. The General Assembly has been forceful in stating that, at this stage, this matter should be resolved by the “equitable” distribution of "existing" budgetary resources. Our position in unrestricted defence of multilingualism cannot be clearer. That is why we are concerned that what is expressed on this issue in the report of the Secretary- General may lead to dangerous interpretations "discriminating" among so-called "categories" of official languages with corresponding alleged "financing" for some and to the detriment of others. Such an interpretation would be unacceptable because the principle of the necessary linguistic parity requires equal treatment of the six official languages on an equal footing and without discrimination. Budget allocations cannot and should not depart from that principle because the six official languages have the same right to be treated with the resources allocated to the Department for discharging its overall mandate, which obviously includes the delivery of daily press releases. Resources are not allocated to a single division, unit or, much less, to a particular language but to the overall budget of the Department.
We also celebrate the significant progress made in the process of digitization and urge the Department to continue with this task. Since we also consider the Library a “hidden treasure” within the Department, we very specially recognize the work of the Library staff for their efforts for the benefit of mankind in preserving the heritage of us all, in particular the several training courses and close contact with depository libraries.
To conclude, we would like to extend our best wishes of success to all those working in the Department of Public Information. Our special recognition goes to all of them for their permanent availability and openness to enquiries and requests from Member States in a framework of transparency, efficiency and high professionalism.
Thank you very much, Madam Chairperson.