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General Debate: Communications and Public Information (18th October)

Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation would like to thank you and the Bureau and convey its full readiness to contribute constructively to the debate on this issue.

We commend the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, for the work done and renew the full cooperation of the Delegation of Argentina in support for his work as the head of the Department.

Argentina associates itself with the statements made by Cuba on behalf of CELAC, Fiji on behalf of the G77 and China as well as that delivered by my country on behalf of the Group of Friends of Spanish at the United Nations, reason by which we will limit this statement to highlight some concepts in our national capacity.

Argentina is grateful for the Secretary-General’s report on “Questions relating to information” (A/68/315) and values the information contained therein. We underscore the efforts of the Department of Public Information (DPI) in this regard, by developing new contents, using new technology and continue prioritizing traditional media.

Mr. Chairman,

We reiterate the continued support of Argentina to the work of the United Nations Information Centers, as they are vital to disseminating the message of the Organization, and we encourage the Department to strengthen their work.

We reiterate our appreciation for the work done by United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Buenos Aires, which spreads the "voice in Spanish" of the Organization in Argentina and Uruguay. UNIC Buenos Aires is the focal point of digital communication of the UN System in Argentina as it develops and manages several websites and profiles in Spanish ONU Argentina on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. It is also the engine of the United Nations Communications Group in Argentina (UNCG) and, in that sense, the pillar of all communication services and products of the United Nations system in Argentina. It is the source of public information essential and unique to civil society, public and private organizations, media, educational institutions, among others  For example , UNIC Argentina is the focal point of the regional campaign "El Valiente no es Violento" (2013-2015) and has created and manages a special website for the Argentine chapter.

Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation, as well as the Department of Public Information, understands the importance of talking to people in their own language. Therefore, we actively support and encourage multilingualism as we consider it a principle inherent in the existence of the United Nations.

It is in that spirit that Argentina is proud to have taken the initiative to promote the “Group of Friends of Spanish at the United Nations” (GAE) whose Charter (A/67/998) gives true testimony to the commitment that encourages Spanish-speaking 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, renewing the full disposition of the Group to help strengthen the mandate on multilingualism currently in force.

However, Mr. Chairman, we must once again convey our serious concern that Secretary- General’s report (A/68/315) does not include detailed information on multilingualism in the dissemination of information, especially after having admitted that the goal of parity among the six official languages is a pending task.

It is essential to have more information, including disaggregated statistics on the use of languages in different DPI products and services, such as those contained in previous reports which enabled us to confirm the trends of the use of languages by the public, identify their needs and design tools to meet their demands, in the context of transparency that must guide the work of the Department. I reiterate the Group’s request in this forum so that, within a framework of transparency and freedom, we can count again on the statistics developed by and available to the DPI on this matter.

Mr. Chairman,

At the same time, we are pleased that the DPI has extended the use of social media in all official languages. We support the use of this valuable resource and its contribution to multilingualism. Also the various projects and high-tech initiatives presented to us.

However, it should always be kept in mind that all these initiatives and products are complementary in nature to the United Nations website, which they do not replace nor then solve the widening linguistic disparity of the website.

We acknowledge the efforts of the DPI to begin to provide live coverage of every session of the General Assembly and the Security Council in the six official languages plus the language of the speaker. This is a breakthrough and an old desire reiterated by my Delegation in the past, and which was reflected in the draft resolution agreed last May at the COI’s 35th session (paragraph 64 of the draft resolution contained in A/68/21).

Mr. Chairman,

Argentina is delighted once again that Spanish has increasingly became the second language of consultations and visits of the United Nations websites and social networks, after English. Though general, statistics again confirm this trend.
However, despite the strength of statistics, we remain very concerned that the contents available in websites in Spanish still continue to be much lower than those in English. More recently, a serious problem has added up as we face a noticeable decline in the quality of the translation of portals in Spanish.
That is why we once again urge the DPI to be guided by its own statistics, satisfy the “audiences” demanding its products and adapt the linguistic contents of the websites to the current demand of the public, bearing in mind the responsibility of all offices of the Organization to provide the DPI with information in the six official languages .
Mr. Chairman,
In this context, the lack of progress in the issuance of daily press releases in all official languages it remains a real concern as they are still being produced in only two of them, with no mandate restricting the principle of parity in that sense.
We are encouraged not to be alone in this request. The same concern has been expressed by the G77 and China, the CELAC and many other delegations.

We are grateful for the efforts of having the “pilot project” announced by the DPI, though we regret that it has also been captive of budgetary restrictions, according to the Secretary-General’s report.

That is why the General Assembly had requested the DPI to find “creative schemes” and avoid budgetary debates that take us away from the mandate of full linguistic parity. Of course this is a different request. We much welcome that draft resolution before us reiterates its request to the DPI “to design a strategy, in close collaboration with other departments, to deliver daily press releases in all six official languages through creative schemes, in a cost-neutral manner and in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, and to report thereon to the Committee on Information at its thirty-sixth session” (paragraph 19 of the draft resolution contained in A/68/21).

In this context, we are also encouraged that the draft resolution we will adopt clarifies the obvious: “the importance of ensuring the equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations” and “the responsibility of the Secretariat to incorporate multilingualism in all its communication and information activities within existing resources on an equitable basis” (respectively, paragraphs 21 and 20 of the draft contained in A/68/21). An identical mandate in favor of equity has been enshrined in the latest resolution on "Multilingualism" adopted by the General Assembly, which established equity as the criterion to manage the “existing resources” in defense of multilingualism (paragraph 4, A/RES/67/292).

Mr. Chairman,

We believe there are sufficient mandates by the General Assembly to make the necessary changes and allow for equity within existing resources, without even having to be limited to that.

My delegation is also ready to take part in the bilateral consultations referred to by the Under Secretary-General and we avail of this opportunity to publicly propose some ideas:

1. It is clear that to reallocate existing resources is an alternative, based on the actual demand of the public which includes us, Member States. The criterion of allocating resources “on an equitable basis” has now been duly established in several instruments.

2. As resources are allocated to new products (including films, brochures and new digital products), the pending debt must be solved in the first place regarding the obligatory source of information and reference worldwide: the United Nations website. This is a general mandate, previous and valid, which demands all of our attention.

3. The same applies to daily press releases, of course. We call upon the DPI to be as “creative” as it is requested and, for instance, adapt existing mechanisms, editorial criteria and length of current releases so as to open the way for the remaining official languages. We expect the report to be submitted to the Committee on Information in 2014 and renew our willingness to collaborate.

Mr. Chairman,

Regarding traditional media, Argentina commends the excellent work done by the team of the TV, Radio and UN News Centre in Spanish. Our special recognition to the Library staff for their efforts for the benefit of mankind in preserving the heritage of us all, particularly the various training programs and their close contact with the depository libraries. Because of this my Delegation looks forward to the information announced by the Under Secretary-General on a possible “merger” of the Libraries of New York and Geneva, an initiative that represents a challenge to be carefully studied by Member States.

In conclusion, we are convinced that we have the necessary tools and legislative mandates to move forward and solve outstanding debts. Moreover, to prevent budgetary issues from becoming an obstacle, creativity and equity are called for. Together we can do it.

We would like to extend our best wishes of success to all those working in the Department of Public Information. Our special recognition to all of them for their permanent disposition, willingness and openness to enquiries and requests from Member States in a framework of transparency, efficiency and high professionalism.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Fondo argentino de cooperación sur-sur y triangular