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General Debate: Communications and Public Information- Argentina on behalf of the "Group of Friends of the Spanish to the United Nations (17th October)

Mr Chairman,:

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the "Group of Friends of the Spanish to the United Nations" for the first time for the Group to speak, precisely, at the United Nations.
It is no mere coincidence that the Group which the Friends of Spanish call "GAE" for its initials in our language addresses the United Nations on a subject of such deep interest as the is the dissemination of information on the work of these United Nations throughout the world.

It certainly is, yes, a happy coincidence that you, Mr Chairman, are leading the work of this Commission on behalf of our region and, no doubt, of our language too, on this special occasion in which the Group introduces itself to the rest of Member States. As Permanent Representative of El Salvador, you have contributed to the establishment of the Group and we are honoured to see you presiding over our work.

I do not want to continue without thanking the Bureau and the Secretariat for the work they do and convey our willingness to contribute constructively to the debate on this topic.

Mr Chairman,

Our special gratitude to Mr Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, for the valuable information he has provided in his detailed and comprehensive statement. I convey the GAE’s full commitment to collaborate and assist in the tasks carried out by the Department of Public Information as well as his responsibilities as Coordinator for Multilingualism. We commend the Secretariat of the Committee on Information for the permanent disposition and friendly assistance provided to our delegations.

Mr Chairman,

The Group of Friends of Spanish at the United Nations was formally established on 16 September 2013, when the Representatives of all Spanish-speaking Member States to the United Nations signed the "Charter" of the Group. This Charter was sent to the Secretary-General and is today an official document of the General Assembly published with the symbol A/67/998 under one agenda item that unites us all, "Multilingualism".
The growing interest of Spanish-speaking peoples in the work of the United Nations was a crucial reason to give birth to the GAE. This interest has been impacting on the activities of the Organization through increased and sustained consultations, interactions and demands from the Spanish-speaking public worldwide.

That is why the decision to establish our Group was based on the shared conviction that strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and a Group of Friends encompassing countries that share Spanish as their language will be of benefit to the ideals, purposes and principles United Nations and the general welfare of peoples.
Of particular significance to the Group are the ties with other language groups at the United Nations. Because we believe in the richness of diversity and because multilingualism is the principle that unites us and identify us all.

As set out in our Charter, I avail of this opportunity to formally invite to be observers of our Group, all States present here today that wish to do so and that share the central role of languages in promoting understanding among peoples, tolerance and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, and multilingualism as a guiding principle of all United Nations activities.

Mr Chairman,

Concerning the work before us today, the GAE is grateful for the report of the Secretary- General on questions relating to information issued as document A/68/315. We appreciate the hard work done by the Department of Public Information to provide information on key issues facing the challenge of an increasingly global audience, more informed and more interested in learning about a greater number of issues on the work of the Organization. We commend the Department's efforts to develop new contents, using new technology and continue prioritizing the traditional media.

Our sincere appreciation to the staff of TV and Radio in Spanish, and the Spanish News Centre, for the magnificent job they do; also to those who help us from the Library, meeting our consultations and feeding the vital network of depository libraries in several points of the Spanish-speaking world. Our identical gratitude to those who do that from the United Nations Information Centres present in the Spanish-speaking world, who speak to us in our own language and bring the reality of the United Nations to our societies while promoting peace, cooperation and solidarity among peoples.

Mr Chairman,

An obligatory source of information for us all today is the United Nations website. All of us, Member States, United Nations officials and the entire United Nations system, educational institutions and academia, our youth and citizens around the world interested in our work here and now. As indicated in the report of the Secretary General, traffic to the United Nations website continued to grow, registering 19 million visits from March to June 2013.
That is why the GAE appreciates the efforts of the Department to improve the accessibility and design of the website, the new products and services, creation of new portals and collaboration of other departments to provide contents. We commend, in particular, the recent start of providing live coverage of General Assembly and the Security Council meetings in the six official languages, plus the language of the speaker. Another specific and valuable contribution to multilingualism is the global contest just launched for university students to write essays on the theme of global citizenship in an official language of the United Nations that is not their mother tongue or medium of educational instruction.

Nevertheless, it is a growing concern of the Group of Friends of Spanish that these new activities do not always take place bearing in mind the principle of the necessary linguistic parity among the six official languages of the Organization. On top of that, the general condition of the United Nations website is a long way from the objective of respecting full linguistic parity as the guiding mandate established by the General Assembly also in the work of the Department.

And the concern to us is even greater when in 2012, once again, the United Nations website in Spanish has continued to grow in content, proof of which is the increasing number of visits registered. Indeed, as acknowledged by the Secretary- General in his report on activities of the News Service of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations (A/AC.198/2013/3), after English, Spanish language was again the second language of visits in 2012 reaching 17 % of total page views of the website, after English which accounted for 62 %.

On this issue the GAE is further concerned that the latest reports of the Secretary- General no longer provide statistics, particularly from 2010. We request that this trend be reverted as we consider that counting on statistics contributes to making accurate assessments in a framework of full transparency and freedom, and to designing concrete actions to achieve the widest possible dissemination.

Mr Chairman,

Members of the GAE are encouraged by the fact that the draft resolution to be adopted and which is contained in the report of the Committee on Information (A/68/21), emphasizes the importance of ensuring equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all the activities of the Department of Public Information, whether based on traditional or new media, including in presentations to the Committee on Information, with the aim of eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the five other official languages. (OP 21 of the draft resolution).

Moreover, the General Assembly will underline “the responsibility of the Secretariat in mainstreaming multilingualism into all its communications and information activities, within the existing resources on an equitable basis” (OP 20 of the draft resolution).
In the same line and because multilingualism is inherent to the United Nations as it runs through all its work regardless of the subject, body or Commission concerned, the GAE is deeply happy that in its latest resolution on “Multilingualism” (67/292), the General Assembly also underlines “the responsibility of the Secretariat in integrating multilingualism into its activities, from within existing resources on an equitable basis” (OP 4 of resolution 67/292).

In short, Mr Chairman, we believe that we have overcome the traditional limitation of scarcity of resources related to the necessary linguistic parity because it has been decided, for the first time, that that same scarcity be managed on an equitable basis.

Mr Chairman,

This mandate also reaches a matter which of vital interest for GAE members and which is also pending: the need for daily press releases also in Spanish. We are grateful for the "pilot project" carried out by the Department and we regret that it has not been as satisfactory as expected.

However, we should not forget that there is a specific mandate contained in resolution 67/124 B, once again reaffirmed in the draft resolution to be considered, whereby the General Assembly requests the Department “to develop 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 36th session” (OP 19 of the draft resolution).

The GAE is ready to collaborate in searching those “creative solutions” and contributing ideas. Also in this issue it is high time to rethink old models in order to make room for everyone, without discrimination, adapting to current times. Even without additional budgetary resources and within the “existing” ones but on an equitable basis, that is, having fairness as the criterion for justice in scarcity.

Mr Chairman,

In conclusion, the GAE renews its full commitment to the achievement of multilingualism in the United Nations based on the principles of equity and linguistic parity. It is the conviction of the GAE that this will enhance the primary mission of the Department of Public Information: to provide, through its outreach activities, accurate, impartial, comprehensive, balanced, timely and relevant information to the public on the tasks and responsibilities of the United Nations in order to strengthen international support for the activities of the Organization with the greatest transparency. I assure you, Mr Chairman, and through you, the Department of Public Information, that you all count on our Group of Friends of Spanish as a friend for the fulfilment of this task.

Thank you very much.

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