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“Questions relating to information”

Agenda item 51 of the 66th Session of the General Assembly (Fourth Committee)
“Questions relating to information”

Statement delivered by Counsellor Gerardo Diaz Bartolomé, Permanent Mission of the Argentine Republic to the United Nations
19 October 2011

Madam Chair,
My Delegation wishes to thank you and the Bureau for the work carried out and convey its full disposition to constructively contribute to the discussion on this matter.

Furthermore, we would like to express our recognition to the Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, for his statement and willingness to hold this interactive dialogue with delegations, which contributes to strengthening the relation between them and the Department of Public Information.

The Argentine Republic is grateful for the report submitted by the Secretary-General on the “Questions relating to Information” contained in document A/66/261 and considers that the information contained therein undoubtedly contributes to a detailed follow-up of the work developed by the Department in the promotion and better understanding of the goals and mission of the United Nations in a wide variety of issues of high significance and interest of the international community. It also let us confirm the efforts made by the Department in that direction by developing new contents, employing new technologies and continue prioritizing traditional means of communication. This is even more commendable taking into account the limited resources mentioned by the Under Secretary-General in his statement.

Madam Chair,

My Delegation fully associates itself with what has been expressed by the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group and wishes to make the following comments in its national capacity.

We reiterate Argentina’s permanent support for the work of the United Nations Information Centres which are elements of key importance in disseminating the Organization’s message. We thus encourage the Department to continue supporting their work.

We express our satisfaction once again for the work done by the United Nations Information Centre in Buenos Aires which was established in 1948 and also serves the brother Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

The Centre is the “voice” in Spanish of the Department in accordance with the mandate to promote the principles, purposes and work of the United Nations in an accurate, objective and balanced way. In 2011 it has carried out many activities including panels, workshops and UN Models, among others.

The Centre in Buenos Aires also assists newspapers, radio and television journalists in providing news, writing articles and special reports on the work of United Nations and its specialized agencies. In this context, we commend the workshops for journalists it organizes, more recently on violence against women.

Madam Chair,

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 do support and promote its commitment to multilingualism. Multilingualism is an issue inherent to the very existence of the United Nations in view of its nature, scope and goals.

We are concerned that the Secretary-General’s report does not strikingly refer to this issue on this occasion, all the more since last year the report admitted that parity among the six official languages of the Organizations was still a pending goal and that the Department routinely emphasized the need for site content to be made available in all six official languages, as it is a requirement mandated by the General Assembly.

That is why we support the Department in looking for solutions to redress this serious delay.

We commend the efforts made by the Department, in coordination with the other Departments, so that the United Nations web site can be truly attractive, complete and multilingual. In this regard, we appreciate the update of several web pages on thematic issues and commemorative sites in the six official languages.

Madam Chair,

Argentina is happy once again to see that the United Nations web site in Spanish has been expanded over the last years, an evidence of which is the growing number of visits to it. In fact, after English, Spanish has been the second language of visits in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, visits in Spanish amounted to 24%, after English (49%) and before French (10 %) (A/AC.198/2011/3); between March and June 2011, Spanish represented 18% of unique visits after English (60%) and before French (8%) (A/66/261).

Nevertheless, the contents available in Spanish continue to be lower than that in the English web site. As a consequence, we reiterate once again that it is the responsibility of all the UN offices to provide information in the six official languages to enable the Department of Public Information to keep the different websites updated.

Madam Chair,

In this context, as far as the specific work of the DPI is concerned, it continues to be a true concern that there has been no progress at all on the dissemination of press releases which continue to be published in two languages only. This is inadmissible. Allow me to clarify that we are not referring here to working languages since the mandate on public dissemination through the UN webpage indicates that the necessary parity among six official languages must be fully respected.

My Delegation recalls that, during the 33rd Session of the Committee on Information, the Secretariat confirmed that there exists no mandate of this General Assembly deciding that press releases must only be disseminated in the working languages and not in the rest of the official languages. That is why we renew the need to comply with the existing mandate to disseminate the UN voice in its six official languages, granting the Department the necessary resources to that end.

Neither can we continue to condition the mandate on multilingualism to resource availability; this is not the appropriate forum to discuss this. We thus urge the Department to design, as soon as possible, a mechanism to settle this debt with those States which legitimately claim the use of all official languages, without discriminations, in accordance with the mandate of the General Assembly.

My Delegation is encouraged to know that it is not alone in this. The same concern has been conveyed by the G77 and China, the Rio Group and almost all the delegation that took the floor.

This is the reason why, as already suggested by Argentina, a mechanism should be designed to allow, as a first and immediate step, to revert this gap, for example by a scheme to rotate the second language to disseminate press releases, during predetermined time-frames and at regular intervals. Of course this should be implemented without resigning the objective to achieve the necessary resources to have press releases in the six languages at the same time in the near future.

Following this method, besides English, press releases could be disseminated in the rest of the five official languages, at regular intervals, determining a sort of “quota” to each language throughout the year and within the existing resources. Statistics available to the Department constitute an objective source of information to elaborate and guide decisions in this regards, at the same time that they confirm the trends and needs of the public.

Madam Chair,

As regards traditional media, Argentina commends the work done by the team of the United Nations Radio in Spanish and their important contribution to the success evidenced by the increase of the United Nations Radio and Television services as a whole. As it has already been said, we consider it very important to continue employing traditional media in conveying the message of the Organization as they constitute the primary means of communication in most developing countries.

We also celebrate the significant progress made in the process of digitization and urge the Department to continue with this task, while specially recognising 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, in a year of intensive communication activities as evidenced, besides the aspects already described, by the several campaigns and technical innovations, 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 disposition, willingness and openness to enquiries and requests from Member States in a framework of transparency, efficiency and high professionalism.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

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