Fourth Committee Approves 2 Draft Resolutions as It Concludes Consideration of Questions Relating to Information

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved two draft resolutions today as it concluded its general debate on questions relating to information.

First, the Committee took up draft resolution A � titled Information in the service of humanity and contained in the report on the fortieth session of the Committee on Information (document A/73/21) � approving it without a vote. By its terms, the General Assembly urges all countries and organizations concerned to ensure the free and effective performance of journalists’ professional tasks and condemns resolutely all attacks against them.

By other terms of the text, the Assembly further urges States and organizations to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries, as well as cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communications capacities and to improve the media infrastructure, especially in the areas of training and dissemination of information.

Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolution B, United Nations public information policies and activities, contained in the same report (document A/73/21). By its terms, the Assembly underlines that reform of the Department of Public Information (DPI) should consider the priorities set out by the Committee on Information and the importance of carrying out appropriate consultations with Member States. Further, it emphasizes that the Department should maintain and improve its activities in the areas of special interest to developing countries where DPI’s activities should contribute to bridging the existing gap between the developing and developed countries in the crucial field of public information and communications.

By the terms of one operative paragraph, the assembly encourages the Department to engage in a comprehensive promotional campaign in preparation for the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change � to be held in Katowice, Poland, from 2 to 14 December 2018 � and the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, on 10 and 11 December 2018.

Further by the text, the Assembly underlines the importance of DPI’s integration of multilingualism into the planning and implementation of promotional campaigns. It also encourages the Department to develop partnerships with the private sector and relevant organizations that promote the official United Nations languages in order to promote the Organization’s activities in a cost-neutral manner.

The Assembly stresses, by further terms, the importance of enhancing the Department’s public information capacity in the field of peacekeeping operations and special political missions, as well as its role in selecting public information staff for United Nations peacekeeping operations or missions.

Further by the text, the Assembly notes with concern that the multilingual development and enrichment of the United Nations website in certain official languages has improved at a much slower rate than expected, and urges the Department to advance actions to achieve full parity among the six official languages on the website.

Delivering statements were representatives of Andorra, Romania, Morocco, Brazil, Algeria, Bangladesh, Sudan and the United States.

Also speaking today were observers for the State of Palestine and the International Organization of La Francophonie.

Representatives of Morocco, Myanmar and Algeria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 23 October, to begin its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

General Debate

ADRIA VERGES ALEIX (Andorra), associating himself with the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, welcomed that group’s high-level expertise and contributions to the integration of multilingualism at the United Nations. While emphasizing that the Organization must not abandon traditional media like radio and television, he said it must also continue to develop a modern media outreach approach that will appeal to young people. Further highlighting the importance of multilingualism, he encouraged the Department to prioritize parity among all six official United Nations languages.

SIMONA FLOREA (Romania), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, welcomed the contributions by the International Organization of La Francophonie that reflect the development of an integrated policy on multilingualism at the United Nations, calling for that integration to be reflected in the daily information and communications work of the Secretariat.

YASSER HALFAOUI (Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in New York, welcomed the Department’s professionalism and neutrality, while calling for stronger coverage of the Palestine question. He noted that, in a difficult global context, the Secretary-General has initiated a number of necessary reforms to adapt the Organization’s response to challenges, and it is important to offer as much information as possible on such issues. As a troop-contributing country, he continued, Morocco also appreciates DPI’s efforts to coordinate with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in bringing attention to its work. Turning to sustainable development, he emphasized the vital importance of maintaining focus, calling on the Department to highlight the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Describing migration as the beacon topic for 2018, he noted that Member States will adopt the Global Compact on Migration in Marrakesh in December, welcoming in that regard the importance that the Department has accorded that event in order to manage logistics and ensure appropriate media coverage. The United Nations information centre in Rabat is also focusing on the upcoming conference, he added.

ANDRE MACIEL (Brazil) said the Department should continue to disseminate the Organization’s ideals and activities in as many languages as possible, considering the linguistic diversity among countries and their varying degrees of digital development. DPI should also continue to use a combination of traditional means of communication � such as radio, television and printed materials � as well as new Internet-based media, noting that access to the Internet is still limited in developing countries while access to radio is available to most households. Encouraging the Department to reinforce its multilingual approach by presenting its products in Portuguese, Bengali, Hindi and Kiswahili, he pointed out that Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. Brazil is a firm supporter of UN News Portuguese, he added, noting that its audience is only smaller than that of its English- and Spanish-language counterparts. Brazil also supports United Nations information centres, in particular those in Rio de Janeiro, Brussels and Luanda, which reach Portuguese-speaking audiences.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it is unacceptable that discrepancies continue to be observed in the Department’s coverage of all committees, including in the titles of its press releases, which are partial and subjective. He requested that the Under-Secretary-General ensure that misinformation is avoided in that disregard and further requested that those who write press releases faithfully report committee proceedings. Welcoming DPI’s publicizing of the priorities of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he called upon the Department to expand its activities in disseminating information related to the Non-Self-Governing Territories, reiterating his delegation’s request that the report on the 1975 visit to Western Sahara by the Special Committee on Decolonization be made available on the United Nations website. He went on to underline the need for DPI to ensure wide media coverage of the United Nations system while expressing concern over the potential for politicizing public information and for inappropriate use of information and communications technology to interfere in the internal affairs of States.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it is critical that the world receives credible and verifiable information about the Organization’s work. Given the tendency of misinformation campaigns to distort messages, the impartiality of news disseminated by the United Nations is to be appreciated. Noting that his country is hosting more than 1 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, he requested that DPI continue its advocacy of humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya people and for the restoration of their rights. Taking note of the Department’s work in promoting multilingualism, he called attention to International Mother Language Day, observed in February. He also called upon the Department to publicize the fact that Bangladesh and other least developed countries have fulfilled the criteria for graduation from that category.

HUSNI MUSTAFA YAGOUB HUSNI (Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, described the United Nations as an expression of the will of different peoples and regions, encompassing cultural, social and linguistic diversity. Promoting multilingualism, therefore, is important to realizing the Organization’s objectives and facilitating the spreading of its message. Multilingualism will also help to promote a culture of peace and tolerance as well as implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said. Peacekeeping operations and peacebuilding efforts through special political missions and country teams require significant information support, he noted, emphasizing the need to challenge misinformation attempts while expressing support for the Department’s efforts in that regard.

SAHAR SALEM, observer for the State of Palestine, associated herself with the Group of 77 and China. He commended DPI’s activities with the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine, including by organizing the annual International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East. Expressing gratitude for media development assistance through the Department’s annual training programme for young Palestinian journalists, she emphasized that attacks against journalists and human rights activists are not acceptable. Recalling that Israel’s Permanent Representative insulted the head of an Israeli non-governmental organization last week, she said that individual is not a traitor but a hero who speaks truth to power.

PATRICIA HERDT, International Organization of La Francophonie, associated herself with the Group of Francophone Ambassadors and expressed support for efforts to integrate multilingualism into the United Nations Organization, an effort that is especially vital because multilateralism is in question today. It is important to prioritize multilingualism particularly because the Organization is at the threshold of a reform overhaul, she said, adding that the ability to implement effective multilingualism is a survival strategy for the United Nations. Content must not be simply translated into multiple languages, but created in multiple languages, thereby reflecting different cultural viewpoints, she stressed.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee then took up draft resolutions A and B � respectively titled Information in the service of humanity and United Nations public information policies and activities � contained in the report on the fortieth session of the Committee on Information covering the period 1 to 11 May 2018 (document A/73/21).

DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH SR. (Liberia), Committee Chair, noted that no programme budgetary implications arise from the two texts.

Acting without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution Information in the service of humanity.

It then approved the text United Nations public information policies and activities, also without a vote.

The representative of the United States said her delegation strongly supports freedom of expression for members of the press, international cooperation to remove barriers to communication, and facilitating transparency in that regard. However, the United States disassociates itself from operative paragraph 49 of the text United Nations public information policies and activities, she said, explaining that her delegation has not participated in discussions on � and will not endorse � the Global Compact on Migration. The United States, therefore, cannot support United Nations efforts in that context, including the DPI campaign to promote the Compact and prejudice the views of Member States on it.

Right of Reply

The representative of Morocco, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Algeria has tried to politicize the work of the Special Committee on Decolonization, attaching outsize importance to the Sahara question as if it is the only one under consideration by the Fourth Committee. Algeria only speaks about self-determination when Western Sahara is under consideration, he said. Now, the Algerian delegation is attempting, by trying to intimidate the Secretariat, to unearth a report that is more than 30 years old and has no relevant value since Morocco has recovered the Territory, as recognized by the General Assembly. Last week, many delegations expressed support for Morocco’s efforts to resolve the Sahara question, he recalled, urging his counterpart from Algeria to respect the Department’s neutral work.

The representative of Myanmar expressed disappointment that his counterpart from Bangladesh brought up the issue of Rakhine State, emphasizing that the subject is off-topic. The Government of Myanmar is working to resolve the problems in that region, he said, recalling the formation of an advisory commission that will provide recommendations on bringing peace and stability to the state. Myanmar has signed three bilateral agreements with Bangladesh to address the issue and is ready to receive verified returnees, he said, calling on the neighbouring State to fulfil its own commitments in that regard. Recalling that the people who have already returned to Myanmar did so of their own volition, he said they were not sent by Bangladesh. In closing, he said Myanmar is working towards a holistic approach in seeking a resolution of the situation in Rakhine State.

The representative of Algeria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to Morocco, said the legal framework must be respected in terms of the Committee’s work. Regarding Morocco’s assertion that Algeria is politicizing the Committee’s work, he referred to disinformation and discordance in the Department’s press releases, noting that some of the information contained therein violates the principle of neutrality that should characterize that materials. The Secretariat has recognized the mistakes, he recalled. Moreover, reports on other Non-Self-Governing Territories can be found on the website, he said, asking why the report to which he referred is not available. He also sought an explanation for the repetition of such errors, underlining that the Secretariat, not Morocco’s delegate, must provide the answers to his questions. Responding to accusations of opportunism against his delegation, he pointed out that Algeria’s statement mentioned all the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Noting that the relevant resolutions on the question of Western Sahara call for self-determination for the Territory’s people, he recalled that 48 petitioners appearing before the Committee also spoke in favour of self-determination, a right under international law. Partiality must be corrected when it appears, he added.

The representative of Morocco said the Moroccan Sahara will always remain the Moroccan Sahara, whether Algeria likes that or not. He asked Algeria’s delegate whether he has raised any issues before the Fourth Committee other than Western Sahara. Moreover, more petitioners spoke in support of Morocco’s autonomy proposal, he noted, recalling that they also condemned massive human right violations committed in the Tindouf camps and citing recent relevant reports. Describing the Territory’s history, he quoted from a report of the Secretary General in that context, adding that no recent United Nations resolution mentions the referendum.

The representative of Algeria said Morocco always refers to a separatist group in the context of Western Sahara, but it is the Territory’s people who are aspiring to self-determination. Regarding their legitimate rights, Algeria is an observer country in the matter and thus will be present at the Geneva round table, he said, emphasizing that Algeria defends the principle of self-determination embodied in the United Nations Charter. He said Algeria speaks about Western Sahara because the Territory’s population took refuge in his country, noting that 173,000 refugees live in the Tindouf camps, according to confidential unpublished reports by a Moroccan newspaper.

Source: United Nation