I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland+ and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Allow me to start by welcoming the new Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and Head of the Department of Public Information (DPI), Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal, and thanking him for his statement. We commend the continued efforts of the Department of Public Information in communicating the ideals and work of the United Nations to the widest possible audience in a manner that is accessible and understandable to all.
Since the spring session of the Committee on Information, the Department of Public Information has continued to pursue its communications priorities for 2012. One particularly noteworthy example was the public outreach campaign for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (the Rio Conference), which successfully mobilized large-scale awareness and participation, in particular through UN social media platforms. The network of UN Information Centres also played a key role in multiplying the impact of that effort. We encourage even more collaboration by UN Information Centres with local partners and their systematic engagement in all UN campaigns as a means to promote a strong and clear UN voice and to spread the ownership of its values and principles.
Looking ahead, we support DPI’s planned focus on priority areas for the Organization, such as the process of elaborating a development agenda beyond 2015, in which the use of social media platforms will again be instrumental to ensure the participation of the broadest spectrum of stakeholders. We also encourage the new USG to do his part to support the Secretary-General’s drive to “deliver more and better results, enhance accountability and improve coherence”.
Cooperation with other UN departments, especially those who bring us voices from the field, such as DPKO, DPA and DFS, is another area that calls for continued attention. In this regard, we commend the special focus by DPI and its UN news centre on issues that require special coverage, such as the monitoring of the situation in Syria or in the Sahel.
New information and communication technologies and social media are a powerful means of enabling citizens and interested groups to disseminate information and views, spread awareness, organise action and put pressure on decision-makers. The UN website is becoming the most important tool to inform citizens worldwide about UN activities in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly and accessible way. We fully support the SG efforts to maximize the use of new technologies and improve the website’s organization and user-friendliness. We also encourage further initiatives aimed at promoting the reduction of paper consumption, such as the “Papersmart” initiative during the Rio Conference.
In all its activities, the Department of Public Information should serve and be guided by the UN’s purposes and principles. In its annual resolution on “Questions relating to Information”, the GA reaffirmed its commitment to the principles set in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as the principles of the independence, pluralism and diversity of the media. These principles remain all the more legitimate in the digital age. We are pleased to note that this was also confirmed by the UN Human Rights Council in the recent resolution 20/8 on enjoyment of human rights, in particular freedom of expression, on the Internet. Freedom of expression helps promote peace, spur sustainable development and alleviate poverty. Freedom of expression makes governments more responsive. That is why the GA and, similarly, the Human Rights Council, in its most recent resolution 21/12 on Safety of Journalists, have repeatedly urged all member states to ensure that journalists can perform their tasks freely and effectively. Sadly, far too many journalists worldwide continue to be censored, jailed, kidnapped or killed for their work. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 943 journalists have been killed since 1992, and 48 of these in 2012 alone, 20 of them in Syria. No effort should be spared to put an end to these tragic events.
Last but not least, allow me to reiterate the importance that the European Union and its Member States attach to multilingualism. Aside from the 23 official EU languages, many regional and minority languages are spoken in Europe. The EU and its Member States strive to protect this linguistic diversity and promote the learning of languages.
Multilingualism is a fundamental feature of multilateralism. But it is also a matter of accountability, transparency, ownership and, eventually, sustainability of the action carried out by the Organization. Cooperation with the regional and local levels and partnerships with academic institutions and civil society organizations have already proven an efficient way to increase the number of web-pages and online contents available in all six official UN languages. We should explore more of this kind of cooperation to facilitate multilingual access to information about the UN and its work. Together with multilingualism, accessibility should also be facilitated, specifically providing information on mobile platforms for citizens without reliable broadband access.
The EU and its Member States remain committed to providing the best possible guidance to DPI in its task of supporting the UN’s core purposes of promoting peace and security, development and human rights in an effective and cost-neutral manner. Without neglecting the use of the traditional media, including radio and TV, we believe that enhanced use of the power of new media and digital platforms offers the largest potential to ensure that the UN continues expanding its outreach to new audiences.
Thank you very much.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland continues to be a member of EFTA and the European Economic Area.