2004.10.19: Agenda item 78: Questions Relating to Information

H.E. Ambassador Chun Yung-woo, Deputy Permanent Representative, at Fourth Committee of the General Assembly

Mr. Chairman,

I thank Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor for his report on the DPI’s activities and challenges. My delegation congratulates the Department of Public Information for the progress it has achieved under the dynamic and dedicated leadership of Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor in structural and operational reform of the Department as well as in bringing the UN closer to peoples of the world.

The Republic of Korea attaches great importance to the work of the DPI. The UN deserves a higher visibility and stronger support from Member States and the general public around the world. Timely and wide dissemination of information on the Organization’s activities and concerns to the peoples of the world is indispensable to enhancing the UN’s profile and mobilizing support for the work of the Organization. We welcome and support the DPI’s efforts to maximize the efficient use of its dwindling resources through rationalization and optimisation of its activities. We are pleased to note that the DPI has enhanced its performance and effectiveness despite severe resource constraints. This, in our view, is attributable to the new strategic direction embraced by the DPI, including a new client-oriented approach and greater system-wide coordination, as well as the wider use of new information and communications technologies, in particular the Internet.

Mr. Chairman,

In our view, one of the most important challenges that the DPI faces is to bridge the growing information gap between those countries whose native language happens to be one of the six official UN languages and the rest of the world. In this regard, while increased use of new information and communications technologies has strengthened the DPI’s capacity to carry out its mandate, it has also widened the information gap. We believe that more attention should be paid to the approximately sixty percent of the world population whose native language is not one of the six UN official languages. In developed countries where one of the UN official languages is widely used, one or two mouse clicks allows access to most UN documents. By contrast, in many other parts of the world, including the country I represent, access to UN documents in one’s own native language is beyond reach. For these countries and their peoples, great effort is required simply to obtain the UN Charter in one’s native language.

We believe that bridging this information gap is a more urgent task than achieving parity among the six official languages on the UN website. Although the Republic of Korea is the 11th largest financial contributor to the UN budget, the 75 million Korean people around the world are among the most disadvantaged in terms of accessibility to information on the activities of the Organization.

The Republic of Korea supports the DPI’s rationalization and reorganization of the UN information centre system. We welcome the integration of the network of information centres in Western Europe into the Regional UN Information Centre (RUNIC) in Brussels. As a matter of principle, we also support the extension of the rationalization process to other regions.

Nevertheless, rationalization is not an end in itself. It is simply a means to achieve the objective of making UN information accessible to the largest number of clients, using the same or fewer resources. The priorities of rationalization should be determined primarily on the basis of the demand for the services provided by UNICs and the availability of alternative means of access to UN information services. In developed countries where the Internet is one of the most widely used means of searching for information, and especially where one of the six official languages of the UN is widely used, the UN website will soon obviate the need for UNICs. Eventually UNICs will retain their added value only in countries where none of the six official UN languages is spoken or where Internet service still remains a rarity. The Republic of Korea remains conspicuously excluded from the UN information services. We hope that the rationalization of UNICs will proceed in such a way as to strengthen the Organization’s information outreach to those Member States currently remaining outside the scope of the field information capacity of the DPI.

Mr. Chairman,

Concerning the traditional means of communication, the Republic of Korea believes that the DPI, in its outreach activities, should pay more attention to populations whose native language is not one of the UN official languages. We are pleased to note that UN Radio produces weekly programs in eight non-official languages. However, as my delegation noted at the previous session of the Committee on Information, we believe that it is necessary to establish objective and sensible criteria for the selection of languages used in UN Radio broadcasts.

Mr. Chairman,

The Republic of Korea is encouraged by the significant progress that the DPI has made in its utilization of the Internet. The vast increase in access to the UN website demonstrates not only the value of the website itself, but also the efficacy of new information and communications technologies as a means of disseminating UN information. We believe that the expansion of the use of these technologies and of the content of the UN website is the most cost-effective way to deliver information about UN activities to the widest audience possible. In this regard, the Republic of Korea supports the efforts of the DPI to improve the UN website’s language capacity, webcasting, and searchability. We also underscore the need to provide timely and useful content on the UN website.

Mr. Chairman,

Turning now to the issue of parity among UN official languages on the UN website, we believe that the supply of information should be determined by the demand for information. Therefore, in our view, relative parity that takes into account the level of demand for each language’s website is more relevant than absolute parity. In this context, we believe that investing more resources in the more heavily accessed websites makes better sense than increasing services on websites with lesser demand.

Finally, the Republic of Korea underscores the importance of the DPI’s outreach activities to targeted audiences and groups that play important roles in shaping public perceptions about the UN. In this regard, we encourage and support the DPI’s continuous dialogue with the media in all parts of the world, its engagement with NGOs, academia, and civil society, and its partnerships with other members of the UN family and Member States.

In concluding, my delegation pays tribute to all of the staff of the DPI for their dedication and professionalism in carrying out their mission.

Thank you.