UN combines new and traditional media to inform public, Assembly panel told

UN combines new and traditional media to inform public, Assembly panel told

Shashi Tharoor
Culture and Education

A senior United Nations official in charge of UN information activities pledged today to harness the power of the latest advances in communications technology, including the Internet, while making full use of traditional media in providing services to developing countries.

"We can now provide news of the Organization to every corner of the world in an instant," Shashi Tharoor, the Interim Head of the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), told the Committee on Information, a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly dealing with media and communications issues, which opened today its annual session at UN Headquarters. Mr. Tharoor added that DPI's embrace of new technology would become even more critical to the Department's future success.

Pledging to strengthen the UN web site as a major communications tool, he set as an overall goal "an infrastructure capable of developing instantaneous transmission of text, image and voice messages from the Organization to the world."

At the same time, Mr. Tharoor stressed that "our increased use of electronic media will not be at the expense of the traditional means of dissemination." In particular, he said the UN's print publications would remain vital and multilingual, and its library resources kept up to date.

Acknowledging that needs vary from country to country, Mr. Tharoor said the UN information centres would continue using "creative and diversified" means of outreach, tailored to local needs.

"We will draw from the past to document and disseminate accurate and timely information about United Nations achievements, experiences and lessons learned," Mr. Tharoor told the Committee, which has before it a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the reorientation of UN activities in the field of public information and communications. "At the same time, we will reflect the present, to provide timely news and spread the words and images of the Organization using the best available technology."

Mr. Tharoor said the communications revolution had opened up "enormous possibilities" for DPI, especially in terms of providing the developing world with immediate access to coverage of the UN. He pointed to daily 15-minute news broadcasts now available on hundreds of radio stations and the UN News Centre on the web as central aspects of this endeavour. In addition, he highlighted the value of the "UN Works" campaign, which demonstrates how the Organization is helping to solve problems around the world.

Looking to the future, Mr. Tharoor anticipated the launch of a regionally oriented service carrying UN news to journalists in every part of the world. He added that the Department had also initiated a programme, with financial support from Japan, to provide high-level briefings to journalists from developing countries.

In the future, he said, DPI would aim to "foster an awareness of the global challenges to the peace and well-being of our world, as well as to the role the United Nations can play in making it a better place for the generations to come."