Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations Committee on Information: General Debate

New York, 02/09/2020 - 21:52, UNIQUE ID: 200908_13
Statements on behalf of the EU

2 September 2020, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Sébastien Brabant, Head of Coordination, Press and Information Section, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Committee on Information 42nd Session General Debate

 - As delivered -

 

Mr. Chair, Madam Under-Secretary-General, distinguished colleagues,

 

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

 

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

 

Let me start by thanking you for convening this General Debate, albeit in a virtual format and at an unusual period of the year. The crisis that the world is experiencing has affected all aspects of our lives, and the work of the UN is no exception.

 

In this context, I wish to thank USG Melissa Fleming and the entire Department of Global Communications for the launch of the 2020 Global Communications Strategy – the first-ever such strategy for the UN – despite (and obviously coloured by) the COVID-19 pandemic. This document is groundbreaking because it aims not only at informing about the state of the world and promoting the work of the United Nations to the global audience, but also at motivating and empowering people to take action. It comes in a very special year, the 75th Anniversary of the UN, a unique opportunity to show how the Organisation is making the world a better place for all citizens. We support the Department’s choice to give priority to the SDGs, climate change and gender equality, while supporting the Secretary-General’s broader transformative agenda, as well as his appeals and policy briefs related to COVID-19. You can count on the European Union's continued support.

 

We recognize that these extraordinary times often require different methods of work and flexibility, and that the normal time period and work space for the COI resolution had to be postponed from the spring. Nevertheless, we wish to underline that it would have made for a much smoother exercise had we been given more advance notice about our current, virtual session, thereby allowing all interested colleagues to participate both in the negotiation and in the General Debate. We hope this can be avoided in the future.   

 

Madame la Secrétaire-Générale adjointe,

 

En cette époque de défis toujours plus grands - à la fois pour le système multilatéral et pour une information de qualité pour les citoyens - nous apprécions grandement vos efforts visant à rendre le Département plus agile et moderne dans ses opérations, en utilisant toute la palette d’outils à sa disposition – médias traditionnels, médias sociaux et autres activités de sensibilisation –, en s'engageant aussi de plus en plus avec l’ensemble de ses partenaires, y compris la société civile, et se concentrant sur la jeunesse. Nous nous félicitons également des perspectives de création de la nouvelle cellule de communication de crise annoncée dans la stratégie de communication et attendons plus d’informations de la part du DCG sur ses projets à cet égard.

 

Nous souhaitons particulièrement souligner la responsabilité du Département de la communication globale envers le multilinguisme. Ce dernier n’est pas seulement une valeur fondamentale de l'ONU, il est la condition même de la transmission des messages des Nations unies, y compris ceux qui permettent de sauver des vies, ainsi que de la transparence indispensable à un système multilatéral équilibré, en lequel les citoyens ont confiance. A cet égard, si nous regrettons que la pandémie ait affecté significativement le respect du multilinguisme tant dans le travail des différents organes que dans la communication publique, nous saluons le rétablissement du multilinguisme pour cette séance et appelons à ce que toute l’attention soit portée afin d’assurer, à l’avenir, un traitement parfaitement équitable de toutes les langues officielles des Nations unies dans l’ensemble des activités de l’Organisation, en éliminant les disparités entre l’utilisation de l’anglais et des autres langues officielles.

 

Señor Presidente,

 

Agradecemos a la Secretaría la presentación de los tres informes del Secretario General, que hemos leído con sumo interés, a pesar incluso de que el contexto comunicacional al que hacen referencia se ha visto visiblemente afectado por la pandemia.

 

En el ámbito de las prioridades estratégicas y de las campañas de comunicación, apoyamos el enfoque que con éxito se viene realizando en lo referido al Desarrollo Sostenible y al Cambio Climático, especialmente en lo relativo a abogar por una acción acelerada en los ODS a nivel global, nacional y local, subrayando la necesidad urgente de una mayor ambición. Como usted sabe, ello encaja bien con la agenda política doméstica de la UE, incluyendo el Pacto Verde Europeo. Vemos además otras muchas potenciales sinergias en 2020 y en años posteriores en la promoción de estos objetivos clave. De igual modo, apreciamos gratamente la prioridad otorgada a los Derechos Humanos y a la Igualdad de Género en la estrategia y acciones del Departamento de Comunicación Global, entre otros temas de importancia.

 

Related to the above, and as part of the UN reform agenda, which we supported in full, the realignment in UN field operations in 2019 to support resident coordinators has put the DGC in a better position to communicate the global priorities to local audiences, and to bring the work of UN country teams to a worldwide audience through its platforms and networks. We also fully subscribe to the DGC’s and the UN information centres’ priority of engaging youth, not least through Model UN programs. The increased cooperation with UN entities and other stakeholders at country level has played a crucial role, especially since the start of the pandemic, when dissemination of timely, targeted and accurate information to the local public has been absolutely essential. More generally, implementation of all strands of UN reform must remain a communication priority, showing how the Organization strives to become “fit for purpose” and to fulfill its mandates.

 

As regards the tools of communication, we commend the successful revamping of the UN website and the release of the new home page in the six official languages, and applaud that the increased number of users stay on the site longer and delve more deeply into the site’s more user-friendly structure.  Additionally, the UN News portal showed exponential growth, showing that there is demand for the UN as a source of news in the current media environment. On social media, there is continued, impressive growth in the UN’s major platforms (counting all UN corporate accounts), in particular Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, showing that the UN is doing well in these mediums, in all six official languages as well. We congratulate the DGC on these successes and encourage it to increase the impact of these services in an equitable manner in all official languages. The UN webcast service continued to reach wide and diverse audiences, and this will clearly play an even greater role in terms of reaching audiences going forward during the pandemic. In this regard, we note that young people remain the most active followers of the UN online presence, and we welcome the continued emphasis that the Department places on engaging youth through various initiatives. Finally, we recognize and underline the importance of the wide range of outreach activities with global civil society and its representatives, and emphasize the need for partnerships with CSOs and the private sector to realize – and communicate on – the SDGs.    

 

We continue to support the UN initiatives in the digital arena, which in recent months has proved even more central to our daily lives. The digital divide is the new face of inequality and we must support Internet connectivity for all. The EU is also convinced that digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, must remain human-centred, and that values such as human rights, including the right to privacy, democracy, good governance, accountability and the rule of law must be protected offline as well as online. Here too, a multi-stakeholder model remains key for digital cooperation, especially including civil society, human rights defenders and the private sector (as well as digital inclusion); the UN has a central role to play in this effort.

 

In this spirit, we praise the recent efforts of the DGC to counter the “infodemic” -- the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation -- notably through the Verified campaign announced by the Secretary-General in April 2020. With the concept of “digital first responders” against the lies, hate and harmful information that have sadly accompanied the virus, the UN system is undertaking robust efforts to promote reliable information. We also further encourage the partnerships with social media platforms, which have a major responsibility in protecting citizens. This is of course a complex task, because it requires addressing  new threats while  upholding the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of the press, which are all essential in any free and pluralist society, as well as necessary for accurate, reliable reporting. We praise the Secretary-General’s determination to act, and we stand ready to work together with the DGC in tackling these areas of growing concern.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

As you are well aware, the EU and its Member States are not only leading supporters of the UN system, but they also share the same agenda. In these uncertain times, you can count on our continued commitment in mobilizing our resources for our common objectives – to the benefit of our citizens.

 

Thank you for your attention.

 

*  *  *

 

[full English version]

 

 

Mr. Chair, Madam Under-Secretary-General, distinguished colleagues,

 

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

 

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

 

Let me start by thanking you for convening this General Debate, albeit in a virtual format and at an unusual period of the year. The crisis that the world is experiencing has affected all aspects of our lives, and the work of the UN is no exception.

 

In this context, I wish to thank USG Melissa Fleming and the entire Department of Global Communications for the launch of the 2020 Global Communications Strategy – the first-ever such strategy for the UN – despite (and obviously coloured by) the COVID-19 pandemic. This document is groundbreaking because it aims not only at informing about the state of the world and promoting the work of the United Nations to the global audience, but also at motivating and empowering people to take action. It comes in a very special year, the 75th Anniversary of the UN, a unique opportunity to show how the Organisation is making the world a better place for all citizens. We support the Department’s choice to give priority to the SDGs, climate change and gender equality, while supporting the Secretary-General’s broader transformative agenda, as well as his appeals and policy briefs related to COVID-19. You can count on the European Union's continued support.

 

We recognize that these extraordinary times often require different methods of work and flexibility, and that the normal time period and work space for the COI resolution had to be postponed from the spring. Nevertheless, we wish to underline that it would have made for a much smoother exercise had we been given more advance notice about our current, virtual session, thereby allowing all interested colleagues to participate both in the negotiation and in the General Debate. We hope this can be avoided in the future.  

 

Madam Under-Secretary-General,

 

At a time of ever greater challenges -- both to the multilateral system and to quality information for citizens -- we highly value your efforts aimed at making the Department more agile and modern in its operations, through the use of the diverse tools available across traditional media, social media and other forms of outreach, also engaging increasingly with all stakeholders, including civil society, and focusing on young people. We also welcome the prospects of the creation of the new crisis communication cell announced in the Communications Strategy, and look forward to hearing more information from the DGC about these plans.

 

We particularly wish to underline the responsibility of the Department of Global Communications with respect to multilingualism. This is not just a fundamental value of the UN, it is the very condition of the transmission of the UN messages – including those which can save lives – as well as of the transparency of a balanced multilateral system, which enjoys the trust of our citizens. In this respect, while we regret that the pandemic has impacted multilingualism negatively both within the work of UN bodies and in the public communications, we welcome the restoration of multilingualism for this session and call for every attention to be paid in order to ensure, in the future, the full and equitable treatment of all the official languages of the United Nations in all the activities of the Organisation, by eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the use of the five other official languages.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

We thank the Secretariat for the three SG reports, which we have read with great interest, even if the communications environment they detail has been significantly altered by the pandemic. 

 

In terms of strategic priorities and communications campaigns, we support the successful approach taken with regard to sustainable development and climate change, especially the advocacy for accelerated action on the SDGs at the global, national and local levels, highlighting the urgent need for increased ambition. As you may know, this dovetails well with the EU’s policy agenda at home, including the European Green Deal, and we see many potential synergies in 2020 and beyond in promoting these crucial objectives. We also greatly appreciate the priority given to human rights and gender equality in the DGC’s strategy and actions, among other important themes.

 

Related to the above, and as part of the UN reform agenda, which we supported in full, the realignment in UN field operations in 2019 to support resident coordinators has put the DGC in a better position to communicate the global priorities to local audiences, and to bring the work of UN country teams to a worldwide audience through its platforms and networks. We also fully subscribe to the DGC’s and the UN information centres’ priority of engaging youth, not least through Model UN programs. The increased cooperation with UN entities and other stakeholders at country level has played a crucial role, especially since the start of the pandemic, when dissemination of timely, targeted and accurate information to the local public has been absolutely essential. More generally, implementation of all strands of UN reform must remain a communication priority, showing how the Organization strives to become “fit for purpose” and to fulfill its mandates.

 

As regards the tools of communication, we commend the successful revamping of the UN website and the release of the new home page in the six official languages, and applaud that the increased number of users stay on the site longer and delve more deeply into the site’s more user-friendly structure.  Additionally, the UN News portal showed exponential growth, showing that there is demand for the UN as a source of news in the current media environment. On social media, there is continued, impressive growth in the UN’s major platforms (counting all UN corporate accounts), in particular Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, showing that the UN is doing well in these mediums, in all six official languages as well. We congratulate the DGC on these successes and encourage it to increase the impact of these services in an equitable manner in all official languages. The UN webcast service continued to reach wide and diverse audiences, and this will clearly play an even greater role in terms of reaching audiences going forward during the pandemic. In this regard, we note that young people remain the most active followers of the UN online presence, and we welcome the continued emphasis that the Department places on engaging youth through various initiatives. Finally, we recognize and underline the importance of the wide range of outreach activities with global civil society and its representatives, and emphasize the need for partnerships with CSOs and the private sector to realize – and communicate on – the SDGs.    

 

We continue to support the UN initiatives in the digital arena, which in recent months has proved even more central to our daily lives. The digital divide is the new face of inequality and we must support Internet connectivity for all. The EU is also convinced that digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, must remain human-centred, and that values such as human rights, including the right to privacy, democracy, good governance, accountability and the rule of law must be protected offline as well as online. Here too, a multi-stakeholder model remains key for digital cooperation, especially including civil society, human rights defenders and the private sector (as well as digital inclusion); the UN has a central role to play in this effort.

 

In this spirit, we praise the recent efforts of the DGC to counter the “infodemic” -- the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation -- notably through the Verified campaign announced by the Secretary-General in April 2020. With the concept of “digital first responders” against the lies, hate and harmful information that have sadly accompanied the virus, the UN system is undertaking robust efforts to promote reliable information. We also further encourage the partnerships with social media platforms, which have a major responsibility in protecting citizens. This is of course a complex task, because it requires addressing  new threats while  upholding the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of the press, which are all essential in any free and pluralist society, as well as necessary for accurate, reliable reporting. We praise the Secretary-General’s determination to act, and we stand ready to work together with the DGC in tackling these areas of growing concern.

 

Mr. Chair,

 

As you are well aware, the EU and its Member States are not only leading supporters of the UN system, but they also share the same agenda. In these uncertain times, you can count on our continued commitment in mobilizing our resources for our common objectives – to the benefit of our citizens.

 

Thank you for your attention.

 


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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