At a hand-over ceremony on Wednesday, 13 July 2005 , the Government of Japan donated more than 30,000 digitized documents to the United Nations. These documents represent a significant contribution to the efforts of the Department of Public Information (DPI) to make all official UN documents available on-line through the Official Document System (ODS), the UN’s full-text web-based database.
The ceremony was held at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, where Ambassador Shinichi Kitaoka, Japan ’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, presented the digitized documents on CDs to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
The documents including material from the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council., date back from as early as 1962, and were available in print only.
The Government of Japan hopes that this donation of documents in electronic format will not only increase the volume of material on the ODS, but also provide free access to older UN documents to people around the world. According to the United Nations, the most significant material should be fully accessible by the end of 2006.
Remarks by Ambassador Shinichi Kitaoka
I am very pleased to be with you at the official handover ceremony for the digitized UN documents file made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for inclusion in the Official Document System of the United Nations. At the outset, I would like to thank the staff of the Dag Hammarskjold Library for arranging this delightful ceremony.
Let me touch very briefly upon the chain of events leading to the realization of this donation of documents. The Japanese Foreign Ministry's Division of UN Administration has a subsidiary one-person unit charged with the acquisition and collection of UN documents. The documents being deposited today are the result of several years of dedicated work on the part of this unit, called the "UN Documentation Unit". The successive staff members of the unit created these files for the use of the Ministry, but until now they had remained unused as files on the unit's computer.
Last February, the director of the UNIC in Tokyo, Mr. Akio Nomura, became aware of the existence of this hidden treasure and asked the Ministry to use it for a retrospective expansion of the Official Document System. I feel certain that Mr. Nomura must be very proud of this achievement, and am also glad that the results of the Unit's long and laborious work are now seeing the light of day in the UN.
These digitized files, stored on 38 CDs, contain more than 30,000 documents and include documents of the UN's three main bodies, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, dating from the 1970s and 1980s.
We are aware that the Department of Public Information, under the leadership of Under-Secretary-General Mr. Shashi Tharoor, has taken the lead in striving for reform in the Secretariat. Among the various improvements made to date, I believe that quite a few people feel that the UN website has improved substantially. I am pleased to note that, since last December, access to the Official Document System has been provided free to the public through its integration with the UN website, which remarkably recorded more than 2.3 billion hits during 2004.
We are pleased to note that DPI has been so successful in publicizing the activities of the UN among people all around the world. As this document donation shows, Japan, for its part, also intends to continue to work in cooperation with the UN Secretariat and the Member States to strengthen and improve UN public information activities.
Remarks by USG Tharoor
In his remarks, USG Tharoor noted that DPI was constantly seeking ways to provide access to information on the work of the UN to a global audience. "One recent innovation that has contributed greatly to this is the provision of free access to the public to the UN’s Official Document System – the ODS". Through this system, researchers, students and interested people the world over can access, via the web, thousands of UN documents in the six official UN languages. This system has assumed even greater importance as part of the renewal of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, which is moving from a collection based resource, to a connection based resource.
"The ODS is a remarkable tool that allows people from Nagoya to New York to Nairobi to be up-to-date -- but if one is seeking information not on the present but on the past, the story is not quite so straightforward. For much of the UN’s history, important documents were not kept in digital form, for the simple reason that it was pens and typewriters and typesetters that were used to draft these documents, not computers" observed USG Tharoor.
He noted that the laborious task undertaken by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, to digitize the UN’s historical documents and make them available on the ODS, had been advanced by this donation as a result of the generosity and goodwill of the people and the Government of Japan. "Japan has a well-deserved reputation as a leader and an innovator in the field of technology, so it will come as no surprise to many to learn that Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has chosen to aid the process of bringing the UN into the 21st century by digitizing some 30,000 United Nations documents dating back to 1962".