AMBASSADOR FUMIKO SAIGA
Representative of Japan
At the 25th Meeting of the Committee on Information
30 April 2003
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you, Ambassador Chowdhury, on your assumption of the Chairmanship. I am confident that under your guidance our work at this session will be most productive. You may rest assured that my delegation will give you and the other members of the Bureau its full support throughout the course of this session.
I wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, for the very comprehensive and policy-oriented presentation that he delivered on Monday. I am also pleased to note that Secretary-General Annan’s report to this Committee is in line with resolution 57/300 of last December entitled "Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change". We have thus been provided with a very useful basis for our deliberations in this Committee.
Let me begin by offering Japan's views and expectations with respect to the Secretary-General's reform and reinforcement proposal regarding UN activities in the field of public information and communications.
First, we would encourage the Secretary-General to expeditiously implement those elements of reform that are under his sole authority, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and decisions already adopted. In this regard, Japan appreciates the concrete initiatives taken in recent months concerning the restructuring of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the improvement of the UN library services.
Second, once reform measures are introduced, we, the Member States, should follow up the implementation process and assess the results in an appropriate and timely manner.
Permit me now to present Japan's views on several areas covered in the Secretary General’s reports.
First, with regard to the UN Information Centres, we believe the concept of regional hubs is a valid one from the viewpoint of improving efficiency and cutting expenses. At the same time, in considering a system of regional hubs, it is important to weigh what would be lost by closing existing UNICs against the merits that would be created through the reinforced activities.
In this connection, I would like to point out the crucial role UNIC in Tokyo plays in furthering public understanding and appreciation among the Japanese people of UN activities. Because the UN Headquarters web site does not provide information in Japanese, Tokyo UNIC’s web site as well as the materials published and events organized by the UNIC in Tokyo are valuable sources of information about the UN for Japanese people.
Japan is the largest contributor, after the United States, to the UN regular budget, and it is a major financial contributor to many organizations within the UN system. This is possible only with the understanding and support of the Japanese taxpayers. The public information role UNIC Tokyo is playing is thus also of great significance to the UN itself.
The importance Japan attaches to UNIC Tokyo is reflected in the assistance it extends to the DPI for the public information activities of the Centre. In recent years it has made annual contributions of approximately 200,000 dollars for the activities of the Centre. Moreover, Japan’s assistance to the DPI over the past five years, including its support for UNIC Tokyo and for the DPI Training Programme for Broadcasters and Journalists from Developing Countries, amounts to well over 2 million dollars. The Japanese Government intends to continue assisting these worthwhile project.
I would like to note that it is not only the element of rent-free premises, but also the overall support of a host Government that should be reflected in the "Guidelines and criteria for the regionalization of United Nations information centres" annexed to the Secretary General’s report (A/AC.198/2003/2). My delegation thus proposes amending the draft "Guidelines and criteria" accordingly.
Second, I wish to touch upon the issue of languages.
As stated in General Assembly resolution 57/130, "information in the local languages has the strongest impact on the local population". Therefore, the DPI should continue its public information activities in various languages.
Regarding the improvement of the United Nations web site in the UN official languages, the DPI should continue to make efforts to attain its goals within existing resources by reallocating them according to actual needs.
Third, with respect to the question of African development, as mentioned in the Secretary-General's budget report (A/AC.198/2003/3), the UN plays an essential advocacy role and is expected to strengthen its public information activities in support of Africa's development.
For its part, the Government of Japan will co-host TICAD III with the UN at the end of September. In following-up that conference, Japan is ready to cooperate with the United Nations well beyond 2004 with respect not only to development assistance to Africa itself but also public information activities intended to promote greater interest in and awareness of issues concerning Africa's development.
Lastly, I would like to comment on the United Nations web site. Prior to this meeting, we asked Japanese journalists and broadcasters residing here in New York for their opinions of the news services provided by the DPI. Many of them cited the need for improving the information services on the English web site, particularly with respect to the timely delivery of information and news of interest to the public, an enhanced search function, and the prompt availability of comments made by the Secretary-General on his visits outside the United Nations.
The Government of Japan hopes that efforts to reform the United Nations will render its public information activities more effective and efficient. Japan is determined to work together with the UN and its Member States to realize that goal.