UNITED NATIONS, AS ‘INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION OF A PEACEFUL WORLD’, MUST BE HEARD CLEARLY, EFFECTIVELY, ACCORDING TO DRAFT RESOLUTION IN FOURTH COMMITTEE
Sixty-second General Assembly
9th Meeting (PM)
UNITED NATIONS, AS ‘INDISPENSABLE FOUNDATION OF A PEACEFUL WORLD’, MUST BE HEARD
CLEARLY, EFFECTIVELY, ACCORDING TO DRAFT RESOLUTION IN FOURTH COMMITTEE
Concluding Debate on Information, Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka
Says Consensus Text Gives Public Information Department ‘ Clear Road Map’
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) would have the General Assembly reaffirm the United Nations as the indispensable foundation of a peaceful world, and that its voice be heard in a clear and effective manner, according to one of two draft resolutions it approved without a vote today as it concluded its general debate on questions relating to information.
The Committee also approved without a vote a draft decision on the question of Gibraltar, after debate on that question was delayed due to the recent elections in that Non-Self-Governing Territory.
By the terms of the expansive resolution on United Nations public information policies and activities, the Assembly would emphasize that the activities of the Department of Public Information be organized to promote to the greatest possible extent an informed understanding of the United Nations among the peoples of the world.
Also by that text, the Assembly would request that the public information Department pay particular attention to the eradication of poverty, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent.
According to that text, the Assembly would, while acknowledging the Department’s culture of evaluation, ask it to continue to evaluate its products and services with a view to improving their effectiveness. The Assembly would also request the Department to continue to publicize the Assembly’s work and decisions by issuing daily press releases while continuing to improve their production process and streamline their format.
In other provisions, the Assembly would welcome the Department’s efforts to enhance multilingualism in its activities and request it to continue to do so. The Assembly would also call on the Department to highlight the importance of implementing the outcome document of the World Summit on the Information Society to help bridge the digital divide.
Further to the terms of the draft, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the public image of the Organization and in disseminating messages on it to local populations, particularly in developing countries.
In a section on the Department’s role in peacekeeping, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping gateway on the United Nations website, and request that the Department continue to cooperate with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in raising the awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations.
In addition, the Assembly would stress radio as the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional form of media available, and request the Secretary-General to make every effort to achieve parity in the six official languages of the United Nations.
The draft text also addresses such related issues as news services, the United Nations website, library services and outreach activities.
By the terms of the second draft resolution, on information in the service of humanity, the Assembly would urge all countries and organizations of the United Nations system to cooperate and interact with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries. The Assembly would also urge, among other things, those countries and other entities to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn all attacks against them.
According to the draft decision on the question of Gibraltar, the Assembly would urge the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom to reach a definitive solution while listening to Gibraltar’s interests and aspirations. It would also welcome the ongoing implementation of the first package of measures concluded at the tripartite Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar.
In closing remarks, Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, congratulated the Committee on its productive discussion on questions relating to information and for having adopted a draft resolution providing the Department of Public Information with a “clear road map”. The general debate on that topic had demonstrated the deep commitment of Member States to the United Nations, he added.
“As one speaker so eloquently pointed out, ‘DPI must continue to tell the UN story even to those who do not want to hear it, since we all know that the world would be a far less safe place, a more desperate place, and a more unequal place were it not for the crucial work undertaken by the United Nations’,” he said. “I could not agree more.”
The growing partnership between the Department and the Committee on Information had been a key element in redefining the Department’s role in a complex and evolving global media environment, he said. The Committee’s approval of the Department’s work, as well as critical comments on those areas needing improvement, had been noted, and the Department would do its utmost to follow those recommendations. He had also taken note of requests for additional information or clarifications on specific areas of the Department’s work, he said.
During its general debate on questions relating to information prior to action on the texts, the Committee heard statements by the representatives of India, Nepal, Israel, Bahrain, Yemen, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The representatives of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, Pakistan and India spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 24 October, to hold a panel discussion with experts on “Space Tools and Solutions for Climate Change”, and to begin its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of questions relating to information, it had before it two draft resolutions contained in the report on the twenty-ninth session of the Committee on Information (document A/62/21, Chapter IV). It also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on questions relating to information (document A/62/205). For a summary of that report, please see Press Release GA/SPD/376 of 18 October.
The Committee also had before it a draft decision on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/62/L.4).
By the terms of draft resolution A, contained in the report on the Information Committee’s twenty-ninth session and entitled “Information in the service of humanity”, the General Assembly would urge all countries, organizations of the United Nations system and all others concerned to cooperate and interact, with a view to reducing existing disparities in information flows at all levels by increasing assistance for the development of communication infrastructures and capabilities in developing countries, with due regard for their needs and the priorities attached to such areas by those countries, in order to enable them to develop their own information and communication policies freely and independently, and increase the participation of media and individuals in the communication process, and to ensure a free flow of information at all levels.
Those countries and other entities would be urged also to ensure for journalists the free and effective performance of their professional tasks and condemn resolutely all attacks against them; to provide support for the continuation and strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists from all media in developing countries; to enhance regional efforts and cooperation among developing countries and cooperation between developed and developing countries, to strengthen communication capacities and to improve the media infrastructure and communication technology in the developing countries, especially in the areas of training and dissemination of information; and to aim at providing all possible support and assistance to the developing countries and their media, with due regard to their needs in the field of information, and to action already adopted within the United Nations system.
By the terms of the two-part draft resolution B, also contained in that report, entitled “United Nations public information policies and activities”, the Assembly would reaffirm that the Organization remains the indispensable foundation of a peaceful world and that its voice be heard in a clear and effective manner. It would emphasize the essential role of the Department of Public Information in that context, the activities of which should be organized to promote to the greatest possible extent an informed understanding of the work of the United Nations among the peoples of the world.
The Assembly would request the Department to pay particular attention to such major issues as poverty eradication, conflict prevention, sustainable development, human rights, HIV/AIDS, combating terrorism and the needs of the African continent.
Also by the text, the Assembly would request the Department, acknowledging its commitment to a culture of evaluation, to continue to evaluate its products and activities, with the objective of improving their effectiveness, including through interdepartmental consultations.
The Assembly would note with appreciation both the Department’s continued efforts to publicize the work and decisions of the Assembly and its efforts in issuing daily press releases, and request it to continue providing that service, both to Member States and media representatives, while continuing to improve their production process and streamline their format.
The Committee would also have the Assembly welcome the Department’s ongoing efforts to enhance multilingualism in its activities, and request it to continue its endeavours in that regard.
As for bridging the digital divide, the Assembly would call upon the Department to contribute to raising the international community’s awareness of the importance of the implementation of the outcome document of the World Summit on the Information Society.
Further to that draft, the Assembly would emphasize the importance of the network of United Nations information centres in enhancing the public image of the United Nations and in disseminating messages on the Organization to local populations, especially in developing countries.
The Assembly would stress the importance of rationalizing the information centres’ network, and reaffirm that such rationalization must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in consultation with all Member States concerned, taking into consideration the distinctive characteristics of each region.
A section of the text on the Department of Public Information’s role in peacekeeping would have the Assembly request the Secretariat to ensure the public information Department’s role in every stage of future peacekeeping operations. It would also emphasize the importance of the peacekeeping gateway on the United Nations website, and request the Department to continue its efforts in supporting the peacekeeping missions to further develop their websites.
In a related provision, the Assembly would also request the Department and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to continue their cooperation in raising awareness of the new realities, successes and challenges faced by peacekeeping operations, and to continue to cooperate in implementing an effective programme to explain the Organization’s policy against sexual exploitation and abuse.
In a section on news services, the draft emphasized the importance of the Department continuing to draw the attention of world media to stories that do not obtain prominent coverage, through the “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About” initiative.
Regarding traditional means of communication, the Assembly would stress that radio remained the most cost-effective and far-reaching traditional form of media available to the Department, and request the Secretary-General to make every effort to achieve parity in the six official languages in United Nations production. Further, it would welcome the Department’s efforts to produce and disseminate television news video and feature material to broadcasters worldwide through satellite distribution and web delivery.
The Assembly would reaffirm that the United Nations website remained an essential tool for the media, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, Member States and the general public and, in that regard, reiterate the continued need for the Department to maintain and improve it.
In a section on library services, the Assembly would acknowledge the role of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, as part of the Department’s Outreach Division, in enhancing knowledge-sharing and networking activities to ensure access to United Nations knowledge. The new approaches taken by the Library, in particular the Personal Knowledge Management initiative, would be noted.
Further, the Assembly would reiterate the need to maintain a multilingual collection of books, periodicals and other material in hard copy and ensure that the library continues to be a broadly accessible resource.
By other terms, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Department’s outreach services continued to work towards promoting the awareness of the role and work of the United Nations on priority issues. It would welcome the movement towards educational outreach and the orientation of both print and online editions of the United Nations Chronicle and, to that end, encourage it to continue to develop co-publishing partnerships. It would also request the Department to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil service.
The Committee would have the Assembly note the importance of the Department’s continued implementation of the ongoing programme for broadcasters and journalists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and request it to consider how best to maximize its benefits by reviewing its duration and the number of its participants.
Further to the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the important role of guided tours in reaching out to the general public, including children and students at all levels. It would welcome the Department’s efforts in organizing exhibitions on important United Nations-related issues at Headquarters and other United Nations offices as a useful tool for reaching out to the general public.
The Assembly would request the Department to strengthen its role as a focal point for two-way interaction with civil society relating to the Organization’s priorities and concerns.
By the terms of the draft decision on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/62/L.4), the Assembly would urge the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom to reach a definitive solution to that question while listening to its interests and aspirations. It would also welcome the ongoing successful implementation of the first package of measures concluded at the tripartite Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar.
General Statements on Questions Relating to Information
RAMESHWAR ORAON ( India) said the Committee should focus on helping the Department of Public Information become an effective conduit for information, using a wide variety of technologies. Those would include webcasts as well as radio and print media. While he took note of improvements made to the United Nations website, the Department’s audio library and media accreditation system, he said there was room for further improvement. He also supported efforts to facilitate the emergence of “a more linguistically equal world”.
Turning to the question of United Nations information centres, he said he agreed with the view expressed by many others that they should be strengthened, and not weakened. He noted that a workshop was scheduled for January 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand for information centres in Asia and the Pacific. Also, the public information Department should work to create information products that covered the United Nations humanitarian and peacekeeping activities. In doing so, the Department should work in tandem with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, especially in rebutting stories based on unverified and distorted facts intended to cast United Nations peacekeepers in a negative light.
He commended the Department for its efforts to promote the first observance of the International Day of Non-Violence, on 2 October, which was also Mahatma Ghandi’s birthday.
HARI BINOD ADHIKARI ( Nepal) said that the impact of the information revolution had become so strong that it had become a way of life in the realm of education, employment, business and fostering people-people relations. While developed countries had reaped profound benefits from the fast growth in information and communications technology, the developing countries -– especially the lest developed –- were increasingly marginalized, owing to an inability to take advantage of that fast growing global communication wave.
Indeed, he said, development had become lopsided as a result of that “yawning digital divide”. It was particularly disquieting that people in the developing world did not have proper access to phones or Internet services. It was encouraging, however, that development of some information technologies, particularly wireless technology in rural areas, could benefit millions of people. The United Nations was uniquely placed to play a role in addressing the anomalies, and in that effort the Department of Public information was crucial.
The Department’s strategic communication services had done substantive work in raising awareness about several issues, but a proper balance should be maintained between the needs and aspirations of the target audiences, he said. Because radio, and to some extent television, were popular means of receiving information in rural areas of developing countries, those services should be a priority of the Department.
He said that the Department should also focus on educating the youth. Partnerships with non-governmental organizations increased global connectivity. Interactions and dialogue on issues of common priority should be intensified. Simplified technological innovation, such as the “one-laptop-one-child” initiative, should be made more accessible, as that made the technology “cheaper day by day”. The library’s training programmes had also been highly useful, yet Permanent Missions would benefit even more if their timing was more convenient.
The Department should also explore ways to include journalists from developing countries in its training programmes, he said. The United Nations information centre in Kathmandu was highly appreciated, thus, it should be strengthened with more resources and institutional capabilities. Any proposals to rationalize the centres’ work should be geared to strengthening them. Nepal had a liberal policy with regard to the press, and it was incorporating that policy into a number of governmental acts, including a Right to Information Act and a National Information Commission.
LIVIA LINK ( Israel) said that the success and effectiveness of any organization lay not only in its actions, but also in its capacity to inform and raise awareness about them. By providing information, action and response was multiplied, thereby empowering the people. Being the “megaphone” of the United Nations was an extremely important and challenging task. The Department and Under-Secretary-General Kiyo Akasaka should be commended for their work in promoting Holocaust remembrance around the world. The Holocaust and the United Nations outreach programme had expanded the Organization’s efforts. Also, training seminars had been developed to better equip information officers in the field on raising public awareness about the Holocaust and its relevance today.
She drew attention to other notable events, such as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust and a concert held in memory of journalist Daniel Pearl. The work on Holocaust remembrance had demonstrated a commitment to the subject and, more importantly, had illustrated the evolving educational role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century. Indeed, it had constituted an “inspiring example of cooperation between the United Nations and Israel”.
Member States could help the Department in its mission to tell the United Nations story, she said. As the United Nations was taking a larger role in promoting peace in the Middle East, the Israeli Foreign Ministry had been educating the Israeli public about the essence of the United Nations, replacing misconceptions -- and sometimes even suspicion -- with knowledge, openness and “positivity”, including through several awareness seminars at universities. She extended an invitation to the Department to open an information centre in Israel.
Despite the work of the Department, however, she said her country was disappointed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained the only conflict in the world that still had a special information programme. By allowing its existence, the United Nations was failing to meet its own standard –- focusing on the priority issues of the Organization.
FAISAL E. AL-ZAYANI ( Bahrain) said that the public information Department had an important role to play in promoting the United Nations ideals. Great advances in information technology had brought about a digital divide between the developed and developing world, and the Department could help bridge that divide by harnessing the new technologies in a way that benefited all people, along the lines of the ideals enshrined in the United Nations Charter. It could bring to fruition the new world order in communication and information -- as called for by the General Assembly.
He said that the best way to bring about a new world order in communications and information was through a communications infrastructure created by both developed and developing countries in cooperation with each other. That infrastructure should bring about a free flow of information, and the dissemination of information in a balance manner. People in developing countries did not have sophisticated means of communication; thus, it was important to continue using traditional methods of communication to reach them.
The United Nations information centres had a role to play in increasing people’s understanding of the United Nations work, in areas such as climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, human rights and others. The Department must not close any information centres, or merge them with United Nations field offices, without first taking account of host countries’ views. He commended the Department for having spared no effort to carry out its mandate, including its work on the question of Palestine.
WALEED AL-SAIYANI ( Yemen) said the Department was modernizing the communication of the United Nations in ways that ensured maximum impact, regardless of the religious and social trends of the public accessing the media. The Department had started to ensure operational ability for the Yemen-based information centre -– which was in a region of vital interest to the world and a country that had seen changing policies. It needed international assistance to play its role in implementing its agenda in such things as disseminating information on the work of the United Nations, such as the Millennium Development Goals. In that context, Yemen’s centre should be given priority.
He urged the Department to also focus more on intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Certain media outlets had been providing information that widened the gap between people of different cultures and religions. That “travesty” made it harder to bring peoples of the world together and to combat radicalism, which often turned to terrorism out of the sense of injustice. In that regard, references to “Islamo-fascism” were regrettable. The Department was working to coherently relay the message of the United Nations to the public, which would make it possible to ensure the achievement of the agreed objectives.
SAMANTHA JAYASURIYA ( Sri Lanka) acknowledged the benefits of living in the information age, but added that the international community should be mindful of the widening gap between developed and developing countries in their access to advanced communication technologies, as well as to information itself. The public information Department had a role to play in narrowing the digital divide by disseminating vital and timely information in a creative way. Sri Lanka stressed the need to develop close partnerships with civil society, the private sector and non-governmental organizations in implementing that mandate. Given the disparities that existed between countries, the Department should continue using both traditional and the most advanced technologies to transmit the Organization’s message.
She underscored the important role of the United Nations information services and centres in bridging the gap between the United Nations and people at the grassroots level. She reiterated the need to use the local resources and capacities, both human and material, to promote the work of the United Nations on the ground. Also, United Nations information services and centres should continue producing programmes and other information products in local languages. When evaluating those services and centres, the Department should exchange information with host countries about the usefulness of their work.
As a troop and police contributing country for United Nations peacekeeping operations, Sri Lanka appreciated the Department’s efforts to promote peacekeeping operations through its various outreach programmes, she said, inviting the Department to “be actively involved” in defending United Nations peacekeepers in the face of sensationalized and unsubstantiated allegations.
KHALED AL-HOSANI ( United Arab Emirates) stressed the need to develop and harness the tools of information and communications technology, particularly at a time when the Internet and satellite technologies had created a gap between the developed and developing world. That gap was a great concern to his country, as it allowed countries to pursue hegemony and wilfully distort the facts. He reiterated the responsibilities of the international community to provide aid to developing countries to assist them in gaining access to the new technologies.
He said reforming the United Nations in a way that enabled it to confront today’s global problems and threats required promoting and enhancing public awareness of its role and efforts in such realms as climate change, human development, and combating the illicit small arms trade. In particular, the United Nations work in the Arabic language should achieve parity with the other languages. The Department should also coordinate with other United Nations bodies and other agencies to promote the Organization’s work. In that context, more United Nations information centres and training programmes were needed.
The United Nations should also raise awareness about the Palestinian cause, the Middle East and the plight of the Palestinian people, who were suffering under Israel’s occupation, he said. His country had pursued policies to enhance the understanding and participation of its peoples in development objectives, and in disseminating information on social, economic and environmental issues. Among other initiatives, the Government had enacted resolutions that would protect intellectual property. He hoped that the Department would play a greater role in promoting the culture of peace among all cultures and civilizations.
SALEH AL-SARAWI ( Kuwait) said the report of the Committee on Information had helped enrich the discussion, as had the statement of the Under-Secretary-General. In recent years, the world had seen rapid changes in the realm of communications. He commended the Department of Public Information for having undertaken the necessary steps to keep pace with those developments. Since it was important to safeguard the free flow of information, and to prevent specific cultures and ideologies from imposing themselves on others, all States were encouraged to pay their assessed contributions in full and in a timely manner, so that the Department’s programmes were not affected by a lack of funding.
He called on the Department to redouble its efforts to help build the communications capacity in developing countries, as well as to promote parity among United Nations languages, including Arabic. He commended the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its willingness to cooperate with news organizations in developing countries when disseminating information. Hopefully, the Department would continue paying close attention to issues relating to the Middle East, especially Palestine. Kuwait would cooperate with all United Nations bodies in helping the Department carry out its mandate in a way that did not contravene the traditions of individual countries and cultures.
Action on Draft Texts on Questions Relating to Information
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved resolutions A and B, as contained in document A/61/21.
Closing Statement by Under-Secretary-General
Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, KIYO AKASAKA, said he was grateful for the encouragement he had so far received from Member States during his first year at the United Nations.
He congratulated the Committee on its productive discussion on questions relating to information, and for having adopted a draft resolution providing the Department of Public Information with a clear road map. The general debate on information, first held by the Committee on Information and then by the Fourth Committee, had demonstrated the deep commitment of Member States to the United Nations and its objectives. Member States had made it clear that they considered it “vital” for the United Nations story to be heard throughout the world.
“As one speaker so eloquently pointed out, ‘The Department of Public Information must continue to tell the UN story even to those who do not want to hear it, for we know that the world would be much less safe, more desperate, and a more unequal place were it not for the crucial work undertaken by the United Nations’,” he said. “I could not agree more.”
He said he had spoken of a growing partnership between the Department and the Committee on Information in his opening statement. That partnership had been a key element in redefining the Department’s role in a complex and evolving global media environment. The Committee’s approval of the Department’s work, as well as critical comments on those areas needing improvement, had been noted, and the Department would do its utmost to follow both the letter and the spirit of its recommendations.
He said he had also taken note of requests for additional information or clarifications on specific areas of the Department’s work. He assured the Committee that he and his colleagues would always be available to provide members with such information, and that the dialogue between the Department and Member States would continue. Citing an African proverb that said “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”, he said the Department had come far with Member States. But, he was certain that they were able to go farther, especially since they all shared a common goal: a stronger United Nations for a better world.
Committee Chairman ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan) thanked the Under-Secretary-General for his statement and assured him of the Committee’s commitment towards the Department of Public Information.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right to reply, the Observer for Palestine recalled the statement by the Israeli representative that Israel was committed to educating its people about the United Nations. He noted that, to do so, Israel must first commit itself to upholding the provisions of the United Nations Charter and its resolutions, as well as fulfil its international law commitments. That meant putting an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands, including East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan and the Shebaa Farms region.
He said that the Special Information Programme devoted to the issue of Palestine would continue to be of great importance until the Israelis ended their occupation of Palestine. For all its claims of being a democratic State, Israel continued to commit illegal acts towards the Palestinian people, including the confiscation of Palestinian Territory and the building of an illegal wall on those lands. Encouraging settlers and immigrants to live on Occupied Arab Territories also went against international law, as did the detention of some 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Before Israel could criticize the work of the Special Information Programme, it must first must bring its commitments in line with the requirements of international law and settle the question on Palestine in all its aspects, he said.
Action on Draft Text on the Question of Gibraltar
The Committee then approved without a vote the draft decision on the question of Gibraltar (document A/C.4/62/L.4).
Right of Reply
The representative of Pakistan spoke in exercise of the right of reply to a statement made by the representative of India on 15 October during the general debate on decolonization about the region of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that the denial of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was most relevant to the decolonization discussion. Jammu and Kashmir were not integral to India and were recognized as a disputed territory by numerous Security Council and United Nations resolutions, which stated that the territory’s future would be determined by a referendum. Those resolutions remained to be implemented. No electoral exercise could substitute for a free and impartial plebiscite.
Pakistan did not need advice -– certainly not from India -– on democracy and self-determination, he said. Pakistan would not comment on India’s democratic credentials, which were highly “tarnished”. The people of Kashmir were subjected to human rights violations, which had been reported by different international bodies. Although Jammu and Kashmir was an international issue, it had been agreed by both India and Pakistan that the issue would be negotiated bilaterally. Yet, Pakistan reserved the right to refer the issue to the United Nations as necessary.
Also in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of India said that his Government had already stated its position with regard to Jammu and the Kashmir. Regarding unresolved questions of human rights, self determination and democracy, Pakistan should look first at itself. India was completely committed to bilateral talks, and anticipated forward movement on the Jammu-Kashmir issue.
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