Forty-fifth Session,
4th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Call for Greater Multilingualism across United Nations Digital Platforms, Communications Products, on Day Three of Information Committee’s Annual Session

Concerned by a tidal wave of pressing global challenges from the spike in misinformation and disinformation to widening digital gaps, delegates today underscored the essentiality of multilingualism while outlining several concrete recommendations for the United Nations Department of Global Communications, as the Committee on Information concluded the general debate of its forty-fifth session.

The representative of Morocco pointed out that people around the world — in believing in the United Nations ability to provide solutions to global crises — want information about its role and activities.  Disinformation, however, has unfortunately risen over the past two years.  Against this backdrop, the Department must continue combating any information which undermines the truth and the Organization’s efforts.  The United Nations must also strengthen the use of multilingualism in all six of its official languages — English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish — he urged, emphasizing:  “Multilingualism is a value for multilateralism.”

The speaker for Belarus, welcoming the expanded volume of the Department’s public communications which was enabled by multilingualism, said that it undertakes a selective approach in deciding on what to report.  The Department should pay attention to important issues, such as food security, the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures and migration — all of which have the same roots.  Beyond simply observing events, it should analyse these processes, he insisted.

China’s delegate — underlining the Department’s responsibility to provide global audiences with comprehensive, accurate, authoritative and objective news and information within the contemporary media landscape of good and maligned actors — called on the Department to put the principle of multilingualism into practice by balancing the development of content with platforms.  The production and utilization of information products in Chinese — the most spoken official United Nations language in the world — must be improved, she asserted. Moreover, the Department must avoid biased views, enhance its communications and consultations with Member States, and strengthen its coverage on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Equally important, the representative of Lebanon said, is sensitizing the world about the present dangers of climate change and ensuring that vaccine equity remains at the centre of the Organization’s communications.  With fake news exacerbating racial, social and religious tensions, the Organization must not only counter and contain this danger, but also raise awareness of both the risks on societies and the responsibility of entities and individuals alike to verify what they share.

Algeria’s delegate, stressing that this phenomenon must be addressed by collective action, called on the Department to play a leading role by ensuring factual, accessible, timely, accurately targeted and accessible information.  In that vein, it should mobilize adequate resources to promote multilingualism and do more to increase its efforts to use Arabic.  To make the world of media more just, equitable and impartial, the international community as a whole must rectify the digital imbalances which are emerging as a new form of inequality between and among States.

Joining the call for the greater use of the Arabic language, the representative of Saudi Arabia encouraged the Department to spotlight the development and progress of Arab countries.  His Government, for example, has launched comprehensive social reforms which have resulted in historic transformations, increased communication with the world and developed its digital infrastructure.  The Department, he added, should highlight issues in Arab countries, such as the cause of Palestine, and intensify its media campaigns to address hate speech, including Islamophobia.

Argentina’s delegate similarly advocated for the same enjoyment of rights between all six official languages. Instantaneous press releases — which have great value in terms of institutional memory and accountability — are disseminated only in English and French, despite the General Assembly’s renewed mandate on language parity.  As such, the Department must move from a culture of translation, which uses English as a base language, towards one which considers the idiosyncrasies of other languages at all stages.  Silence — by not adapting objective information to new tools and formats and by not including audiences which lack information and communications technology (ICT) access — in the face of growing conflicts, hate speech and disinformation can endanger the rule of law, he warned.

To address the issue of misinformation, the representative of India urged the Department to tailor its communications strategy and maintain its websites in local languages.  Beyond strengthening its partnerships with youth, journalists and influencers, it should expand its global outreach in other languages. People around the planet dream and gossip in languages beyond the six official ones, he underscored.

The Committee on Information will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.


OMAR HILALE (Morocco) pointed out that the world’s citizens believe the United Nations has the ability to provide the solutions to global crises.  They want information about its role and its activities, he underscored, citing the record 43 million pageviews of the Organization’s website.  Unfortunately, the international community has witnessed the rise of disinformation and its devastating effects over the past two years. Such an exceptional situation creates a need for reliable, neutral and objective information.  Against this backdrop, he welcomed the efforts of the Department of Global Communications on combating this phenomenon, its initiatives in supporting peacekeeping operations and its endeavours in countering hate speech.  It must continue combating any information that undermines truth and the Organization’s efforts, including by disseminating reliable, impartial and verifiable information to avoid any instrumentalized by propaganda instruments. The Organization must also capitalize on the achievements of promoting multilingualism through strengthening the equal use of the six official languages, he continued, adding: “Multilingualism is a value for multilateralism.”  Moreover, developing countries with limited digital capabilities must not be left behind in the face of technological progress.  To enable an informed global public, traditional means of communication such as radio and press must continue.

NITISH BIRDI (India), welcoming the statement of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that correct, reliable and timely information is more important than ever, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the tidal wave of misinformation on the Internet and other communication platforms. Access to information for all people is also key to functioning democracies.  India has assured the right to information for its people since 2005. Turning to misinformation and disinformation, which undermine peace and harmony, he called for strengthened partnerships between the Department and youth, journalists and influencers. Noting that expenditure on information and communications technology (ICT) has risen by six times over the past nine years, with broadband Internet experiencing 1,200 per cent growth in this time, he said that people around the planet dream and gossip in languages beyond the six official ones of the Organization, and called for the Department’s global outreach in other languages to be strengthened.  On misinformation which puts peacekeepers at risk, he called on the Department and field missions to tailor their communications strategy and maintain websites in local languages to address the issue.

BRUNA MARA LISO GAGLIARDI (Brazil), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, stressed the importance of effectively communicating accurate information for the work of the United Nations.  In this regard, the Department has been vital, especially during global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  As strategic communication is especially important for peacekeeping missions, the Organization must ensure that their goals, strategies and actions are clearly communicated to all stakeholders.  The ability to communicate well can mean the difference between success and failure in achieving a peaceful resolution, she pointed out, spotlighting her country’s Council presidency in 2022 during which it embraced this cause.  Turning to multilingualism, she encouraged the Department to continue to disseminate the Organization’s ideals and activities in as many languages as possible, taking into account the linguistic diversity among countries and their varying degrees of digital development.  Moreover, countries must come together to fight misinformation, disinformation and hate speech online.  All must overcome the digital disparities that create more inequalities between States, she emphasized, underlining the Organization’s important role in facilitating the global transition to digital economies.

MOHAMMAD ALI JARDALI (Lebanon), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, underlined the need for factual, timely, targeted, multilingual and science-based information.  Against the backdrop of many pressing challenges, vaccine equity should remain at the centre of the Organization’s communications. Equally important is sensitizing the world about the present dangers caused by climate change, he added, highlighting the need to decisively counter misinformation and disinformation.  With fakes news spreading rapidly, exacerbating political, racial, social and religious tensions, and fuelling hate speech, States, the Organization, media and social network conglomerates must not only undertake efforts to counter and contain this danger, but also raise awareness about its risks on societies and the responsibility of both entities and individuals to verify what they share.  This task can notably be implemented through coordinated policies between the public and private sectors, awareness-raising and a focus on the technological empowerment of people while ensuring free access to information and the freedom of expression and opinion.  He then highlighted the Department’s contribution to the Special Information Programme on the Question of Palestine in objectively raising international awareness on the question of Palestine.

MOHAMED ELHOMOSANY (Egypt), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the International Organization of la Francophonie, underscored the key role played by the Department in tackling misinformation and disinformation, noting that social media plays a highly influential role in forming public consensus.  “People are trying to use freedom of expression to serve their own interests,” he said, calling for greater transparency and professionalism.  Egypt reaffirms the importance of ensuring the Department and the United Nations information centres are adequately resourced so as to carry out their functions.  He called for strengthened efforts to promote multilingualism, so that the Organization’s websites can reach as many citizens around the world as possible.  He underscored the importance of putting in place a framework to implement General Assembly resolution 76/307, pertaining to the Summit of the Future.

HWANG WON (Republic of Korea) stressed that enhancing the public understanding of the Organization’s work, priorities, principles and activities is key to making the United Nations more relevant and garnering broader support.  While digital platforms allow all to better communicate, concerns about the digital divide are notably growing as reliance on digital technology increases.  Since this divide — resulting from a lack of digital infrastructure and accessibility — has become a major obstacle to economic growth and social development, it must be addressed in the spirit and guiding promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind.  Misinformation and disinformation, he pointed out, affect every issue that the United Nations works on by distorting the public-policy-making process, undermining emergency responses and having a negative impact on fundamental freedoms and human rights.  Against this backdrop, the Department must further strengthen its efforts to address misinformation and disinformation while highlighting the important role of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  He then voiced his support for an objective code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms to build a more humane digital space.

YUANCHUN MA (China), associating herself with the Group of 77, called on the Department to strengthen its coverage and reporting on the 2030 Agenda, fully introduce the Secretariat’s and Member States’ efforts to promote sustainable development, present current progress and difficulties objectively and accurately, and guide the international community in devoting itself to development.  It must uphold professionalism and strengthen its communication and consultation with Member States, she added.  Within the current media landscape of good and maligned actors, the Department notably has the responsibility to provide global audiences with comprehensive, accurate, authoritative and objective news and information, maintain impartial coverage and avoid biased views.  At the same time, it should continue opposing and combatting disinformation and hate speech, among others, thus playing a leading role in creating a clean information space.  Moreover, the Department should uphold openness and transparency in creating the code of conduct, heed Member States’ input and fully consider factors such as national policies and regulations, media ecosystems and technological development. On multilingualism, she urged the Department to put this principle into practice, balance the development of content with platforms and improve the production and utilization of information products in Chinese, the most spoken official United Nations language in the world.

MARIA LUDOVICA MURAZZANI (Italy), aligning herself with the European Union, strongly commended the Department’s visionary work in making the United Nations a reliable source of information for citizens around the world while engaging them through a multistakeholder approach.  Her Government particularly appreciated the compassionate coverage of the war in Ukraine and the crisis in Afghanistan, to name a few, as well as the vital campaigns to educate the global audience to not be a victim of misinformation and disinformation online.  With a rich multilateral agenda ahead of the Organization this year, an effective and multilingual communications strategy will be crucial to reach a global audience in the run-up to high-level events such as the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September.  She then voiced her support for the development of a code of conduct, underscored the need to redouble efforts on addressing mis- and disinformation to protect peacekeepers and expressed her grave concern over the growing number of journalists and media workers killed, wounded or detained in the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine.

MUNGO WOODIFIELD (United Kingdom), spotlighting the alarming spread of disinformation which has distorted people’s views on issues from health care to climate change, pointed out the grave and real consequences when disinformation seeps offline.  Voicing his Government’s deep concern over the lies being spread which have threatened peacekeepers in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he observed that it is not just day-to-day users or bots spreading distorted information.  Time and time again, Moscow tries to use the United Nations to spread its propaganda including by exploiting Security Council meetings as a platform to promote wild conspiracy theories about bioweapons and staged provocations.  This onslaught of cynical disinformation is a corrosive force that threatens the Organization’s integrity and eats away the fabric of societies.  As good, independent journalism, which is reported freely without fear, is essential for societies, he called on Moscow to immediately release all those it unlawfully detained.  A code of conduct must be balanced in human rights and the protection of fundamental rights to the freedom of expression, he continued, also stressing that social media companies and civil society must be included in efforts to tackle mis- and disinformation.

EVGENY SHAEV (Belarus), welcoming the Department’s efforts to expand the volume of its communications to the public, enabled by the promotion of multilingualism, noted that, however, there was a selective approach when it came to deciding what to report on.  Attention should be paid to important issues, such as food security, the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, and migration, he said, noting that all these issues had the same roots:  the unjust policies of some Western States who were aiming to create hotbeds of managed chaos.  His country outlined its position on such issues two days ago at the Security Council, he said, calling on the Department to analyse such processes, and to move beyond observing events.  He welcomed the development of standards in information activity, notably the initiative to create a code of conduct.  Attention should be paid to media resources that are indiscriminately blocked, he said, pointing out that access to his Government’s websites, with the suffix “” are blocked in the United States.  These include access to sites pertaining to the rehabilitation of the site of the Chernobyl disaster, he said, noting that today marked the thirty-seventh anniversary of the tragedy.

Turning to “glaringly provocative” statements made by some delegates, including the representative of Latvia and some delegates from Eastern Europe, he questioned whether anyone could imagine reaching a point at which criminals of the Third Reich were quoted at a United Nations platform, regardless of context.  “The red lines have been crossed a long time ago,” he said.  A recent investigation by Belarus’ Prosecutor General pertaining to cases involving war crimes by Nazis and their henchmen should be studied, to help functionaries come to their senses and realize who they are considering heroes.

KIM IN CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, underlined the need to address the continued misuse of ICT.  To that end, the Committee must prioritize establishing a new and fair international information and communication order.  The United States and Western countries, he pointed out, disseminate misinformation and disinformation against other countries, cause social chaos and incite the overthrow of systems.  As this open information and psychological warfare against other countries constitutes a clear violation of the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law, the building of a peaceful and prosperous world will end up as an empty one if this remains unchecked, he warned.  He then called for effective measures to assist developing countries in improving their ICT capacities, as well as enhanced international cooperation, such as technology transfers, trainings for journalists and financial investments.  For its part, the Department should apply guiding principles more strictly and ensure balance in its public information activities.  Moreover, the Secretariat as a whole must adopt a fair and objective approach towards the issue of the Korean Peninsula, he urged.

NACIM GAOUAOUI (Algeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that the phenomenon of fake news and disinformation on online platforms must be addressed by collective action.  In playing a leading role, it must continuously ensure factual, timely, accurately targeted, accessible, multilingual, unbiased and science-based information on all its platforms and publications. Moreover, the Department should redouble its efforts in mobilizing adequate resources to promote multilingualism and do more to increase the use of the Arabic language.  Turning to concerning digital disparities that are emerging as a new form of inequality between and among States, he called on the international community to undertake the necessary steps to rectify imbalances and make the world of media more just, equitable and impartial.  ICT, when used for criminal purposes pose threats, he continued, voicing his concern.  For its part, Algeria is contributing by chairing the Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes.

MAXIMILIANO ÁLVAREZ (Argentina) welcomed the work of the Department, including its television and social network teams, library and Spanish section, which are vital in the context of growing conflicts and hate speech worldwide.  Remaining silent in light of such threats as disinformation and hate speech could endanger the rule of law, he said, calling on the Organization to disseminate objective information adapted to new tools and formats, and to ensure that audiences without access to ICT are not left behind.  The Department should take renewed steps to disseminate multilingual content, he said, reiterating that it should move from a culture of translation, using English as a base language, to considering the idiosyncrasies of other languages at all stages, from the point of conception of content and campaigns.  On the principal challenge facing such efforts — lack of resources — he called on the Secretariat to consider such issues in the process of budget appropriations, to ensure that all six official languages enjoy the same rights.  The trend of increased demand for material in Spanish must be considered while resources are internally allocated, particularly with respect to staff, he added.  Instantaneous press releases are of great value, in terms of institutional memory and accountability, he said, voicing concern that they are disseminated only in two of the Organization’s six official languages, despite the renewed mandate of the General Assembly regarding parity between these six languages.  Steps must therefore be taken to rectify the situation, he added.

HASSAN MOHAMMED A. ALAMRI (Saudi Arabia) commended the efforts of the Department and United Nations information centres in highlighting international matters related to international peace and security, human rights, sustainable development and climate change among others.  Through his country’s media, his Government is highlighting the economic, social and cultural message of the United Nations.  Comprehensive social reforms launched by his Government, he continued, have notably resulted in historical transformation and social change that includes more communication with the world and the development of digital infrastructure to keep up with digital standards.  To counter the spread of misinformation and disinformation, the Organization — and in particular the Department — must ensure that its information is accurate, credible and taken from official resources.  The Organization must assert its presence in all official languages, including Arabic, he added, underscoring that multilingualism both enables multilateral diplomacy and promotes the values of the Charter. Moreover, the Department should spotlight the development and progress of Arab countries, highlight issues in Arab countries especially the cause of Palestine and intensify its media campaigns to address hate speech, including Islamophobia.

VAHID GHELICH (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, highlighted the vital work of the Committee, the Department and the information centres, which play a significant role in disseminating messages from the United Nations, especially in developing countries.  Turning to the issue of prevalent disparities in access to ICT, which have widened the gaps between developed and developing countries, he voiced concern that some countries take advantage of their monopoly of such technology to distort and fabricate the events and realities of other countries, especially developing countries seeking true independence from colonial Powers.  This situation demands the international community’s immediate attention, he said, adding that such technology must be fully compatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter pertaining to the rules of friendly relations between States.  The Department can play a more effective role in helping bridge the digital divide, he said, adding that unilateral coercive measures by some powers block technology transfer to developing countries, and in doing so, deprive their societies of access to communication infrastructures and capacity-building.  Steps must be taken to tackle Islamophobia, he said, urging the Department to address the phenomenon, particularly by commemorating 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, designated by Assembly resolution 76/254.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, calling ICT an “open window on every corner of the world”, said that the geographic continuum represented by such technology must not be allowed to regress, as it is increasingly vital in the face of challenges, including armed conflicts, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The League supports all the Organization’s plans and programmes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and has strengthened its relationship with the United Nations Information Centre in Cairo, and intensified capacity-building programmes.  Recalling the adoption, two decades ago, of the Arab strategy of information, aimed at elevating essential elements for the Arab world, including the Palestine issue, she noted that recent events have revealed the extent to which information without restraints can have an impact on matters of citizenship.  Paraphrasing the Secretary-General’s words, which said that information without responsibility inevitably leads to major shortcomings in the consciousness of individuals, she called for a comprehensive plan to be put in place to combat disinformation and scarce information, hate speech and racism, including through the dissemination of information in various languages.  She welcomed the work of United Nations radio, especially its Arab section, in raising awareness among the broader public.  The digital divide must be bridged, especially in poorer States, so that no one is left behind.  She hailed all initiatives of the Department, particularly the renaming of its training programme after journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

PATRICIA HERDT, International Organization of la Francophonie, stressing the indispensable contribution of multilingualism, pointed out that significant disparities continue to persist between the use of English and the other five official languages.  The visual materials of many events of many events continue to give the impression that the United Nations speaks in one language, she observed.  Against this backdrop, she called for expanded access to objective and reliable information in different languages on the Organization’s digital platforms.  The Department must not only correct information availability gaps between English and other languages but also develop online monitoring systems that can detect erroneous or misleading information in different languages.  In that regard, she recommended it capitalize on the know-how of fact-checkers operating in various languages through strengthened collaboration with a view to sharing both good practices and necessary resources. The Department should furthermore conduct campaigns to raise awareness of disinformation among the general public, account for the wide variety of digital platform use and support reach capacities on disinformation in different languages and cultural contexts. As multilingualism must be respected during the consultations on the code of conduct, the Organization must guarantee documents, meetings and related information in all six official languages, she underscored.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation concurred with the Belarusian delegate’s assessment of the Department’s work, and stressed that the cases of distortion and deletion of information he mentioned were unacceptable.  He called the insinuations about Russian censorship and an information vacuum baseless and hypocritical, adding that those speakers should look in the mirror, as they are accusing the Russian Federation of doing what they themselves perpetrate at home.  Responding to the anti-Russian sentiments expressed by the representative of Latvia, he said they twisted the issue with their citation of a supposed tweet by the Russian politician Dmitry Medvedev.  “Western colleagues just want to smear Russia to justify their actions against us, including in the information space,” he stressed.

To the delegate of the United States, he said he did not address that country’s violations of its obligations as a host country, and how it trampled underfoot media freedoms by denying journalists visas.  The Russian Federation feels bitter to see Nazism rear its ugly head once again, through the use of Nazi symbols and Russophobic brainwashing, he said, adding that the “criminal Kyiv regime” had a misanthropic policy against innocent people.  Further, that country’s representative’s joke about mosquitoes was an attempt to divert attention from military biological laboratories of the United States including in Ukraine.  On the comments on freedom of speech by the United Kingdom’s representative, he said: “These eloquent words are at odds with reality,” citing 15 investigations into the RT news network, which was then taken off the air in that country in March last year.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, also speaking in exercise of his right of reply, pointed out that Seoul’s joint military exercise with the United States is an annual one that is defensive in nature and aimed at defending his country from the clear and present military threat of Pyongyang.  Such a defensive measure is the duty of a responsible Government and the least that it can do, he underscored.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea responded by pointing out that these war drills continue day after day, month after month.  Given the nature, scale and intensity of these exercises, how can they be justified as defence-oriented, he asked, spotlighting his country’s defensive measures as a just exercise of its sovereignty to deter threats.  In light of the close link between peace and security and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations should pay attention to this abnormal predicament and strongly call for such drills to halt.

For information media. Not an official record.