Forty-sixth Session,
5th Meeting (AM)

Closing Session, Information Committee Approves Text Stressing Global Communications Department’s Key Role in Fighting Misinformation in Era of Artificial Intelligence

Second Resolution Urges Greater Action to Help Developing Countries Improve Communications Infrastructure

Approving two resolutions that emphasize the importance of ensuring public access to information and reaffirming the crucial role of the Department of Global Communication in addressing the spread of misinformation in the era of artificial intelligence, the United Nations Committee on Information concluded its forty-sixth session today. 

Both texts, approved by consensus, were contained in the report of the Committee’s forty-sixth session (document A/AC.198/2024/L.4).  The report also contained three other chapters titled “Introduction” (document A/AC.198/2024/L.1), “Organizational questions” (document A/AC.198/2024/L.2) and “General debate” (document A/AC.198/2024/L.3). 

By draft resolution A, titled “Information in the service of humanity”, the Assembly would urge countries and the UN to reduce existing disparities in information flows by increasing assistance for the development of communications infrastructures in developing countries.  It would also condemn resolutely all attacks against journalists; provide support for the strengthening of practical training programmes for broadcasters and journalists in developing countries; and enhance regional cooperation among developing countries, as well as between developed and developing countries, to improve developing countries’ media infrastructure and communications technology.

By draft resolution B, titled “United Nations global communications policies and activities”, the Assembly would stress that the Department’s primary mission is to provide accurate, impartial, comprehensive, balanced, timely, relevant and multilingual information to the public on the Organization’s responsibilities.  By the same text, the Assembly, recognizing that safe artificial intelligence systems have the potential to accelerate sustainable development, would caution that improper or malicious design and use of such systems could undermine information integrity and access to information.  It would request the Department to make specific efforts aimed at identifying and raising awareness about misinformation and disinformation, taking into account the impact of artificial intelligence. 

Other terms would note the Department’s work vis-à-vis the drafting of the United Nations Global Principles for Information Integrity.  The Assembly would also reiterate its request to the Department and content-providing offices of the Secretariat to ensure that UN publications are produced in all six official languages.  Further, it would express serious concern over attacks and violence against journalists and other media workers, noting that ensuring accountability for crimes committed against them is a key element in preventing future attacks. 

Welcoming the adoption, Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary General for Global Communications, expressed her Department’s deep appreciation to the delegates for working tirelessly — day and night — to uphold the Committee tradition of consensus.  “I don’t know if there are many consensus outcomes these days in the various Committees working in this building,” she said, thanking the Bureau members and various regional groups for their commitment and flexibility.  Adopting the resolutions by consensus sends an important signal at a time of alarming global tensions and divisions, she pointed out, adding that it also demonstrates their shared recognition of the need to have a strong, vibrant communications function at the UN. 

Citing Hannah Arendt, she said:  “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed and the facts themselves are not in dispute.” While facts are the foundation for a shared reality, the current information ecosystem is not delivering the facts.  Recalling the Assembly’s annual general debate, she observed that fighting misinformation, disinformation and hate speech is at the core of Member States’ concerns.  The forthcoming UN Global Principles for Information Integrity, she pointed out, contains recommendations offering a constructive vision for an information ecosystem that fosters trust, knowledge and choice for all.  Guidance from delegates is central to this vision, she said, adding:  “We listen, we take close notes, and, based on that, we strive to deliver on UN communications as envisioned by this Committee.” 

Liliana Veronica Baños Müller (El Salvador), Committee Rapporteur, who gave an overview of the body’s discussions, noted that many delegations commended the Department of Global Communications in disseminating fact-based information in a climate of conflict, fake information and digital censorship.  They hailed the Department’s social media and digital initiatives as well as the Shireen Abu Akleh Training Programme for Palestinian Broadcasters and Journalists.  Delegates also welcomed the initiative to develop global principles to ensure information integrity.

At the same time, she added, they also expressed concern about the growing digital gap and the monopoly on communications technologies, and called on the Department to address the risk created by generative artificial intelligence, while harnessing its potential.  Underscoring the importance of multilingualism, they said adequate resources should be allocated to ensure this, she recalled. 

The representative of Uganda, who spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, pointed out that the adopted resolutions were available in six languages, thus fostering the core value of multilingualism.  He was among several delegates who spoke after the adoption, praising the spirit of compromise that prevailed during the negotiations.  Italy’s delegate described the adoption of the texts as a “victory of multilateralism”, while noting that it gives the Secretary-General the mandate to assess best practices and challenges in tackling misinformation, disinformation and information manipulation.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also welcomed the consensus adoption; however, she drew attention to the “intricate link between consensus finding and non-politicization of our work” and called for a broader appreciation of the Committee’s mandate.  The resolutions continue to grow, at risk of diluting the guidance the Committee provides, she added. 

The representative of the United States, pointing out that more journalists were killed in 2023 than in any year in recent memory, expressed concern that authoritarian Governments and non-State actors continue to use disinformation.  She also made clarifications on the language contained in the resolutions, noting that the United States understands abbreviated references to certain human rights to be shorthand references for the more accurate and widely accepted terms used in the applicable treaties or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  On operative paragraph 12 of the Committee’s report containing the two resolutions, she affirmed the importance of countering the financing of terrorism and noted that during negotiations, her delegation had raised concerns on that same paragraph with regard to freedom of expression. 

The representative of the United Kingdom welcomed the inclusion of artificial intelligence in this year’s text for the first time, acknowledging both its risks and benefits.  He also spotlighted the Department’s efforts in shedding light on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Sudan and Ukraine.  Israel’s delegate expressed concern about the “disturbing surge of disinformation spread by terrorists” and antisemitism since the 7 October Hamas attack on her country.  The international community must resist this, “not only with words and statements but actions”, she said. 

The Committee on Information, chaired during its forty-sixth session by Muhammad Usman Iqbal Jadoon (Pakistan), is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly that deals with questions relating to public information.  It oversees the work of the Department of Global Communications and provides it with guidance on its policies, programmes and activities.

For information media. Not an official record.