Sri Lanka Statement
By Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Agenda Item: 54
Questions Relating to Information
Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
CR 4, United Nations, New York
18 October 2019
(Please check against delivery)
Since this is the first time Sri Lanka takes the floor in the Fourth Committee, let me begin, by warmly congratulating you and the bureau on your election. Be assured of our full support as you steer this committee to its successful conclusion.
We welcome the Report of the Committee on Information contained in document A/74/21 and thank its Rapporteur for his introductory statement. We note the remarks delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Ms. Melissa Fleming, and congratulate her on the appointment. We thank you for being present today as we continue the general debate on this important item. We also thank Ms Alison Smale for her work and efforts as well.
Sri Lanka takes note of the Report of the Secretary General at A/74/283 on Questions relating to Information and the work of the Department under its three sub-programmes: strategic communications services, news services and outreach and knowledge services. Sri Lanka continues to support and encourage the DGC in disseminating credible, balanced and objective information, particularly at a time when the value of multilateralism and globalism is being undermined by populism and unilateralism, and regrettably it is proving increasingly difficult, to face common global challenges as a collective body.
If the United Nations membership and members of its secretariat are to fulfil their mandate on behalf of all humanity, it must do so within the confines of the UN Charter. It then falls upon the DGC to spread the UN message of hope and inspiration, especially in a world where hate, racism and intolerance appear to have again found a voice and a home. In this regard Sri Lanka commends the Department led multilingual communications and outreach effort, for the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. We also thank the DGC for making the document and the Secretary-General’s op-ed article on the subject, entitled “The wildfire of hate speech”, available in all six official languages, which were in turn translated into local languages by United Nations information centres.
Sri Lanka is of the view that member states must also seek to amplify the work of the UN through their own communications channels. To this end, the Department must continue close collaboration with member states, civil society and the media. In this regard Sri Lanka notes the cooperation with the resident coordinators which serve to enhance the work of the United Nations Information Centres and the Department. These centres also play an important role in engaging youth in matters that affect their futures and in disseminating information and knowledge to the peripheries. United Nations information centres have played a key role in raising awareness of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sri Lanka is pleased to inform that the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Colombo has been in operation since 1961 providing information in the three official languages Sinhala, Tamil and English. The Centre shares global, regional and local information about the United Nations in partnership with Zonal Education Offices, United Nations Association of Sri Lanka and NGOs. This kind of public access to United Nations information sources through reference libraries and other media is crucial in reaching student communities.
In this regard Sri Lanka applauds the work of the inspirational and empowered youth who have bravely raised their voices on issues of freedom of expression, education and climate change. We are inspired by the youth of this world who bring us hope for the future. We commend the Department’s work with the Office of the Envoy on Youth and encourage its efforts to target the youth in creating awareness on relevant global issues. As one of the main sponsors of World Youth Skills Day, Sri Lanka thanks the Department for its support in organizing the annual event in collaboration with the Office of the Envoy on Youth, UNESCO, and the International Labour Organization.
The recent reforms to make the department more front facing and agile and focused on strategic thinking and operational efficiency are a welcome development. This is important if the Department is to effectively disseminate a positive narrative of the United Nations that resonates with all the people of the world where everyone feels this is their UN and not the UN of only the most powerful and rich.
With extremist voices manipulating social media tools and occupying democratic space we are encouraged by the efforts of the DGC to increase its social media presence, to showcase the impact and relevance of the work of the United Nations throughout a wide range of audiences and across languages.
Outreach and more information is necessary in all areas, and we welcome the DGC’s communications support to the related UN agencies and departments. Sri Lanka particularly note its assistance in women’s empowerment, peacekeeping, peace building, disarmament, security, the promotion and protection of human rights, the 2030 agenda on sustainable development, climate change and Counter terrorism.
As a troop contributing country, Sri Lanka recognizes the importance of disseminating information on United Nations peace operations. The current cooperation between DGC and the DPO in this area must be continued as it will not only enhance the image of the UN, but improve the quality we strive for in our peacekeeping missions.
However, Sri Lanka is particularly concerned about the politicization of public information and the possible inappropriate use of information and communications technology to violate human rights, and interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign States, and destabilize countries and regions. As mentioned earlier it is vital that as the foremost multilateral organisation its member states and the UN Secretariat work within the confines of the UN Charter and seek ways and means of arresting this practice.
Sri Lanka believes that a commitment to accountability, redressing victims, and recognizing the rights of victims, promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law. We believe that States have a duty to guarantee that violations will not recur, and a special duty to reform institutions that prove to be incapable of preventing the abuses.
Therefore, among other resolutions and UN Actions and Programmes on freedom of expression and protection of journalists, Sri Lanka also welcomes the resolution under the leadership of Greece adopted in 2013, that proclaimed November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI). We commend and support the efforts and leadership of UNESCO in this regard, as well.
Sri Lanka reaffirms its support for the Department of Global Communications and remains confident that with the envisaged reforms, the Department will be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.