Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Agenda Item: 58
Questions Relating to Information
Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
CR 4, United Nations, New York
19 October 2018
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 Mr. Chairperson, of our full support as you steer this committee to the successful conclusion of its work.
Sri Lanka aligns itself with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Egypt on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and would like to make the following remarks in our national capacity.
We welcome the Report of the Committee on Information and thank Ambassador Kickert for his leadership of the Committee during its fortieth session. We take note of the remarks delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Ms. Alison Smale and her team and for the leadership she has provided to the Department. We also thank the Secretary General for his Report at A/73/288 on Questions relating to information. Sri Lanka continues to support and encourage the DPI in their efforts, in disseminating information and projecting to the world the value of the UN body, especially at a time when multilateralism is under grave threat.
In the face of such threats, the United Nations must be, for the sake of humanity, the unifying voice, the standard bearer, and the light of hope. And it is on the shoulders of the DPI that an immense responsibility lies to project to all corners of the world, a positive and inspiring profile of the UN. And in this formidable task, the DPI has Sri Lanka’s fullest support.
We face today, not only the great promise of rapid technological advances – as evidenced by the remarkable rescue of the 12 young boys and their football coach from the Tham Luang caves in Northern Thailand as the distinguished representative of Thailand so eloquently detailed - but also the grave peril of technological advances, with extremist voices manipulating social media tools and hijacking democratic spaces. Therefore we are encouraged by the work of the DPI with regard to increasing its social media presence, showing the impact and relevance of the work of the United Nations throughout a wide range of audiences and across languages.
With outreach and more information necessary in all areas, particularly in women’s empowerment, peacekeeping, peace building, disarmament, security, the promotion and protection of human rights, the 2030 agenda on sustainable development and climate change, we are heartened to read in the Reports that content relating to the Sustainable Development Goals have proven to be particularly popular among social media and web users.
Today we encounter many challenges as a result of the changing face of terrorism and violent extremism, not least of all due to the rapid advancement of technology, porous borders and large movements of humanity due to violence. In this regard we welcome the Department’s support to the Office of Counter- Terrorism in planning communications activities including honoring victims through the observance of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism.
As a troop contributing country, Sri Lanka recognizes the importance of disseminating information on the United Nations peacekeeping operations. We are pleased at the current cooperation between DPI and the DPKO in this regard.
More than ever before the message of the United Nations based on its three pillars of peace and Security, Development and Human rights must reach every corner of the globe. As such we are encouraged that the DPI continues to work closely with other UN agencies in facilitating outreach.
Every day 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 the DPI to continue to aggressively target the youth in creating awareness.
As one of the main sponsors of World Youth Skills Day, Sri Lanka thanks the DPI for its support in organizing an event this July on youth skills for sustainability and innovation in collaboration with the Office of the Envoy on Youth, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization.
We welcome the reforms envisaged by the Department of Public Information including the Under-Secretary- General for Global Communications undertaking to better communicate the priorities established by Member States.
It is commendable that DPI has widened the reach of information in UN official and non-official languages, through different media, by building and strengthening a network of information centres and websites and in collaborating with communication partners like local media, private sector, civil society and academic institutions. Sri Lanka believes the DPI should redouble its efforts in strengthening its partnership with civil society.
However, we are still faced with some challenges.
While technology is advancing at a rapid pace, most people are not able to keep pace, and many are left behind. These people come from the poorest areas in the world, and from developing nations, where access to the internet is limited, and communication infrastructures are weak. DPI must understand the ground realities in each country, and consider resource mobilization to areas that need it.
Journalists and bloggers around the world continue to be jailed, disappeared and killed. Newspapers, are sealed, presses are burned, TV and radio licenses are withdrawn or refused, and activists and journalists alike are threatened or brutally murdered. Impunity is perpetuated when no meaningful investigations are conducted into the murders of journalists. We cannot be whited sepulchres turning a blind eye to such acts. That is not what the United Nations is about.
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 proved to be incapable of preventing the abuses.
As a nation now in a post conflict period, having suffered a dark period under the yoke of terrorism and an accompanying culture of impunity, we are actively conscious Mr. Chair of the value of a nation, built on the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law. We believe that the cornerstone of any democracy is freedom of information. Without this there can be no meaningful advancement of peace, development or human rights.
A break down in the rule of law and a lack of freedom of information will lead to social divisiveness and generate mistrust between groups and in the institutions of the State. It will hamper the achievement of security and development goals and lead to a cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms.
Therefore we welcome the resolutions in document A/73/21 that urge all countries, to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as to those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of the media. We also welcome the call to ensure for journalists, the free and effective performance of their professional tasks, and the resolute condemnation of all attacks against journalists.
We are confident, that the continuous efforts by DPI, will help attain the goals and define the role of the UN in enhancing values of tolerance and assisting developing countries in confronting the challenges of development. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate Sri Lanka’s support to the work of the DPI.