UN Department for Public Information to be "reoriented" yet again

That means it can’t be very good the way it is, right?

The UN’s Department for Public Information (DPI) — the target of severe criticism by American conservatives in years past for being larger than the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) — is also rightfully criticized for its confusion, lack of professionalism, many other reasons. It has been in almost constant revolution for as long as can be remembered.

Its last incarnation was as a provider of “strategic communication”. Whatever that means, it certainly doesn’t mean straighforward provision of information about the aims and work of the Organization and its agencies, bodies and programmes.

The new Under-Secretary-General Kiyotaka Akasaka clearly hasn’t had either major experience with media and communication, or enough time yet to know what he can do with the Department.

Yesterday, he addressed the UN Committee on Information (composed of junior diplomats from Member States who also have had precious little experience with media or communication, who write the mandate for the Department, with the coaching of the ranking bureaucrats in the Department, before it is adopted by the UN General Assembly at the end of every year, so the bureaucrats in the Department can then say they must do x or y because they have been given a mandate) …

In any case, Akasaka said he was going to “reorient” DPI, both structurally and programmatically.

DPI aims to reform in a stable manner, he said. “We must build on the gains made in the past, while remaining attentive to the demands of the media, to changes in the Organization’s priorities, and to new and revised mandates given to us by Member States,” he said. Priority attention would be paid to peace and security, climate change, development and human rights — the only thing new here is climate change.

“DPI’s future course, like that of the Organization itself, will therefore be guided by a policy of ‘reform with continuity,’” Akasaka told the Committe on Information. Apparently ‘reform with continuity’ is a directive put in place by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he took office in January.

The Under-Secretary-General said DPI has made “steady progress in meeting its mission,” he said — otherwise, it would hard to justify not doing away with it.

And, he explained, “its activities are now more strategic“.

As to his own career path, Mr. Akasaka said “he had long been familiar with the UN’s work through his travels, which included work at several international organizations and led to his appointment in March as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information”. OK…

He added that “At each place, I discovered amazing stories of people striving to make lives better. Behind those stories often lay the light footprint of the United Nations and its staff. I always admired the commitment and dedication of those people – the unsung heroes – who stood guard between enemy combatants, built tents for refugees, vaccinated children against deadly diseases, and brought food and water to the needy”.

Definitely, the work in the field and on the ground is both more rewarding and generally more useful.

“Now I have the opportunity to tell the story of the United Nations to the whole world. It is an amazing opportunity and a remarkable challenge”, Mr. Akasaka said.


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