Fonds Department of Public Information (DPI) (1946-present) - AG-063

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Department of Public Information (DPI) (1946-present)


  • 1945 - 1979 (Creation)

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Established in 1946 by GA resolution 13(I), the Department of Public Information promotes global awareness of the work of the United Nations. Its original mandate stated that it “advises the Secretary-General on information policy; and, working with the specialized agencies, it: supervises and maintains facilities at headquarters for representatives of all information media; maintains Information Centres away from headquarters, to disseminate United Nations information throughout the world; provides services for press coverage of United Nations activities and issues informative publications; organizes sales and distribution throughout the world of all informative material issued by the United Nations; broadcasts accounts of United Nations activities and provides facilities for commercial and governmental broadcasting services; working with the United Nations Film Board, produces and encourages the production of films on subjects connected with the United Nations and the specialized agencies; maintains and encourages film and photographic coverage of United Nations activities and maintains files of prints for publication purposes; provides United Nations information material and related services to educational agencies, lecturers and nongovernmental organizations; prepares surveys of press and radio opinion on United Nations activities; and maintains the library and reference services of the United Nations." (YUN, 1947-1948) In 1951, the Management and Circulation Division was created. In 1962, the Economic and Social Information Unit was created. In the mid-70s, there was a large push to reform and streamline the department, in order to improve both its information dissemination abilities and its coordination with other departments within the UN. As media technology continued to improve, the department changed its focus to include a more thematic approach, and also made it a point to strengthen ties with a large number of organizations around the globe as well as with youth. As of 1978, the main departments of DPI were Press and Publications, Radio and Visual Services, External Relations, and the Centre for Economic and Social Information. The late 70s and early 80s saw much debate about the effectiveness and impartiality of the department, both in the geographical representation within the department, and the variety of ways in which information was made available to the public. 1979 also saw a number of development programmes put in place to train broadcasters and journalists from developing countries, graduate students, and interns. Many of these debates were resolved through resolutions 36/149 B, 40/164 A and 41/68 B, which laid out the expectations for the department. Starting in the early 80s, DPI, in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and the Joint United Nations Information Committee, focused on “building up the information gathering and dissemination capabilities of developing countries, thus making them less dependent on outside sources, and achieving a more comprehensive and realistic image of the United Nations throughout the world.” (YUN, 1983) In 1996, two resolutions were adopted, one calling for the development of information flows and communication capabilities in the service of humanity, and the other outlining UN public information policies and activities. The late 90s saw a focus on presenting the UN as open, transparent and capable, as well as an increasing amount of information transmitted through the internet, including virtual collections in the Dag Hammarskjold Library. In 1999, the UN News Service was developed, as well as a daily news page on the UN website, an increase to the UN Radio programme, stronger ties with other UN departments, and the placement of op-eds by UN officials in news services across the globe. In the early 2000s, DPI continued to promote the idea of the UN as relevant in the 21st century, the new UN News Service as an all-encompassing clearinghouse for information in all formats, not just on the web, direct international radio broadcasting from UNHQ, and began to integrate the Information Centres with the UN Development Programme field offices. The department reports of the General Assembly’s Committee on Information. As of 2012, there were three divisions of the department: the Strategic Communications Division, the News and Media Division, and the Outreach Division. From 1958-1979, it was referred to as the Office of Public Information. For a brief period in 1997, it was referred to as the Office of Communication and Public Information. From 1946-1954, the Assistant Secretary-General was Benjamin A. Cohen, followed by Under-Secretary Ahmed S. Bokhari (1955-1958), Alfred G. Katzin (1959), Hernane Tavares de Sa (1960-1964), Jose Rolz-Bennett (1965-1967), Assistant Secretaries-General Agha Abdul Hamid (1968-1971) and Genichi Akatani (1972-1978), Under-Secretary-General Yasushi Akashi (1979-1986), Thérèse P. Sévigny (1987-1991), Eugeniusz Wyzner (1992), Marco Vianello-Chiodo (1993), Samir Sandar (1994-1997), Kensaku Hogen (1998-2000), and Shashi Tharoor as Interm Head in 2001, Under-Secretary-General in 2002, and Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information from 2003-2006. He was succeeded by Kiyotaka Akasaka (2007-2012) and Acting Head Maher Nasser (2012-present).

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Records consist of: reports, correspondence, instructions and policies, subject files of the different divisions, and photographs.

Fonds consists of the following Series:
S-1883 Leo Rosenthal - photographs
S-0976 Dag Hammarskjold Library - UNBIS Bibliographic Manuals
S-0597 Commemorative Celebrations
S-0540 Department of Public Information

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