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UN Agency Tests Terror with Microsoft and Kennedy, UN FOIA Called For But Denied

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- A little known UN agency, the Turin-based Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, held a conference on "security governance" at the UN on Thursday. Microsoft, despite the well known security flaws in its software, was invited to present, along with Kerry Kennedy of the RFK Foundation. Ms. Kennedy, it emerges, will be "partnering" with UNICRI to develop and disseminate a human rights curriculum for kids.

  At a mid-day press conference, Inner City Press asked Ms. Kennedy if she or the RFK Foundation had played any role in the UN's September 2007 conference on the victims of terrorism, and whether she believes the UN should have a Freedom of Information Act and better whistleblower protection -- the lack of which in the US's Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq she has commented on.

  Ms. Kennedy said she was not been a part of the September victims' event, but that she believes that more openness and information is important with anything associated with government, like the UN. She said of the UN, "I would be in favor of making those as rigorous and open as possible." Video here, from Minute 11:44.

UN - responding to corruption? FOIA not shown

  Later, Inner City Press asked UN Assistant Secretary General Robert Orr, who had introduced both Ms. Kennedy and the Microsoft representative, to justify the UN's lack of a FOIA. He said that member states had rebelled at paying "the costs associated with FOIA." Video here, from Minute 35:14.  But if those costs are mostly related to redacting and concealing information, and nearly all records are not electronic, this should not be a bar.

  Orr encouraged questions to the director of UNICRI, Sandro Calvani. Inner City Press asked Mr. Calvani how UNICRI is funded. He said it is all "extra-budgetary," that one third of the funds from from the Italian government, and other funds from "corporations" including "US corporations." Like Microsoft? He said that UNICRI unlike the UN Secretariat "can take risks," and doesn't need concensus for what it does How nice, to have all of the powers of the UN with none of the accountability. There are other farflung UN centers like this, on some of which we will be reporting shortly.

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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