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At UNDP, Pay to Listen to Clark, Pay to Ask through UNCA, FUNCA Fights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- How can people be charged money, $10 for adults and even $5 for children, to hear a UN system official speak about their work for the UN?

  The Free UN Coalition for Access put this question to the UN Development Program's three top spokespeople regarding UNDP Administrator Helen Clark's upcoming August 7 talk at the Baycourt Centennial Theatre in Tauranga City, New Zealand.

  The advertisement says Clark "will be speaking about her work as head of the United Nations Development Program, the peak global body that coordinates development strategy globally, and works in over 170 countries to empower people’s lives while helping nations become more resilient. With a budget of over $US 5 billion a year."

  Five billion dollars a year but Administrator Helen Clark virtually never holds a question and answer press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

    Last year after an inquiry by Inner City Press, she did disavow a previous business award she'd given to a tobacco firm. That came through UNDP lead spokesperson Satinder Bindra, to whom along with Clark's "personal" spokesperson Christina LoNigro and Abdel-Rahman Ghandour the Free UN Coalition for Access has sent these questions:

"This is a timely request for an explanation of how (or if) it is consistent with UN system principles and rules for UNDP Administrator Helen Clark's upcoming talk "about her work as head of the United Nations Development Program" to have an entrance fee of $10, and even $5 for children, here.

"Given that this for-pay event is impending, please provide the requested explanation upon receipt / as quickly as possible and confirm receipt of this request for explanation.

"This is also a formal request that Administrator Clark belatedly hold a question and answer press conference in UN Headquarters in New York, and for an explanation of why she has done even fewer of these than Kemal Dervis or Ad Melkert. Thank you in advance."

  We will publish any substantive response -- one would think, well in advance of the August 7 event, which is listed (tellingly) as "sold out." Will those people be given their money back?

  There is a disturbing trend of money being charged in the UN system, that the Free UN Coalition for Access is looking into. At UN press conference, the UN Correspondents Association as it becomes increasingly discredited for, among other things, spying for the UN (story, audio of UNCA's first vice president Louis Charbonneau of Reuters, document with his "you didn't get this from me"), fights ever harder to be given the first question.

  But since UNCA 2013 president Pamela Falk has said that this first question can be given to ANY dues paying member of UNCA, even one who ran for but was not elected to the Executive Committee, it is clearly a situation of pay to play: a person getting a first question at the UN in exchange for paying money. Where is the Office of Legal Affairs? The Ethics Office? OIOS?

  Also the UN gives large room S-310 to UNCA, for briefings they publicize only to those who pay them money. Even member states have started to complain about this. But those in charge of this increasingly discredited partnership, the UN Censorship Alliance, are apparently out of touch with member states and the rules of the UN that at least some of them used to previously seek to enforce.

This charging of money to children to hear a UN system official speak takes place outside of UN premises, far from New York in Helen Clark's native New Zealand. Watch this site.


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