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On Malala Day, UN Won't Answer on Browns' Charity or How Access Granted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, updated July 20 -- Malala's speech at the UN on Friday was an inspiration. But the UN at least in part used it to direct concerned people to a non-UN charity, A World at School, which was started by Gordon Brown's wife Sarah in 2002.

  When Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky about this at Friday's noon briefing, he insisted that the focus should be on Malala's speech.

 While the UN might have preferred narratives of the day, it seems to Inner City Press (and to the new Free UN Coalition for Access) that the purpose of the UN noon briefing is to answer the questions that are asked.

  If it's just a one-way communication, like much of the UN system's social media, there's no reason to have an in-person question and answer session.

  When Inner City Press said it had “additional questions about this the World at School and the media access, but if you say it’s not the right day, I will ask them another day,” Nesirky said he would get back with responses.

 But as of 8 pm, no answers have been provided, on A World at School or why the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit told journalists there were no tickets, when Nesirky said there were ten. Who got them? On what basis? @FUNCA_info has asked.

From Friday's noon briefing transcript by the UN:

Inner City Press: on media access, there ended up being no tickets available through [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit] to attend it. But in trying to pursue tickets, we were referred to something called A World at School and also to the office of the UN Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown. What is the connection between A World at School and the United Nations? Is it a UN body? And the office of Gordon Brown, it says at the bottom of it, “copyright Gordon and Sarah Brown and the reds” [sic - made up by UN], the website was registered by this World at School, so I wanted to know, is it a UN office, is it funded out of the UN’s budget, both entities are laudable, but it seems a little bit blurry. Is this a UN entity or not? Gordon Brown is a UN official, but why is his website not a UN website?

Spokesperson : Gordon Brown has a very specific role given to him by the Secretary-General as the Special Envoy for Global Education and for, as the leading champion of Global Education First, the initiative that the Secretary-General launched. And of course, the presence of Malala here today on her birthday — and after all, that is what this should be about — was extremely powerful. Anybody who listened to her speech, I imagine could not fail to be moved by it and to feel inspired and motivated by it, too.

As for your question about access, tickets were available. Ten tickets were indeed available and were distributed. It was first-come, first-served. And as you will have seen, and as I think people around the world saw, it was being broadcast, and therefore, people who did not get into the room — and it was not only journalists who could not get into the room — believe me, there are many who would have wished to have been there. It was possible to cover this, and I think many people did cover it, even if they were not in the room.

Inner City Press: A World at School, it seems laudable, the speech was great. I am just trying to figure out, Gordon Brown, what relationship is the UN?

Spokesperson: Listen, Matthew, I think, I am happy to take this up with you, but I truly believe that the focus today should be on Malala and the work that she has done, the symbolism of her visit here. And I think that anybody who has been listening to that, and indeed followed the Youth Assembly that has followed, there are many, many extremely courageous, bright and eloquent young people who are advocating strongly for what is fundamental rights. And I think that’s where the focus should be today. Other questions, please. Yes?

Question [Journalist from Pakistan, not on UNCA board]: But, Martin, that’s all very well about Malala, but why should some outside body be controlling the access to the General Assembly Hall and not the United Nations itself?

Spokesperson: Well, it’s the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and as I have said, the tickets were available.

To whom? These questions should be answered. Watch this site.

On Saturday morning, July 20, the following came in:

Subject: Question
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

On your question about the Malala event: "A World at School" is one among several partner organizations that supported and contributed to the organization of Malala Day at the UN. It does not have any kind of formal affiliation with the UN. Gordon Brown and Sarah Brown have their own websites to follow and give visibility to their activities and campaigns -- on education and beyond.


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