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ICP Asks UN PGA Lajcak's Spox About Candidates to Succeed Him, If Online Disclosure

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photos, Periscope

UNITED NATIONS, January 15 – Back on May 31 when the UN General Assembly's new President Miroslav Lajcak came to take questions in from the GA Hall on May 31, Inner City Press asked him as the last question about the then still undecided first UN bribery case involving former PGA John Ashe and Macau based businessman Ng Lap Seng, and whether he would commit to disclose who pays for his travel and his staff, and try to codify this in a GA resolution during his year. Video here. Lajcak to his credit stayed and took the question, ending with “There will be no secrets.” On January 15, Inner City Press asked Lajcak's spokesman about something Lajcak said a speech the previous week, about public dialogues with the candidates to succeed him. Here is that spokesperson's write-up: "Asked about the election of the next President of the General Assembly, the Spokesperson said that the current President and the Member States wished to see a transparent and inclusive process. He later added that, as part of this process, according to resolution 71/323 entitled "Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly", there would be informal interactive dialogues, for which the modalities were still being worked out. Asked about the role of the regional groups, the Spokesperson later said that, by resolution 33/138, the General Assembly decided that in the election of the President of the General Assembly regard should be had for equitable regional rotation of this office. Consequently, the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly was to be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean Group." Inner City Press has asked if candidates' presentations will go online. And will finances be disclosed? On December 20, a month after a second UN bribery case, involving inducements to another former President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa for the China Energy Fund Committee became public, Inner City Press asked Lajcak about having canceled a November 21 appearance at a UN event funded by CEFC. Lajcak affirmed he had not attended the event, said that he is adopted the good practices of his predecessors, not the bad practices. Inner City Press notes that it is up to Secretary General Antonio Guterres to initiate any UN audit. He hasn't, and CEFC China Energy, the beneficiary, remains a member of the UN Global Compact. We'll have more on this. Back on October 24, after having its accreditation threatened by the UN for pursuing real accountability reporting at the UN, Inner City Press asked Lajcak's spokesman, as summarized by his office: "The Spokesperson was asked about a contribution of $30,000 by Georgia to the Trust Fund of the President’s Office. The reason for the contribution, according to the Office’s web site, was “to support funding of the position of Consultant for Legal Affairs." Asked if the position had been filled by a national from Georgia, the Spokesperson replied in the affirmative, noting that a Georgian national had occupied the position since the beginning of the General Assembly’s current session. Asked how funding and outreach to Member States worked with respect to the hiring of staff in the President’s Office, the Spokesperson said that the President engages in fundraising, and Member States are welcome to contribute to the Trust Fund. All contributions are reported on the Office’s web site. The Spokesperson added that, sometimes, when Member States contribute money to the Trust Fund, they earmark it for certain purposes." It's good - and/but shouldn't the PGA have some ability to stop censorship of Press happening right in front of him? We'll see. On September 26 when he held his first sit down press conference after the General Assembly week, Inner City Press asked him to ensure that his daily schedule be archived online, and not disappear when the following day's is uploaded. There seemed to be an openness to this. Inner City Press also asked if he might set some minimum standards for at least photographic accuracy, after Pakistan used a photo of Gaza and said it was Kashmir, then refused to either defend or correct it. He said he'll think about it, but action seems unlikely. He named 15 unpaid advisers, including Brazil's Antonio de Aguilar Patriota, Kenya's Amina Mohamed, Sweden's Carl Bildt, Carlos Lopes formerly of ECA, Francisco Jose Pereira Pinto de Balsemao of Portugal, Igor Ivanov of Russia, Jean-Marie Guehenno, Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, Karan Donfried, Kishore Mahbubabi, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, Nik Gowing, Susana Malcorra and... Jeffrey Sachs. , who most recently called US President Donald Trump a crude sociopath. On September 12 after his first session as GA President, Lajcak held a stakeout, at the end of which Inner City Press asked him if he would commit NOT to take a job with the UN Secretariat at the end of his year, as his predecessor did earlier on September 12. Lajcak said he has no hidden agenda, only the agenda of the UN. Video here. Transcript below. From Lajcak's spokesperson's summary of his September 14 response to Inner City Press: "The Spokesperson was asked whether the transparency on the Office’s web site would only extend to the President or to the rest of the staff as well. The journalist specifically wanted to know whether it would be possible to determine which staff members were being funded by which countries. The Spokesperson said that not all pledges to the Office’s Trust Fund had been converted into contributions yet. However, once actual funds were received, including those which Member States had earmarked for certain staff members, that information would be posted immediately on the web site. " From the September 12 transcript: Inner City Press: Question: Your predecessor today has been named to a post by the Secretariat as Envoy on Oceans which is probably good for the oceans. But some people think it’s strange given that the PGA or GA is supposed to oversee the Secretariat. Can you commit when you would take a job with the Secretariat as soon as you leave this post, and how do you view the GA’s role in actually kind of overseeing the activities including with ethics and transparency of the Secretariat? PGA Lajcak: "I’m glad to say that particularly my two last predecessors have set a very high standard for ethics and transparency in this office, which I fully intend to follow. And I said publicly, and I can repeat it here as well, that I have no personal agenda, I have no national agenda, I have no hidden agenda. I only have one agenda, which is the United Nations. So, all I am here for is to help promote the UN agenda." Now, his Office's website has gone up - although for "Information on Finances" it says "coming soon." In the UN until now, basic questions about who is paying who, which staff are seconded, go unanswered. Lajcak has provided some information, but has not tied it to WHICH staff member. He discloses so far: "The Office of the President of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly currently has 28 team members, of which 20 are female and 8 male. 15 staff are seconded from member states; 7 staff are provided for by regular UN budget (3 administrative assistants, 2 from the senior executive team and 1 senior adviser and 1 spokesperson). 3 staff are recruited through voluntary contributions to the OPGA Trust Fund, 1 secondments from the UN system – IOM - and 2 UN interns." We'll have more on this. In one step for UN reform and transparency, a resolution was adopted on April 19 to henceforth webcast to the public the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which Inner City Press has covered and critiqued for some time. Inner City Press notes that a similar, even more basic reform is needed: due process rules for journalists at the UN, where currently there are none. As to the NGO webcasting, US Ambassador Nikki Haley on April 19 said, “Today's vote will bring increased transparency and accountability to the United Nations. Now all of these meetings and votes will be open for the world to see. This major win at that will greatly assist organizations that stand up to oppressive governments around the world.” We agree: see below. But when will the needed reforms - any reforms - for content neutral accreditation of media at the UN, and due process of some sort before UN censors can throw the Press, happen? After the UN Department of Public Information gave Inner City Press two hours to leave, for having covered an event in the UN Press Briefing Room related to the Ng Lap Seng UN corruption case, there has been no appeals process. Pro-UN media only recently arrived have been given office space; Inner City Press' long time shared office is being given to an Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom whose correspondent Sanaa Youssef rarely comes in and never asks questions. For nineteen months and for now ongoing, Inner City Press is required to have UN minders to cover events on the Conference Building's second floor, unlike other media. It is lawless censorship and must be addressed.


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