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Of Fish Subsidies & Weak Marine Protected Areas, UN Ocean Conference Ends With Public Banned

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photos here

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 – As the UN's week-long Ocean Conference ended on June 9 with a Fiji farewell song, there was self-congratulation but still few answers on fisheries subsidies and the substance of Marine Protected Areas. Throughout the week Inner City Press, often as the only media in the UN Press Briefing Room or the only one asking questions, pursued the issue with ministers from Indonesia, Palau and the Maldives, and UN agencies which claimed not to know of widely reported scams right in their host countries. At the end, Inner City Press asked the accessible President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson of the push for the creation of a new job, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Ocean, and he seemed to acknowledge it. Photos here. Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access complained how money was spent on exhibits in the UN lobby and then the public banned for the whole week. This is today's UN. On June 7 when Monaco's Prince Albert II held a press conference at the UN, Marine Protected Areas were mentioned and Inner City Press went to ask him about the MPAs which offer little to no protection, see below. But as it turned out at the press conference, the questions were given to a group which the Prince gives money to - this was not disclosed - and the questions not surprisingly were softballs, repeated requests to defend the Paris Accord and sing the praises of the Prince's relatives and diving. To this has the UN descended: faux press conferences by royals, with the fact that those called on for questions are fundees not disclosed. To those the Prince - or his subjects - funds, an embargoed copy of his self-promotion was provided (a disgusted member of the group provided it to Inner City Press). The group, as the Prince should know, operates to get thrown out of the UN investigative Press. There was giggling, and some embarrassing wire service pick-ups, when the Prince "got naughty" and ostensibly stood up to power. At the end no question about Marine Protected Areas was permitted. There was applause, and the question, We'll see you tonight, won't we? There will be more faux prizes. To this has the UN descended. When the  Montreal-based Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity Cristiana Pasca Palmer held a press conference at the UN on June 5 about Marine Protected Areas, Inner City Press as the only media to ask a question raised criticism about Canada's proposed Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area. It was shrunken to avoid key fishing grounds, it allowed oil and gas exploration. But Palmer, and the first expert they referred to, weren't aware of it. Another more voluable responder from the back of the room said maybe oil and gas exploration weren't bad, or the purpose of the Marine Protected Area. Apparently not. But shouldn't UN agencies be aware of such controversies in their host countries? As the Ocean Conference started at the UN there were corporate exhibits including a large one by Suez Environmental, a firm much protested for its role in water privatization. Inner City Press asked the UN Department of Public Information, which is sponsoring press conference complete with corporate moderators asking softball questions to supermarket chains, who in the UN is vetting these corporate commitments. You'll have to wait until the end of the week, was the answer. But the corporations are already getting blue washed in the UN website and hallways, just as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reflexively offered praise to Citigroup last week, while his Global Compact covered up for a company exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara. Meanwhile another topic Inner City Press started asking about last week, fisheries subsidies, will not be acted on in the Ocean Conference but rather, if at all, in the World Trade Organization at the end of the year. We'll have more on this.


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