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Saudi C20 Draws Boycott From Transparency Intl and Amnesty As UN Also Bans Critics

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

UN GATE, Jan 13 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who took a $930 million check from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has an Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake with a partnership with MBS' Misk Foundation. Inner City Press has repeatedly asked Guterres and the envoy to explain the partnership after MBS' killing of Jamal Khashoggi - without answer. Or, Guterres' answer has been to have Inner City Press roughed up and banned, now 559 days.

  Speaking of the exclusion of critical voices, and Saudi Arabia, now on January 13 from Transparency International, Civicus and Amnesty International (which begrudgingly said they would look into Guterres' censorship but then did nothing, so important is access to his corrupt UN to them), this: "The annual G20 summit often seems like a talking shop for the world’s most powerful governments. The leaders of 19 of the largest national economies plus the European Union get together, shake hands in front of the cameras, and make vague agreements, many of which they don’t implement. The summits draw the attention of the world’s media, and – frequently – protesters from around the world who want to hold those governments to account.  Less well known is the extensive cycle of preparatory meetings leading up to the G20 leaders’ summit. Despite the many limitations and challenges of the process, for many voices from outside government –especially trade unions, rights groups and civil society – these are rare opportunities to make policy recommendations directly to national authorities and to influence the global agenda on issues that affect billions of people. For the last few years, there has even been a dedicated stream of meetings for civil society within the G20, known as the Civil 20 (C20).  In 2020, however, we as civil society organizations will be keeping our distance from the official C20 process, which will be hosted by and in Saudi Arabia.  G20 host Saudi Arabia has tried to promote an image of itself as a modern country attractive for foreign investors. The government has recruited expensive Western PR advisors and spent millions of dollars to polish its image and suppress criticism from international media. Meanwhile, at home the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regularly arrests and prosecutes human rights defenders, censors free speech, limits free movement, and tortures and mistreats detained journalists and activists. Vaguely worded counter-terror laws are used to silence government critics, including through the imposition of the death penalty. In October 2018, the world was shocked by the brutal murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Women face systematic discrimination in law and practice. In addition, women human rights defenders who dare defend the rights of women are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention.  Instead of real reform, the Saudi government has been trying to whitewash its dire human rights record by holding major international events in the country. This includes the G20 and – through a government-authorized NGO – the C20. As leading civil society organisations present in most countries around the world (but notably not Saudi Arabia), we cannot participate in a process that seeks to give international legitimacy to a state that provides virtually no space for civil society, and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated.  In June 2019, the C20 established a set of principles, including a basic structure and operating mechanisms, to ensure its sustainability and effectiveness. The C20 principles emphasize inclusion of a variety of civil society actors, from local to global; transparency of decision-making; freedom and independence from undue influence by any non-civil society actors; inclusiveness and diversity; and the guiding values of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Most of these principles will be absent in 2020, and more alarmingly we are already seeing the Saudi G20 presidency undermining these principles.  Virtually no domestic civil society actors will be able to participate in the upcoming C20 in Saudi Arabia, other than a token number of organisations working on issues deemed inoffensive by the Saudi  government, since the Saudi authorities do not allow the existence of political parties, trade unions or independent human rights groups. Most progressive civil society activists are on trial or serving long prison sentences for speaking up, or have been forced into exile in order to avoid prison or worse. Returning to the country is not an option, as it will put them at risk. Without these independent and critical voices in the room, the credibility of the C20 is severely compromised." We'll have more on this.

   Guterres' Envoy and MBS' MiSK promoted a joint event during the UN General Assembly week Guterres banned Inner City Press from last year and so far this year. (A request is in, UNanswered, to new Accreditation both Melissa Fleming.

 Tellingly, this event was PROMOTED by the UN Correspondents Association, which Guterres' UN used to help oust investigative Inner City Press from the UN: "Dear colleagues,  UNCA is extending an invitation from the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and the Misk Foundation to the first-ever Misk-OSGEY Youth Forum taking place on Monday, September 23rd, from 1:30 -  6:00 pm at the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York.  Please see the media advisory below for details.  The event is open to all UN correspondents.   Valeria Robecco President, United Nations Correspondents Association." We'll have more on this too - much more.


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