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UN's Ban Preaches FOIA for Post-2015 Goals, While UN Has No FOIA, FUNCA Notes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon unveiled his “synthesis” report on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda on December 5 it said, "Press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association are enablers of sustainable development."

  This is hypocritical on more than one count, including that the UN Secretariat has no Freedom of Information Act or process, something that Inner City Press and now the Free UN Coalition for Access have been asking about and pushing for.

  As with legal accountability for harm done, as by the UN bringing cholera to Haiti, how can the Ban's UN preach to member states policies that are not applied to the UN at all?

The UN's lack of accountability, from bringing cholera to Haiti to using as “peacekeepers” armies under investigation for war crimes like those of the DR Congo and Sri Lanka, is enabled by the lack of even a basic FOIA covering the UN.

Inner City Press, which has litigated FOIA cases all the way to the US Supreme Court and submitted FOI request to dozens of countries, has long pushed for a UN Freedom of Information Act.

  On November 7, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric point blank: why not disclose for example when Ban takes gifts like Qatar's of free private jet travel to the Middle East this year?

  Dujarric after claiming that disclosing such information, or setting up "structure" to disclose such basic information, would required General Assembly approval, said he had nothing to add. Video here. Nothing to disclose?

   As reported on September 15 by the Columbia Journalism Review, “Inner City Press... reported that Burnham’s successor, Alicia Barcena, said it would be in place by the end of 2007. But the General Assembly never agreed on the scheme, and it was quietly shelved. “There were differing views among Member States about what constituted openness,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in an email.”

  (Inner City Press asked Dujarric about the quote at the September 15, 2014, noon briefing, video here and embedded below.)

  What leadership -- citing “differing views,” the UN Secretariat gave up before it even began. CJR also quotes a rights group which won't disclose what issues it raises to Ban, and correspondents happy to get leaks and text from their Western sources. This same organization, beyond its Executive Committee trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, withheld its Q&A with Ban Ki-moon even from its own members, here.

  This group, the so-called United Nations Correspondents Association, has now returned its censor in chief Giampaolo Pioli to its helm, to raise toasts with Ban Ki-moon while having tried to get the investigative Press thrown out, and doing nothing for freedom of information.

  As to freedom of association, Pioli declared to someone whose vote he was soliciting -- in an election without competition -- that no one can be a member of FUNCA and "his" UN Correspondents Association at the same time. That is, he can tell people what they can join, and how they should think. This is the UN's partner.

  In order to pursue more access to information -- and the protection of the rights of investigative journalists against such insider approaches -- Inner City Press co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access.

  FUNCA says it is absurd for the UN Secretariat to blame member states for its own refusal to be transparent with its own financial information. Furthermore, how can Ban's UN make claims about “we the peoples” while blaming unnamed governments for banning accountability to the peoples?

  CJR concluded, as we will for now, with this: “Inner City Press continues to advocate for a systematic freedom of information policy, but admits that there is little binding pressure journalists can put on the UN legally. 'Ultimately you end up making a moral argument, which is that more so than most governments, the UN is always pontificating about good governance and transparency,' he said. 'That’s what I find so ironic.'”

Ironic is a diplomatic way to put it. Watch this site -- and this (FUNCA) one.


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