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In Transparency, IMF Trails WB, UN is Worst: No FOIA, No Press Freedom

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- The International Monetary Fund today released five documents assessing its own transparency -- under embargo, admittedly, but released nonetheless. The United Nations lags even further behind the IMF, and appears to have no self-assessment much less self-correction mechanism.

  The IMF has a policy that "publication is presumed for policy documents and 'voluntary but presumed' for country documents." The World Bank "seeks to disclose any information that is not on a list of nine exceptions" -- more in line with the US Freedom of Information Act, though outside court review is unclear.

  The UN has none of this. Inner City Press began asking for some form of UN Freedom of Information Act some years ago; the head of Management Alicia Barcena said steps were being taken, but nothing came of it.

  More recently the new Free UN Coalition for Access has been advocating for increased transparency, or at least for the UN to have rules. The UN Secretariat's most recent response? To threaten to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' accreditation for hanging a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of its shared office, S-303. So much for free speech or freedom of association.

  The pretext for the threat is a collaboration between the UN Department of Public Information and its ally, the UN Correspondents Association. UNCA is allowed two signs, and given at least three rooms by UN DPI -- and seeks, through DPI, to outlaw any other organization.

  Requests under the US Freedom of Information Act have yielded documents showing attempts by UNCA to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN. The requests involved Voice of America, which said it had the support of Reuters, AFP and UNCA.

   Reuters, in turn, provided internal UNCA documents to the chief accreditation official of the UN, click here for story, here for document.

  In this context, while Inner City Press and FUNCA reserve the right to and will continue to push for more openness at the IMF, the UN need much, more more work. Watch this site.


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