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In Bahrain, UNPAN Praises E-Government, UN Recites Rights Concern

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- As the UN agency UNPAN began promoting this week's “good governance” event in Bahrain, the Free UN Coalition for Access repeatedly asked it and then the UN in Brussels if there had been any consideration or UN comment on human rights in Bahrain before inviting 700 people there. There was no answer.

  So Tuesday at the UN in New York, Inner City Press put the question to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey:

Inner City Press: This has to do with this conference in Bahrain, held by UNPAS about e-governance. In the past year, there have been a number of concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain, it’s reported there that unregistered organizations, it is still illegal to join them and you can be sent to jail for joining them. So I have been looking pretty closely at what they put out, was there any kind of consideration of the human rights / rights to association issues in Bahrain before holding it there, or is there anything being said at the conference to sort of note that, or have the UN holding it there be in some way a positive thing, or is it just was not considered?

Deputy Spokesperson Del Buey: Well, the conference is something that is held in different parts of the world; this year, it happened to be in that part of the world and it was Bahrain. Awards are not given to Member States and do not imply endorsement of Governments’ agendas. They are there to recognize specific public institutions for their technical achievements in service delivery. The e-government authority of the Kingdom of Bahrain has been spearheading innovative initiatives utilizing ICT [information and communications technology], and its ranking in terms of e-government development is among the top in the Arab region, according to the UN e-Government Survey. The winning institutions are selected through the Committee of Experts on Public Administration, an advisory body to ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council].

Now you are well aware that since the beginning of 2011, the United Nations has called on the Government of Bahrain to defuse tensions and allow peaceful protests, to conduct dialogue and implement reforms, as well as to act in accordance with its international human rights and other obligations.

Inner City Press: just one follow up, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on [resolution] 1559 (2004), Mr. [Terje] Roed-Larsen, is also at the same time the head of the International Peace Institute and it’s been reported and not denied that they opened an office in Bahrain, it is funded by the Government. So I wanted to know not just what are the UN rules of sort of part-time SRSGs [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General], but what, in this case, ia particular Member State has funded an office of the organization run by a part-time SRSG, does the UN think there is any possible conflict of interest, and did Mr. Roed-Larsen play any role whatsoever in the siting of this conference in Bahrain?

Deputy Spokesperson: We will have to find out for you, Matthew, I don’t have that information.

Nine hours later, no information had been provided. Watch this site.

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