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UN: Sri Lanka


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As UN Hosts NGOs, Need to Defend Them In The Field, For Access to UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- The UN will be hosting non-governmental organizations from all over the world this week, for the 65th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference from August 27 to 29. But what does the UN do to defend and ensure access for NGOs?

  At a UN press conference on August 25, Inner City Press put these and other questions to Maher Nasser, the Acting Head of the UN Department of Public Information. Video here and embedded below.

  Earlier this summer, for example, the government of Sri Lanka ordered NGOs to stop holding press conferences or otherwise interacting with the media. Click here for that.

  Inner City Press asked Nasser what the UN, whose UN Information Center in Colombo has been promoting this week's New York conference, actually does for NGOs in Sri Lanka amid this crackdown. Nasser cited UNESCO and the UN's human rights entities.

  Given the UN's troubling silence in Sri Lanka amid mass killings in 2009, which has given rise to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's “Rights Up Front” initiative, perhaps DPI where applicable should speak up on such restrictions put on NGOs.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access, on whose behalf Inner City Press thanked Nasser and the other panelist for the briefing, has since its inception received complaints not only on media-related abuses but also restrictions on access for civil society.

  Nasser said the upcoming conference is about the Post-2015 Development theme, but that a sub committee exists on NGO access issues. We hope to have more on this.

  Inner City Press asked panelist Galina Angarova to expound on her too-rare for the UN Press Briefing Room questioning of the public - private partnership in which the UN increasingly engages. She said oversight and accountability are necessary.

  An example we're raised is placing the chairperson of Bank of America, the number one funder of mountain-top removal coal mining, on the UN's Sustainable Energy for All initiative, and then refusing at times to even take questions about it. There are and will be other examples. We will be covering the DPI-NGO conference: watch this site.

Footnote: Nasser was asked about the UN eliminating, or consolidating, the post of the chief of the NGO section, a topic on which we've previously reported. Nasser cited the three percent budget cut, and the work of the new overseer of NGOs (and also of advocacy). We may have more on this as well.


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