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UN Access Craved by HRW, But No Disclosure of Roth's Issues to Ban

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 18 -- Who watchdogs the UN on human rights, on issues from bringing cholera to Haiti to working with rapists in the Congo, and with child soldier recruiters in Mali?

  On August 18, seeing that Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch was listed on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's public schedule for 3:30 pm, Inner City Press asked four separate HRW spokespeople the following question:

This is a press request to be informed what issues HRW is raising. This type of disclosure is routinely done by others regarding their meetings with the UNSG, including other human rights groups. If HRW does not today disclose, please explain why.

  The reason for this "if not, why not" was that when Inner City Press last asked HRW to disclose what issues Roth was raising to Ban, HRW's UN lobbyist Philippe Bolopion declined, saying that HRW wants to maintain access: "To preserve our ability to have frank discussions with UN officials and advance our advocacy goals, we don't typically communicate on the content of discussions we have with them."

   Since it seems clear HRW tells its donors what it raises to the UN, the question arises: are only those who pay, told?

  Four hours after the question above was submitted to HRW's two top New York spokespeople, Minky Worden and Emma Daly (as well as HRW's general press email address), and two other New York-based spokespeople listed on HRW press releases
forwarded to Inner City Press, no disclosure.

  This is an issue on which the Free UN Coalition for Access is working.

  Amnesty Internantional with its wider membership has generally been more transparent. But a question has been raised by the UN hiring as a spokesperson for its Department of Political Affairs the head of Amnesty's UN advocacy office Jose Luis Diaz (whose work, for example on Sri Lanka, we have in full disclosure praised in the past).

  Under the same "anti revolving door" provision that prohibit bank regulators from going directly to work for bank, some might wonder about a person going from a job which presumably includes watchdogging the UN's own performance directly to working for the UN.

 With all due respect the same questions arise: how long was the job being applied for? Was there any recusal?

  For the human rights "community," if there is one, these may be uncomfortable questions. A UN job may be viewed as better paying, or as offering a better opportunity to impact rather than just complain about issues.

  But are there safeguards, when already the UN is hardly held to account? We hope to have more on this. Watch this site.


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