15 SEPTEMBER 2008
|WHAT HAPPENED TO DPI/NGO PARIS CONFERENCE?
If you searched the official U.N. website for the first U.N. NGO general conference outside U.N. Headquarters,
you'd get one sentence dated 19 August with a headline that the focus will be on Human Rights, together with an
expectation that 2000 civil society groups will be attending. There was one item when the conference opened on
the beginning of September, including of course a message by the Secretary General.
Searching again on Monday 8 September for a round-up of that historic event -- Commemorating the 60th Anniversary
of the Declaration of Human Rights, which was also made in Paris in 1948 -- the U.N. News Centre of un.org had nothing
to say. The only Human Rights story was about the first major speech in Geneva by the newly-appointed Human Rights High
Commissioner on the very likely topic of "the need to tackle discrimination"!
No details on the NGO Conference, no elaborate indication of outcomes. Not even the regular round-up.
Astonishing -- because both the NGO conference and the U.N. website are overseen by the same Department of Public
Information whose chief, Under-Secretary General Akasaka personally chaired the U.N. team. Admittedly, they come under
two different divisions, but it is the SAME DEPARTMENT. Either someone in Paris failed to send adequate reports or
someone in New York failed to pick them up. Normally, it is the field office directly concerned that would send the required
stuff. In this case -- as UNIC Paris had been arbitrarily closed six years ago, it is the "European" "regional" office
that should have taken care of it, particularly that it has -- supposedly -- an Information Officer for France.
Furthermore, its current director is French. The lack of adequate coverage is inexcusable.
We fully support Under-Secretary General Akasaka in his sincere efforts to consolidate and enhance the work of the
Department in line with the Secretary General's thrust to regain the role and credibility of the U.N. He has devoted
his full energies for that purpose.
Despite the organizational difficulties that preceded the conference, it should have been a historic one. The
theme -- Human Rights and 60th Anniversary -- the unprecedented new venue, and the presence of both a leading U.N.
Under-Secretary General and the Director General of UNESCO should allow for special coverage.
While not pinning the accountability on anyone, we would point out that the new hardworking head of the
Department of Public Information deserved better performance from staff supposedly covering Paris when the only
coverage they seem to seek is political cover from professional accountability.