Wednesday, March 22, 2017

UN's Happiness Day Run by UN Censor Gallach, Promotes Smurfs Movie, Press Hindered

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 – When the UN marked the "International Day of Happiness" on March 20, UN official Cristina Gallach who has evicted and still restricts the Press after it asked corruption questions screened a short promoting a Smurfs movie. Vine Camera video here. Inner City Press after checking in with minders covered the event from a photo booth; despite a gesturing to come to the floor of the ECOSOC chamber to ask questions, Inner City Press' reduced UN pass does not allow it there. Gallach is happy to censor, that much is clear. And who will come next? Inner City Press hears, troublingly, of a former spokesperson. More to follow.
  Facing budget cuts, now of up to 50% and to be addressed systemwide, how does today's UN react? By wasting money and refusing to answer quesitons about it. Inner City Press on March 17 asked the three top UN spokespeople, among other things, to "please state, in advance of the event, the costs to the UN of the Smurfs event tomorrow at the UN, and who reviewed and approved it." No answer, even as the bogus embargo time arrived. Inner City Press reported, and on Friday evening the UN confirmed, that its Department of Public Information (DPI) under Cristina Gallach plans a Saturday event with lobbyist UN Foundation and the Smurfs, and invited only UN-friendly media to the photo op before it. Inner City Press, which closely covers the UN, was not sent the information and has not able to even try to RSVP (this is similar to the way the UN recently did not inform the News Agency of Nigeria, which covers UN Headquarters, about a trip... to Nigeria). Those who were sent the invitation and RSVP-ed were told: Location: Visitors Lobby in the General Assembly Building

Media area check-in opens: 9.30am
Media area check-in closes: 10.15am
Photographers / TV Crews in position: 10.30am
Photo call starts: 11.00am
TV media line interviews start: 11.05am"
  All of this for the Smurfs, in the face not only of budget cuts but while the same DPI under Gallach never sent the Press the video of Friday's questions and answers on Cameroon,Yemen, Bahrain, and Western Sahara. (The UN has also provided no read-out of a meeting held at 4 pm on Friday). UN DPI should be defunded and disbanded. Instead, it sent out this under embargo until now: "Voice actors from the upcoming animated movie Smurfs: The Lost Village today joined officials from the United Nations, UNICEF and United Nations Foundation at the world body’s headquarters in New York to celebrate International Day of Happiness with a campaign promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign is designed to encourage young people everywhere to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 to help make the world more peaceful, equitable and healthy.
As part of the celebrations, Team Smurfs recognized three young advocates -- Karan Jerath (20), Sarina Divan (17), and Noor Samee (17) -- for their actions to promote the Goals.

Jerath, a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, invented a containment device that could prevent offshore oil spills and ensure the protection of marine life. Divan expanded a UN Foundation girl empowerment initiative at her high school and beyond, and Samee is a UNICEF blogger and advocate on social justice issues and raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The movie’s U.S. stars -- Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello and Mandy Patinkin -- presented the three young students with a symbolic key to the Smurfs Village in recognition of their work.

“This inspirational campaign highlights the fact that each and every one of us, no matter how young or old, small or big, can make our world a better and happier place,” said Cristina Gallach, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. “We are grateful to creative partners like Sony Pictures Animation and Team Smurfs for their spirit of collaboration in helping the UN reach diverse audiences.”

The Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign culminates on the International Day of Happiness on 20 March, which emphasizes the importance of personal happiness and well-being. The idea is closely linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include decent work for all, access to nutritious food, quality education and health services, and freedom from discrimination.

“Today we have seen how the Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign is giving children and young people a platform to speak out about issues they are passionate about. As we celebrate International Day of Happiness, we hope many more young people are empowered to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals and help achieve a world free from poverty, inequality and injustice,” said Caryl M. Stern, UNICEF US Fund President and CEO.

The actors and UN officials  addressed some 1,500 students  attending an international Model UN conference in the iconic General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, where they encouraged all participants and the public to join “Team Smurfs”.

The campaign invites the general public to visit to find out how to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and share information, ideas and images on social media.

The actors also premiered a new public service announcement video starring cast members of the film that inspires viewers to join the campaign and champion the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We hope the campaign will help us all think about how our actions impact the planet,” said Demi Lovato, who voices Smurfette in the movie. “Every one of us, even a Small Smurf, can accomplish Big Goals!”

The United Nations Postal Administration closed out the blue carpet event by unveiling a special edition stamp sheet featuring the Small Smurfs Big Goals campaign. The film cast along with the Belgian Ambassador to the United Nations, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Management, Stephen Cutts, presented the Small Smurfs Big Goals UN stamps to the press.

Along with the event at the United Nations, other celebrations took place in 18 countries around the world including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Russia and the UK, to name a few, to help raise awareness for the “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign and the Goals.

“Since 1958, the Smurfs have embodied around the world the universal values of camaraderie, helping one another, tolerance, optimism, and respecting Mother Nature,” said Véronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo, who created the Smurfs. “It’s been an honor and privilege for The Smurfs to support the United Nations and to continue our longstanding relationship with UNICEF with this campaign focused on raising awareness for the Sustainable Development Goals.”

On March 20, festivities for the International Day of Happiness will culminate in a special ceremony with the film cast along with United Nations, UNICEF and United Nations Foundation officials where they will help turn the Empire State Building blue to commemorate the occasion."
  At 6:47 pm on Friday, while Inner City Press cut short an interview and ran so that the UN wouldn't lock away its computer until Monday, the UN confirmed that Saturday at 12:15 pm the following promotion: "'Smurfs: The Lost Village,' USG DPI Cristina Gallach, UN Foundation Senior Vice President Susan Myers, President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Caryl  Stern, ASG Stephen Cutts."
   DPI is a Department that could be substantially cut or disbanded. It used public money to pay a trainer to call Detroit, Michigan a "third rate city" in "flyover country;" it did no due diligence as a Macau based businessman bought the UN, left his bribery conduit in and evicted and restricts the Press which reports on it. Making Inner City Press a "non resident correspondent" without hearing or appeal, the UN now does not inform Inner City Press of Security Council trips or Saturday's Smurf fest. From a February 15 press release: "The popular Smurfs characters are encouraging children, young people and adults to make the world happier, more peaceful, equitable and healthy with a campaign launched today by the United Nations, UNICEF, and the United Nations Foundation...Team Smurfs will rally behind the 17 Goals through to the International Day of Happiness on 20 March 2017 when the campaign will culminate in a celebration at United Nations Headquarters in New York to mark the occasion." We'll have more on this.

 When new - well, 74 day - Secretary General Antonio Guterres went on a trip to Kenya, in New York the Press was not informed of any chance to go. But there Guterres appeared with Al Jazeera, and now in a profile in the Washington Post from a usually hard-hittingreporter, this time quoting the UN's Herve Ladsous, who has mismanaged UN Peacekeeping and the Press for five years. The article describes the UN Foundation as "advocating for UN causes." But shouldn't issues like accountability for victims of UN cholera in Haiti, and opposing censorship in the UN and for example in Western Cameroon, with no Internet for 53 days, be "UN causes"? In fact, UN Foundation lobbies against US budget cuts to the UN, even if targeted and designed to bring about reform. The UN's cause, it seems, is to perpetuate itself.
  (One of Guterres' team is quoted that Guterres' goal is to say out of Trump's Twitter feed. Is telling a newspaper that the best way to make it come about? And if Trump or Rex Tillerson eschewed a traveling press corps for hand-picked coverage, there would be and is outcry. The Free UN Coalition for Access asks, Is it acceptable by the UN?)

Recently in the UN basement as Inner City Press came in late through a long line of tourists and students at the metal detectors Inner City Press must now use everyday since the UN evicted it for covering corruption, a meeting in a windowless side conference room was ending. Outside in the hall it was labeled, Congressional Group. But inside on a TV screen it said, “UN Foundation: Congressional Learning Trip.” UN Foundation was set up, with Ted Turner's money, to help and now defend the UN. The UN's point person on sexual abuse, long a topic of interest for such Republicans as Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), is Jane Holl Lute, who before that was a high official of the UN Foundation and of the Obama Administration. She was notably absent this week when a “new” sexual abuse strategy, immediately critiqued by Code Blue and others, was announced. We'll have more on that.
   Down in Washington, Democratic sources on the Hill tell Inner City Press of a visit by the Obama administration's appointee to the UN, Jeffrey Feltman. Strangely, perhaps, they list the topic not as involving only Feltman's specific UN job, the Department of Political Affairs he has been held over to head until April Fools Day in 2018, but “budget cuts to peacekeeping.” The head of that Department, held by France for more than 20 years, should be the one lobbying. But Herve Ladsous is unappealing in the best of times; now he is a lame duck leaving on March 31, to be replaced by his fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Will Lacroix be able to stave off cuts? Will he continue to use public funds, more than a quarter of it from US taxpayers, to pay peacekeepers accused of rape such as in the contingents from Burundi and Cameroon?
   Inner City Press exclusively reported and followed up on the extension of Jeffrey Feltman's UN contract with regard to his UN (largely US taxpayer) pension vesting after the five years which Feltman recently pointed out has not yet been reached, but not until now how those close to Feltman say it was accomplished. They exclusively tell Inner City Press that among the lobbyists to keep Feltman on was none other than Bill Clinton, whom they say said it on behalf of his spouse, behind whom Feltman was famously photographedwhile she worked her Blackberry.
   Speaking of photographs, Inner City Press on March 10, still under censorship restrictions imposed without any hearing or appeal after it sought to cover the fallout from the UN bribery indictment of Macau-based businessman and former Clinton funder Ng Lap Seng, was Banned from a simple photo opportunity on the UN's 38th floor. The Ban's by the Department of Public Information under ostensibly outgoing Cristina Gallach, who did no due diligence on Ng Lap Seng. When asked the basis, the UN's holdover Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq gave no reason or definition being used; he barely looked up from his computer, from which he never did answer Inner City Press' questions on Cameroon abuses and the UN's Cameroon Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi blocking it on Twitter, nor how much "extra-budgetary" funds the UN proposes to use on Louise Arbour's D1 head of office.

   The moves are stealth, like much in the UN these days - and have the potential of backfiring. Watch this site.