By Matthew Russell Lee, Series
UNITED NATIONS, May 30 – UN Secretary General Anotnio Guterres, who rarely answers questions inside the UN, went downtown to NYU on May 30 and had a Q&A session. The NYU moderator said to keep them limited to climate change, but the final student question brought up Trump. "We are engaging with the US administration," Guterres said. But how? As Inner City Press reported, Guterres met with 11 Democratic Party Congress members, versus a lone Republican, Lindsey Graham. Asked about Ghana and its debut, Guterres' long answer did not mention the IMF program that Inner City Press last Thursday asked the IMF about. In the final round, Guterres took a question from Citigroup, and quickly offered them praise. Predatory lending financial meltdown? Never heard of it, apparently. Other UN officials, including those responsible for press restrictions and censorship, amplified this praise of Citibank. This is today's UN. On Saturday Guterres flew to Taormina, Italy to give a G7 speech about Africa, and in it he said"disseminate new technologies." But during Cameroon's 94-day cut off of the Internet this year, Guterres said nothing. Sample (rare) stakeout here. And his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, after again promising Inner City Press an answer at noon on May 30, provided none by 5 o'clock. On April 19 when Guterres did a question and answer stakeout with the African Union, Inner City Press three times asked about the Internet cut off, while getting cut off by Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The questions were entirely audible, but Guterres did not answer at all. Video here. On May 23, his Deputy Secretary General and chief of staff were both at Cameroun's Francophone "National" Day, as Paul and Chantal Biya were praised along with song's about (French) champagne. Video here. This is today's UN. On May Inner City Press asked Guterres directly, outside the UN Security Council, why he hasn't released his budget speech, or reform plans, the day after his spokesman Dujarric refused to provide the speech to Inner City Press when it asked. Guterres paused then said it should be public, seeming to believe that Dujarric had, in fact, released it. Video here. But he had not and has not. And on May 26 Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq again refused, video here, saying that the UN responds to member states (not We the Peoples). It was Dujarric who evicted Inner City Press, and has kept it restricted in its movements in the UN for the 144 days so far of Guterres' tenure. On May 25, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again, video here
On May 26, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Jeffrey Feltman said that the proposal for the new office has been, I guess, approved by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. And since yesterday in this room, the idea was that's all confidential, I wanted to just know, first, is it true, did Mr. Feltman say that? Is it true that ACABQ has signed off on it? And if it's true that the UN can speak about ACABQ, can we get a copy of the Secretary-General's speech to ACABQ given earlier this week?
Deputy Spokesman: No. The, the speech was basically about the budget proposals which are available as a document, as Stéphane pointed out earlier this week.
Inner City Press: I, I searched it, and it said document not available on the UN document site. I’d like the speech.
Deputy Spokesman: You know, you can deal with my colleagues with the document, but there's no remarks to share for the public. Regarding the particular proposal, there's a proposal that's going to go before the General Assembly, and you'll be able to see what happens once they consider it.
Inner City Press: Right, but I guess it goes back to [inaudible] question. In most Governments in the world, an executive like the Secretary-General, the executive branch, will announce publicly what its proposals are. Just the fact that to only announce it after it's been approved by the Member States doesn't seem to make sense if you're pronouncing reforms and if there's public interest in how the UN works. What's the problem with releasing the speech?
Deputy Spokesman: This is not a Government. This is an organization bringing together Governments. And what we try to do is engage in dialogue with governments in order to flesh out these proposals. Ultimately, it's not finalized until the various governments agree on this. You simply can't argue that something's not transparent if it goes to 193 Governments. That's a lot of people. It's not a secret process by any means. All of them are involved in this discussion.
Inner City Press: But, I've heard the Secretary-General say he wants to open up the UN to civil society and the public and we the people, so I guess I'm just wondering, is there something in that ACABQ speech that's so confidential that it can't, as I took him to understand on the steps, just be released and made public?
Deputy Spokesman: No. It's not confidential, but it's part of a dialogue with Member States. And we try to engage the Member States directly in that dialogue.
So, public be damned?