In 2016 at UN, More Transparency Needed, Including For Process to Select Next SG

As we enter the last year of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s tenure, as a matter of UN transparency and media access it is imperative that the trend toward fewer press conferences and more importantly fewer answers not be allowed to continue.

After saying he would do monthly sit-down press conferences, Ban Ki-moon in 2015 hit a new low in accessibility. There must be improvements in 2016 and for and by the next Secretary General, including in how she or he is selected.

Interactive dialogues with candidates for Next SG, and ideally real debates between the candidates, should be open to the press and public. Candidates should be asked to make known their views on such issues as the UN belatedly adopting a Freedom of Information Act, pressed for by the Free UN Coalition for Access.

The Security Council, too, should be more accessible. Its ostensibly “open” January 28 meeting about Missing Persons was neither webcast nor on in-house EZTV. An open meeting of Security Council members, even if under the Arria formula, should be broadcast. January 28 Q&A here. Likewise, the Security Council should be more transparent about how which media can accompany its trips are selected.

Nearly the same media quartet was allowed on the Council’s trip to Burundi this month as went on its Great Lakes trip in 2013. FUNCA proposes that either objective criteria be made public, or lots be drawn among interested media. More broadly, the UN has yet to enunciate objective, content neutral standards for accreditation and treatment of old and new media.

This is particularly important in light of the scandals the UN has become embroiled in, from the cover-up of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and elsewhere to the pay-to-play scandal surrounding former PGA John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng, who as noted paid and got a photo with Ban Ki-moon, which like censorship remains UNaddressed.

The problems of favoritism — and of excessive celebration of and charging for proximity to senior UN leadership — will be addressed head-on in 2016. Because the UN must become more transparent and accessible, including as a matter of media freedom, FUNCA says.