Debating Poverty Eradication At The United Nations: Does The Media Hate The Poor?
By Danny Schechter
United Nations, New York: One is always proud to be invited to speak at the United Nations, one of the few global institutions that is still taken seriously, and that can generate international resolutions and shape programs free of total domination by the big powers.
When you are an outsider like I am, it's a bit of an ego boost to think that the world might be listening to little old you, and that, at least for one session, you are among the chosen to hold forth on something serious in what critics deride as "The House of Babble.'
I have been around the world body for years, even as recipient of a prize for a TV documentary from the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA). In that case, the film offered a strong critique of the UN cockup in Bosnia, but then, the award was presented to me by the then (and sixth) UN Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who clearly hadn't seen it
So, yes there is pretense and hypocrisy, but there are also sincere and dedicated people--diplomats and international civil servents-- working to improve the world.
This is not to say that the big powers lack influence there since they control the Security Council and show clout by lobbying for their political positions, while staffing the Secretariat and agencies with their loyalists.
Right across the street is the spanking new US Mission, a symbol of Washington's power and intent to stay in control.
While The UN was created in the name of the peoples of the world, it is the governments with all their rigidities, personalities and ideologies that effectively run the place with some autonomy left for UN officials and decisionmakers like the current man at the top, South Korea's Ban Ki Moon.
Nevertheless, an allowance has been made to give a platform to citizen's movements and Non-Government groups who used to meet in the basement or in the rarely utilized Trusteeship Council set up decades ago to speed decolonization.
They were always a sideshow, but attracted activists with a calling to try to change the world.
Now, with the Headquarters undergoing an expensive renovation, in part to get rid of toxic asbestos that made it an unsafe workplace, much of the action,including the small conference room in which I spoke, has moved to a temporary all white structure built on the grounds. Its satirical nickname: "Bantanamo."
I was invited to speak by an impressive lawyer, Nigerian born but UK trained, Ugoji Adanma Eze. We met a week earlier at a Bar Association talk I gave on Mandela and she liked my spunk or something, and invited me to take part. But then, when I sought to back out because of all the bureaucratic hassles involved in getting accreditation, she cut some red tape and escorted me in. Ugogji is a force of nature---and not to be crossed!
It was the 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development. The focus of this side event was finding a "new paradigm for poverty eradication and environmental resource management." How's that for heady title?
Unfortunately after two UN diplomats spoke at length, as well as a representative of the UN Environmental Program, there was no real time for me to deliver my hastily prepared but solidly documented treatise on the subject I assigned myself: "Why Does The Media Hate The Poor?"
I had prepared some remarks that I thought might provoke debate by arguing for the importance of advocating for poverty alleviation in the Cultural Environment, not just the physical environment. And, I hoped to discuss how the media has, because of its indifference and self-importance, made it harder for changemakers to attract the resources needed to fight poverty and promote sustainable development.