IPS has been singled out for special mention in a voluminous 810-page new publication, ‘The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations’, published by the Oxford University Press. The comprehensive reference guide on the United Nations (price $150) covers a wide range of political and economic issues related to the world body, including human rights, international peace and security, disarmament, development, peacekeeping and gender empowerment.
Barbara Crossette, former UN Bureau Chief for the New York Times, who authored the chapter on “the relationship between the United Nations and the world’s media organizations,” writes:
In developing countries, where the UN and its agencies are often partners in efforts to speed development, the world organization gets more media attention than in Europe and North America, where development issues are rarely covered. Thalif Deen, UN bureau chief for the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, tells the story of an African diplomat who once approached Tarzie Vittachi, a Sri Lankan newspaper editor who had become deputy executive director of the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF), to ask how best to get mainstream media attention in New York for his prime minister, who was about to make an important speech on poverty and child mortality. “Shoot him”, said Vittachi, “and you will get front page coverage.
Deen, whose reporting has a much higher global readership than many other journalists at the UN, said in an exchange of emails in early 2006: “In contrast to the Western news media, newspapers and radio in most developing nations tend to focus primarily on UN issues relating to their own national socio-economic problems, including poverty alleviation, reproductive health, gender empowerment, development aid and globalization.”
“But these are considered “unsexy” in most American and European newspapers. Newspapers in developing countries also provide considerable space to regional political and economic issues. African newspapers, for example, will usually pick up UN stories relating to AIDS in Uganda, desertification in the Sahel or child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Meeting these interests has been the strength of IPS, which fills a global niche, Deen added: “IPS has over the last 40 years covered UN issues primarily from a third-world perspective. Since most newspapers and radio in the developing world still depend on mainstream news agencies for political coverage of the UN, IPS has continued to provide in-depth coverage of socio-economic issues, holding a near-monopoly in this field.”
Among powerful industrialized countries of the global North, editors and correspondents looking at the UN tend to focus mostly on the politics of Security Council, really only an extension of national foreign policy debates.
In the developing world, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and how countries are faring in their efforts to meet targets in such areas as poverty reduction, gender-equal education, and better health services to push back diseases by 2015 have been a continuing story. It would be hard to find Americans who have heard of the MDGs, even though President George W. Bush endorsed them in his September 2005 speech to the World Summit.”
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