The IPS UN Bureau celebrated its 30th anniversary May 12 with a reception hosted by Director-General Mario Lubetkin at the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA) club in the Secretariat.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, despite a tight schedule that evening, made a personal appearance to congratulate the DG and convey his best wishes for the future.
The reception, labeled a wine-and-cheese party, was attended by more than 75 to 100 guests– mostly journalists, diplomats and UN staffers.
“It was a great party,” declared Edith Lederer of the Associated Press, which occupies a room on the same floor as IPS.
“A terrific turnout,” chipped in Masood Haider of the Pakistani daily Dawn and a Vice President of UNCA, as he munched on a succulent piece of tandoori chicken.
“Why don’t you celebrate more anniversaries with more parties?,” he said, singling out the IPS Bureau for special praise for having maintained a high profile– both politically and journalistically– at the United Nations.
Since March 1993, the IPS UN Journal Terra Viva, the flagship of the news agency, has been published uninterruptedly and also widely distributed among diplomats, NGOs, UN staffers and the media. All 192 member states are on the growing mailing list.
As most diplomats have pointed out to the DG during his visits to New York, Terra Viva is not only considered “required reading” but is also being forwarded or faxed to various capitals by most UN missions in New York.
Until last year, the UN Bureau also produced the “Journal of the Group of 77″, a monthly which began publication in the early 1990s, strengthening our relationship with the largest single economic grouping in the United Nations. Incidentally, both the G77 and IPS were born around the same time over 45 years ago during the creation of UNCTAD.
The Bureau also produced Terra Viva conference newspapers for the Millennium Summit in 2000, the World Summit in 2005 and the 2006 Review Conference on Least Developed Countries.
In 2008, IPS was the recipient of the UN’s South-South Leadership Award– specifically for news coverage that promoted stronger ties among the world’s 130 developing countries and also among media outlets.
The same year, the Bureau began publishing a South-South Executive Brief, a monthly newsletter produced in cooperation with the UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South cooperation.
The Bureau has also been running one of the most successful internship programmes in the IPS network, with 17 interns graduating in 2008, and probably over 25 in 2009.
Meanwhile, both UN and North-America based correspondents have won several awards over the years: the most recent being Aaron Glantz and Haider Rizvi for Project Censored Awards in 2008.
UN Bureau Chief Thalif Deen was cited twice as runner-up for “excellence in UN reporting” at the annual awards ceremony of the UN Correspondents’ Association.
The Bureau was also featured in the 810-page Oxford Handbook on the United Nations published by Oxford University Press in 2008.
Barbara Crossette, former UN Bureau Chief for the New York Times who authored the piece, wrote that IPS “fills a global niche” by providing mostly unreported or under-reported stories — on poverty alleviation, reproductive health, gender empowerment, development aid and globalization, among others– which are mostly absent from the mainstream media.
She complimented Deen’s reporting as having “a much higher global readership than many other journalists at the UN.”
Meanwhile, gracing the 30th anniversary party were two IPS veterans, Washington Bureau Chief Jim Lobe and former Regional Director North America Marco Napoli, who inaugurated the IPS UN office back in 1979.
As Marco would recollect, there was only one IPS correspondent, Deodoro Roca, when he joined the UN Bureau in January 1979.
And then began a wave of correspondents and stringers, including Jim Lobe, Mario Dujisin, Joan Draper, Karl Meier, Madeleine Eisner, Asma Bin Hamida, Maria Blaque-Belair and Shalini Dewan.
“We shared the office with Japan’s Kyodo news agency and the New York Times (which used part of our office as its archives),” said Marco, who was the political live wire of the Bureau, tasked with a mandate to strengthen links with UN agencies, including UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA.
Marco, who retired on 31 December 1999, said the UN Bureau had very strong working relationships with successive Secretaries-General, including Kurt Waldheim (Austria), Javier Perez de Cuellar (Peru), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt) and Kofi Annan (Ghana).
Both Boutros-Ghali and Annan were awarded the annual IPS International Achievement Award for their contributions to peace, human rights and development. Over the years, the award ceremony continued to be coordinated by the UN Bureau.
And 30 years later, the IPS UN Bureau still occupies the same fourth floor windowless office, whose Bureau Chiefs included Claude Robinson (Jamaica), Appan Menon (India) and Rajiv Tiwari (India).
As one wisecracking UN Bureau Chief remarked: “We never had a room with a view– but all our computers now have windows.”
Asked about the work environment in the late 1970s, Jim said the place looked pretty much as it does now, except with fewer desks and no computers.
“No fax machine, that’s sure, because I got the first one used by IPS in 1980 in Washington.”
“There was one old-fashioned teleprinter– the grey, hulking kind that had teletype, and that’s how we filed. I think that’s also how we received the news cast too through the same machine, if I’m not mistaken.”
“We’d get the diplomatic bulletins from a bunch of countries that summer and then Jacobson (a student intern) and sometimes Karl and I would go around to the various UN missions distributing them.”
“I can’t remember how we copied them, but somehow that must have happened,” said Jim.
And thereby hangs a tale.
by Ernest Corea, a former Editor of the Ceylon “Observer”
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