Wed 28 Feb 2007
Filed under: International,News
United Nations: The United States criticized the United Nations for refusing to list a panel it organized Tuesday entitled “State-Sanctioned Mass Rape in Burma and Sudan” on a U.N. Web site.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations arranged to hold the panel on the sidelines of the annual two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which this year is focusing on discrimination and violence against women. It will include presentations about rape and sexual violence in both countries.
But the U.N.’s Meeting Services branch objected to the title, which was published in the U.N.’s daily journal last Thursday, because it “would be perceived as offensive to named member states,” according to a letter to the U.S. Mission obtained by the Associated Press.
The letter from Sylvie Cohen, deputy director of the Division for the Advancement of Women which helped organize the commission meeting, said Meeting Service noted that “it is not customary to name member states without their endorsement in the titles of United Nations parallel events.”
“In addition, the name of one member state concerned is not mentioned in accordance with its official country name (Myanmar is the officially designated country name),” Cohen wrote.
U.S. Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, the State Department’s special representative for social issues who heads the U.S. delegation to the commission’s meeting, said the United States had protested to various U.N. officials.
“I think what this comes down to is there is only one building where you can’t say the words rape, Burma and Sudan in the same sentence – and apparently you can’t say Burma at all,” he said in an interview.
Rees said the United States insists on calling the country Burma – not Myanmar – because that’s what the pro-democracy winners of the country’s 1990 elections called it.
Myanmar’s junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide election victory.
Rees said it was U.S. understanding “that the member states decide what to call their own panels.”
“Obviously, we knew that the governments in question would not be happy about the title of the panel, and we were not seeking gratuitously to offend them, but we just thought rape was something that should be called by its right name,” he said.
Rees said the U.S. held talks with a number of U.N. officials and thought the matter was settled, but found out that the panel was not on the Web site listing events sponsored by U.N. missions on the sidelines of the commission meeting.
U.N. associate spokeswoman Marie Okabe said the panel was inadvertently listed in the U.N. journal and then withdrawn “because side events are usually not listed by event – there is a link to them on the journal website.”
As for the web site of conference events, she said, that was run by the commission.
“The important thing is the event is still going on and there’s been no blockage of the event,” Okabe said.