ACANU Committee lunch with UNOG Director-General Michael Møller

12949605524_1a94d04d3b_mMichael Møller, Acting Head, United Nations Office at Geneva and Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament at the High Level Segment of the 2014 Conference on Disarmement, Palais des Nations, Geneva. Wednesday 5 March. Photo by Violaine Martin

Minutes of the ACANU Committee’s lunch with UNOG Director-General Michael Møller on Wednesday, December 18, 2013:

Møller, a Danish diplomat and U.N. veteran of more than 30 years who was appointed little more than a month earlier to the job of Acting Head of the United Nations Office at Geneva, told the committee he hoped the lunch would be just the start of a series of regular exchanges with the press corps. He said Geneva needs to be collectively rebranded so that people better understand and value its complexities and possibilities, and the United Nations needs to do a better job at explaining the important ways it touches the lives of everyone in the world. Møller said he hopes the press can help convey those messages.

Next he brought up the renovations at the Palais des Nations to make it a more modern workplace. Møller said the basis for the two years of preparatory planning, followed by eight years of renovation work, would depend on the decisions in the U.N.’s budget-writing Fifth Committee.
The current plan is projected to cost CHF 837 million, but could well stretch to CHF 1 billion. Some lessons have been learned from the U.N. headquarters’ renovations in New York, and the Swiss plan to loan money to keep Geneva competitive as an international forum, but public-private partnerships and wealth private individual donors might be explored as additional funding vehicles. Møller said he’s open to new ideas.

Strikingly down the earth, candid and sincere, Møller solicited the views of the committee on a variety of issues and appeared to listen intently. ACANU President Gabriela Sotomayor told Møller that the press also hopes to raise the profile of Geneva as an international forum where news is made, building on high-profile events since 2012 such as Iran nuclear talks and Syria peace conferences that reflect the breadth of Geneva’s offerings. Møller said he believes that many different types of news media across the globe are instrumental to relaying that message, and reaching all the world’s inhabitants.

Journalists’ job is to report the news, not to promote the United Nations, said ACANU Vice President John Heilprin, who suggested that perhaps there could be an ACANU-sponsored event that would bring together journalists and U.N. communications professionals to discuss what exactly constitutes news, which could accomplish the dual aims of both constituencies. Møller said he agreed that journalists’ job is to report the news, and he said that liked the idea. He took an immediate decision, instructing Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Director of the United Nations Information Service, to follow up by exploring the best way of holding such a town hall meeting to start the conversation.

Sotomayor raised the issue of renovating Press Room 2, including the worn-down Library, which is primarily used for ACANU’s “Meetings With The Press.” Møller said he already was aware of the need, and would not forget about it, and he agreed that it is in the U.N.’s interest to have a better-looking Library since its appearance reflects on UNOG when the events are held there even if they do not formally come under the auspices of the United Nations. To that end, Møller also instructed Momal-Vanian to lend ACANU another U.N. room that is suitable for the MWTP’s until the Library improvements can be made.

-John Heilprin