Minutes of the ACANU General Assembly, Feb. 26, 2015

ACANU president Gabriela Sotomayor started the General Assembly at 10:25, after the turnout surpassed the quorum. A total of 29 members were eventually in attendance.

Gabriela then thanked the members of the outgoing committee for their work since the March 2014 election, before going on to deliver her annual report to members. She presented a summary of the association’s activities, noting that ACANU had held several press breakfasts, including with the Universal Rights Group think tank, which brought together correspondents with ambassadors to the Human Rights Council. Other breakfast meetings were held with UN Acting Director General Michael Møller, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and UNECE’s new executive secretary Christian Friis Bach.

Highlights of ACANU’s meetings with the press, meanwhile, included a briefing with the father of Michael Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri; meetings with the son of the Yazidi community leader, dissidents from Venezuela and Cuba, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, and a Ukrainian human-rights activist; presentations on human rights in Hong Kong, Egypt and other countries; and briefings on fully autonomous weapons, illegal trafficking of great apes from Africa to China, women’s rights in the Middle East, the health situation in the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Sudan; and the demobilization of child soldiers in Syria. In addition, the final nominees for the Martin Ennals Award were announced at an ACANU meeting with the press.
Gabriela also noted that during her term, the Library was renovated and Press Room 2 cleaned. In addition, ACANU and UNIS organized a photo exhibit showcasing the work of UN photographers. The exhibit will travel to the Parliament in Bern in June.

Treasurer Brij Khindaria then delivered his report. He said that ACANU ended the 2014 financial year with a surplus of 215 CHF. He noted that ACANU now has 122 members, after adding 10 new members in 2014. He said ACANU should expect a decrease in revenue in 2015 because the association had to reimburse members who returned their parking lot keys. The auditor, Kanaga Raja Ganesan, then delivered his report and verified the ACANU accounts.

The three reports were adopted formally by the assembly.

When the meeting was opened up for comments from members, Jan Dirk Herbermann raised concerns about a decision by UN Acting Director General Michael Møller to hire a public relations company to promote the work on the UN. This resulted in direct contacts with newspaper head office editors – known as “speed dating” – bypassing and undermining Geneva-based journalists covering the UN. Jan urged, and the outgoing committee agreed, that the matter should be taken up as a matter of urgency with Corinne and/or her successor, and with Michael Møller.

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha brought up the difficulties she has had getting a desk. She has had to move desks several times and has been told that there is a waiting list of five people ahead of her. Other ACANU members noted that some of the desks in the press rooms have been allocated, but are never occupied. It was agreed by the outgoing committee that one of the priorities of the new committee would be to ensure that ACANU continues with its historic (and present) responsibility of allocating cubicles in the press rooms, with the understanding that any changes – such as new allocations, departures, etc. – will be conveyed immediately to UNIS and that cubicles aren’t reserved for ACANU members.

The assembly then moved on to elect the new committee.

Nina Larson and Mark Henley volunteered to collect and count the votes, while Frédéric Durand listed the names of candidates and vote results on overhead screens connected to his laptop.

Gabriela nominated Nick Cumming-Bruce as president and was seconded. There were no other candidates. Nick was elected with 26 votes, while three members cast invalid ballots (one each for non-nominees Nina and Gabriela, and one blank).
Gabriela then nominated Frédéric as vice president and was seconded. There were no other candidates. Frédéric was elected with 29 votes.
Raja nominated Brij for treasurer and was seconded. There were no other candidates. Brij was elected with 29 votes.
Gabriela nominated Jennifer Freedman for secretary and was seconded. There were no other candidates. Jennifer was elected with 29 votes.
The following individuals were nominated (with nominations seconded) as committee members: Boris Engelson, Catherine Fiankan-Bokonga, Jan Herbermann, Jean-Pierre Kapp, Nina Larson, Xin Ling, Shreerupa Mitra, Betel Yuruk and Lisa Schlein. Xin was absent, but had written to submit her candidacy in absentia, as allowed under Article 19 of the ACANU statutes.
In the voting, Jan received 25 votes, Catherine 22, Jean-Pierre 21, Shreerupa 18, Nina 16, Betel 14, Lisa 12, Xin 11 and Boris six. As a result, the new committee was made up of Jan, Catherine, JP, Shri and Nina, with Betel, Lisa, Xin and Boris as substitute members in the event that any of the previous five resigned.The assembly then reappointed Raja as the auditor.

The assembly ended at 12:10 pm.