Friday, September 2, 2016

Ahead of the G20 Meeting--Attention Journalists: "How to write about pointless international organisations"

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times, July 8, 2008:
Some readers may wonder why I chose to write my column this week about the International Criminal Court, rather than the obvious subject – the G8 meeting in Japan.

The reason is that I had a thoroughly discouraging lunch with my colleague, Alan Beattie. When I mentioned that I might write about the G8, he said – “Let me guess, you will say…” and proceeded to reel off a string of cliches, which had indeed been the basis of my putative column.

Alan then forwarded me a generic column on international institutions that he has written. It really says it all – and I think I may simply reproduce it, every year, round about G8 time.
It goes as follows:
By reporters everywhere

An ineffectual international organisation yesterday issued a stark warning about a situation it has absolutely no power to change, the latest in a series of self-serving interventions by toothless intergovernmental bodies.

“We are seriously concerned about this most serious outbreak of seriousness,” said the head of the institution, either a former minister from a developing country or a mid-level European or American bureaucrat. “This is a wake-up call to the world. They must take on board the vital message that my organisation exists.”

The director of the body, based in one of New York, Washington or an agreeable Western European city, was speaking at its annual conference, at which ministers from around the world gather to wring their hands impotently about the most fashionable issue of the day. The organisation has sought to justify its almost completely fruitless existence by joining its many fellow talking-shops in highlighting whatever crisis has recently gained most coverage in the global media.

“Governments around the world must come together to combat whatever this year’s worrying situation has turned out to be,” the director said. “It is not yet time to panic, but if it goes on much further without my institution gaining some credit for sounding off on the issue, we will be justified in labelling it a crisis.”

The organisation, whose existence the White House barely acknowledges and to which hardly any member government intends to give more money or extra powers, has long been fighting a war of attrition against its own irrelevance....MORE
In 2009 I copied and posted the whole thing fearing the FT would somehow remove it from the web but it's still available at the same URL.