I spent a busy few days in New York last week, talking to (well, OK, mainly talking at) about 200 UN staff at various meetings in UN Women, UNDP and UNICEF. There was a lot of energy in the room (and even outside the room – people at UNDP spilled over into the corridor), and plenty of probing viva-like questions and comments.
Which is what I expected, because intellectually, I think the UN is in an enormously productive phase. Just thinking back over recent posts on this blog, there is UNRISD on Social and Solidarity Economy, UNCTAD on finance-driven globalization, UNDP on the rise of the South, UN Women on women and the justice system and regular appearances by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Taken as a whole, this output is innovative and important, both challenging received wisdom and coming up with some of the new ideas and alternatives we so desperately need.
So where are the UN’s bloggers? UN staff certainly read blogs (including this one, I think a lot of people came along just to see what a blogaholic looks like in the flesh). But they hardly ever write them – the only one I regularly read is Ian Thorpe’s excellent ‘KM on a Dollar a Day’ (the KM is Knowledge Management), but that is so unbranded I’m not even sure the UN knows he’s doing it. The only official UN blog that comes up on a quick search is aimed at the general public – photos etc – not much there for wonks.
In contrast, I’m speaking at the World Bank today and suggested a chat to a few of its bloggers. Tricky they said – there’s 300 of them. Why the enormous difference? Is this about a greater degree of overall confidence and agency among Bank staff, or the institutional and political constraints operating in both institutions, or a mix of the two?