what annan disclosure means for clark

NEWS COMMENT Just a few sentences long, the news item about UN chief Kofi Annan is an exciting development in global transparency. Annan's voluntary disclosure sets a precedent for future UN chiefs - and anyone else aspiring to leadership on the world stage. Voluntary disclosure will, sooner or later, become the norm not the exception. Online, there are less than half a million links to pages about lifting the lid on all your secrets, financial or otherwise. It is the 'otherwise' category causing most concern for one UN aspirant, Helen Clark. Leaked by no less than Time magazine - a suitably weighty source for such a leak - the New Zealand prime minister is one of a handful of politicians listed by the news magazine. Superpower rivalries may even see a relatively neutral player like Clark slip in, says the news weekly. A pity then, but probably no coincidence, that this is the precise moment for New Zealand's opposition party, National, to spark off a nasty playgroud spat after weeks of parliamentary tumult over allegations of "corruption" inside Clark's ruling Labour party. Based on a photograph published in a magazine run by a Christian fundamentalist, newspapers ran stories questioning whether Clark's husband, professor Peter Davis is gay. Investigate magazine's photo showed Davis being kissed in greeting at Labout party headquarters on election night by what the New Zealand Herald described as one of the couple's "oldest friends" Dr Ian Scott, "who is gay." So, too, are about 300 million other people on the planet. Controversy still surrounds their lives at least partly because most lives are still lived mostly in secret. Our leaders must swear to protect our secrets before they can act for us, even if that involves also promoting the causes of transparency. Those causes received a huge boost this week from Annan's decision to release his financial records to assist a probe into alleged bribes within the United Nations. He hesitated before doing so, he said, only because he did not want to set a binding precedent on successors. Future UN leaders may choose to ignore the precedent. If they do, Annan's example will no doubt be used to pressure them to decide otherwise. All of which takes place against a background of steadily increasing transparency, from days when betraying court business could be punished with beheading to today when laws of the land allow ordinary citizens to dig into public records freely. Imagine when all records, even personal ones, are available to anyone who wants them. Eventually, in the future, all people, including the gay ones, will live openly and freely, because of actions like the one taken by Annan this week. If she's chosen as UN head, it's an approach the tight-reined Clark may struggle with. Campaign finances Odious Debts Online BBC News World Bank hones anti-graft plan World Bank Promises Bribing Corporations -- No Publicity in ... Firms admit paying bribes in World Bank program Bank anti-corruption framework: "A lot of rhetoric and arm-waving" ... Gov slams court picks Beige Holdings Limited - Dealing In Securities Adequate Financial Disclosure... Will Selective Waiver Become a Reality Under Proposed Rule 502? New! Get the latest news on voluntary-disclosure with Google Alerts. page 1 2 next