On opening day, Summit flops

15 September 2005
Crossing the street to enter the UN building yesterday, I passed Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal. Honestly, I would never have recognised him if it weren't for the clapping and shouting supporters who had lined up near the sidewalk barricades hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Later, I nearly bumped into President Lula of Brazil as he got off an escalator on the 2nd floor of the UN building and entered an elevator. I know I probably should have accosted him for an interview, but he was very busy and had about nine equally busy men surrounding him. Que pena. But how fun to be sharing hallways with all these world leaders. Apart from that, my afternoon was pretty uneventful. The UN Summit programme is called the "Journal" and it is surprisingly brief - about a page or two per day. Most of the meetings are closed, and the press just sit around outside meeting rooms waiting to pounce on officials when they come out. Yesterday, there were addresses from 80 heads of state, and today there will be 80 more. It's been sad to see how damning NGO statements on the UN draft document are (seriously, have a look). Combined with the whole US/Bolton ordeal and frustration over how to bring about UN reform, this Summit is not a happy one. Maybe things will perk up later. Or at least before the year 2015.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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