Upheaval in the US, More Disaster in Yemen, UN’s Phased Reopening

Protesters in Washington Square Park, Manhattan, one of dozens of such gatherings throughout New York City in the last week responding to the murder of George Floyd, the African-American, on May. 25. The UN kept its distance from the protests. ISABELLA PENNEY

Starting in June, a summary of the most important news on the United Nations’ work in New York City and across the world will be highlighted weekly. The news will be drawn from the UN spokesperson’s media briefings, which are held daily during the workweek, as well as our original reporting and other sources.

We look forward to your feedback on this new series, called This Week @UN. Thank you — Editors

Monday, June 1

• PassBlue published an article on France assuming the monthly rotating presidency of the UN Security Council. The country’s ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière, discusses the threats to multilateralism, his pain over the lack of a Council resolution on a global cease-fire and why he is chairing public meetings in French. With an exclusive podcast episode.

• The spokesperson’s media briefingled by Stéphane Dujarric, touched on the elections in Burundi; a new paper by the UN special envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, about the effects of Covid-19 on Israeli-Palestinian relations; and a response by the humanitarian coordinator for Libya, Yacoub El-Hillo, about a shooting at a smuggling warehouse that killed 30 migrants and injured 11 others last week. The following, among other matters, was also noted:

• The World Health Organization (WHO) said that Latin America is the new epicenter of Covid-19, with nearly 938,000 confirmed cases and 49,000 deaths as of June 1. Brazil, Peru, Chile and Ecuador have the most cases so far. The UN has provided help to such countries as Venezuela and Colombia.

• Guatemala has reported 4,700 confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 100 deaths as of June 1. The UN team there has provided $1 million from the UN Multipartner Trust Fund to help the government’s response with health services and protecting and training health workers. The UN is also working on guaranteeing decent quarantine locations for migrants who have returned to Guatemala.

• The Democratic Republic of the Congo reported a new Ebola outbreak in Équateur Province. As of June 1, the Congolese health ministry has confirmed six cases and four deaths from Ebola.

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• Three new UN resident coordinators have been appointed: Charles Abani of Nigeria will be working in Ghana, Vincent Martin of France will be based in Guinea and Gustavi González of Argentina will be working in the Philippines. They begin their work remotely until travel restrictions are lifted.

• As to the nationwide protests in the United States regarding George Floyd’s murder, Dujarric was asked if UN Secretary-General António Guterres had a message. Dujarric said: “I think, you know, the situation we’re seeing today, we’ve seen in different parts of the world before, and the Secretary‑General’s message has been consistent. One is that grievances must be heard, but they must be expressed in peaceful ways and authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrators. I think, in the US, as in any other country in the world, diversity is a richness and not a threat, but the success of diverse societies, in any country, requires a massive investment in social cohesion. That means reducing inequalities, addressing possible areas of discrimination, strengthening social protection, providing opportunities for all. And these efforts, these investments, need to mobilize national Governments. They need to mobilize local authorities, the private sector, civil society, faith‑based organizations. In one word, society as a whole, needs to be mobilized. I think we’ve also seen, over the last few days, cases of police violence. And, again, I would just restate what we have been saying in many other cases when we have seen police violence, is that, first of all, cases, obviously, need to be investigated. We’ve always said that police forces around the world need to have adequate human rights training, and there also needs to be an investment in social and psychological support for police so they can do their job properly in terms of protecting the community.

Tuesday, June 2 

• PassBlue published an op-ed by Thomas G. Weiss related to the pandemic and threats to multilateralism, asking: Will the UN reach 100?

• The spokesperson’s briefing touched on news and updates about to Burkina Faso, where 50 people were killed in three separate attacks; Bolivia announcing that its general elections will take place on Sept. 6; and Libya, Yemen and Somalia, among other topics:

•  The Government of National Accord (the UN-backed government in Libya) and the Libyan National Army (a militia led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar) resumed talks about a nationwide cease-fire, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil).

• Somalia has 2,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 80 deaths as of June 2. Unicef has provided 560,000 people with hygiene kits, and the World Food Program is sending humanitarian supplies to remote locations.

• An estimated $1.35 billion was pledged during the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, led by the UN and Saudi Arabia, far short of the $2.4 billion goal. The conference was held as more than 30 of the 41 UN programs in the country will close soon due to lack of money.

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Wednesday, June 3

• PassBlue published an article, “As Protests Sweep the US, the UN Tweets Platitudes,” looking at the responses by UN entities and the secretary-general to the protests and Washington’s reaction.

• The spokesperson’s briefing touched on, among other topics:

• Guterres’s new policy, “Covid-19 and People on the Move,” discussing how migrants, many of whom are “contributing heroically on the frontlines in essential work,” are facing a health crisis in settings where care is hard to find. The pandemic can offer a chance to “reimagine human mobility,” based on four core beliefs: inclusion, human dignity, equal access to health care and acknowledgement of the necessity of these migrants.

• UN peacekeeping missions are supporting local governments in their response to Covid-19. For example, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) has provided personal protective equipment to hospitals. The mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) is providing medical supplies, training to health care workers and helping to build a testing center.

• In Iran, which has 157,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 7,900 deaths, the WHO has provided medical supplies to 100-plus labs and hospitals. It is also assisting the country in collecting data for the Solidarity Trial, a clinical effort to find a treatment for Covid-19.

• On World Bicycle Day, the UN acknowledges “the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle.” According to the WHO, cycling is crucial to achieving health equity as cycling is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer. This is why infrastructure must include safe walking and cycling paths.

Thursday, June 4 

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• PassBlue published an op-ed by two former UN policy experts on how the world body can keep multilateralism alive now and after the pandemic, suggesting specific steps to do so.

• The spokesperson’s briefing included information on the Security Council meeting with force commanders of UN peacekeeping  missions in Mali and South Sudan; and Mozambique asking for $103 million to support government-led Covid-19 responses. In addition, Dujarric spoke about:

• The Gavi Global Vaccine Summit for equal access to all vaccines raised $8.8 billion from 32 governments and 12 organizations in a pledge to inoculate 300 million children. An additional $567 million was raised to finance access to Covid-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

• The new UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams) will assist the country’s transition to democracy. The Security Council also extended the African Union-UN hybrid operation in Darfur (Unamid) until Dec. 31.

• Thirty refugees have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Cox’s Bazar camp, but as testing continues it is expected that the numbers will be much higher. The UN Refugee Agency reported that a 71-year-old Rohingya man is the first person in the camp to die from the virus.

• The UN Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil) began talks between the Libyan National Army and the Government of National Accord. While the two sides are not meeting face-to-face, the mission spoke with the LNA yesterday and is hoping to speak to the GNA in a few days.

Friday, June 5

• The spokesperson’s briefing touched on, among other matters:

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• Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of UN peace operations, told the Security Council that the G5-Sahel Joint Force is on the right track, although there is a long way to go; the pandemic adds another layer of complexity to security in the region; terrorists and other groups are trying to capitalize on the pandemic to destabilize governments; attacks on national and international forces continue unabated; and the civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the instability.

• The high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that in the past eight months, about 1,300 civilians have been killed in conflicts involving armed groups and government forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some incidents may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes, she added.

• Decisions on the UN’s phased reopening in New York City are being made by the Senior Emergency Management Group, which is guided by the medical authorities in close contact with local health officials. “Critical” staff are being identified who would need to be in the UN building, and wishes of member states are also being considered. Preparations are underway in terms of signage and workspaces, but the process is not being rushed, Dujarric said, adding, “. . . we do want to be able to move forward when we feel it is safe to have an uptick in the number of people that will be allowed in the building at any one time.”

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Allison Lecce

Allison Lecce

Allison Lecce is from Chappaqua, N.Y., and a student at Fordham University majoring in international studies with a minor in journalism. She received this year's Fordham College Alumni Association Journalism Scholars Award.

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