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The Struggling SDGs, Money for Beirut, Resuming Vaccinations in Pakistan and Afghanistan


Secretary of State Pompeo visiting the Patton Museum, which commemorates the United States role in liberating Czechoslovakia, in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Aug. 11, 2020. While Pompeo was traveling in Europe last week, the UN Security Council rejected a US draft resolution to extend the Iran arms ban. The five European countries in the Council and six other nations abstained in the vote. RON PRZYSUCHA/STATE DEPARTMENT

The tremendous fallout from the explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4 continues as the United Nations offers direct aid, including providing a mobile health clinic and vaccines for children, while a new $565 million appeal to help the Lebanese recover has begun. And in a stunning rejection, a United States draft resolution submitted to the Security Council to extend a weapons ban in Iran received only 2 yes votes, 11 abstentions and 2 no votes in results announced in the early evening of Aug. 14. The fight by the US to ensure the embargo stays will get uglier.

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Monday, Aug. 10

• Barbara Crossette succinctly describes the troubled state of the SDGs: “The shock of the unexpected coronavirus pandemic will make it harder to achieve success on the Sustainable Development Goals, now a third of their way to the finish line, in 2030. However, the problems that have stymied or reversed progress go back long before Covid-19 hit, leading development experts say.”

• From the spokesperson’s briefing: Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, briefed member states on the situation in Lebanon, introducing a three-phased response: humanitarian, now underway; reconstruction; and addressing the socioeconomic crisis, worsened by Covid-19. The briefing included an update by Unicef’s director, Henrietta Fore, who said that at least 16 primary health-care facilities were damaged and three hospitals, including one for children, were destroyed in the Aug. 4 blast.

Tuesday, Aug. 11

• Rhona Scullion, our correspondent in the UK, is passionate about women’s issues. In her story on why Sudan’s progressive new law banning female genital mutilation is not being carried out, experts pointed to the pandemic.

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•Spokesperson’s briefing: Unicef polio vaccination programs resumed in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The crisis had halted the programs, leaving 50 million children without vaccines and reigniting a spread of the disease in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, polio immunization projects restarted in July; in Pakistan, vaccination programs have also restarted, reaching 780,000 children so far.

Wednesday, Aug. 12

• Two foreign-affairs specialists who have opened their own think tank, Plataforma CIPÓ, in Rio de Janeiro, describe in an essay their country’s fairly positive history in the UN, since it joined in 1945. But they lament the scorn currently heaped on it by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. “The UN is, in fact, the only space where dialogue and cooperation are possible among 193 member states, governed by leaders from all points along the political spectrum,” Adriana Erthal Abdenur and Maiara Folly write.

• Spokesperson’s briefing: In a Security Council session on how countries can sustain peace during Covid-19, Secretary-General António Guterres said the disease not only threatens peaceful environments but also risks creating new conflicts. The world is looking to such leaders as the Council, he noted, to tackle the pandemic crisis “in ways that take concrete, meaningful and positive contributions to the lives of people.” Although the Council approved a resolution on July 1 endorsing Guterres’s call for a global cease-fire, it took the 15 members months to agree on a text as China and the US bitterly fought over wording in the document.

Thursday, Aug. 13

• Spokesperson’s briefing: South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has been hit with flooding along the Nile River and violent clashes between the country’s security forces and youths in a disarmament project gone awry. The UN peacekeeping mission sent a patrol to the scene of the clashes, in Tonj, and reported that the situation was “calm although tensions remain high,” after at least 120 people were killed.

Friday, Aug. 14

In an astounding rejection of a US draft resolution to keep a weapons ban in place as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Security Council smashed the effort to pieces, with only two positive votes (the US and the Dominican Republic), 11 abstentions and negative votes from China and Russia. The four-paragraph-long resolution proposed that the embargo, which expires Oct. 18, be extended indefinitely. Evelyn Leopold reports in detail the laborious negotiations between the US, which withdrew from the Iran pact in 2018, and the remaining parties to it (Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia), leading up to the vote. The US is not giving up on its ambitions, as it has another plan up its sleeve.

• Spokesperson’s briefing: A joint statement by President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates said that Israel was suspending annexation plans in parts of the occupied West Bank. Guterres said he hoped the new agreement between Israel and the UAE to normalize relations would inspire Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restart peace talks. But one reporter in the briefing noted that there was evidence the Israelis are still building illegal settlements on Palestinian land.


Allison Lecce is a graduate of Fordham University, with a degree in international studies and journalism. She received the Fordham College Alumni Association Journalism Scholars Award and is working for the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development.

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