Iran continues to enrich low-grade uranium; the United Nations finally sent peacekeepers to protect Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, after he received more death threats; and the major General Assembly session of world leaders, starting Sept. 22, features only 11 women so far, and the first one to speak is No. 53 on the list.
Greetings from This Week @UN, our summary highlighting the most important news on the UN. The news is drawn from the UN spokesperson’s briefings, our original reporting and other sources. We had a banner week of breaking news, scoops and investigations.
You’re just two clicks away from PassBlue’s latest UN-Scripted podcast episode — featuring an exclusive interview with Ambassador Abdou Abarry of Niger, who brings the voice of the Sahel to the Security Council and describes how it may respond to the US steps against the Iran nuclear deal on Sept. 20.
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Monday, Sept. 7
• The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium now exceeds the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal tenfold. According to the confidential quarterly IAEA report, seen by PassBlue, Iran has stockpiled 2105.4 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, an increase of 533.8 kilograms since the previous report, in June. The nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), allows Iran to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms only. Yet the stockpile is still far below the amount of enriched uranium Iran accumulated before the conclusion of the JCPOA, signed in 2015 by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US (which left the deal in 2018). Our report, by Stephanie Liechtenstein, from Vienna.
No spokesperson’s briefing because of the Labor Day holiday in the US.
Tuesday, Sept. 8
• UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke extensively with Agence France-Presse as part of the Covering Climate Now consortium of hundreds of international media, including PassBlue. The interview focuses on the danger of major countries and investors not moving fast enough toward using renewable energy and how countries’ pandemic recoveries also exemplify the danger of more global disunity.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: A reporter asked Stéphane Dujarric for a response regarding a hashtag that had popped up on Twitter, “Defund the UN.” The hashtag was reacting to a tweet by Guterres saying: “The #COVID19 pandemic is demonstrating what we all know: millennia of patriarchy have resulted in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture which damages everyone – women, men, girls & boys.” Dujarric said: “I think we prove every day the worth in investing in the United Nations for the betterment of peoples everywhere and the value that it brings, whether it is helping during the pandemic . . . every day, I’m updating you on what we’re doing all over the world, what we’re doing in our peacekeeping missions. . . . So, we do our utmost to prove our worth every day by the work that we do.”
Wednesday, Sept. 9
• In our exclusive, detailed story by Clair MacDougall, writing from Africa, she reports on the UN’s slow response to redeploy peacekeepers to protect Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who once more has been receiving death threats. The UN mission in the Congo, Monusco, finally deployed Nepalese peacekeepers to Panzi Hospital, where Dr. Mukwege works and lives, on Sept. 9, six weeks after initial requests from him and many VIPs globally, including Margot Wallstrom, a former Swedish foreign minister, to the highest levels at the UN. And it may be only a temporary arrangement.
• No spokesperson’s briefing, but the UN released a climate report, “United in Science,” from the World Meteorological Organization, a “catalogue of a climate crisis that is worsening by the hour,” Guterres said at the virtual press conference. “Yes, economies slowed down because of COVID-19, but the heating of our planet has not let up,” he added. “As the report shows, greenhouse gas concentrations reached new record highs in 2020.”
Thursday, Sept. 10
• The first woman scheduled to speak at this year’s opening session of the General Assembly is, remarkably, 53d on the list of about 119 heads of state — President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, delivering her remarks on Sept. 23, Stéphanie Fillion reports exclusively. The day before, the first of the major global gathering (albeit virtual), will not feature any women, according to a provisional agenda issued by the UN. Naturally, the reaction was strong, at least on Twitter, and in the UN spokesperson’s briefing, Dujarric was asked if Guterres is “happy” with the situation. “It is clear that the world would benefit from greater representation of women at the highest levels,” Dujarric said. “We’re not there.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: At an in-person session of the Security Council, members adopted a presidential statement, issued by Niger, on protecting schools from attacks in wars. The statement said, in part, “The Security Council recalls that all parties to armed conflict must comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international law for the protection of children in armed conflict, including those contained in the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 as well as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in armed conflict.” The Council also heard from the special envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, who noted progress in the last decade to improve the protection of schools but warned that attacks on them seem to becoming a war tactic, particularly in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Friday, Sept. 11
• States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights elect nine new experts on Sept. 17 to the Human Rights Committee, which supervises the covenant’s implementation (and is not part of the Human Rights Council). The covenant “is one of the two solemn, widely ratified covenants that codify in treaty form the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and detail the United Nations Charter’s provisions on human rights,” John Packer, a Canadian academic and human-rights expert writes in an op-ed for PassBlue.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Deborah Lyons, the special envoy and head of the UN mission in Afghanistan (Unama), said that the opening event of peace talks between Afghan parties in Doha, Qatar, this weekend “can be the start of something truly momentous and negotiators from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a unique opportunity to save the lives of many of their compatriots and to lift the country out of poverty and misery.” Dujarric said, in part, about the talks: “There are many critical issues that will have to be looked at, but I think one that always needs underscoring is to ensure that the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan are not overlooked and that they have… their voices, their rights and their lives are respected and protected.” Guterres is speaking at the Doha conference by pre-recorded video message.
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Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.
Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.