A “permanent” cease-fire is reached in Libya; Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City declines to meet with the president of the UN General Assembly; and what’s going on behind closed-door meetings at the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.
Greetings from This Week @UN, highlights of the most important news on the world body. The information is drawn from the UN spokesperson’s briefings, our original reporting and other sources.
Check it out: our newest podcast episode tells you how many Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded to the UN and features an original audio clip with David Beasley, the World Food Program chief, the day he got the news about his agency receiving the Nobel this year, while traveling in Africa. (With an article.)
Show of influence: On Oct. 22, Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted to her 28.9 million followers an op-ed published in PassBlue on how the goals of the 1995 Beijing conference on gender equality have been integrated into US foreign policy, with Clinton having steered the effort in Washington as the former first lady and US secretary of state.
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Monday, Oct. 19
• Tatiana Carayannis and Thomas G. Weiss, UN specialists, open their PassBlue essay by writing: “This week we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, as the Covid-19 pandemic highlights our interdependence and the need for global cooperation. Enthusiasm for it, however, is in short supply amid deteriorating Washington-Beijing relations, Brexit and rising populisms. . . . ” With a global depression looming from the pandemic, the planet is hard-pressed to respond to threats without more collaboration among countries and stronger intergovernmental institutions. What’s the solution? The “Third UN.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Unicef is setting up the “rapid, safe and efficient delivery of the eventual COVID‑19 vaccine” by buying and stockpiling 520 million syringes in its warehouses. In 2021, assuming there are enough doses, Unicef will deliver 1-billion-plus syringes to support vaccinations.
Tuesday, Oct. 20
• A decade after the first democratic reforms began in Myanmar/Burma, its citizens are preparing to vote in a national election on Nov. 8. It will be an important test for the country and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose once-shining image has been tarnished by international and domestic critics; story by Barbara Crossette.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: A Unicef -World Bank Group analysis says that an estimated one in six children lived in extreme poverty before the pandemic and this will now worsen significantly. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of children living in households that barely survive on an average of $1.90 a day or less per person; South Asia accounts for nearly a fifth of the children.
Wednesday, Oct. 21
• For the first time in its 24-year history, state parties to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a global agreement that bans all nuclear testing, have taken a controversial decision by a two-thirds majority rather than, as usual, by consensus. The shift may reflect further hardening of international relations among countries in the pandemic and related crises. Our exclusive from Vienna by Stephanie Liechtenstein.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Answering a reporter’s question about Secretary-General António Guterres’s response to the Pope supporting same-sex civil unions, Stéphane Dujarric said: “I think the Secretary‑General has spoken out very forcefully against homophobia in favour of LGBTQ rights, that people should never be persecuted or discriminated against just for who they love.”
Thursday, Oct. 22
• “With 2020 foresight, the answer to our descent into cynicism, chaos and crisis can once again be found in the UN, its Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” writes another UN expert, Mona Ali Khalil, in her op-ed for PassBlue. “The UN can rise again, using new information and communication technologies . . . ” to enable nations to coordinate the right responses to the coronavirus and climate change and protect civilians from terrorism, nations from aggression and people from genocide.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The World Health Organization said that the rollout of newly approved antigen‑based rapid diagnostic tests for Covid‑19 in Africa “will significantly boost testing capacity and make a game‑changer in the continent’s fight against the pandemic.”
Friday, Oct. 23
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Secretary-General Guterres “welcomed the signing of a ceasefire agreement by the Libyan parties, in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations,” calling it a “fundamental step toward peace and stability in Libya.” Earlier in the day, the UN acting special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, said that the parties agreed that all military units and armed groups on the frontlines will return to their camps and that all mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya will depart by “land, air and sea — within a maximum period of three months from today.” (Guterres held a media briefing on the news, too.)
• Spokesperson for the president of the General Assembly briefing: Volkan Bozkir, the new president of the GA, requested a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the UN’s host city but was turned down with no explanation, said Brenden Varma, the spokesperson for Bozkir. The context: Bozkir said in a statement that as the “representative of 193 countries, and a leader of one of the City’s most politically significant resident bodies, I consider it necessary to foster dialogue and coordination between our two administrations.”
He added that he was “saddened to learn that the Mayor was unavailable to meet with me.” This lack of interaction, he noted, “concerns me as policies devised by the City of New York directly affect the work of the United Nations and by extension millions of lives across the globe. Nevertheless, I will continue my work as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, in the hopes of protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations and advancing efforts towards a healthier and more sustainable planet. I hope the City of New York will continue to be a strong partner in that regard.”
Varma said that Bozkir has also requested a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and is awaiting a response.