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The US Likes the UN Again; Warnings to Ethiopia; Biden’s Pick for UN Envoy


On Nov. 24, Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, urged the parties to the intensifying conflict in Ethiopia “to give clear orders to their forces to spare and protect the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.” JEAN MARC FERRE/UN PHOTO

The United States embraces diplomacy again; human-rights warnings in Ethiopia; who is the US nominee for UN ambassador?

You are reading This Week @UN, highlighting the most important news on the world body. The information is drawn from the UN spokesperson’s briefings, our original reporting and other sources.

We know from diplomats and many other readers that our weekly summary of UN activities is very popular, but we need your support to keep it going: that is one way donations are used by PassBlue, to produce columns that readers rely on and need. So please help us keep this service going into 2021 by donating to our campaign and doubling your gift. Our deep thanks to everyone who has given so far — it has been wonderfully encouraging!

In case you missed it: Our latest UN-Scripted podcast episode offers a perfect lowdown on how the US, under the incoming President Joe Biden, can re-engage with the UN — at least legally — featuring interviews with four experts. (A translation of the podcast episode’s accompanying article was translated into German by the Friedrich-Ebert foundation for its website.)

Monday, Nov. 23

“Advice is pouring into President-elect Joe Biden from around the United States and across the world on how to turn around the damage the Trump administration has inflicted in key policy areas. Advocates for public health, women’s rights and a semblance of restored American leadership are among those hoping for quick action starting the day Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.” News of his Cabinet picks, including the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, became public on Nov. 23. What it all portends for the world, by Barbara Crossette. (The story was reposted by Ms. Magazine.)

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Spokesperson’s briefing: The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reported that carbon-dioxide levels grew again in 2019 and that the annual global average breached the significant threshold of 410 parts per million. The rise continued this year as carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and for longer periods in the ocean. The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a blip on the long-term graph.

Additionally, the spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, was asked about the news that John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, will be President-elect Biden’s climate change envoy. Response: “On climate, the role of the United States, whether the federal, the state or the business level, has always been very important and will continue to be.”

About the nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the UN, a reporter asked: “Is the [UN] Secretary‑General doing cartwheels in his office? Do you have a comment on this new US representative?” Response: “I have never known nor can I ever imagine the Secretary‑General doing cartwheels in his office or anywhere else. What I can tell you is that the Secretary‑General has always worked very closely with every US Permanent Representative that has been sent by Washington and will do so in the future.”

Tuesday, Nov. 24

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to move quickly once he is in office to reverse Donald Trump’s pledge to cut ties to the World Health Organization during a deadly worldwide plague. But, Irwin Arieff writes in his analysis, “it will not be easy for Biden to erase the damage, which will weigh on Washington’s standing in the international health arena and could well have a lingering impact on the management of the current pandemic as well as future ones.” Equally important, Arieff asks, will the money the US pays into the agency’s budget flow again too?

Spokesperson’s briefing: Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, urged the parties to the conflict in Ethiopia “to give clear orders to their forces to spare and protect the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.” She added that “the highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for the city of Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger.” Bachelet said she was also “deeply disturbed at the continuing communication blackout in Tigray, making it very difficult for civilians to communicate with families, and for the UN to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation.”

Meanwhile, the African Union’s new envoy team to help mediate the crisis — all former presidents of their countries: Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia president and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — met with President Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia on Nov. 27. The day before, he tweeted, in part:

Wednesday, Nov. 25

Spokesperson’s briefing: Secretary‑General António Guterres “commends the people and Government of Burkina Faso for the peaceful and timely holding of elections on 22 November, despite the enormous security challenges in parts of the country.” (Preliminary results of the presidential vote show that Roch Marc Kaboré has been re-elected.)

Read PassBlue’s interview with the only woman candidate who was running for Burkina Faso president, against 12 men. (The story was reposted on the independent WomenLead blog.)

Additionally, a reporter asked if Guterres has had any discussion with President-elect Biden or his nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken. Response: “No. . . . And that’s actually fairly standard for us, that we deal with one government at a time. And at some point in the future, we will be talking to Mr. Biden.”

Thursday, Nov. 26

No media briefing was scheduled because of the US holiday.

Friday, Nov. 27

No media briefing was scheduled.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Dulcie Leimbach

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.

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