The Myanmar crisis isn’t going away; global bias against older people; Vietnam leads the Security Council; Chadian peacekeepers killed and wounded in Mali.
You are reading This Week @UN, summarizing the most pressing issues facing the organization. The information is gathered from UN press briefings, PassBlue reporting and other sources.
A huge thank you to all our donors, who ensure that we keep a close reporting eye on the UN — including the Biden administration’s new relationship with the world body; gains, setbacks and blips to women’s rights; and the befuddled secretary-general selection process this year. We also thank our current advertisers, Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations and Global Connections TV.
Check out a recent interview with Dulcie Leimbach, editor of PassBlue, and Dr. Elizabeth Colton, an award-winning journalist and former US diplomat, on covering the UN and diplomacy. The event was sponsored by the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, an organization of foreign affairs professionals.
Monday, April 5
• “While April is an opportunity for Vietnam, a regional partner of Myanmar, to ease the increasing tensions there between the military and the protesters, it’s unclear how the Security Council could make a difference”: read Stéphanie Fillion’s exclusive interview with Vietnam’s ambassador to the UN, Dang Dinh Quy, for PassBlue’s monthly Security Council Presidency column. You can also listen to Ambassador Dang and regional experts on the latest episode of PassBlue’s podcast, UN-Scripted, on SoundCloud, Google Podcasts, Patreon, iHeart Radio or Amazon Prime Music.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Four peacekeepers from Chad were killed and 34 injured on April 2, when the contingent repelled a three-hour attack against their camp in the Kidal region of northern Mali. A total of eight peacekeepers, all African, have been killed in the Mali mission, Minusma, this year. (On April 6, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of UN peacekeeping, told the Security Council that the attack by a “heavily armed group” happened at 6:15 A.M. local time and the Chadean contingent “roundly defeated the attackers.” An AFP report says that the head of Minusma “counted more than 40 dead terrorists, including a right-hand man to Iyad Ag Ghaly, by the name of Abdallaye Ag Albaka,” adding that Ag Ghaly led the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in the Sahel, affiliated with Al Qaeda.)
• “In a recently released letter to the U.S. government, human rights officials at the United Nations backed Indigenous activists in Guam and expressed concern over the United States’ ongoing military presence in the territory. Activists representing Guam’s Chamorro people have decried America’s continued control and increased militarization on the island since claiming it as a territory in 1898, after the Spanish-American War,” Huffington Post reports.
Tuesday, April 6
• During more than a year of tracking the parameters of Covid-19, medical science has made one thing clear: the virus hits the elderly hardest — but it is not by chance, Barbara Crossette writes. A new international study reveals that prejudice, institutional bias and societal discrimination against older people in both rich and poor countries “set the stage long before the virus struck” and there was “nothing inevitable about the pandemic’s effects.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Secretary-General António Guterres virtually addressed the leaders’ dialogue on the Africa Covid-Climate Emergency, convened by the African Development Bank and the Global Centre for Adaption. He reiterated the five actions needed to remedy the emergency, including increased funding from G7 members and integrating climate risk policies into investment decisions. A reporter asked who in the vast UN network of agencies is looking into the development of vaccine passports. Response: “The global issue of public health is one in the hands of WHO.”
• A report released by the World Food Program indicated that the number of people affected by high acute food insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at 27.3 million, or one in three people, including nearly seven million people grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger. Large amounts of hunger are driven by conflict in the region.
• The deputy spokesperson for Volkan Bozkir, the president of the General Assembly, detailed some aspects of the PGA’s first trip overseas in his UN role, as he travels to Turkey (his home country), Qatar and Azerbaijan. Amy Quantrill told the media that Bozkir is in Ankara, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and “lauded Turkey for its strong support to the United Nations; for its active and visible role in the General Assembly; and for hosting more refugees than any other country.” In Doha, Bozkir is “expected to be received by the Emir of the State of Qatar.” (On April 9, Bozkir met with the foreign minister of Azerbaijan, discussing “cooperation” between the country and the UN. Azerbaijan and Armenia broke into a brief war last fall, with the former mostly triumphant.)
A reporter asked about the “thematic design of the trip, considering it was partly to his home country, Turkey,” and Quantrill replied that Bozkir would “raise his priorities throughout his trip and advocate for multilateralism and the United Nations to address global challenges.” Bozkir, an avowed gender-equality “champion,” has not pronounced on Turkey’s withdrawal in March from the Istanbul Convention, which addresses preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. (President Joe Biden’s response to Turkey’s withdrawal.)
Wednesday, April 7
• The Escazú agreement originated at the UN Rio+20 conference but is named after the place in Costa Rica where it became a legally binding pact with mechanisms to strengthen “environmental democracy through public participation.” Gabrielle Alves’s op-ed for PassBlue on the “South American Paris Climate Agreement” says it is being revived as Latin American regional groups like Mercosur weaken. But one country vital to the Escazú agreement has yet to ratify it: Brazil.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The United States government announced funding to Palestine, including $150 million to the humanitarian agency Unrwa (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), after the US cut aid to the program in 2018 under the Trump administration. “The relationship between the United States and UNRWA is a long-standing relationship. We hope that others will now follow suit. There were a number of countries that had greatly reduced or halted contributions to UNRWA,” the UN spokesperson said. (In an April 8 media briefing, with Unrwa officials in Gaza, the West Bank and Washington, they said the money was hopefully the “first tranche” of donations reinstated by the US, which before aid was cut in 2018 totaled $300 million annually to the UN agency. The money supports schools, health care networks and cash grants to Palestinian refugees, the UN said.) To watch the Unrwa briefing, use passcode =9i@6IR%. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement on the new funding.
• “A UN tribunal in Tanzania has denied a request for early release by a man considered the mastermind of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left some 800,000 dead,” The Inquirer reports. Today was the 27th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
• The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, issued a readout of a call with Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, in which the US envoy “raised the United States’ deep concern over the human rights situations in Burma, China, Ethiopia, Venezuela, and Yemen, and the importance of holding accountable those who commit human rights violations and abuses.” Some diplomats raised eyebrows at the US’ listing such prominent human-rights problems in one fell swoop; others saw the readout reflecting the determination by the US to re-involve itself in the Human Rights Council. President Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018.
• A captured “ehm” moment, uttered by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, raged on Twitter when she and Charles Michel, European Union Council president, were meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey and there was no chair set up for her, despite her being more senior than Michel.
Thursday, April 8
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Reports of beheadings and unverified reports of the use of child soldiers in Mozambique are being “monitored closely” since attacks by nonstate armed groups and clashes in the Cabo Delgado district of Palma District began on March 24. The UN is having difficulty verifying information on these incidents, but is “concerned about the situation of civilians who fled the recent violence and those who remain in Palma.” So far, more than 500,000 people in the province have received humanitarian aid since attacks began, the UN reports.
• According to Al Jazeera, the Food and Agriculture Organization reported that world food prices rose for a 10th consecutive month in March, hitting their highest level since June 2014, led by jumps in vegetable oils, meat and dairy indices.
• Lieut. Gen. Marcos De Sá Affonso Da Costa of Brazil is the new force commander for the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Monusco. He succeeds another Brazilian, Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Augusto Ferreira Costa Neves.
• A UN Security Council presidential statement was agreed on, urging mine action in cease-fire and peace agreements, through an effort led by Vietnam.
Friday, April 9
• Deputy spokesperson’s briefing: Christine Schraner-Burgener, the UN envoy for Myanmar, has arrived in Bangkok for talks with “different governments in the region” on the coup blood bath in Myanmar, but she tweeted that the deputy head of the military told her that the Tatmadaw, or armed forces, are “not ready to receive her.” In addition, the Security Council held an open session for UN member states to express their stances on Myanmar. (See the tweet below on the meeting, written by a former US diplomat at the UN mission and human-rights expert on Asia.)
A reporter said: Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, “shifted his language on what the international community needs to do, and he used phrases such as ‘all necessary measures’ and ‘responsibility to protect.’ Do we, the international community collectively, have a responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar and all that entails?” Response, in part: “When there are people placed at risk, when there’s violence on the rise, there is a responsibility by the international community as a whole to protect people. How they go about it, how the Member States live up to their responsibilities we leave in the hands of the Member States.”
• In addition, Guterres “welcomes the steps announced by the International Monetary and Finance Committee and the World Bank Group Development Committee to address debt crises and other damage arising from the Covid-19 crisis.” The president of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, held a media briefing focusing on the Financing for Development Forum starting on April 12 and Covid-19 recovery.
ICYMI: A Washington Post op-ed noted which world leaders have the “worst pandemic record”: some may be obvious, but Turkmenistan was a surprise.
Dulcie Leimbach contributed reporting to this article.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts?
Ivana Ramirez is from South Carolina. She will begin matriculating as an undergraduate student at Yale University in 2021. She writes PassBlue’s This Week @UN news summary and is the researcher for PassBlue’s UN-Scripted podcast series.