The Ghana delegation posing outside the United Nations General Assembly Hall, June 11, 2021, after the Assembly voted on Security Council members for the 2022-23 term. Besides Ghana, the others are Albania, Brazil, Gabon and United Arab Emirates. They succeed Estonia, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam. JOHN PENNEY
Major United Nations elections; male leadership at the top of the UN endures; working 55 hours or more a week increases risk of death.
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.
Check out our Instagram account, where Ivana Ramirez and Kacie Candela, who manage the site, have been posting vintage — black and white — photos from the UN archives, mixing them with current ones and PassBlue articles, so followers get a strong visual sense of international political history.
Our mini-fund-raising burst is on track to attract $5,000 by July 31, so we thank everyone who gave so generously last week. If you are a new subscriber to PassBlue, hello! Please help further democracy by supporting an independent, nonprofit media site based in the USA.
Laura Kirkpatrick’s latest news quiz keeps you sharp on the current geopolitics playing out at the UN and beyond. Try it and share it with friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers, students and acquaintances!
Monday, June 7
• New Pressures Are Shaping Environmental Debates, a Leader Says: Barbara Crossette interviews Gus Speth, a leading global environmentalist now living in Vermont who has a new book out, “They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis.” It describes, he says, “the saddest story ever told.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, below, was elected as president of the 76th session of the General Assembly, in a 143-to-48 vote against Afghanistan. Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated Shahid, saying that his experience as foreign minister “has given him a deep understanding of the importance of multilateralism.”
• The president of the General Assembly’s 75th session, Volkan Bozkir, recognized the contender from Afghanistan, Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, saying, “With his extensive experience in multilateral diplomacy, including as Foreign Minister and a comprehensive vision for his candidacy, Dr. Rassoul has earned the respect of member states.”
• “A UN war crimes court on Tuesday upheld the life sentence for Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb military commander who was convicted of genocide over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other war crimes. Mr Mladic, dubbed the ‘Butcher of Bosnia,’ was sentenced to life in 2017 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the 1992-1995 Bosnian war,” The Telegraph.
Tuesday, June 8
• Long Working Hours Are Linked to Increased Risk of Death, a UN Report Finds: Ivana Ramirez writes that a new study from the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization found that long working hours raised the risk of strokes and heart disease. And that was before the pandemic struck.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Estonia, as president of the Security Council in June, officially announced the Council’s recommendation of Guterres for a second term, at a press stakeout. Resolution 2580 cemented the recommendation, and the next, final step is a public vote by the General Assembly, scheduled for June 18. Guterres released a statement thanking the Council for its decision, which was not unexpected.
• A reporter asked the spokesperson: “Will the Secretary-General for his second term keep with him Amina Mohammed [deputy secretary-general], or will he get rid of her and nominate someone else? And will he keep Jean-Pierre Lacroix [head of UN peacekeeping]? And I hope he will keep you.” Response: “I have absolutely no comment on personnel issues, not that I’m hiding anything. I think the Secretary-General, except for yours truly, has assembled an extremely competent and strong team around him and he continues to be greatly appreciative of their work.”
But not everyone cheered about the Council’s action: “The council’s decision concluded an uncompetitive and largely opaque process in which it did not seriously consider any other candidates for a position held by nine men over 75 years,” said a Human Rights Watch press release. “Since taking office in January 2017, Guterres has rarely criticized or called for accountability by specific governments or their leaders. He adopted a non-confrontational approach toward US President Donald Trump’s efforts to sideline human rights by undermining multilateral organizations like the UN and embracing authoritarian leaders.”
• “Recent clashes and ‘indiscriminate attacks by security forces against civilian areas’ have forced an estimated 100,000 to flee their homes in eastern Kayah state near the Thai border. Those in areas hit by fighting were in ‘urgent need’ of food, water, shelter and health care, it said, adding that travel restrictions imposed by security forces were delaying the delivery of much-needed aid,” MSN News reports on Myanmar.
Wednesday, June 9
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres will travel to Britain to attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall on Thursday. His message to the group will focus on the leaders combating the pandemic and climate change. [Guterres’s June 11 press briefing at G7 working sessions in London.] The International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, also released a list of seven conflict-related priorities for the G7.
A reporter asked, “Is the Secretary-General planning any bilateral meetings [at G7]? And is he planning any other travels in Europe while he’s there?” Response: “No other official travel in Europe. He will clearly have one bilateral with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As always in these meetings, I expect him to have a number of pull-asides.”
Another reporter asked, “Would you expect him to have some discussions with President Biden there?” Response: “I have no doubt he will have as many pull-asides as possible. We’ll try to report back to you.” [Update: June 10, Guterres will meet with the chair of the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November.]
• “In the last week alone, the UN warned of mounting threats to the world’s soils, new research found that warming temperatures are starving the planet’s lakes of oxygen, and a WWF report said that further global heating could spell disaster for beloved species such as snow leopards, bumblebees and emperor penguins”: The Independent.
Thursday, June 10
• A Huge Missed Opportunity: Putting a Woman at the Top of the UN: An essay by Anna Samya Sri, a medical doctor in Britain and a leader of Geopsychiatry, a nongovernmental group studying the effects of such phenomenon as globalization on mental health, bemoans how the UN lost a chance to write a “powerful and poignant” moment in history by putting a woman in the top job, especially in the pandemic.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: In Haiti, preliminary estimates suggest that more than 5,000 people have been displaced since early June, after gang clashes in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and elsewhere. According to the UN, this week’s displacement brings the overall number to 10,000 residents who have been forced from their homes in the last year due to similar incidents. (Doctors Without Borders’ press release on Haiti.)
• “Armed men killed at least 160 people in an attack on a village in northern Burkina Faso, the country’s worst attack in recent years. Homes and the local market were burned during the raid on Solhan in the early hours of Saturday morning,” the BBC reports.
• An interactive briefing, below, led by the World Federation of United Nations Associations with the permanent representatives of three — Albania, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates — of the five countries seeking uncontested election on June 11 to the Security Council for the 2022-2023 term. (Gabon and Ghana had been scheduled for a separate debate but it was canceled.)
Friday, June 11
• The General Assembly voted on the countries to be seated on the Security Council for a two-year term starting on Jan. 1, 2022. None of the candidates — Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — were contested although they all needed two-thirds of Assembly members present and voting to be elected. Until recently, Iran had been restricted from voting in UN elections for lapsed UN dues payments. But its participation in today’s election means the restrictions have been lifted. (It presumably voted for itself as a write-in candidate, and a Mideast expert said it could have been signaling that it was a vote against the UAE.)
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Unesco reports a 19 percent global increase on science spending this year, including a 13.7 percent rise in the number scientists. Although the report credited the pandemic for the boost, it also noted major disparities in health care systems. The United States and China account for two-thirds of the spending jump, while 4 out of 5 countries invest less than 1 percent of their GDP in science sectors.
• In Mozambique, the UN refugee agency is concerned that the conflict in the north is forcing people to flee daily from the region to neighboring Tanzania and that 2,000 registered children don’t know where their parents are or if they are alive. The situation is being called “a children’s conflict.”
• US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before the House Appropriations subcommittee on the proposed State Department and Usaid 2022 budget.
• The 12th annual global student conference on slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, held at the UN.
• Guterres’s letter to UN personnel in New York City on returning physically to work.
Dulcie Leimbach contributed reporting to this summary.