This week, the focus stays glued to Ukraine while a flicker of hope emerges in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, where children are getting new malaria vaccines.
You are reading This Week @UN, summarizing the most pressing issues before the organization. The information is gathered from UN press briefings, PassBlue reporting and other sources. This week, the UN secretary-general’s request to visit the respective leaders of Ukraine and Russia has been agreed on by Moscow and Kyiv for next week.
Ireland’s ebullient ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, is heading to Washington this summer to be her country’s new envoy there, leaving behind a diplomatic corps in New York City, fellow Security Council members and reporters who will miss her. Ireland finishes its current term in the Council on Dec. 31, 2022. Slán! — DULCIE LEIMBACH
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Our newest quiz tests your knowledge on all things related to Ukraine and the UN (and a question on Russia). Produced by Laura Kirkpatrick with the International Civil Society Action Network and designed by John Penney. Give it your best shot and then have a glass of wine.
Monday, April 18
• Handling Zelensky: The UN’s Dilemma: Stephen Schlesinger once more nails the Ukrainian crisis for the UN on the head, writing that people who are “dismayed” by the Security Council’s “inaction suffer from a fundamental misconception of how the UN operates.” While the organization is considered a peace body, it was “born out of raw power politics” and came about through a “realpolitik compromise between the two major victors of World War II — the United States and the Soviet Union.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Martin Griffiths, the emergency relief coordinator, told media in person at the UN that he recently traveled to Kyiv and Moscow to discuss with several top government officials about the UN’s aspirations to “improve” humanitarian-passage communications to enable further aid delivery into Ukraine. Moscow said it would get back to him; Kyiv more or less agreed to work on this plan. Griffiths also said he was also traveling to Istanbul in a few days to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to encourage more negotiations for a cease-fire in Ukraine, calling Turkey’s role as a “genuinely valuable host to talks.” But later in the day, Griffiths tweeted that he had tested positive for Covid-19, so the trip may be delayed. The World Health Organization also said that Ukraine has now endured 136 attacks on health care facilities, which have killed 73 people and injured 52 others. More than one in four people in Ukraine have been displaced. At least five million refugees have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, when Russia first invaded, and 7.1 million people are internally displaced. Recent returnees to certain cities and towns are creating new challenges for the humanitarian response in terms of reconstruction and reintegration.
[Update, April 22: The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that the Russian invasion “has plunged Ukraine into a human rights and humanitarian crisis that has devastated the lives of civilians throughout the country and beyond.” The UN Human Rights Office noted that Russian armed forces “have indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, actions that may amount to war crimes.”]
Tuesday, April 19
• Saving Democracy Means Saving Our Species: An Interview With US Congressman Raskin: As part of PassBlue’s membership in the Covering Climate Now consortium, it reposted an interview timed for Earth Day (April 22) with Rep. Jamie Raskin, a progressive from Maryland, who said, “America can’t fix the planet without fixing its government.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Secretary-General António Guterres called for a four-day Orthodox Holy Week humanitarian pause in Russia‘s war on Ukraine, beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Easter Sunday to allow for corridors to open for aid to get in. Guterres emphasized that the Orthodox Easter period “should be a moment to unite around saving lives and furthering dialogue to end the suffering in the country.” A reporter asked Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson: “Does the Secretary-General have any reason to believe that Moscow will go along with it? I mean, has there been some pre-work done ahead of time, or is this just an appeal?” Reply: “It is an appeal. We have been in touch with senior officials, both in Moscow and in Kyiv. They, both the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian side knew that the Secretary‑General was going to make this appeal today and knew what the language that he was going to be [using].” [Update, April 22: a holiday truce has yet to materialize]
In the Security Council, Antonio Vitorino, director-general of the International Organization for Migration briefed on the latest developments on the Ukraine humanitarian situation. Kelly Clements, the UN deputy high commissioner for refugees, also briefed.
Wednesday, April 20
• Making the Most of the 2023 UN Summit of the Future: María Fernanda Espinosa and Danilo Turk, former high-level UN officials, write that a rare chance “to review and dramatically improve global tools for managing such enormous challenges” as conflicts, climate change and the pandemic could set the stage for the proposed Summit of the Future, to be held at the September 2023 General Assembly opening debate in New York City.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres has asked both President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to agree to a visit by him. In a letter given to the Russian mission to the UN and to Ukraine, Guterres said he would meet the presidents in Moscow and Kyiv, respectively. The aim, he said, will be to “bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the UN and international law.” A reporter asked Dujarric: “What is the idea of this visit? Is the Secretary‑General planning to be himself a direct mediator to try and come up to a solution in this crisis? And how quickly could such a trip be arranged?” Reply: “The idea would be for him to go to both capitals, to Moscow and to Kyiv, to meet with both Presidents to discuss whatever urgent steps can be taken to stop the fighting.”
[Update, April 22: Guterres will indeed head to Moscow after the Easter holidays to have a working lunch on April 26 with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then be “received” by Putin; the UN said Guterres “wants to discuss with the leadership what steps can be taken right now in order to silence the guns, in order to help the people and in order to allow the people who need to get out to get out and have safe passage.” The secretary-general will travel with Dujarric; his chief of staff, Courtenay Rattray; and Rosemary DiCarlo, head of UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, to Russia. Guterres will travel to Kyiv to meet with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and be “received” by President Volodymyr Zelensky on April 28. Guterres will also meet with UN staff of agencies to discuss the humanitarian aid to Ukrainians]
[Update, April 23: Guterres is scheduled to travel to Ankara, Turkey, on April 25 to be “received” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan]
Thursday, April 21
• The UN Human-Rights Team in Ukraine, Recording the ‘Hardship That People Are Going Through’: in Catherine Morrison’s latest article for PassBlue, she interviews Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN’s rights monitoring mission, based in Kyiv, on how it tracks casualties amid the latest Russian incursion in Ukraine and why it’s crucial for ensuring legal accountability of the war.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (Minusma) has “expressed concern” about the alleged human-rights violations committed during the weekly market in Hombori, in the Mopti region in central Mali, on Tuesday. The violations happened during an operation led by the Malian Armed Forces, allegedly accompanied by a foreign military group. [That is, the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group] The UN said it has opened an investigation to verify the facts and intends to visit the area soon.
Additionally, the World Health Organization has now jabbed more than one million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi with doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine. The pilot, launched by Malawi in April 2019, has shown the vaccine to be safe and able to reduce deadly severe malaria, the UN said.
Friday, April 22
• Spokesperson’s briefing: As the drought in Somalia continues to deteriorate, the country faces the risk of famine in six areas through June because of “the forecasted failure of the April to June rainy season” and rising food prices. The number of people affected by extreme drought has risen from 4.9 million in March to 6.1 million in April, with nearly 760,000 people displaced from their homes in search of water, food and pasture. Acute malnutrition in children is also up, and the drought has disrupted school attendance for 1.4 million children.
A recap of PassBlue stories from April 11-15:
• The Missing Link in a UN Cold Case of a French Death Warrant Against Dag Hammarskjold Comes to Light, by Maurin Picard (co-published by Afrique XXI and cited in a report by AFP).
• Damilola Banjo’s interview with Comfort Ero, the head of the International Crisis Group, was reposted by the Lagos-based Premium Times, Nigeria’s largest newspaper.
• Dawn Clancy’s interview with Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s envoy to the UN.
• Our oped by Yasmine Ergas, Will Ukraine Bury Feminist Foreign Policies or Will It Reveal Their Power? inspired an April 22 panel event on the topic at Columbia University, moderated by Ergas, the director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights and the Specialization on Gender and Public Policy and senior lecturer in discipline in international and public affairs.
• It took the UN nearly two years to conclude its investigation of a video showing a UN international staff member and an anonymous woman apparently having sex in a UN-marked vehicle in Tel Aviv that surfaced online in May 2020. Two other “staff members of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, known as UNTSO,” were also in the vehicle, the UN spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said on April 14, 2022. Of the three staff members in the video, he added: “Two of them have been separated from the Organization and the third has received an appropriate disciplinary measure.” Dujarric noted: “I don’t have any further details to provide to you. As you know, a lot of these internal processes are confidential. However, our colleagues at UNTSO are continuing to raise awareness among its personnel of their obligations under the UN Code of Conduct, and we remain firm in holding UN personnel accountable for any acts of misconduct.”
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Damilola Banjo is a staff reporter for PassBlue. She has a master’s of science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in communications and language arts from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She has worked as a producer for NPR’s WAFE station in Charlotte, N.C.; for the BBC as an investigative journalist; and as a staff investigative reporter for Sahara Reporters Media.