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Trending UN News: Week Ending July 8

Geraldine Byrne Nason, ambassador of Ireland to the UN, talks to reporters on July 8, after the Security Council failed to extend the humanitarian-aid cross-border mechanism from Türkiye into Syria to 4.1 million people for another year. Possibilities still exist to renew the mechanism, which expires on July 10, but signs were bleak regarding negotiations with Russia in the Council. (Mona Juul, Norway’s ambassador, right.) EVAN SCHNEIDER/UN PHOTO

This week, we focus on the continual attacks on UN peacekeepers in Mali, which further stall efforts to restore peace in the West African country.

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, we look at a first-ever “working retreat” between the UN and the European Union; new appointments in the UN; and the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

• Amid widespread global outrage over the United States Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, ensuring a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, a Maryland model sparked a movement to file complaints to the UN’s Human Rights Council. In a viral video posted on TikTok, Olivia Reed denounces the court’s decision, which immediately led to a nearly complete abortion ban in nine US states, and shows viewers how to file a complaint to the Council. As of July 8, the video had nearly 442,000 “likes.” The complaint form is open to anyone and addresses problems of gross violations of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. They can be submitted to the Council by individuals, groups or nongovernmental organizations against all 193 UN member countries. The complaints are evaluated by two distinct entities designated by the Council, the Working Group on Communications and the Working Group on Situations, which meet twice a year and bring to the Council’s attention complaints that they consider to have met the necessary standards and reflect a pattern of human-rights violations. While it’s unclear how many complaints have been filed since the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling, or if they will go through the screening process, the criticism of the US by certain UN experts may indicate how the UN could lean on the matter. Shortly after the court announced its decision, UN rights experts in Geneva denounced it as a “monumental setback for the rule of law and for gender equality.” On July 1, the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), highlighted that the US is one of only seven countries globally that has not ratified Cedaw, which protects women’s human rights, including to sexual and reproductive health. The committee said that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term violates Cedaw and is an “inhuman or degrading treatment.” Both committees called on President Joe Biden to mitigate the consequences of the court’s ruling, but it remains to be seen what the UN could do to ensure the restoration of American women’s full rights to an abortion. Biden signed an executive order on July 8 aimed at preserving some access to abortion services but acknowledged that the US Congress has final control over the issue right now. — ANASTASIIA CARRIER

Our latest quiz is out, focusing on the five new Security Council members elected to the body for the 2023-24 term: Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland. Our big thanks to the folks at Ican for contributing some tough questions and the (unsolicited!) endorsement by Dr. Anne Marie Goetz, an expert on women’s rights and the UN.

A resounding endorsement from an expert on the UN!

The renowned Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein journalists recently appeared on a Washington Post event marking the 50th anniversary of Watergate. They credited their success in uncovering the monumental story to persistence that is relevant today: dig “until you hit a gusher”; follow the money; look for the big picture; keep doing the reporting; be a good listener. Such perseverance is followed by our own journalists as they report on a story, however big or small. But this work takes a lot of time and money. Please donate to PassBlue, a nonprofit media site that strives to keep the UN, a public institution, and its 193 member states transparent and responsible.

Monday, July 4 

Serious Troop Rotation Blockages Could Ease Soon for the UN Mission in Mali: As the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) lifts the ban on some sanctions against Mali, there is promise of a new lease on life for peacekeepers there who have been stuck because of related flight restrictions. In this report, Clair MacDougall and Maggie Dwyer chronicle the impact of the Ecowas decision on Minusma. (The article will be reposted by Sahelien.com.)

• The UN was closed for the Fourth of July holiday.

Tuesday, July 5

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN and the European Commission will hold a first-of-its-kind dialog at a “working retreat” on July 7-8 at the private Greentree conference center in Manhasset, on the North Shore of Long Island. The discussions will be co-chaired by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, to explore avenues for the two organizations to strengthen multilateralism, international cooperation and partnerships — most important, the global impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The UN spokesperson said no media access will be available at the meeting. The following information was provided by the European Union’s mission to the UN.

UN attendees, led by Guterres:

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General
Courtenay Rattray, Chef de Cabinet
Volker Turk, Under-Secretary-General for Policy
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations
Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Program
Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights
Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UN Conference on Trade and Development
Miroslav Jenca, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Single Regional Political-Operational Structure
Miguel Graça, Director of the Office of the Secretary-General
Camilla Bruckner, Director of the United Nations Office in Brussels
Nelson Muffuh, Head of Office, Office of the Deputy Secretary-General

EU Commission (College) attendees: von der Leyen: Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president; Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president; Paolo Gentiloni, commissioner for economy; Janez Lenarcic, commissioner for crisis management; Adina-Ioana Valean, commissioner for transport; Jutta Urpilainen, commissioner for international partnerships; Virginijus Sinkevicius, commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries; and Mairead McGuiness,  commissioner for financial services, financial stability and capital markets union.

• The latest report from the UN high commissioner for human rights on Ukraine amid Russia’s war on the country.

Wednesday, July 6

• Spokesperson’s briefing: An armored vehicle in a UN logistics convoy for the peacekeeping mission in Mali was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) on the Tessalit-Gao axis in northern Mali on Tuesday, July 5, leaving two peacekeepers dead and five others (all Egyptians) seriously injured. Guterres has condemned the attack, saying it may constitute a war crime under international law and “obstruct the return to peace and stability in the country.”

Guterres appointed Lieut. Gen. Mohan Subramanian of India as the new force commander of the UN mission in South Sudan (Unmiss). He succeeds another Indian, Lieut. Gen. Shailesh Tinaikar.

Vivian van de Perre of the Netherlands has been named deputy head of mission of the Hudaydah Agreement (Unmha) and deputy chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee. She succeeds Daniela Kroslak of Germany.

Thursday, July 7

Softening the Pain of the World’s Food Disaster: Brazil’s Ambitions in July: As Brazil takes charge of the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for July, Damilola Banjo highlights the plans of this major South American country to help alleviate crises around the world, including soaring food prices. With an original podcast episode produced by Damilola Banjo and Kacie Candela with research by Allison Lecce, featuring Ambassador Costa of Brazil and Adriana Abdenur, a Brazilian expert on her country’s geopolitics.

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, was asked about the reaction of Guterres to the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Reply: The secretary-general “has had a very good working relationship with Mr. Johnson but does not think anyone would benefit from commenting on the ongoing political developments in the U.K.” (Britain is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.)

Russia’s top deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said of the Security Council’s failure to agree to Russia’s draft resolution to extend the single cross-border aid mechanism into Syria for six months: “This page of history has been turned over.” A Norwegian-Irish draft resolution to extend the mechanism for one year was also nixed. 

Friday, July 8

• The UN was closed for the Eid al-Adha holiday, but two statements were released by Guterres, on the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (below) and on the death of José Eduardo dos Santos, a former president of Angola. In the latter, Guterres said, in part: “As a member of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos participated in the struggle that led to the independence of Angola. As President of Angola, he led the country through the signing of the peace agreement that put an end to the civil war in 2002. During his tenure, Angola became an important regional and international partner and advocate for multilateralism.”

Guterres’s tweet on the murder of Japan’s ex-prime minister.

• The UN Security Council met to vote on the annual mandate for the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism from Türkiye into Syria, affecting 4.1 million people in the country’s northwest. Two draft resolutions — copies of which were exclusively obtained by PassBlue on July 7 — were voted on by the 15 members who failed to renew the mandate, which expires on July 10. (A resolution needs 9 yes votes and no vetoes.)

Final vote for the draft led by Ireland and Norway, which requested the mandate be extended for another year with a six-month interval: 13 yes; 1 abstention (China); 1 veto (Russia).

Russia’s draft text, cutting the mandate to six months with the possibility of an extension: 2 yes (Russia and China); 3 no; 10 abstentions.

The Security Council suspended its midday meeting after the votes to gather behind closed doors, but as of publishing deadline for PassBlue, no further information was available. Tweets by US, Norway, Ireland and Russia on the failed votes. (US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks to the media after the voting, below.) [Update, July 12: The Security Council approved a resolution extending the cross-border mandate for six months with the possibility of a further six-month extension thereafter, similar to the Russian draft that failed to reach nine votes on July 8]

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ICYMI:

•  The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a UN report, the 2022 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.

• “Ready for the drawdown? Community Early Warning of Atrocity Risks in MONUSCO”: a panel event on July 12, focusing on the drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 2024. The event is hosted by Protection Approaches and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.


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

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.

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