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Trending UN News: Week Ending Sept. 9


Vasily Nebenzya with deputies.
Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia and his top delegation at the Sept. 7, 2022 meeting in the Security Council, focusing on Russian-led “filtration camps” in the occupied areas of Ukraine. Nebenzia called the processing centers for Ukrainian civilians “registration” sites. But people forced to go through them “reportedly face interrogation, body searches, stripping, invasive data collection, ill-treatment and torture,” according to the British envoy to the UN. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Welcome back to our weekly summary, after a much-needed break in August, when we still produced amazing scoops, interviews and investigations (see the rundown below). This week, our focus is on the Security Council as France leads the primary body of the United Nations in September; and we expose how Russia’s war in Ukraine and other global crises are continuing to affect the UN’s funding. 

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 many other sources. This week, we report on Germany’s proposed cuts on global humanitarian aid; that 70 countries (out of 193) haven’t paid their annual UN dues yet; and how the Security Council is trying to mitigate the potential radioactive dangers from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine.

Take a moment to donate to PassBlue, an independent, women-led media site that operates as a nonprofit entity, relying on donors to keep us operating at top speed. We are extremely grateful to the kind folks at the Pinkerton Foundation for their recent gift to PassBlue, the second from the charity in the last year.

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We thank Foreign Policy for highlighting PassBlue’s UN-Scripted podcast series, a great opportunity to spread the word about our popular monthly series, Security Council Presidency. (Check out France below.)

• Get ready for the UN General Assembly’s opening debate for the 77th session, known as UNGA77; the latest list of speakers:

The list is subject to change. This is the first all-person gathering of the General Assembly annual session in three years. If a country needs to send a pre-recorded video instead, it will need to be approved by a procedural vote in the Assembly. 

• PassBlue got hold of a memo sent throughout the UN system asking for nominations of “anti-racism advocates” as part of efforts to promote the secretary-general’s goal of combating racism in the UN. One paragraph, below, indicates that the General Assembly has declined a request to fund a UN “inclusion office,” which a UN staffer told PassBlue “calls into question” how committed member states are to rooting out racism in the UN.

“To support the implementation of the plan, the Secretary-General requested the General Assembly to approve resources (A/76/771) to establish an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) in my Office to address racism and all forms of discrimination in the Secretariat. While the legislative bodies did not support the establishment of ODEI, they approved several general temporary assistance positions for 18 months to operationalize and implement the strategic action plan. Based on the resources approved by the legislative bodies, a team led by a Director (D-2) will be established in my Office to operationalize the strategic action plan through high-level oversight, coordination, monitoring, advocacy and mainstreaming of the activities to be implemented by all entities. The implications of the General Assembly decisions as contained in resolution 76/271 have also constrained the ambitions of the plan, as the resources approved will not be sufficient to meet the timeframe set out therein, and it will be modified accordingly.” — DULCIE LEIMBACH

Sunday, Sept. 4

Peacekeeping Desperately Needs a New Model, and a People-Centered Approach Could Work: The current model of peacekeeping is broken, and Fred Carver, a peacekeeping expert, proposes in his essay a community-oriented method, built on studies by himself and others in the field, that could work better, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the biggest hurdle, of course, is money.

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Monday, Sept. 5

• France Vows to Keep Helping ‘Very Poor’ Nations in the Sahel Region of West Africa: France holds the reins of the UN Security Council this month — as the General Assembly holds its annual gathering with world leaders just down the hall — so Damilola Banjo spoke with Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière about his country’s plans for the Council during the busiest time of the year at the UN. She zeroes in on France’s relationship with Mali and on Council reform, among other multilateral issues. (The Security Council Presidency column also features an original podcast episode with de Rivière and Ashish Pradhan, an expert with the International Crisis Group.)

• The UN was closed for Labor Day.

Tuesday, Sept. 6

• Spokesperson’s briefing: UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Security Council on the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine in an emergency session called by Russia (which illegally occupies the plant). Guterres said that Russian and Ukrainian forces must commit to disengaging “military activity towards the plant site or from the plant site,” as shelling continues in the area, adding that “an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be secured.” Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear monitor and watchdog, proposed to the Council (and in a just-released report from the agency) the creation of a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone (NSSPZ) in Zaporizhzhia. He said the “current situation is untenable” and the best action for everyone’s safety “would be for this armed conflict to end now.” The United States, a main backer of Ukraine in its territorial defense against Russia, supports the proposal, saying, “Russia’s continued military presence in the area will continue to put the plant – and the entire region – in serious danger.” But Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, questioned the demilitarization of the zone, saying he wants to see the details of the procedure, adding that what “we heard today are lies, lies from day one to the present.”

Wednesday, Sept. 7

• Germany Is Ready to Cut Humanitarian Aid to UN Agencies and Elsewhere The reality of Russia’s violent aggression in Ukraine has heightened humanitarian needs globally. Many crisis zones are getting less help, climate change has worsened situations in the Sahel region in Africa and hikes in gas prices are taking a toll on everyone. But the German government is focusing on other problems as it is poised to reduce its humanitarian aid internationally, notably to UN agencies. Damilola Banjo looked at the numbers from the country’s proposed budget: it’s not pretty. 

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Continuing on money to the UN, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Guterres, announced that only 123 member states have paid their dues fully. With a total of 193 members, that means that 70 countries haven’t paid up. 

• The Security Council met again on Ukraine, at the request of Albania and the US, to debate the matter of Russian “filtration camps” in occupied areas of Ukraine. In another contentious session in which many members elaborated on the controversial processing centers of Ukrainians in their own country (and what the Russian ambassador called “registration” centers). The Albanian envoy, Ferit Hoxha, said, in part: “Everything is concordant and the conclusion is beyond doubt and staggering. Russia is conducting a demographic makeup, in other terms, a social engineering in Ukraine.

Khrystyna Hayovyshyn - Deputy Ambassador from Ukraine
Khrystyna Hayovyshyn, Ukraine’s new deputy ambassador to the UN, spoke at the Security Council meeting on “filtration camps” run by Russia in her country. She said to the members, “I also recognize here the representative of terrorist Russia in the permanent seat of the Soviet Union.” JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Thursday, Sept. 8

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres has nominated Volker Turk of Austria as the new high commissioner for human rights. Turk was most recently under secretary-general for policy in the executive office of the secretary-general, working closely with Guterres. Turk, long rumored to succeed Michelle Bachelet (of Chile) as the high commissioner (her term ended on Aug. 31), holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna and a master of laws degree from the University of Linz. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the US congratulated Turk, saying the “High Commissioner’s responsibility must be to call out human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur, and to serve as an independent, impartial, and unwavering champion for human rights everywhere.” Human Rights Watch, the advocacy group, tweeted, “As rights chief, he should be willing to publicly call out powerful governments for serious rights violations.”

• Thomas-Greenfield traveled to California as part of a US effort to enlighten Americans on the UN. In San Francisco, she spoke about the “future of the United Nations.” Her remarks, presented at the Fairmont Hotel, where she said the UN Charter was negotiated and signed*, in 1945, Thomas-Greenfield brought the near future into the room, saying: “And in a few days, leaders from 193 countries — 143 more than that first time — will gather in New York to engage with that machinery, to do the hard work of diplomacy and to advance international peace and security. But they will do so at a moment when the UN itself faces a crisis of confidence.” *The Charter was signed at the Herbst Theater Auditorium in the Veterans War Memorial Building, on June 26, 1945.

• On the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Guterres said, in part: “Queen Elizabeth II was a good friend of the United Nations, and visited our New York Headquarters twice, more than fifty years apart. She was deeply committed to many charitable and environmental causes and spoke movingly to delegates at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. I would like to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her unwavering, lifelong dedication to serving her people.  The world will long remember her devotion and leadership.”

The UN Security Council held a moment of silence at the start of its Sept. 8 meeting to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Friday, Sept. 9

• UN Watchdog Board Is Expected to Criticize Russia for Its Actions at the Ukraine Nuke Plant World leaders continue to pressure Russia to demilitarize the zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant in Ukraine, which has been under siege by Russian troops since March 4. Stephanie Liechtenstein, reporting from Vienna, looked at the new plan of the UN watchdog board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, to shame Russia into doing the right thing for the safety of the plant and preventing a radioactive leak. 

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The General Assembly agreed to create a UN Office on Youth Affairs, which is a “key proposal” from Guterres’s Our Common Agenda report. The UN will now have “a dedicated office to support the 1.2 billion young people in the world today” and will “ensure that the UN is fully attuned to the views of young people, facilitates their engagement in our work and better supports governments on the ground to more effectively respond to their priorities — education, jobs, peace, human rights and more.”

New UN appointments in August and early September:

• Ivana Zivkovic of Croatia as assistant secretary-general, assistant administrator and director, Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States of the UN Development Program, succeeding Mirjana Spoljaric Egger of Switzerland.

• José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs of Costa Rica as executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), succeeding Alicia Bárcena of Mexico.

• Rear Adm. Guillermo Pablo Ríos of Argentina as head of mission/chief military observer for the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (Unmogip), succeeding Maj. Gen. José Eladio Alcaín of Uruguay.

• Imran Riza of Pakistan as the new deputy special coordinator for Lebanon, in the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (Unscol) and resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon. He succeeds Najat Rochdi of Morocco.

• Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan is the new special representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), succeeding Deborah Lyons of Canada.

• Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal is the new special representative for Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (Unsmil). He succeeds Jan Kubis of Slovakia, who served as special envoy and head of the mission.

• Simon Stiell of Grenada is executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), succeeding Patricia Espinosa of Mexico.

ICYMI: PassBlue stories and essays in August:

UN Report Fails to Recognize Major Child Abductions in Parts of Nigeria

The Veto Initiative’s First Tests: Is the Step Toward Reform Working? 

China’s Mum on Myanmar as It Leads the Security Council

Fleeing Mariupol, a Ukrainian Refugee’s Life Is Pained by War and Uncertainty

Diplomats Without Borders: A New Niche Service Aims to Mend Our Frayed World

‘We Knew What We Were Doing’: Captured Russian Soldiers Recount Their Invasion of Ukraine

The Afghanistan We Long to See: A Place Where the Rights of Women and Girls Are Restored

Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame’s Blindness Does Not Stop Her From Helping Others

Russia’s Violations of Global Aviation Rules Could Leave the UN With Tough, Costly Choices

The UN in Crisis: Big Powers and Bad Influence

In West Africa, a Staggering Low Number of Women in Politics Is Brightened by One Exception 

The UN Security Council Marks Russia’s Six-Month Invasion of Ukraine as the War Grinds On

Unesco Protects Borscht as a National Treasure of Ukraine. What Would My Mother Say?

Should We Be Optimistic About the Recent UN Talks on Killer Robots?

This Belarusian Activist Has One Goal: To See Lukashenko Out and Democracy In

Felix Baumann: The War in Ukraine Contributed to the Failure of the UN Nuclear Weapons Conference

Who Makes Up the UN Leader’s Inner Circle? Your Rough Guide

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

Damilola Banjo is a 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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