This week, we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child amid various restrictions on and violations of girls’ rights globally.
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, Russia escalated its war in Ukraine by bombing more cities nationwide, increasing the number of both human and material damage as the UN General Assembly roundly condemned Russia’s illegal seizure of four regions of Ukraine. Plus: Updates on the Black Sea Grain deal (see Oct. 13).
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• As the situation in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, slides further into deadly anarchy, UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote a letter dated Oct. 8 to the Security Council recommending, among other suggestions, that it provide “enhanced security support” to the Haitian National Police, or HNP, to “combat high levels of gang violence” in the capital. Guterres said that one or more countries could deploy a “rapid action force” to assist the HNP, in cooperation with the Haitian government; a UN peacekeeping mission is not on the radar. The Council has scheduled a meeting on Oct. 17 to act on Haiti, where the UN keeps a small “integrated” mission called Binuh. Meanwhile, a draft resolution written by the United States and Mexico is circulating, aiming to sanction top Haitian gang leaders. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Oct. 12 that the US was working to, among other objectives, “increase and deploy in the coming days security assistance to the Haitian National Police to strengthen their capacity to counter gangs and re-establish a stable security environment under the rule of law.” The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on Oct. 14 documenting rapes by gang members as a “weapon of terror.” Among other sexual violence, the report said that children had been subjected to “collective rapes for hours in front of their parents.” — DULCIE LEIMBACH
• As Russia continues its missile attacks on Ukraine, the Russian minister of health, Mikhail Murashko, wrote a draft letter to fellow national health ministers to sign and send to the head of the Geneva-based World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus, asking him to drop “third gender” references in the agency’s governing documents. In a revised 2011 manual to be published in October on “gender mainstreaming for health managers,” the WHO, Murashko wrote in the letter (seen by PassBlue), plans to “diverge from binary approaches to gender and health in order to recognize gender and sexual diversity, or the concepts that gender identity exists on a continuum and that sex is not limited to males or females.” He noted that those who sign his letter to Dr. Tedros protesting the use of “third gender” language in the revised manual would reflect their concern about the “potential decline of the family institution, traditional family values and moral societal compass, which in turn can lead to the promotion of unsafe sexual behavior and, as a result, an increase in the level of infectious diseases prevalence and deterioration in the epidemiological situation at the global level.” — DULCIE LEIMBACH
Monday, Oct. 10
• An Ex-Wagner Group Mercenary Throws Open the Door on the Russian Operation: Russia continues to deny the operations of its quasi-private army, Wagner Group, in Central and West African countries, but a former fighter disproves Russia’s claims. Anastasiia Carrier had a sit-down with him to talk about his new memoir and his journey as an ex-Wagner soldier.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres was shocked at the “escalation” of the war in Ukraine, triggered by the attack on the bridge in occupied Crimea over the weekend. Russia launched large-scale missile assaults on cities across Ukraine, killing and destroying more civilian areas in the country. However, the UN said humanitarian aid continues to be provided in parts of the country despite the stepped-up assault.
• The UN General Assembly resumed its emergency special session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to debate a draft resolution condemning Russia’s recent illegal referendums in four regions of Ukraine (Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson) and the resulting attempt by President Vladimir Putin to annex those territories. The zero draft resolution and the final draft show how concerted negotiations among diplomats across the world led to changes that helped the adoption of Resolution A/ES-11/L.5 by an overwhelming majority of member states, with 143 affirmations, 5 no votes and 35 abstentions. The sponsors of the resolution were apparently hoping for at least 141 yes votes, based on a March 3 resolution condemning Russia’s aggression then; this time around, the results exceeded expectations. (Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria vetoed.) One important focus in the negotiations on the draft resolution was to emphasize the breaching of the UN Charter by Russia as well as an insertion in the text, several diplomats told PassBlue, on language referencing “support” for the “peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means. . . . ” The debate began on Monday, Oct. 10, and resumed on Wednesday, with the vote occurring late in the day to enormous clapping by member states in the Assembly Hall. It was a rocky ride to that point in the marathon emergency special session, however, starting with numerous procedural votes that were held on Monday. Russia’s envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, had asked in a letter to fellow member states that the vote on the draft resolution be done by secret ballot. The letter referenced a 1977 opinion by the UN Office of Legal Affairs on the possibility of the General Assembly voting by secret ballot on matters beyond elections. The attempt by Russia to keep the voting secret — ostensibly to increase the chances of more countries opposing the resolution while not being targeted for retaliation by the pro-resolution camp — failed, after Albania suddenly proposed that the voting be made public, outmaneuvering Russia. (The procedural tally: 107 yes; 13 against; 39 abstentions.) According to one European diplomat close to the negotiations on the draft resolution, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instructed the Kremlin’s UN delegation to propose the secret ballot. Nebenzia told reporters after the Oct. 10 session rejecting the plan: “My reaction is that it was an outrageous manipulation on behalf of the General Assembly that I have never seen during my tenure here.”
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador, said to reporters after the Oct. 12 session in which the resolution was adopted: “143 votes; that’s amazing.” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy, remarked: “We just saw 143 countries affirm the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. You saw these countries stand up for territorial integrity, they stood up for sovereignty, and you saw these countries stand up for this institution.” Olof Skoog, the European ambassador to the UN, who led the EU efforts to persuade fence-sitters to vote in favor, said: “Some of the most passionate and important statements today were made by small countries, far away from Ukraine, expressing the concerns of every continent and country in the General Assembly Hall about what Russia is doing. So I ask the world to pay attention to those statements.”
????????#Nepal’s position on Ukraine is clear.
Principles of #sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence & non-aggression as enshrined in the #UN Charter are inviolable, said @amritrai555 in explanation of vote at 11th Emergency Special Session today.@MofaNepal pic.twitter.com/7PgirtEllR
— Nepal Mission to the UN (@NepalUNNY) October 12, 2022
Tuesday, Oct. 11
• The Saga of Guterres and Putin: Stephen Schlesinger shares his candid views about Guterres having gone from being a passive observer of Russia’s threat of war to a more decisive leader since the full-scale attack on Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022. As a result of the essay, Schlesinger was interviewed by RIA Novosti, a Russian-state news site, on the comparisons being made between the Ukrainian crisis and the Cuban missile crisis.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child by reminding the world of the enormous challenges girls face, urging everyone to renew their commitment to ensuring that girls’ rights are protected. “Investing in girls is investing in our common future,” he said. On Afghanistan in particular, where the Taliban ban girls from attending secondary school and upward, Guterres tweeted: “I am extremely concerned by the continued exclusion of girls from school in Afghanistan. This is deeply damaging to girls themselves & to a country that desperately needs their energy & contributions.”
• The following countries were elected by the General Assembly, through secret ballot, as members of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for a three-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2023: Africa: Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Sudan; Asia-Pacific: Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Vietnam; Eastern Europe: Georgia, Romania; Latin American & Caribbean: Chile, Costa Rica; Western European and Other Group: Belgium, Germany.
Wednesday, Oct. 12
• Spokesperson’s briefing: In the Security Council session on climate and security in Africa, Martha Pobee, the UN assistant secretary-general for Africa, called for “ambitious climate action” by acting on “multiple fronts.” She also highlighted three priorities: increase the capacity for risk analysis and integrate a climate lens into conflict prevention, peacemaking and peace-building; people-centered efforts to deliver peace and security; and seize opportunities for climate action and peace-building to reinforce each other.
Thursday, Oct. 13
• US Jump-Starts IOM Leadership Election Race: The United States is seeking to clinch the top job at the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration. Will its flag-bearer, Amy Pope, bring it home? Kasmira Jefford wrote about the prospect for Geneva Solutions, reposted by PassBlue.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Stéphane Dujarric said that Rebeca Grynspan, a top UN negotiator on the Black Sea Grain deal, and Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief and involved in the deal, head to Moscow on Sunday to discuss with officials there the facilitation of global trade of Russian grain and fertilizer, including ammonia. Dujarric also reiterated the possibility of extending the grain arrangement for one year, if all parties agree. It will be automatically renewed on Nov. 19, but a Russian envoy in Geneva said this week that his country was ready to drop its participation, although no official word from the Kremlin has been issued yet. Meanwhile, exporting grains from the three Ukraine ports on the Black Sea, the heart of the grain deal, has slowed because the required inspections of the ships carrying the cargo are stalled. (The inspections are jointly carried out by representatives from the UN, Ukraine, Türkiye and Russia, with oversight by the UN-led Joint Coordination Center, in Istanbul.) As of Oct. 7, the center reported that some 120 vessels “are due for inspection at the Sea of Marmara,” but no full explanation was given. (An email to the communications office of the center went unanswered.) PassBlue was told by a source close to the situation that Russia was slow-walking the inspections to pressure the UN to help speed up the exports of Russian fertilizers and foodstuffs. Currently, Grynspan is trying to iron out a plan to have Russian ammonia transported by an existing pipeline from Russia through Ukraine to the Black Sea. But Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Putin would have to sign off on it. Since Russia’s escalation of the war this week, Grynspan has an even harder road ahead. One potential alternative is that the United Arab Emirates has offered to buy the ammonia from Russia to resell it on the global market, according to the source. — DULCIE LEIMBACH
Friday, Oct. 14
• Spokesperson’s briefing: As the war in Ukraine escalates, Guterres doesn’t think “we’re at the point yet where you can really make progress” on a diplomatic path to end the war, said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman, to reporters. He noted, however, that “the release of people from the Azovstal steel plant, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the efforts to open up markets to Russian food and fertilisers” are steps in the right direction.
• This year’s State of the World’s Girls report by Plan International focuses on girls’ and young women’s political participation globally.
• The Human Rights Council renews the mandate for the UN expert on Russia and rights monitoring in Afghanistan.
We welcome your comments on this article. What are your thoughts about the General Assembly's actions this week?
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.