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Trending UN News: Week Ending Oct. 21


United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visiting the Statue of Unity, in Narmada Valley Kevadiya, Narmada, Gujarat. Guterres was in India to participate in the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence, Oct. 20, 2022. ISHAN TANKA/UN PHOTO

This week, a United Nations agency released a damning report on how plastics are damaging our world and harming the people in it. 

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, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that patriarchy is the bane of violence around the world and called for stronger women leadership. 

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• The status of a vacant seat at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), after the death of the Brazilian Judge Cançado Trindade on May 29, is being contested by three candidates. A judge to fill Trindade’s place — to finish the term until Feb. 5, 2027 — must be voted on by the UN General Assembly, set for early November, and ratified by the Security Council. Traditionally, the ICJ seat is filled by a person of the same nationality as the vacated justice. Members of the academic community of international law in Brazil have submitted a candidate, Paulo Borba Casella, who teaches at the University of São Paolo and has openly denounced Jair Bolsonaro‘s actions during the course of his presidency. But Bolsonaro’s government has submitted a name as well, Leonardo Nemer Caldeira Brant, a judge and scholar in international law. He ran unsuccessfully in 2014 as a judge for the International Criminal Court; recently, one Brazilian media site reported that he was seen campaigning for the ICJ seat accompanied by Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, son of the president. Complicating matters, Argentina has also submitted a name, Marcelo Gustavo Kohen, to run. According to ICJ rules, the nomination of candidates is made by jurists, judges, academics and personalities of a given nationality who are also part of other international courts, and not nominated by governments. According to Article 4 of the court’s statute, “the members of the Court shall be elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council from a list of persons presented by the national groups of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.” The fear among Brazilian scholars who back Casella is that Brazil could lose the ICJ seat altogether, given the competitive circumstances. (Meanwhile, Brazil’s presidential runoff results between Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are set for Oct. 30.) — DULCIE LEIMBACH

The UN tour guides posing with their respective flags on the 70th anniversary of the tours, Oct. 17, 2022. MARK GARTEN/UN PHOTO

Monday, Oct. 17

Faulty DNA Testing and Politics Continue to Fail South Africa’s Rape Victims: Sexual assault victims in South Africa continue to watch as their assailants walk away without punishment. Nyasha Bhobo, writing from Johannesburg, looked at how politics play a role and a lack of DNA evidence help to perpetuate the crimes.

• Spokesperson’s briefing: A new report finds that plastics are contaminating the world and poisoning people. The study, released by the Nairobi-based UN Environment Program, shows that “plastics are accumulating in the world’s soil at a worrying rate.” While some countries, like Kenya, have banned plastic microspheres, “microplastics continue to enter the water system.” The UN agency is calling on countries to develop solutions for stopping the flow of plastic from the source and into the environment.

Tuesday, Oct. 18

 A Ukrainian’s Crusade to Fix the International Justice System for Everyone: Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human-rights lawyer and civil society leader based in Kyiv, is documenting war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, but her goal is to have a permanent international justice system that will ensure that war crimes are punished. Dawn Clancy interviewed Matviichuk about her work and motivation. (A few days after the interview, Matviichuk’s organization, the Center for Civil Liberties, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.)

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• Spokesperson’s briefing: The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (Minusma), El-Ghassim Wane, told the Security Council that the needs on the ground far outweigh the mission’s ability to operate with the current resources. He also highlighted some progress in the transitional peace process, called the Algiers accord. The UN also mourned the death of a fourth peacekeeper from Chad as a result of wounds he sustained in his convoy by an IED explosion on Oct. 17 in the Kidal region of Mali. (Three other Chadians were killed instantly.) Two other wounded peacekeepers from Chad were evacuated for medical care in Dakar, Senegal.

Wednesday, Oct. 19

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Air and missile strikes from Russia continue to impact energy and other critical infrastructure in several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, and other oblasts around the country, according to UN humanitarian agencies in Ukraine. The UN Refugee Agency, Unicef, the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration still render support to civilians in the midst of the worsening war.

Thursday, Oct. 20 

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed said in a Security Council session on women, peace and security that “we cannot separate the perilous state of peace in our world from the destructive effects of patriarchy and the silencing of women’s voices.” She added, referring to the session’s theme of “Strengthening Women’s Resilience and Leadership as a Path to Peace in Regions Plagued by Armed Groups”: “We must call out misogyny as it manifests itself in the abuse and discrimination that women confront, but we must also challenge the social, political, and economic structures and norms that sustain it.”

The secretary-general’s annual report on the status of the women, peace and security agenda was timed to the Security Council session. Against a backdrop of increasing violent conflicts and reversal of generational gains in women’s rights, the agenda “is farther from achieving its goals than ever before,” according to the UN. The report shows how the sharp deterioration in peace and security globally is causing “immense suffering and has a significant and specific impact on women and girls in conflict-affected countries.” China’s statement at the debate took a surprising turn, saying: “Only by achieving fairness and justice can women believe that they can look forward to the future and that their future is a beautiful one. The Palestinian question has been dragging on for more than 70 years without a solution, and generations of Palestinian women have seen their hair going from black to white. . . .  Instead of waiting any longer, the international community must come up with concrete actions to uphold justice and deliver on its commitments to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question at an early date, so as to return Palestinian women a belated justice, let the girls in Gaza believe in peace and see hope.”

Israel‘s occupation of Palestinian territory “is unlawful under international law because of its permanence and the Israeli government’s de facto annexation policies,” a UN-appointed commission of inquiry said in its first report. The three-member commission, which focuses on the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, is led by Navi Pillay, a former UN high commissioner for human rights. The commission is pushing for the issue to be referred to the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest court.

• The prospect of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the reopening of three Black Sea ports in Ukraine since Russia‘s invasion of Feb. 24 have helped to push down historically high market prices, according to a new report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). Since April 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index has followed a downward trend, but prices are rising again amid concerns as to whether the initiative will be renewed on Nov. 22, the UN said. (To withdraw from the deal, a party needs to send notification to all the parties: the UN, Türkiye, Russia and Ukraine.) But as PassBlue reported in last week’s summary, Russian diplomats at the UN in New York City and in Geneva are saying that Russia will not renew the initiative because, as Dmitry Polyanskiy, the deputy permanent representative to the UN, said on Oct. 19, Russia is not benefiting from the grain deal, although his complaints were vague (see video below). Additionally, a source familiar with the negotiations to keep the grain deal alive (led by Rebeca Grynspan of Unctad, and Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian relief chief), told PassBlue that Russia has been slowing the inspection of cargo ships leaving the Black Sea ports to pressure the UN in the talks. The record from the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center, which oversees aspects of the deal, shows that the required inspection of cargo ships by all four parties has been inconsistent since late September. The Telegram message below describes Griffiths’s meeting in Moscow with Russian officials on the grain deal.

Michael Carpenter, the US envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, tweeted that Russia’s threats not to renew the Black Sea deal are related to the UN General Assembly’s overwhelming vote on Oct. 12 to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. (No word to drop the deal has actually come from the Kremlin yet.)

Friday, Oct. 21

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian relief chief, spent Thursday in Burkina Faso. He said that what he saw and heard “left a deep impression on him,” the spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, noted. The landlocked country in West Africa, which has undergone two coups this year and is burdened with a growing jihadist threat, is facing escalating humanitarian needs. A quarter of the population, or about 4.9 million people, need emergency aid, 40 percent more people than at the beginning of the year. One in 10 Burkinabè is displaced from his or her home “by devastating conflict and climate shocks.” The UN’s $805 million response plan for the country is only a third funded. Griffiths met with the new junta-ruling president, Ibrahim Traoré, where Griffiths said he “stressed the need for protection of civilians, including for those unable or unwilling to leave areas of military operations.”

• The Security Council held a session, led by France and Mexico, updating members on the continuing humanitarian catastrophes in Ukraine. Denise Brown, the new UN resident coordinator in the country, was among the briefers. In describing the toll of the war, she said: “Deaths and sufferings of civilians, ravaged urban and rural areas and total loss of livelihoods for millions. This is the impact of the war on the civilian population of Ukraine — now in its 239th day.”


• The Global Governance Project launched its latest publication, “Health as a Political Choice-Investing in Health For All” at the Berlin World Health Summit. (PassBlue recommends Soon-Young Yoon’s essay on the intersection of gender equality, health and climate change.)

• The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s new season of its podcast series “Seeking Peace,” on women peace-builders runs from Oct. 24-Nov.21. Produced with the UN Department of Peace Operations, the 5-series episode “explores women’s roles in bringing peace to communities through grass-roots activism, peace negotiations, journalism, politics or as uniformed peacekeepers, the descriptor said. The focus in the series is on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cyprus, South Sudan, Mali and Kosovo.

• An international expert conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine is scheduled in Berlin on Oct. 25.

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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