It’s a sad one this week as two girls were beheaded in a camp in Syria.
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 looked at the terrible news coming out of Syria but also took respite in the relief in Ethiopia as the UN delivers vital humanitarian materials to the troubled regions in the country. Additionally, the Black Sea Grain Initiative was renewed, while a campaign to feed the world’s hungriest nations with Ukraine grain was launched this week (see Nov. 17).
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• Not too happy: The NGO Committee on Aging wrote to Sima Bahous, head of UN Women, and Li Junhua at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, regarding the Sustainable Development Goals’ “gender snapshot 2022,” noting, among other comments, that “nowhere in the report are older women.” The letter adds: “We seek confirmation that when ‘women and girls’ are mentioned in the publication, the data, statistics and analysis include women of all ages. If not, we would appreciate receiving an explanation.” Our story by Barbara Crossette on the stalled action in the UN General Assembly to protect older women’s rights. — DULCIE LEIMBACH
Monday, Nov. 14
• Catch-22 in the Congo: Politics, Peacekeeping and the Fault Lines of Protection: The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda have been enmeshed in recurring clashes through the involvement of the Rwandan army and its M23 allies in eastern Congo. Alan Doss, a former head of the UN peacekeeping mission there, writes about the conflict, its implications on the people and the countries’ politics playing out in the Security Council.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Britain is withdrawing its several-hundred troops from the Mali peacekeeping mission (Minusma), claiming “interference of Russian troops from the Wagner Group, Russian mercenaries.” Reacting to this development, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, said the UN “will engage with the Permanent Mission.” (Germany and Côte d’Ivoire also announced this week that they were leaving Minusma.)
• At a General Assembly emergency special session on Russia’s war in Ukraine, members adopted Resolution A/ES-11/L.6, titled “remedy and reparation for aggression against Ukraine” — creating a register of damages suffered by Ukrainians. The resolution, which had 57 co-sponsors, garnered 94 yes votes, 13 against and 74 abstentions. (UN documents recorded 14 against and 73 abstentions.) Ukraine Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said at the session: “Ukraine will have the daunting task of rebuilding the country and recovering from this war. But that recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian war. It is time to hold Russia accountable.” Despite the resolution’s adoption, some observers noted the relatively low number of yes votes, compared with support for some other Assembly resolutions on Russia’s war in Ukraine. One Western country has told relevant parties that the Assembly may be fatigued on the issue, a source told PassBlue. — DULCIE LEIMBACH
• An appeal to the G20 leaders summit in Indonesia from ex-UN civil servants: Correct the breach of the UN Charter by Russia and its war in Ukraine by “initiating immediate common actions to that end.”
Tuesday, Nov. 15
• At COP27, Russia Shows Up With Oil Lobbyists and Demands Sanctions Relief: When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the United States and Britain imposed sanctions to force President Vladimir Putin to halt the war. These sanctions and others from the European Union have had a major impact on Russia and its economy. Anastasiia Carrier writes about how the country is using COP27, the climate change conference in Egypt, as a bargaining chip.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Two girls, aged 11 and 13, were beheaded in the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, which houses many families of former ISIS terrorists as well as refugees. Deputy spokesperson Haq said the UN had been aware of the “poor conditions at the Al-Hol camp for some time now.” He added that the UN continues to “plea for all parties to do what they can to improve the situation,” while calling for an investigation. A recent report on conditions in Al-Hol.
• The following UN judgeships were voted on by secret ballot in the General Assembly: Appeals Tribunal: Nassib Ziadé (Lebanon/Chile), Abdelmohsen Ahmed Sheha (Egypt), Katharine Savage (South Africa) and Leslie Formine Forbang (Cameroon) for seven-year terms beginning July 1, 2023. Gao Xiaoli (China) was elected for a term starting immediately upon appointment and ending June 30, 2026. Dispute Tribunal: Xiangzhuang Sun (China) was elected full-time judge in Geneva, Sean Daniel Wallace (US) was elected for post in Nairobi; Solomon Waktolla (Ethiopia) was elected part-time judge, all for seven-year terms beginning July 1, 2023.
Wednesday, Nov. 16
• The UN Ignores Repeated Calls to Investigate Killings in Nigeria’s Kaduna State: The conflict in Kaduna, in northwest Nigeria, has many dimensions but one that both the government and the international community have refused to acknowledge is the religious undertones. Damilola Banjo writes from Lagos about this age-long conflict and how the UN has continued to look the other way, despite calls from many camps and even sending a prominent rights specialist, Agnès Callamard, to investigate.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Fifteen trucks loaded with 300 tons of food arrived in Tigray, the first time since June 2021. The food, delivered by the World Food Program, will provide relief for the community, the UN said. The Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray agreed to a cease-fire last month. Additionally, the first test flight by the UN Humanitarian Air Service arrived in Shire, northwestern Tigray, with more flights to follow.
• The UN Security Council met on the status of humanitarian conditions in Ukraine, a day after approximately 100 missiles were launched by Russia on Ukraine and some projectiles hit Poland. Statement by Ambassador Kyslytsya of Ukraine, listing the “10 steps” outlined by President Zelensky to end the war, with “radiation and nuclear safety” at the top. Remarks by Poland’s envoy: “On November 15, at around 3.40PM, during yet another wave of massive missile strikes by Russian forces against critical civilian infrastructure in the whole of Ukraine, including in the immediate vicinity of the territory of Poland, two Polish citizens lost their lives in the Polish village of Przewodów, situated around 5 kilometers from the Polish-Ukrainian border. The apparent cause of their death was the explosion from a missile that fell on the location. . . . No matter what was the particular course of events in Przewodów that fatal afternoon, those innocent people would not have been killed if there had been no Russian war against Ukraine.” US remarks. Russia’s remarks.
Thursday, Nov. 17
• Spokesperson’s briefing: UN Secretary-General António Guterres “welcomed” the agreement made in Istanbul to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative for another 120 days, as of Nov. 19, to keep the export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from three Ukrainian ports going. (The UN and Ukraine wanted the deal to be extended for a year, but it remains on a four-month schedule; Ukraine also wanted a fourth port, Mykolaiv, to be included.) “The United Nations is fully committed to supporting the Joint Coordination Centre so that this vital supply line continues to function smoothly,” Guterres said. “The United Nations is also fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to exporting food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation. Both agreements signed in Istanbul three months ago are essential to bring down the prices of food and fertilizer and avoid a global food crisis.” The center calculates that 11,186,228 million metric tons of grains and other foodstuff have been shipped since the operation began in August, but delays in inspections continue. (Russia’s statement on the renewal.)
Russia’s top military negotiator at the Istanbul negotiations was Maj. Gen. Alexander Kshimovskiy, according to a source close to the talks. Although there is no news in Russian media saying he participated, he has been involved in the Black Sea deal negotiations in the past. At 58, he heads the directorate for international military cooperation in the Ministry of Defense. He fought in Afghanistan and was injured twice. He has many honors, including a medal for “military achievements”; a “friendship” medal; and some for service to the country. His department does international “military diplomacy” — military and technology talks. In 2017, the department arranged for the donation of $122 million of Russian hardware to Tajikistan, for instance. The department is tasked with developing military contacts with other governments’ armies, arms control, development of military-technology cooperation and activities abroad. Kshimovskiy didn’t get to do it much until recently. In 2019, he complained that Russia was “frozen out” of international diplomacy. — ANASTASIIA CARRIER
• Grain From Ukraine initiative: President Zelensky announced the plan at the G20 summit this week, and on Nov. 16 the first vessel, loaded with 27,000 metric tons of wheat, left Odesa for Ethiopia, in partnership with the World Food Program and paid for by Germany. The Usaid said on Nov. 18 it was also providing “up to $20 million” to the UN agency for the initiative as well. (The program is coordinated by Andriy Yermak in Zelensky’s executive office.) “The essence of the program is that the countries participating in the project buy agricultural products from Ukrainian producers (priority for small and medium enterprises) and transfer them to the countries on the verge of starvation,” the Ukrainian announcement said. This plan will compete directly with President Putin’s stated intent to offer free grain and fertilizers to African countries as part of the Black Sea deal. For example, the World Food Program said on Nov. 12 that it was “facilitating the donation of 260,000 MT of fertilizer by the Russian fertilizer company Uralchem-Uralkali to countries in most need in Africa” — Malawi. The company is partly owned by a Russian oligarch, Dmitry Mazepin, who is sanctioned by Britain and the European Union.
• Men usually outnumber and outrank women negotiators in climate talks, except when it comes to global warming’s hardest diplomatic issue this year: reparations for climate disasters, according to an article in the Independent. The demand by developing countries that heavily polluting nations compensate the poorer ones is handled by women negotiators.
• At COP27, the US and European Union released a fact sheet on the Global Methane Pledge to keep 1.5 Celsius “within reach” while promoting “energy security, food security and sustainable development.”
Friday, Nov. 18
• Spokesperson’s briefing: This morning at COP27, in Egypt, Guterres met separately with member states of the European Union, the Group of 77 and China, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Xie Zhenhua, China‘s climate envoy. As the negotiations for a final agreement are finishing, Guterres “urged parties to aim for maximum ambition on loss and damage and in reduction of emissions.” The draft text on loss and damage as of Nov. 18. (See Loss and Damage Collaboration on Twitter.) The Guardian’s live blog on the COP27 negotiations. Other sticking points in the final text: keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and a call to phase out all fossil fuels. As Sameh Shoukry, president of COP27, said of the protracted negotiations: “The world has become a stage for a continuously running show of human misery and pain. This needs to end now, not tomorrow.”
• Adopted a resolution on Nov. 16 regarding the “situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (78 in favor; 14 against; 79 abstentions).
• Adopted a resolution on Nov. 10, requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
• Another resolution sponsored by Australia and Costa Rica was adopted on Nov. 11 regarding a global moratorium against use of the death penalty. The US voted against it, along with China, North Korea, Iran and Syria, among others.
• The Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the treatment of Ukrainian and Russian POWs, as documented by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
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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.