This week, the Taliban carried out their first execution, letting a man shoot the person who allegedly murdered his son.
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, a report got in that the engine of a boat broke down at sea, leaving the occupants — Rohingya refugees — with no food and water for days.
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• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 75 next year and the occasion will be celebrated on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. To herald the timelessness of the universal document enshrining basic individual rights and freedoms, Mark Shapiro, a renowned New York City conductor of orchestras, operas and choruses, and Daron Hagen, an American composer also based in New York State, are diving into a project to produce a musical tribute to the UDHR, as it’s known. “It fell out of the sky,” Shapiro said in an interview with PassBlue recently, describing how the collaboration emerged. The conversation began when Hagen contacted Shapiro, saying he wanted to write a composition for him and had been thinking about Eleanor Roosevelt, just as Shapiro was exploring ways to acknowledge the UDHR’s 75th. Hagen’s prolific career has included works in many genres, including opera, oratorio, symphony and film; he has worked with Leonard Bernstein and Ned Rorem, among others. Hagen and Shapiro know each other from previous collaborations, notably when Shapiro conducted the premiere of Hagen’s “A Walt Whitman Requiem.” Shapiro, an award-winning conductor, is the artistic director of Cantori New York and the Cecilia Chorus of New York, which is performing at Carnegie Hall on Sunday. The UDHR is the North Star of the UN, the enduring vision for everything the UN stands for in its daily work and grand ambitions. And everyone knows that Roosevelt, the American first lady from 1933 to 1945, was one of the magic drafting hands behind the UDHR’s creation. As the main US delegate to the UN General Assembly, she was the first chair of the Commission on Human Rights. She used her considerable prestige and contacts — but mostly her inner resolve — to make the declaration a reality, and her role will be invoked in Hagen’s composition. The concert, which Shapiro said he would lead at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 16, 2023, will convey both the storytelling appeal of the UDHR’s creation and its poetry. The work, currently planned to be sung in English and other languages, is meant to speak to a world fraught with widening political divisions. Blanche Wiesen Cook, a Roosevelt biographer, is ready to be involved in the project, too, Shapiro said (she is a neighbor of his). He is reaching out to UN officials in the hope that they can become involved as well. He said: “As Daron and I have begun reading the UDHR and imagining it sung by soloists and chorus, backed by a symphony orchestra, we’re feeling that this project is not only exciting but necessary. We hope this musical treatment will move ever more hearts and minds to embrace the principles set forth in the UDHR.” — DULCIE LEIMBACH
Monday, Dec. 5
• Uganda’s Museveni Doesn’t Deserve a Seat at the US-Africa Summit, Critics Say: Many African leaders and the head of the African Union will be visiting the White House on the invitation of United States President Joseph Biden for important discussion between the US and the continent, but some Ugandans are not happy that President Yoweri Museveni got an invite. Remmy Bahati wrote about the people’s concerns and the reason they feel their leader is disqualified.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Sudan has signed a Political Framework Agreement. The pact was endorsed by the “trilateral mechanism,” composed of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams), the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. According to the UN, the agreement is a “critical first step towards the restoration of a sustainable transitional period and the formation of a credible civil, democratic, and accountable government.”
• Giles Duley of Britain is the first UN global advocate for people with disabilities in conflict and peace-building situations. He is a documentary photographer and heads the Legacy of War Foundation. In 2011, he was severely injured by a roadside bomb while working in Afghanistan and was left a triple-amputee. His new post will complement the work of the special rapporteur on the rights of people with disabilities.
Tuesday, Dec. 6
• No Surprise: India Wants a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council. Will It Ever Happen?: As India leads the Security Council in December, PassBlue’s Damilola Banjo held an exclusive interview with India’s permanent representative, Ruchira Kamboj, on the country’s signature debates, among other important conversations. That includes India’s neutral stance on Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The monthly column features an original podcast, diving deep into India’s geopolitics; reported by Banjo and produced by Kelechukwu Ogu.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Montreal for the 15th meeting of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, being held from Dec. 7 to 19. As part of the continuing negotiations by the parties, Guterres encouraged regional leaders to strengthen efforts to protect the world’s biodiversity. He also met with Huang Runqiu, the minister of ecology and environment for China, where the first part of COP15 was held. Guterres also called on countries and corporations “to develop bold action plans that protect biodiversity and support sustainable practices.” His speech.
Some rare joy at the UN:
— PassBlue (@pass_blue) December 6, 2022
Wednesday, Dec. 7
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN condemned the execution of an Afghan man. Stéphane Dujarric reiterated the organization’s position on the death penalty, saying, “The United Nations is against the death penalty, and it’s a position that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect of the right to life.” The Taliban sanctioned the public execution of an alleged murderer, making it the first such act under Taliban rule. Its spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the man was shot three times by the father of the alleged victim.
Thursday, Dec. 8
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called on countries in the Andaman Sea region to immediately rescue and safely disembark about 200 Rohingya Muslim refugees, reportedly drifting in a vessel off the coast of Thailand. Reports say the boat has been adrift since Dec. 1, after its engines broke down. Those on board have been without food and water for days and are suffering from extreme dehydration. The agency said “the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status.” [Update, Dec. 9: A Vietnamese vessel rescued 154 people on the sinking boat, transferring them to the Myanmar navy]
• The International Committee of the Red Cross released a statement on its new visits to prisoners of war held by both sides in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
• The UN’s resident coordinator in Haiti, Ulrika Richardson, described to media (below) the continuing humanitarian chaos in the capital of Port-au-Prince, where gang rapes and other crimes by mobs persist. The Security Council is scheduled to meet on Dec. 21 to take up the crisis again, although no global intervention force, as Guterres recommended be sent months ago to protect innocent civilians, has materialized. Kenya and Rwanda have volunteered to send troops but only if a large country, like Canada, leads the way. So far, that has not happened. Our Oct. 24 story by Damilola Banjo.
Friday, Dec. 9
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Marking Human Rights Day (Dec. 10), Guterres called for the renewed “commitment to all human rights — civil, cultural, economic, political, and social.” He said: “Human rights are the foundation for human dignity, and the cornerstone of peaceful, inclusive, fair, equal, and prosperous societies. On this Human Rights Day, we reaffirm the universality and indivisibility of all rights, as we stand up for human rights for all.”
• Bintou Keita, head of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco), briefed the Security Council on the status of the organization’s work regarding national initiatives to end the violence in the east by the M23 armed militia.
• The Security Council approved a US-Irish-led resolution creating a humanitarian “carve-out” across all UN sanctions regimes. “Thanks to today’s resolution, humanitarians operating in some of the most complex environments need no longer fear the harmful effect of sanctions on their work,” said Fergal Mythen, the ambassador of Ireland. “They will no longer fear that banks or other business will be prevented from working with them. Humanitarian assistance saves lives. It should always be facilitated.”
• The UN’s latest report of human-rights violations in the Ukraine-Russian war.
• An obituary of Francesc Vendrell, a Spaniard and one of the longest-serving, most successful UN peace negotiators in recent times.
• A review of “All Necessary Measures?,” a book by Ian Martin, a Briton who headed the UN’s first political mission in Libya.
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.