First, happy new year to all our readers! This is the first summary for 2023, and we are excited to bring you all the bits and intrigues from inside the United Nations.
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, Uganda was finally declared Ebola-free but the world still has much to do with keeping all children alive. And at UN headquarters, Ukraine is beginning to mark the yearlong anniversary of President Putin’s full-scale assault that began on Feb. 24, 2022.
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Monday, Jan. 9
• Voting Wrap-Up of the UN Security Council in 2022: Bitterness Mixed With Agreements: The Security Council will always have fault lines but it continues to thrive out of mutual respect and agreements expressed through resolutions. Adrian Steube writes about the mixed emotions that underlay all agreements in 2022, the year Russia invaded Ukraine, violating the UN Charter.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Following the unanimous approval by the Security Council to renew the Syrian cross-border aid channel for another six months, Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the extension was crucial for 4.1 million people in northwest Syria, where vital supplies are trucked in from Türkiye to the rebel enclave in Idlib. Similarly, UN interagency cross-line aid deliveries carried nearly 600 metric tons of supplies on Jan. 9 into the region — including food, water and sanitation items and medicine — from Aleppo to Sarmada, said Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson. Yet humanitarian conditions are deteriorating in the northwest due to the “ongoing hostilities and a worsening economic crisis,” he added. “Some 80 per cent of the 4.1 million people who rely on aid to meet their most basic needs are women and children.”
Tuesday, Jan. 10
• The Sahel Region in West Africa, a Top-10 Conflict Spot to Watch in 2023, Says Crisis Group: A rising number of wars and conflicts have become part of the world dynamic, including the deadly spread of terrorism in West Africa. Damilola Banjo summarized the International Crisis Group’s list of top conflict spots to watch in 2023.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Since 2010, progress has been made in reducing child mortality, says a new report by the UN Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, which is led by Unicef and includes the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. But the study warned that almost 59 million children and youths will die before 2030 if health services are not improved.
Wednesday, Jan. 11
• Japan Faults the UN Security Council for Lack of Unison on North Korea: Japan is gradually deviating from its pacifist foreign policy stance toward more militarization to contend with possible threats from such neighbors as China. Japan also blames the Security Council for not taking decisive positions on North Korea’s unrelenting missile tests. Damilola Banjo reports on Japan’s front-burner presidential status in the Council this month, including covering its policy on the Russian war in Ukraine and the erasure of women’s rights in Afghanistan.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Today marked the end of Ebola in Uganda! The head of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the virus could be totally defeated “when the whole system works together,” Dujarric said. Similarly, the UN’s resident coordinator in Uganda, Susan Ngongi Namondo, urged people there to continue following prevention measures.
Thursday, Jan. 12
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres said the rule of law is what stands “between peace and stability, and a brutal struggle for power and resources.” He said this while addressing the Security Council in an open debate on the topic, led by Japan, and featuring numerous other speakers as well as at least 60 countries lined up to deliver remarks in the daylong gathering. Guterres also addressed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it violated the UN Charter and international law.
After the Council’s morning session, Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister, below, told the media that a draft resolution on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point peace “formula” will be submitted to the General Assembly next month to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale, Feb. 24 attack on Ukraine. Emine Dzheppar, a Crimean Tatar, said that another GA draft resolution, on accountability through a special tribunal prosecution for the crime of aggression, will be pursued later. (PassBlue’s exclusive on the topic, by Dawn Clancy.) Russia’s deputy permanent representative, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told PassBlue that as a counterpoint, Russia might focus on the Minsk agreements in UN meetings as Feb. 24 approaches, but Ukraine considers the pacts dead.
— PassBlue (@pass_blue) January 12, 2023
Friday, Jan. 13
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The Security Council met behind closed doors on Afghanistan’s increasingly harsh bans on the very beings of women and girls, but no statement was released as the US lobbied to no avail for a resolution calling on the Taliban to reverse their restrictions, according to one diplomat. China wanted to burden the resolution with additional clauses, and the UN discouraged the step overall. In the private session, Guterres’s special representative for Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, said the Taliban’s restrictions were “grave violations of fundamental rights,” Dujarric told reporters. The United Arab Emirates and Japan called for the session, which also featured a briefing from David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee. A Jan. 5 letter to Japan’s ambassador to the UN (who leads the Council in January) from Margot Wallstrom, chair of an Afghan women’s forum and an ex-foreign minister of Sweden, urged the Council to visit Kabul. But it did not come up in the meeting, and some diplomats told PassBlue that they had not even seen the Wallstrom letter. (Our story on its content.) Additionally, a letter to the UN and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), signed by dozens of civil society groups and individuals, provides a sweeping set of questions that the UN and the OIC should consider regarding their responses to the Taliban’s erasure of women’s rights.
Key takeaways from the Council meeting, Lana Nusseibeh, UAE’s envoy to the UN, told reporters: “solidarity” was expressed by members on discussions by the UN with the Taliban, including finding “practical” strategies toward a “better trajectory.” Next steps will be “critical” for UN operations and nonprofit groups working in humanitarian aid in Afghanistan as a fuller picture emerges there, she added. This involves a visit by two top UN officials to the region and the country. — DULCIE LEIMBACH
• PassBlue stories from mid-December to Jan. 6:
Ireland’s Parting Gift to the UN Security Council, by Fergal Mythen
How Russia Is Destroying the Identity of Ukrainian Children, by Kateryna Rashevska
The About-Face of Mali’s Top Diplomat, Abdoulaye Diop, by Joe Penney
Gender Parity Endured Among Top UN Posts in 2022 but Gaps in Lower-Level Jobs Hang On, by Laura E. Kirkpatrick
Opposition Grows Among Countries as Seabed Mining Efforts Push Ahead, by Maurizio Guerrero
• Elizabeth Maruma Mrema of Tanzania has been appointed deputy executive director of the UN Environment Program (Unep). She succeeds Joyce Msuya of Tanzania, who was named assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
• The US-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) with other signatories signed an open letter urging the South African government to reject the “Jeffery Bill” repealing all criminal offenses related to prostitution, effectively decriminalizing the sex trade.
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.