Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs
Seton Hall Graduate Degree in International Affairs

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Trending UN News: Week Ending April 28

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Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation
Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, met with reporters on April 25, 2023, during his two-day visit to the UN, including as chair of the Security Council. On a question about the end of his country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, he said: “The issue is not that there is a certain schedule. Maybe in other countries there are schedules.”  JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

This week, the crises around the world hit a new tipping point.

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 focus on the UN’s efforts across various war-fraught countries.

If you haven’t donated to PassBlue this year but read our weekly summary, we encourage you to give to our nonprofit news site as we report on the UN. As an independent journalism operation, we rely on donations to finance our work. This week alone, we reported on the controversial UN Security Council session led by Russia and published two opinion essays, one asking for Afghan women advocates to be included in a UN-led meeting in Doha next week; the other by a former UN secretary-general endorsing the creation of a special tribunal on the crime of aggression by Russia. We are also publishing two originally reported items in this summary, below, as well as the summary itself. All this work is done by dedicated, professional journalists, and no other independent media site is providing such comprehensive coverage of the UN.

“Few people have studied the United Nations more intensively than Presidential Professor Thomas G. Weiss (Political ScienceLiberal Studies)”: The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) has announced the official retirement of Weiss, who “worked at the U.N. for a decade before moving into academia and has written, co-written and edited scores of books and hundreds of articles about the history, role, and functioning of the U.N.” Adding that “While forthright about the weaknesses of the massive and sometimes fumbling bureaucracy, he has maintained a career-long belief that the U.N. and the international cooperation that it facilitates make the world a more peaceful, humane, and prosperous place.” PassBlue is forever grateful for all the cogent, incisive analyses Weiss has published with us over the last decade and note that he welcomed our team into CUNY’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as our first home. Tom, may our paths cross again and again! — DULCIE LEIMBACH

• Fact-checking Russian remarks: “I would like to let the reporters who are covering our meeting know that their colleagues from the Russian media were not allowed to come here. The US Embassy in Moscow cynically said it was ready to give them their passports with visas in them but only when our plane was taking off. So, I have a huge request for you. Please make up for the absence of Russian journalists. Please see to it that worldwide audiences can use your reports to glean every angle of the comments and assessments.” — Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, April 24, 2023

Not quite, Sergey: Concluding a Russian-led UN Security Council open debate on April 24, titled “Effective Multilateralism Through the Defense of the Principles of the UN Charter,” Lavrov said that Russian journalists were not allowed to come to the UN as part of his entourage during his visit on Monday through Tuesday. Yet Russian press is represented by UN-based correspondents working for state-run news agencies RIA, Tass and Sputnik. They attended the Council debate, along with other journalists from across the world. Lavrov’s comments came two weeks after Russia’s arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges; the United States Department of State has formally designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained.” On Sunday, April 23, the Russian mission to the UN released a statement, saying, in part, “The United States violated again its obligations under the UN Headquarters Agreement, having denied issuance of US visas to Russian journalists who were supposed to accompany Minister Lavrov on his official visit to New York to take part in the flagship events of the Russian Presidency of the UN Security Council. This was done despite the fact that Russian media representatives complied with all relevant terms and requirements, including a valid UN accreditation.”

On April 25, the State Department said in response to a reporter’s question at a briefing regarding Russian journalists: “I will note that in relation to Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to the UN for Russia’s presidency, the United States issued nearly 100 visas for Russian nationals, including for a number of journalists.” The spokesperson added: “But yeah, while we’re on the subject, when we talk about the ability of journalists to do their work, it is worth pointing out that Russia’s ongoing repression of independent media and freedom of the press has led to an exodus, and not only of foreign journalists, but also Russian journalists as well.” Back at the UN, Lavrov said in an April 25 briefing, on Russian journalists being denied visas: “As for our response, we will certainly take this outrageous behaviour of the US authorities into account. As I see it, the decision was made at the Department of State. We will keep this in mind, when the Americans ask for anything from us.” — ARTHUR BASSAS 

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN expert on preventing genocide (OSAPG), took her mandate for civic engagement recently to the Rust Belt of the US. In Buffalo, N.Y., on April 22, she participated in a town hall discussion on how protection of free speech can undermine protection against hate speech. The event, “Freedom of Speech vs. a Free Pass to Incite Hate,” was held as part of a symposium called the “Pursuit of Truth,” honoring Ruth Whitfield. Whitfield was one of 10 people killed in the May 14, 2022 massacre committed by a white supremacist, Peyton Gendron, at Tops, a Buffalo supermarket. Whitfield’s sons, Garnell and Raymond, created “Pursuit of Truth” to commemorate their mother by countering hate with civic activism. The event was sponsored by Tops, collaborating with SUNY Buffalo State University, the Buffalo History Museum and Nderitu’s office. In her keynote address, Nderitu pointed out that hate speech and its close ties to violence and even genocide were a global phenomenon. She noted how the UN worked to prevent hate speech-incited violence by partnering with national sports leagues in the US, including the National Football League and the National Hockey League, to tackle localized hate speech as well as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres meeting with heads of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. The digital age, Nderitu noted, has given hate speech an unprecedented reach. “You cannot have a genocide without words,” she said. “There is a direct connection.” In an email to PassBlue, she elaborated, “All legally recognized genocides in the past including the Holocaust, the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the genocides in Srebrenica were all preceded by and accompanied by hate speech.” While the UN and the European Union both have legal definitions for the term “hate speech,” the US does not. When asked by PassBlue how the UN can work more on a civic level to counter hate speech, Nderitu said her office “will work to amplify the work of the communities in Pittsburgh and Buffalo as they work to prevent hate crimes.” In 2018, a massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, killed 11 people. — LAURA KIRKPATRICK, reporting from Buffalo

Sunday, April 23

The Path to an International Tribunal on Aggression in Ukraine Must Go Through the UN General Assembly: As the war in Ukraine continues unabated, a former UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, shared insights on how the world body can bring about peace and justice in the crisis through creating a special tribunal to prosecute top Russian leaders for the crime of aggression.

From L to R, Vassily Nebenzia Russian Ambassador to the UN and Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Sergey Vershinin and Sergei Ryabkov
Russian officials attending Lavrov’s press briefing at the UN, April 25: From left, Vassily Nebenzia, UN ambassador; from Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Sergey Vershinin and Sergei Ryabkov. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Monday, April 24

Russia’s Defense of the UN Charter as It Wages War Brings Both Condemnations and Shrugs in a Security Council Debate: At the Security Council debate, the topic of “effective multilateralism” through defense of the UN Charter was discussed, with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, the chairperson. Dawn Clancy wrote about the intrigues of Russia’s monthly rotating presidency of the Council in April while it wages a territorial war in Ukraine.

Relatedly, Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, also flown in from Moscow with Lavrov, reacted to a question by a Wall Street Journal reporter about his colleague Evan Gershkovich, outside the Security Council chamber during its debate on Monday:

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The crisis in Haiti has reached an alarming rate with 70 people recorded dead between April 14 to 19, said Farhan Haq, UN deputy spokesperson. According to the reports from the country, schools and hospitals are closed. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Ulrika Richardson, appealed for the continuous access of humanitarian aid workers in the country, “as well as the protection and respect of health, education, humanitarian and critical personnel and infrastructure, including for water supply.” [UPDATE, April 26: Maria Isabel Salvador, the UN’s new envoy for Haiti, told the Security Council that violence was so extreme that a group of civilians in the capital, Port-au-Prince, took “13 suspected gang members from police custody, beat them to death and burned their bodies.”

Tuesday, April 25

Disregarding Security Council’s Groundbreaking 1325 Resolution: About Us Without Us: The reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan continues to strip women’s basic rights in the Islamic country. Asila Wardak wrote about how a Guterres-led meeting on May 1-2 in Doha means that global special envoys — mostly men — will be consulting on the status of women without women’s participation, contrary to the requirements of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. (Wardak is a member of the Afghan Women’s Forum; the group’s press statement on women’s exclusion from the Doha forum.)

• Spokesperson’s briefing: A Wall Street Journal reporter, Will Mauldin (see above), was asked by two UN security officials to leave a Security Council public meeting for wearing a pin saying “Free Evan.” Evan Gershkovich, a 31-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in Russia on March 30, 2023, for espionage charged. He is based in the country and was reporting on actions related to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Mauldin, an American, told PassBlue that the UN officials asked him to take the pin off if he wanted to stay in the Council because the pin appeared to violate rules banning protests in the building. He obliged. But another reporter later asked Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesperson, about it, saying: “Should we be allowed to stick up for our fellow journalists inside the United Nations building?” Reply: “I think we have always stood up for your fellow journalists, but I will look into this particular case.”

Wednesday, April 26

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres warned against the escalation of the two-week-old war in Sudan, saying it could destabilize the region. The UN special envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes (see above), who remains in the country, said that he was sill making regular contact with Generals Al-Burhan and Hemedti to urge them to stop fighting with each other and allow humanitarian pauses. The UN Refugee Agency has estimated that some 270,000 people could flee into South Sudan and Chad alone as the war continues. The UN special envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, and the special envoy on violence against children, Najat Maalla M’jid, also raised concerns on the rising number of civilians — including children — killed or maimed in the crisis. [UPDATE, April 28: In a statement from the Trilateral Mechanism — the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN as well as the US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia — welcomed the announcement by the Sudanese Armed Forces [Al-Burhan] and the Rapid Support Forces [Hemedti] to extend the cease-fire for another 72 hours. Yet the previous cease-fires were not fully respected]

• Guterres has appointed Feridun Sinirlioglu of Türkiye as the special coordinator of the new independent assessment team mandated by Security Council Resolution 2679 (2023) to provide recommendations on “the current challenges faced by Afghanistan.”

UN Security Council Aria-format meeting on Apr 28, 2023 addressing the Addressing the Abduction and Deportation of Children During Armed Conflict.
At an informal session of the Security Council on the abduction and deportation of children during armed conflict, members heard Ukrainian children describe their harrowing experiences being held against their will in Russian “camps,” April 28, 2023. The UN says more than 500 children have been killed in Russia’s war on its neighbor. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Thursday, April 27

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres traveled to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to talk about an immediate cease-fire in Sudan. They also discussed Russia’s war in Ukraine and the instability in Afghanistan. Before the meeting, Guterres told media that “when the world is in trouble as we are today, the war in Ukraine, the conflict spreading everywhere, being late in our efforts in relation to climate change, and with enormous difficulties in large parts of the world due to the dramatic economic and financial crisis that developing countries are facing — in this troubled world, cooperation between the United States and the United Nations is absolutely essential.” Separately, at the UN briefing, a reporter asked: Did Blinken apologize for spying on the secretary-general? Reply: “I can say that since the reports came out, this is an issue that we have raised with the authorities.” Q: So he didn’t apologize? “I don’t speak for the US side.”

• The Security Council unanimously condemned via Resolution 2681 the Taliban’s decree banning Afghan women from working for the UN in their country, marking a major leap among the 15 members on supporting women’s rights. Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the US said the UAE-led resolution “sends a clear message to the Taliban: We condemn your repression of Afghan women and girls, and we call for the swift reversal of your indefensible edicts.” Dujarric, the UN spokesperson, said the resolution “empowers the Secretary-General. It empowers his representatives. When behind him, there stands 15 unified members of the Security Council.” He also reiterated the UN is not leaving Afghanistan.

Friday, April 28

• Spokesperson’s briefing: A reporter asked Dujarric about Guterres’s “message for young people” on the UN’s new account on China’s social video platform, Bilibili, which has attracted 196,000 subscribers so far. Reply: The message “is the same as for young people everywhere” — “we need them to stand up, to be counted, to keep the fight up against climate change, gender equality, holding leaders to account, to fight against injustice. Young people everywhere have their responsibility, and they’ve been exercising it.”

• Guterres spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Türkiye on “how to guarantee the improvement, expansion and extension of the Black Sea Initiative” and the separate deal between Russia and the UN on “promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world markets.”

ICYMI:

“Germany and Europe Facing Ukraine War”: A conversation with Germany’s Consul General David Gill and John Torpey of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, CUNY

This article was updated. 


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the Taliban and Afghan women's rights?

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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Trending UN News: Week Ending April 28
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Terje Andersen
Terje Andersen
1 month ago

As we read and see the world and the UN is not able to avoid conflicts or wars, famine starvations and the reasons of all this has been the disrespect to the countries in need of help and the wrongly powers of the G20/G7 and Western and USA politics of controlling the world…not to solve any problems as to show and proofs of positive results to show its humanitarian and educational and to really help the poorer world countries to be able to get reel bank loans and support as to be independent and prosperous and to be a partner of the world on equal grounds …
All this has more than 70 years of abuses and we my luckily today in 2023 we are faced with climate problems and whereby we could excuse us all to say a nof of conflicts and wars…lets unte through the UN Body and all its world of programs and start fresh including all world countries to get help and provide solutions again on equal grounds …so we all are reel partners for the future to be build independent from any powers on earth…
The UN should and must be the solutions…but yes then also the UN must clean itself from a luxury life ( UNHQNY-VIENNA-ESLWHERE) and really solve the problems in the world ….and yes nobody to get more than a 5 years contract to work 24/7….not to work for a career of 30 years and not have solved anything…we all can check whats been done!!!???…UNIFIL-UNDOF-UNFICYP-AfRICAN MISSIONS…ETC are still not solved….I dont think anybody can say the world is better…but worst off…and we cant say as we at all time doo…its too high up on the ladders …so what can I do ???…Well we may need to act to introduce new rules and max 5 years contracts as with the 8 Billions of populations …their are many in line to even do a better jobs to give success to the UN and show the big politics that 8 Billion of world populations only want peace – work -food on the table -prosperity and yes be part of building a better world by being honest and hard working for peace on earth….

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