The UN vocalizes more loudly its reaction to spikes in violence in occupied Palestine; Unicef’s chief travels to Haiti.
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. We focus on the effects of the sudden withdrawal of the UN’s 10-year peacekeeping mission in Mali amid Russia’s military presence in the Sahelian country. We also look at how a new UN-backed tool could trace the whereabouts of thousands of Syrians who’ve vanished in the civil war. Our opinion piece ponders the status of Russia’s Putin after the mutiny last weekend.
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• June 26 marked the 78th anniversary of the UN Charter, so our reporter Laura Kirkpatrick, from Buffalo, N.Y., devised a challenging quiz for the occasion. Test your knowledge on the details on the guiding light for all member states, big, small and in-between.
• The UN spokesperson’s office issued a note to reporters on June 30 regarding the status of grain exports and other goods through the Black Sea grain deal, which expires on July 17.
Monday, June 26
• The Aftermath in Russia: Stephen Schlesinger sheds light in his essay on the possible results of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner rebellion in Russia and on the international scene. “Already the consensus among most observers is that the surprise, if abrogated, assault, has weakened Putin’s hold on his office,” Schlesinger writes. “Indeed, it has embarrassed him in front of the world (especially, with his most important partner, China), exposed the fractures in his military forces and tarnished his image as a strongman.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: A reporter asked Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson, about the Wagner Group’s mutiny in Russia over the weekend: “How concerned was [the secretary-general] about the stability of the Russian Federation, given it’s the nation with more nuclear weapons than anywhere else on the Earth?” Reply: “Regarding that, obviously, although he was concerned about the developments that transpired over the weekend, he was also aware of the reports regarding steps to de-escalate tensions. And that really is where we stand. At this stage, the situation there seems to be one in which the tensions have de-escalated.”
Tuesday, June 27
• Reporting from West Africa, Joe Penney analyzes the momentous withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Mali, while untangling the implications of the role of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries in the country. “By demanding Minusma’s removal, Mali has retrenched further into Russia’s orbit as its own stability is shaken deeply by domestic chaos and the flagging war in Ukraine,” Penney writes. (See June 30 item on Security Council vote to end the peacekeeping mission in Mali.)
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Tor Wennesland, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned the Security Council about “an alarming spike in violence across the northern and central occupied West Bank, leading to numerous Palestinian and Israeli casualties” in recent weeks. A reporter asked the deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, about Israel not being named and shamed for its atrocities against Palestinians in the new children and armed conflict report from Secretary-General António Guterres (In a first, a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia was blacklisted.) Haq: “The basic point is that this report is a mechanism to get governments and other parties to improve the records about how children are treated. And during the reporting period . . . strictly during the reporting period, which is the year 2022, the number of violations committed by the Government of Israel went down and there were concrete measures put in place for the protection of children. Keeping them off the list was a reflection of that improvement, both in terms of the engagement and in terms of the results. If since then, things worsen again, that can be reflected, but that is for another year and another report.”
170 peacekeepers died in the 10-year mission ops pic.twitter.com/3DMCfKElOK
— PassBlue (@pass_blue) June 30, 2023
Wednesday, June 28
• The UN was closed for the Eid holiday.
Thursday, June 29
• At Long Last, the UN Votes to Create a System to Find the Fate of Missing Syrians in the War: Dawn Clancy reports on good news for Syrian civilians: The General Assembly adopted a resolution to create a mechanism to determine the fate of all the missing people in the country’s continuing civil war. The resolution is a result of a grass-roots coalition of Syrian families and advocacy groups who for years have been lobbying UN member states and Guterres “to create an independent body to help families across Syria learn the status of their missing relatives who have vanished during the Syrian war, now in its 12th year.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Catherine Russell, the executive director of Unicef, talked to the press about her recent trip to Haiti. “I came to listen, to learn, and to help galvanize attention and support for the humanitarian response in Haiti,” she said. The situation there just grows more alarming: “Haitians and our team there tell me it’s never been worse,” Russell added. “Unprecedented hunger and malnutrition, grinding poverty, a crippled economy, resurgence of cholera, and massive insecurity that creates a deadly downward spiral of violence — while flooding and earthquakes continue to remind us all just how vulnerable Haiti is to climate change and natural disasters.” Russell stressed the importance of providing “immediate humanitarian funding and a better response to meet the acute needs of the most vulnerable.”
Friday, June 30
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The Security Council, above, unanimously adopted a resolution to end Minusma, the peacekeeping mission in Mali, by Dec. 31. Some countries around the Council’s horseshoe-shaped table, including Britain and Switzerland, expressed their concerns about the short timeline, six months, for the withdrawal. Speaking for the three African members (Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique), Ghana’s envoy, Harold Agyeman, said, in part: “I must highlight that the withdrawal of MINUSMA from Mali changes the way the region and the international community must implement the strategies for stabilizing the Sahel. Already, the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, which benefits from MINUSMA’s presence in the region would be affected by the withdrawal of the mission’s support. But so would other assurances that have been built into regional security initiatives to deter, detect and disrupt terrorist and violent extremist activities in the Sahel. We would therefore need to engage constructively with other processes that are in the pipeline to stabilize the region.”
Issa Konfourou, Mali’s ambassador to the UN, told Council members: “As a responsible government, the Malian authorities undertake to cooperate closely with the United Nations Secretariat and Minusma in the diligent implementation of this resolution, and to do so within the allotted time frame.”
Russia said it “will continue providing comprehensive bilateral assistance to Mali with the purpose of ensuring stabilization on the country.”
The US envoy said, in part: “The international community will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Mali and speak out against violations and abuses. While this resolution marks the end of MINUSMA, the United States’ commitment to the Malian people remains strong and lasting. I wish to conclude by expressing the profound gratitude of the United States to MINUSMA for its service over the last decade, especially the troop- and police-contributing countries whose peacekeepers have risked and sacrificed their lives for Mali’s peace and security.”
• Spokesperson’s briefing: After the Council vote, a reporter asked Haq: “What does [the secretary-general] think of Minusma? It’s been there for 10 years. It’s the most expensive, the most dangerous UN mission. What does he think it’s achieved?” Reply: “. . . what we want to do at this stage is to make sure that all of the signatory parties to the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali will continue honouring the ceasefire as the Mission withdraws. And we will work with the Government to ensure that we’ll have their full cooperation for an orderly and safe withdrawal for the Mission’s personnel in the coming months.”
• Guterres is going to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on July 2, to address the 45th meeting of the conference of the heads of government of the Caribbean.
Chloé Cosson has a master’s degree in cultural journalism from Sorbonne University, in Paris, and a B.A. in literature (writing and English studies) from Lumière University, Lyon. She was most recently a digital managing editor of Arte TV, in Strasbourg, France.