This week, we focus on Britain’s assuming the presidency of the Security Council in July, while taking a closer look at the UN’s reaction to the increasingly alarming situation in 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. This week, our latest podcast episode went live, featuring an interview with the UK’s deputy permanent representative, James Kariuki. We also report on the secretary-general’s response to the White House authorizing a supply of cluster munitions to Ukraine.
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Update on our profile of Zeneta Everhart, who was running for a seat on the all-male city council in Buffalo, N.Y., on a platform to address racism and social woes there. She was one of two women who won the primary on June 27. She faces the general election on Nov. 7.
• Atul Khare, who runs the UN’s Department of Operational Support, is planning to travel to Moscow this month to meet with officials. He typically goes to the MAKS international air show, but this year it has been canceled. So his visit raised questions in certain UN circles about the purpose, given Russia’s breaching of the UN Charter and accrual of alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine. (Russia also breached civil aviation rules last year, forcing the UN, in particular, to ground Russian aviation that it leased for peacekeeping operations, as reported by PassBlue.) The UN deputy spokesperson told PassBlue that Khare’s trip will entail meeting with the chief of the Federal Agency for Air Transport (FATA), Alexander Neradko, “in keeping with his long-standing practice of holding annual talks with FATA to discuss the main issues pertaining to the cooperation between the United Nations and Russian air operators supporting UN field operations,” Farhan Haq said in an email. (Neradko has been sanctioned by Ukraine for apparently providing civilian planes to transfer Russian troops to the contact line in the war.) During his visit to Moscow, Khare also expects to meet with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Haq added. Khare’s office provides global operational support responsibilities for entities and offices throughout the UN system. He is heading to Mali from Russia to supervise the start of the withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission there, as mandated by the Security Council on June 30. Separately, PassBlue was told by two sources that Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia may be leaving his post at the end of the year. His spokesperson would not confirm the information. A possible successor for Nebenzia is Aleksandr Pankin, deputy minister of foreign affairs on Eurasian Integration and Economic Cooperation. — DULCIE LEIMBACH
Monday, July 3
• The UK Is Angling for Global Regulation of AI Through the UN Security Council: Ahead of Britain’s chairing the Security Council for July, our reporter Damilola Banjo interviewed James Kariuki, the deputy permanent representative to the UN. Banjo highlights the major stakes of Britain’s rotating presidency this month, including its quest for global regulation of artificial intelligence and “[helping] Ukraine define peace on its own terms,” Kariuki said.
• Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, held a press conference on July 3, setting the tone for her country’s Council presidency. She emphasized the “UK’s ambition to drive forward reform of the multilateral system,” saying, “We want to see expansion of the Council’s permanent seats to include India, Brazil, Germany, Japan and African representation.” Britain will also aim to ensure predictable cross-border aid access to Syria.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Following the Israeli offensive on the West Bank city of Jenin, several reporters asked Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman, questions on the topic. One asked: “A hospital was attacked this morning. A residential building, the third floor completely was razed to the ground. And all the roads were completely dug by Israeli bulldozers. And thousands of people are trapped, and they are preventing the ambulances [from reaching] out to the wounded, of which they [counted] 50 and maybe more; 10 of them are in critical conditions. And the only language we hear is de-escalation. Is this a flagrant case of aggression and excessive use of force or not?” Reply: “We certainly want all parties to avoid any excessive use of force, and that includes calling on them to avoid any attacks on hospitals, such as what you’ve mentioned, and on civilian infrastructure. So we will continue to do that.”
Joanne Adamson of Britain has been named deputy special representative and deputy head of Minusca, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. Adamson succeeds Lizbeth Cullity of the United States.
Tuesday, July 4
• The UN was closed for the US Independence Day.
Wednesday, July 5
• Spokesperson’s briefing: The special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, presented Guterres’s annual report on the topic to the Security Council. She said, among other facts, that over 27,000 grave violations against close to 19,000 children were verified by the UN last year. Killing and maiming and recruitment and use of children were the violations verified at the highest levels, Gamba said, adding that all categories of violations increased in 2022. In the report, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, was blacklisted for its atrocities against children in Ukraine.
• Haq announced good news: The World Health Organization (WHO) said 12 countries across different regions in Africa — Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone and Uganda — will receive 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine over the next two years. Malaria is the main cause of death on the continent. The first doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the countries during the last quarter of 2023, with rollouts starting by early 2024.
• Sonja Leighton-Kone of the US has been appointed deputy executive director of the UN Office for Project Services (Unops). Previously, she was the director of the corporate services division at the UN Environment Program (Unep) in Nairobi.
• The new UN expert on human rights in Haiti, William O’Neill, briefed the press on his recent 10-day visit to the country. “I have been working on Haiti for over 30 years and I have never seen the situation as bad as it is now,” O’Neill said, referring to the gangs wreaking havoc in Port-au-Prince, the capital, terrorizing the population. “Weak accountability combined with a rampant corruption results in state institutions that fail to protect human rights.” He suggested that international police experts could work with the Haitian national police to combat the gangs in line with principles of human rights.
Thursday, July 6
• The UK Is Following a Policy of Migrant Returns, Like Other Countries: Damilola Banjo and Kelechukwu Ogu’s latest podcast episode of UN-Scripted takes the audience into a conversation with the Britain’s deputy permanent representative, James Kariuki, and Evelyn Leopold, a veteran reporter at the UN. They discuss the possibility of global regulation of AI, the Sudan war, the UK’s controversial illegal-migrant bill and Russia’s assault on Ukraine. (Plus the episode offers a brief Wimbledon interlude.)
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres spoke to reporters about his one-day visit to Haiti on July 1, describing the situation as a “living nightmare” for Haitians because of gang-related violence and “beyond appalling” living conditions. He urged countries to make up the 77 percent funding shortfall to finance the $720 million plan to fund humanitarian aid. In line with O’Neill’s briefing (see July 5), Guterres launched an appeal to multinational police forces “to work hand-in-hand with the Haitian National Police to defeat and dismantle the gangs and restore security across the country.”
• France‘s UN envoy, Nicolas de Rivière, with Germany and Britain, spoke to journalists after a Council meeting on nonproliferation, which focused on Resolution 2231 and requires Iran to refrain from developing nuclear-capable missiles. “We remain determined that Iran must never develop a nuclear weapon and must reverse its nuclear escalation,” de Rivière said.
Friday, July 7
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Journalists asked Haq for Guterres’s response to media reports that President Biden of the US will approve supplies of cluster munitions to Ukraine. Reply: “The Secretary-General supports the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which, as you know, was adopted 15 years ago; and he wants countries to abide by the terms of that convention. And so, as a result, of course, he does not want there to be continued use of cluster munitions on the battlefield.” (The US, Russia and Ukraine are not parties to the treaty, and Russia has been using the bombs in its war on Ukraine, as has the latter but not as proportionately.) Condemnation on the US decision came quickly from human-rights groups. The US said that Ukraine needed the ammunition as a “bridge” until more artillery became available and that the munitions would be effective in the trenches of Russian troops.
• The UN Secretariat is deploying a team of three UN experts to Honduras on July 10 to provide technical help to create an “international, impartial, independent and autonomous mechanism against corruption and impunity,” per an agreement signed in December 2022 between the UN and the Honduras government.
• Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian relief chief, talked to reporters about the Security Council’s expected vote on a draft resolution extending the authorization for the Syria cross-border aid mechanism, which is expiring July 10. He said that Guterres “has been very clear” that it should be renewed for 12 months and there should be “as many crossing points as possible.”‘ Griffiths also discussed the status of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the agreement among Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the UN enabling commercial food and fertilizer exports to be exported from three Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. The deal is set to expire on July 17, and its renewal — which is vital for global food security, especially in developing countries, the UN has said repeatedly since the deal began a year ago — lies in the hands of the Kremlin. “We’re in the middle of that negotiation,” Griffiths said, conceding that it’s unclear if Russia will end the deal, as it has been threatening to do each time the renewal is up. In addition, Griffiths said the delivery of “many, many, almost daily convoys of clean water and medicine” is reaching people in Ukraine affected by the Kakhovka Dam explosion.
• On Friday evening, a group of protesters, including rabbis, gathered across from the UN, expressing solidarity with people in Jenin. They were seeking a more appropriate reaction from the UN to the Israeli occupation in Palestine, they said.
• Today was Kiswahili, a k a Swahili, Language Day. With over 200 million speakers, it is one of the most widely used African languages, the UN said.
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.