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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending July 28

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Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane on national TV in Niamey, the capital of Niger, announcing the military coup, after seizing the presidential palace with President Mohamed Bazoum inside, July 26, 2023. The UN has a large team in the country, working on mostly humanitarian aid and human rights programs. They told the media at the UN on July 28 that so far they have not been in contact with the coup leaders, who call themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Fatherland, or CNSP. But the UN is continuing its work, it said. AÏR INFO AGADEZ

This week, we focus on the coup in Niger, which has been condemned by the United Nations, African Union, United States, European Union and regional organizations.

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 released the latest episode of “Act of Creation,” our podcast series about the founding of the UN (see Thursday), and zoomed in on the latest news about the global climate crisis: July is set to be the hottest month on record on Earth, meteorology experts say.

We are pausing the weekly summary in August and will return in September reinvigorated, following the French tradition of congé annuel. Plenty of new stories will be published on our website in August, so stay tuned. We are also active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can follow us on your favorite platforms to get fresh PassBlue content.

We are grateful for all our donors’ generosity and continue to push our midsummer fund-raising drive to raise $5,000 to boost our coverage of the annual big week of the General Assembly in September (starting on the 19th). With your support overall, PassBlue continues to grow each month in subscriptions and on social media; Blue Smoke, our new partnership with UNA-UK tracking senior appointments each month at the UN, is a valuable asset to our readers as well.

Meanwhile, we welcome suggestions on how to best cover the massive UNGA affair in September. Please send your ideas and insights to info@passblue.com.

Monday, July 24

The New UN Youth Office Creates a Chance for Stellar Leadership to Take Hold: In an opinion piece, Nudhara Yusuf of the Stimson Center think tank and Saji Prelis, of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security, look at the risks and opportunities of the new United Nations Youth Office (UNYO). They write: “Unlike many other independent UN agencies, the primary objective of the UNYO is to work with constituents outside the UN. If young people do not buy into the leadership and approach of the office, its ability to engage large numbers of people will be limited.”

• Spokesperson’s briefing: UN Secretary-General António Guterres was in Rome for the UN Food Systems Summit, a stocktaking of efforts to transform food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. At the forum, Guterres “underscored that global food systems are broken, and billions of people are paying the price,” the UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said. As a follow-up, PassBlue asked what the UN means by “broken food systems.” Haq: “The basic problem is making sure that food can be made available to people at an affordable price. There are many different obstacles about that. One of the efforts that we’ve made was through the Black Sea Initiative itself.” 

Tuesday, July 25

The UN’s Counterterrorism Office Keeps Growing, but Is Its Strategy Working? As the UN Office of Counterterrorism (UNOCT) is growing its offices overseas to become more efficient, it says, Arthur Bassas analyzes both the possible progress and dangers that this strategy entails. Critics of the UN body say that “the new centers expand a somewhat-secretive bureaucracy whose ambitions to battle terrorism do not adhere fully to the human rights obligations enshrined in the UN Charter,” while the UNOCT strongly disagrees, Bassas writes. [The Security Council is planning to hold a meeting on terrorism, with the UNOCT head Vladimir Voronkov briefing, Aug. 25; see below]

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• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) has helped the country and the Ugandan government with the voluntary repatriation of 61 Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) ex-combatants and their families to Entebbe, Uganda. The LRA is known for countless executions against civilians, notably in the Central African Republic. Joseph Kony, the founder of the militia, is still facing an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in 2005. The repatriation operation, which took place on July 21, was done through an agreement between the Central African Republic and Uganda. 

• Additionally, the FSO Safer operation, a UN-led mission to defuse the risk posed by the decaying oil tanker that could spill more than a million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, began today in Yemen. “The oil aboard the Safer is being pumped into the replacement vessel called the Yemen, formerly the Nautica, in a ship-to-ship transfer that is expected to take 19 days to complete,” Farhan Haq said. 

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Deputy Ambassador of Russia to the UN Speaks at the UN Security Council on July 26, 2023
On July 26, 2023, the Security Council held two back-to-back meetings: one requested by Russia, above, to debate the “attacks by the Kyiv regime targeting orthodox Christianity in Ukraine”; the other, called by Ukraine, was about the recent deadly streak of shelling by Russia in the city center of Odesa, which damaged the Transfiguration Cathedral, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The US called Russia’s meeting a “sham.” JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Wednesday, July 26

• Dueling UN Security Council meetings were held today. The first, requested by Russia, focused on “attacks by the Kyiv regime targeting orthodox Christianity in Ukraine.” The second, called by Ukraine, was about Russia’s recent streak of deadly missile and drone attacks on the Black Sea port of Odesa, hitting, among other buildings, the Transfiguration Cathedral, a Unesco-designated World Heritage site. As in most Council meetings on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year, no resolution or other formal statement was released by the members as a whole. At Ukraine’s session, Russia refused to speak. “Earlier this morning, Russia wasted this Council’s time with another sham meeting. And this one was cruelly ironic given that Russian forces destroyed Odesa’s historic Transfiguration Cathedral just this week with a targeted Russian missile,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. She also called Russia’s declining to speak at the Ukraine-requested meeting a “temper tantrum.”

• Spokesperson’s briefing: After the July 26 coup in Niger, perpetrated by mutinous army soldiers and a general, Abdourahamane Tchinai, Guterres condemned “in the strongest terms any effort to seize power by force and to undermine democratic governance, peace and stability in [the country].” As Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum is being detained by the presidential guard, media reports say, Guterres called “on all actors involved in this deplorable act to release [him] with immediate effect,” Stéphane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson, said. 

[UPDATE, July 27: Dujarric said the coup could affect the current withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission in Mali, since one route out of the country for UN equipment and personnel is through the north into Niger rather than going through central Mali to Côte d’Ivoire. “Obviously, it will not make the drawdown of Minusma any simpler if the situation continues as it is,” he said. July 28: The UN country team in Niger told reporters that it has not been in touch with the coup leaders, the capital was “calm” and the UN was still doing its humanitarian aid and other work in the field, despite the air space being closed. In addition, the UN’s envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simão, is attending the Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) emergency meeting on Sunday in Nigeria on Niger.

On Friday, the Security Council, prompted by the African members, issued a statement, saying, in part: “The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the detention of President Mohammed Bazoum and the efforts to unconstitutionally change the legitimate government of the Republic of Niger on 26 July 2023.” They also called for the “immediate and unconditional release of the democratically elected President of the Republic, H.E Mohammed Bazoum, and underscored the need to protect him, his family and members of his government.”

To gain more insights into the events in Niger, PassBlue recommends following the Twitter accounts of Joe Penney, Ulf Laessing, Alex Thurston and Alexis Arieff.

The US is rotating president of the Security Council in August. Here is the tentative program of work. Secretary of State Blinken is expected to chair the Aug. 3 debate on ending famines.

Thursday, July 27

Managing the Impossible: Hammering Out the UN Charter. It’s out: The second episode of “Acts of Creation,” our three-part podcast series chronicling the birth of the UN, at the San Francisco conference, through the signing of the UN Charter. The new episode takes you deep into conversation with the composer Dan Becker and Stephen Schlesinger, author of the book “Act of Creation.” “It’s not a spoiler to say that the Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, but you’ll hear plenty of details and suspense-filled moments that are bound to surprise,” Becker writes in his introduction. “These include a nuanced view of the hard compromises that had to be made — such as those related to the often-loathed and always radioactive veto power of the permanent five members of the Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.” Listen on Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify and Apple podcast.

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization and the Bonn-based Copernicus Climate Change Service confirmed that July is set to be the hottest month on record on Earth. Tunisia, for instance, experienced up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit on July 24. “Leaders — and particularly G20 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions — must step up for climate action and climate justice,” Guterres said at a July 27 press conference on global warming. 

Friday, July 27

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Carl Skau, the deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the World Food Program (WFP) briefed the press on the agency’s current challenges, including those related to the termination of the Black Sea grain deal by Russia on July 17. “WFP relied on Ukraine, a competitively priced, accessible, and high-quality source of wheat,” Skau said of the fallout. “Despite the war and thanks to the accord, Ukraine remained WFP’s biggest supplier of wheat in 2022” — more than half its supply of the grain. (Since the deal began a year ago, the agency said it had shipped 725,000 tons of foodstuffs to such “vulnerable” countries as Afghanistan, Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.) For now, the agency is buying more grain from the US, Canada and Australia to make up for the loss from Ukraine. So far, the WFP has not been contacted by Russia regarding President Vladimir Putin’s offer this week to send eventually 25,000 to 50,000 tons of its own grain free to six African countries: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Mali, Somalia and Zimbabwe. Egypt told Putin at the Africa-Russia summit this week to revive the Black Sea deal; under it, Egypt had received five percent of total shipments of the exports. [We will keep you updated]  

ICYMI:

• UN Senior Appointments: A new dashboard from the Center on International Cooperation tracking “diversity” at the world body

How Scholarship Can Inform Foreign Policy Better: a new study from the Carnegie Corporation of New York


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the latest coup in West Africa?

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.

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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending July 28
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