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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending Nov. 10


The scene at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City after a hit by Israel Defense Forces, Nov. 5, 2023. Four hospitals in the area, including Al Shifa, the largest, were encircled by Israeli tanks on Nov. 10. The International Committee for the Red Cross in Gaza said: “The destruction affecting hospitals in Gaza is becoming unbearable and needs to stop. The lives of thousands of civilians, patients and medical staff are at risk.” PALESTINIAN RED CRESCENT SOCIETY

Welcome to This Week @UN, where we summarize the most important news coming from the organization while promoting our own articles that you may have missed in the last seven days. Thirty-three days into the Israel-Hamas war, 11,078 deaths have been recorded in Gaza so far, including 101 UN personnel, mostly Palestinians. (The death toll in Israel since the Oct. 7 murders by Hamas and affiliated militias has been reduced from initial reports of 1,400 to “around” 1,200.) The entire Gaza enclave has been under an electricity blackout since Oct. 11, and Israeli forces have severed the territory’s north from the south.

For the first time since the war started, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said publicly on Nov. 10 that “far too many” Palestinians have been killed as part of Israel’s retaliations on Hamas. The White House also said this week that Israel has agreed to daily four-hour pauses of military attacks in parts of northern Gaza to let humanitarian aid in and civilians to flee. Humanitarian groups like Doctors Without Borders say that is not enough and urge President Biden to help secure an immediate ceasefire.

Herein, too: our exclusive report on Uyghurs in America plus news on Sudan, Mali and China. And a new video: Why the UN still matters.

Double your donation to PassBlue: Our annual fund-raising campaign is here, giving our readers a chance to make a huge difference to our bottom line: from now through Dec. 31, donations to PassBlue, a nonprofit, women-led news site covering the UN, will be matched up to $1,000. To double your gift, please go here. Without an independent, free press, democracy can be snuffed out. Journalists strive to make sure that never happens. We thank you for your kindness.

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Given the calls by many countries, including the US, for the revival of a two-state solution to the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict, PassBlue is reupping its 2014 article about the Palestinian delegation’s attempts to gain official statehood through the UN Security Council that year. The attempt failed because the draft text did not receive enough yes votes (nine) to succeed; the US voted no, which did not count as a veto.

Sunday, Nov. 5

Why the UN Still Matters: A Conversation With a US Historian and a Canadian Diplomat: Dulcie Leimbach introduces PassBlue’s latest original video: Twenty years after the publication of his seminal book on the establishment of the UN, “Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations,” the American historian Stephen Schlesinger sits with Canada’s UN Ambassador Bob Rae to discuss the legacy of the book and the state of the world institution today. Rae leads the interview, recorded in early September 2023 by a filmmaker and PassBlue freelance writer, Maria Luisa Gambale, as they recount the story of the UN, its greatest defects and both men’s persistent idealism.

Monday, Nov. 6

The UN Chief Must Demand a Full Ceasefire in Gaza and Nothing Less: Moncef Khane, a former UN political affairs and peacekeeping official, calls out Secretary-General António Guterres’s hesitation to overtly appeal for a total cessation of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. “To date, Guterres has not called for a ceasefire, per se, but for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire,'” Khane writes, noting that despite UN personnel and children dying at an unprecedented rate in this conflict, “the UN’s top leadership has yet to demonstrate palpable outrage.”

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Spokesperson’s briefing: Israeli airstrikes hit another Unrwa school in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing 15 people and injuring 70. The UN agency’s shelters in the Palestinian enclave are currently accommodating 700,000 of the 1.5 million people displaced by the Israeli siege, many of whom require immediate medical attention as respiratory illnesses and chickenpox cases spread. Aid trucks continue to deliver food, water, health and hygiene supplies into Gaza, but “the entry of fuel — which we’ve been telling you is desperately needed — is still not allowed” [by Israel], UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said. Guterres announced the launch of a flash appeal for an estimated $1.2 billion to meet the “surging needs” of 2.7 million Gazans through the end of the year. (The appeal’s tally has not been publicly announced, although Japan said on Nov. 10 it was donating $65 million in addition to earlier contributions.) UPDATE: As of Nov. 10, a total of 821 trucks of aid have passed the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

Members of the Afghan Women’s Forum met with Secretary-General António Guterres on Nov. 6 to reiterate the group’s advocacy for Afghan girls’ right to an education and women’s right to work, among other demands.

• The Women’s Forum on Afghanistan met with Guterres at the UN. Chaired by Margot Wallstrom, a former foreign minister of Sweden, the group talked about the dire situation of Afghanistan, especially girls being banned from school and women barred from working. Discussions also focused on the refugee crisis, the role of UN Women in the country, the UN’s political mission there, the upcoming UN assessment report and the rising number of terrorists. The forum reiterated that the UN should not “normalize” relations with the Taliban, given the current situation, and Guterres assured the group that “no recognition” would happen until the Taliban change their policy toward girls’ education and women’s employment. — ASILA WARDAK, forum member

Tuesday, Nov. 7

Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the civil war in Sudan has displaced almost six million people since it broke out in April, with 4.5 million forced to relocate internally, and 1.2 million fleeing to neighboring countries, such as Chad and South Sudan, two of Africa’s poorest countries. Dujarric said the UN agency was “very concerned” for the people in the Darfur region of Sudan, where recent fighting threatens even more displacement and “many do not have access to food, shelter, clean drinking water or other basic essentials.” (See our op-ed on Nov. 9.)

• Indrika Ratwatte of Sri Lanka is the UN’s new deputy special representative for Afghanistan (Unama), resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator, succeeding Ramiz Alakbarov of Azerbaijan.

Wednesday, Nov. 8

Uyghurs Outside China Are Passionately Preserving Their Culture, Despite the Dangers: In an exclusive investigation, Damilola Banjo interviews members of the Uyghur diaspora settled in the US who, as their family members face systemic persecution in China’s Xinjiang region, “have found creative ways to preserve their culture and stay close to their roots.” As one Uyghur-American who owns a restaurant in New York City serving Uyghur cuisine tells Banjo: “I don’t want them to hurt my family members or my friends in my hometown. Anyone I know, they can hurt them.”

Spokesperson’s briefing: A convoy of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (Minusma), composed of 848 troops, finally reached Gao, in the north, on Nov. 8, after leaving Kidal, farther north, on Oct. 31, Dujarric said. The arrival “marks the closure of the UN Peacekeeping’s eighth base out of a total of 13 bases.” Despite being forced into an “accelerated withdrawal” from the UN’s now-vacated base in Kidal, due to the deteriorating security situation in the region, Minusma was not granted flight escort by Malian authorities or given clearance to use their own aircraft to leave, making the journey for the peacekeepers (from Bangladesh, Chad, Guinea and Nepal) even riskier. Their road journey included six encounters with IEDs, which injured a total of 37 peacekeepers; “all — thank God — have been discharged or are in stable condition,” Dujarric added. (Minusma must exit Mali, as mandated by the government’s authorities, by Dec. 31.)

Protesters outside the International Committee for the Red Cross office asking about the organization’s efforts to free the hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian militias in Gaza since Oct. 7. The UN has repeatedly called for their release. TWITTER/X  

Thursday, Nov. 9

UN Security Council Alert: Darfur Civilians Face the ‘Worst’ as Militias Reach El Fasher: Akshaya Kumar, the crisis advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, urges immediate UN Security Council action on Sudan, where, after months of fighting between the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces, a militia with a history of abuse in the country, reached the city of El Fasher in north Darfur. Kumar writes that the UN must “respond to the risk facing the hundreds of thousands of people who have been sheltering in El Fasher, hoping it would be a haven,” but 200 days into the war, “the United Nations Security Council has yet to adopt a substantive resolution grappling with the crisis.”

• Spokesperson’s briefing: About 50,000 people fled to the south of Gaza through a “corridor” opened by the Israel Defense Forces for seven hours, enabling civilians to escape intensifying Israeli attacks in the north “mostly on foot, facing thirst and exhaustion along the way,” Dujarric said, adding that there were “reports of corpses being seen on the road.” At the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza, 106 aid trucks carrying food, water, medicine and hygiene entered on Nov. 8, but the number of trucks allowed in since Oct. 21 “represents only a fraction of what is needed,” he added. (Unrwa opened two more shelters in the south, increasing the total number there to 92, now sheltering 582,000 people.)

• Dujarric also noted that UN headquarters in New York City and its offices worldwide will lower the UN flag to half-mast at 7:30 A.M. EST on Monday, Nov. 13, to “pay tribute to our UNRWA colleagues who have lost their lives in Gaza.” At 9:30 A.M., Guterres will observe a minute of silence in the Economic and Social Council Chamber. As of Nov. 10, 101 personnel from Unrwa have died in Gaza since Oct. 7, the highest number of UN personnel killed in a conflict in the history of the organization, it said.

• Five judges were elected by secret ballot for nine-year terms to the Hague-based International Court of Justice, beginning on Feb. 6, 2024:

Friday, Nov. 10

Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that 18 Palestinians, including a child, were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, 13 of them in the Jenin refugee camp. Additionally, Dujarric said that due to no fuel, some surgical wards and oxygen generation plants in health care facilities have been forced to close in Gaza; however, 12 children with cancer or other blood disorders have been transferred to Egypt for treatment. Essential foods such as rice and vegetable oil are “nearly depleted in the public markets” in Gaza’s south, while flour, dairy products, eggs and mineral water have “disappeared from the shelves in shops.”

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the Geneva-based World Health Organization told the UN Security Council on Nov. 10: Half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are not functioning; surgery is being done without anesthesia; more than 180 women are giving birth daily; and in the last 48 hours, four hospitals have been “put out of action.” The United Arab Emirates noted that the attacks escalated on hospitals in the last two days means that more than 110,000 patients, including children, who suffer severe burn wounds have no access to antibiotics or burn cream. The US, Israel’s closest ally, said: “At the top, let me emphasize that we are closely monitoring the situation at the hospitals in Gaza. We are deeply concerned for the well-being of civilians who are at these facilities, and rely on them for life-saving care and shelter from the violence.”


• The UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Escwa) released a joint “rapid assessment” report, “The Gaza War: Expected Socio-Economic Impacts on the State of Palestine.” As the Gaza war enters its second month, the humanitarian crisis is also a “development crisis,” the report notes, for all Palestinians.

Guy Ryder, undersecretary-general for policy in the executive office of the UN secretary-general, is leading the preparations for the Summit of the Future, slated to be held at UN headquarters in September 2024. On Nov. 3 in Geneva, he explains the process to that conference.

Usaid said it will contribute more than $5 million to “help strengthen the use of data to better anticipate, prevent, and respond to complex risks in crisis-affected settings and rapidly respond to emergencies” through the Complex Risk Analytics Fund. The fund is administered by the UN Secretariat and UNDP’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the attacks on Gaza's hospitals?

Arthur Bassas is a researcher and writer who graduated from St. Andrews in Scotland, majoring in international relations and terrorism. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and speaks English and French.

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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending Nov. 10
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