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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending Feb. 9

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The United Nations Security Council, above, traveled to Colombia this week to assess the peace process agreement between the government and the FARC militia that was signed in 2016. Here, Council members attending a reception in which the Sons and Daughters of Peace choir sang. COLOMBIA CANCILLERIA/X

Welcome to This Week @UN: Unrwa allegations; the new Pact for the Future. Plus: Senegal; Haiti; Gaza; FGM.

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Our thanks to everyone who has donated to PassBlue, a nonprofit media site, this year. If you haven’t contributed, we suggest $200 as an annual subscription to help boost our budget to pay writers, reporters and editors for their incredible work keeping the UN and the powerful accountable. In an era of growing anarchy, it’s important to remember that transparency is one way to help democracies thrive.

We are excited to publish an investigation with France 24 this week, focusing on Israeli allegations against 12 staffers with the UN Relief and Works Agency, or Unrwa. We thank Jessica Le Masurier, a France 24 correspondent in New York and at the UN, for the collaboration, of which Damilola Banjo contributed for PassBlue and Dulcie Leimbach provided editing. (See below.) The story has been published in English, French and Arabic.

Darsen Hover, a new researcher for PassBlue, participated in a “Road to the Summit” discussion series held in New York City on the UN’s “Pact for the Future Chapter 4: Youth and Future Generations” on Feb. 2. A summary of the event, which was organized by the Baha’i International Community and the Coalition for the UN We Need.

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From PassBlue this week:

• As Donors Suspend Critical Funding to UNRWA, Allegations Against Staff Remain Murky, our deep-dive collaboration with Jessica Le Masurier of France 24 and Damilola Banjo of PassBlue

The Zero Draft to Create a Pact for the Future Has Landed. The Hard Part Begins, op-ed by Florence Syevuo and Dan Perell

Monday, Feb. 5

Spokesperson’s briefing: Catherine Colonna, a French former foreign minister, will lead an “independent Review Group” to assess whether Unrwa, is “doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to the allegations of serious breaches that have been made” in Gaza, said Stéphane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson. The Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Christian Michelsen Institute in Norway and the Danish Institute for Human Rights will work with Colonna to submit an interim report to UN Secretary-General António Guterres in late March, followed by a final report in late April, which will be made public.

• Following the postponement of presidential elections in Senegal, Dujarric said that Guterres hopes that the relevant parties will “uphold a peaceful environment, refrain from violence, and any action that can undermine the democratic process and stability in Senegal and to speedily resolve differences through consensus,” in line with the country’s “long-standing tradition of Democratic governance.” [UPDATE, Feb. 6: The Senegalese Parliament voted to delay the election until Dec. 15]

Tuesday, Feb. 6

Spokesperson’s briefing: On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Guterres appealed for the end of the “egregious violation of fundamental human rights that causes lifelong harm to the physical and mental health of women and girls.” According to the Frontline Women’s Fund, a nongovernmental organization based in New York City, more than 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM across the world; in 2024 alone, 4.4 million girls are at risk of suffering from this “horrific act,” Guterres said. FGM is notably present in the Horn of Africa region, and as climate-induced malnutrition increases, child marriage rates in countries such as Somalia are seeing a steady rise in FGM, too.

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The Sons and Daughters of Peace choir welcoming the members of the UN Security Council to Colombia on their visit, Feb. 9, 2024.

Wednesday, Feb. 7

• In a press conference, Tor Wennesland, the UN coordinator for the Mideast peace process, said that the UN and Israel both know that an attack on the southern Gazan city of Rafah would be “completely catastrophic,” even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his intentions to send his country’s forces into the area in the further quest to wipe out Hamas. Approximately 1.2 million Gazans have sought refuge in Rafah, which abuts the border of Egypt, to escape Israel’s southward military advances over the last four months. The city, along with another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, are the only entry points for humanitarian supplies. [UPDATE, Feb. 9: Netanyahu has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to plan to evacuate civilians in Rafah]

Thursday, Feb. 8

Spokesperson’s briefing: After outlining his priorities for 2024 to the General Assembly on Feb. 7, Guterres told the press that the world was “not sufficiently united and organized to respond effectively” to the many existential threats facing the globe, such as climate change, “unchecked artificial intelligence” and nuclear war. The world is also contending with a “multiplication of . . . geopolitical divides” that prevent peaceful solutions to wars with “global consequences,” such as Ukraine and Gaza. Amid a “breakdown of trust in institutions, in leaders and in governments and multilateral institutions,” Guterres said that the “way to restore trust is by making a real and positive difference in people’s lives.” He added that “much can be done across the board,” but “it will require a serious conversation between developed and developing countries; between rich and emerging economies; between north and south, east and west.” It will also require reconstructing the Bretton Wood institutions and reforming the Security Council.

Asked by a reporter about the “forces that are stopping you from doing your job?,” Guterres said, in part: “And that is my worst frustration. To see suffering at such a large scale and to know that I have not the power to stop it. But it is a reality. I have not the power to stop it. I can raise my voice and I do it. I can sometimes convince, but people need to be willing to be convinced.”

Friday, Feb. 9

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Gang violence in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, has killed or injured more than 1,100 people since January, the deadliest month in the last two years, Dujarric said, as gangs “continue to clash for control of territory and have escalated their activities.” On Jan. 26, a Kenyan judge blocked a Kenyan-led initiative to send a UN-approved multinational force to help quell the violence in Haiti, deeming it unconstitutional to send Kenyan police abroad. The government is appealing the decision. Dujarric was asked if Guterres is “talking to other countries about possibly leading a force?” Reply: “I’m not aware of any other conversations that may be happening. It’s not to say they’re not happening. I’m just not aware. We very much hope that those Member States who can provide funds will provide funds to the trust fund. We hope that those Member States who can provide personnel or equipment to a multinational force will do so. Not everything should be on the shoulders of one country.”

ICYMI:

• The first public statement by Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, on the suffering in the Mideast, including in Gaza, since the Oct. 7 attacks.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the UN's Pact for the Future?

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 Feb. 9
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