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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending March 8

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A woman collecting nets off the coast of Gandia, Spain. A new report, released on International Women’s Day, March 8, focusing on women in fisheries in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, found that women work just under a third of all fishing-related jobs in the area while contending with persistent biases. The report, produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, aims to improve gender equity in the industry. DANIEL MONLLOR MARTINEZ/FAO/GFCM

Welcome to This Week @UN: UN reforms for NGOs; sexual violence on Oct. 7; from A to Z: crimes by Israel. Plus: UNRWA; Haiti; US/Gaza

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A gender reminder: PassBlue is a women-led nonprofit media site that has been reporting on the UN — starting with women’s issues — for 12 years, operating at first with no salaries. Since then, we’ve gotten tremendous support from foundations and thousands of readers globally, and we think we’ve done a damn good job as journalists. On International Women’s Day, the single time of the year when half the world receives special recognition, we encourage you to donate to our cause holding UN officials to account, jumping through hoops in our journey.

Our top story of the week: The Hurdles Keep Growing for the UN’s New Gaza-Aid Troubleshooter, by Damilola Banjo

The month: The Key to Security Council Reform Is Fewer Permanent Members, Not More, by Ian Martin

From PassBlue this week:

NGO Approvals by a UN Committee Could Finally See ‘Long-Overdue’ Reform, op-ed by Maithili Pai and Francisco Pérez

UN Report on Oct. 7 Sexual Violence Documents Far Fewer Incidents Than Israeli Accounts, deep dive by Dawn Clancy

Ending Impunity for the Crimes Against Palestinian and Israeli Civilians, From A to Z, op-ed by Mona Ali Khalil

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works agency, UNRWA, told reporters on March 4, 2024, “obviously, I’m frustrated,” over donors freezing their funding to the organization in light of Israeli allegations that some UNRWA staff participated in the Oct. 7 attacks, without providing any evidence to the UN. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Top UN news:

Monday, March 4

Spokesperson’s briefing: Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) told the General Assembly that the agency has reached a “breaking point” from lack of funding and that it “is facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, and ultimately end them. . . .” from Israel. Lazzarini added: “More blatant, is the Israeli Prime Minister openly stating that UNRWA will not be part of post-war Gaza.” Noting that on its current “disastrous course,” the short-term results will be that the “entire humanitarian response in Gaza will crumble” and the “human suffering will be immense.”

Lazzarini did not delve into the 16 national donors, led by the United States, who have frozen funding to the agency, pending an internal UN investigation into Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staffers participated in the Oct 7 massacre as well as an external review of the agency. Yet interim results of the internal probe, released by the UN on Feb. 29, led to the European Commission allotting approximately $74 million to UNRWA and an additional $89 million of aid to be implemented through UNRWA in 2024. On March 8, Canada said it would reinstate its funds to the agency.

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Tuesday, March 5

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Volker Turk, the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), presented his annual global update to the Human Rights Council, stressing the need to “regain a mindset of peace” as 55 conflicts rage worldwide and “[widespread] violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are generating devastating impact on millions of civilians.” Turk noted that scheduled elections in over 60 countries — where nearly half of the world’s people live — in 2024 could be “a landmark for democratic principles.” Despite his “serious concerns about the human rights context in which several elections are taking place,” including in Libya, India, Russia and the US, “[every] election — even an imperfect one — constitutes an effort to at least formally acknowledge the universal aspiration to democracy.” 

Wednesday, March 6

Spokesperson’s briefing: The head of the UN mission to Haiti (Binuh), María Isabel Salvador, briefed the Security Council privately about the “alarming escalation in gang violence,” according to Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesperson, which has killed 1,193 people in 2024 alone. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry remains locked out of the country as its airports remain closed, and the notorious gang leader Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier continues to call for Henry’s arrest. Humanitarian aid groups note that health centers and schools in Port-au-Prince, the capital, are severely threatened by gang violence. Dujarric said that Secretary-General António Guterres has called for “urgent action, including financing for the Multinational Security Support mission, to tackle the security needs of the people of Haiti.” (The mission, which Kenya agreed to lead last year, has not moved ahead.)

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, told reporters on March 6, not mentioning the Haitian leader being locked out of his country, said: “What we’ve asked the Haitian Prime Minister to do is move forward on a political process that will lead to the establishment of a presidential transitional council that will lead to elections. And we think that is urgent — that it’s urgent that he moves forward in that direction and start the process of bringing normalcy back to the people of Haiti.”

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A member of the Ukrainian Walkyrie, a civilian group offering combat medical training to Ukrainian women, was highlighted by President Volodymyr Zelensky on International Women’s Day. Although women were originally restricted to serving as cooks, seamstresses and cleaners in the country’s military fight against Russia, some Ukrainian women are now involved in combat. 

Thursday, March 7

Spokesperson’s briefing: Replying to reporters’ questions about US plans to build a temporary port off the Gaza coast to bring humanitarian supplies into the strip, Dujarric said that “any way to get more aid into Gaza […] is obviously good,” but that “[our] focus and the international community’s focus should continue to be on increasing the large-scale distribution and entry of aid by land,” which is cheaper and more effective. Dujarric added he is “not aware, as of right now, of any specific coordination by the US with the United Nations on this particular project.” Additionally, Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s new Gaza-aid troubleshooter, said on March 7: “I haven’t seen the final formal announcement yet. I’ve seen press flurries, so to speak. I think we’re still waiting for the formal announcement.”

On March 8, Médecins Sans Frontières said in response to the US statement with the European Commission, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates and Britain announcing the activation of a “maritime corridor” for humanitarian aid: “The US plan for a temporary pier in Gaza to increase the flow of humanitarian aid is a glaring distraction from the real problem: Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate military campaign and punishing siege. The food, water, and medical supplies so desperately needed by people in Gaza are sitting just across the border. Israel needs to facilitate rather than block the flow of supplies. This is not a logistics problem; it is a political problem.”

A tweet summarizing details on the US port plan for Gaza:

Friday, March 8 

Spokesperson’s briefing: At the UN’s International Women’s Day event, UN Women rallied behind the call to “invest in women” to “accelerate economic growth and build more prosperous and equitable societies,” with Guterres adding that the theme “reminds us that ending the patriarchy requires money on the table.” When asked by a reporter about the UN allowing the first three speakers at the event to be men, Dujarric said, “I don’t think you were the only person who felt that irritation.”


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the US Gaza port plan?

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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