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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending June 14


event to “promote and develop the talent and skills of persons with disabilities through Italian cuisine
The Italian mission to the UN held an event to “promote and develop the talent and skills of persons with disabilities through Italian cuisine” on June 12, at the UN headquarters. The participants cooked national specialties for a buffet lunch. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

Welcome to This Week @UN: Small states financial reform; US presidential candidates; Cyprus unification? Plus: Gaza; drowning migrants; DPRK; children in war; FGM.

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We have begun fund-raising to boost our coverage of the UN General Assembly annual opening session in September, including reporting on the Summit of the Future. Every year, we invest heavily in our focus on the UNGA, as it’s known, to tell the world what happens at this weekslong gathering where global leaders meet and discuss international, regional and bilateral matters — to schmooze, as we say in New York City. We encourage your tax-deductible donations to ensure our best coverage ever this September.

From PassBlue this week:

Small Island States Press for Global Financial Reform, Tired of Being ‘Serfs,’ part of our small states series, by Dawn Clancy

The US Presidential Candidates’ UN and Foreign Policy Stances, by Laura E. Kirkpatrick

The Divided Island of Cyprus Has a New Chance to Unify. One Side Seems Ready, part of our small states series, by Dulcie Leimbach

Top UN news:

Monday, June 10

Spokesperson’s briefing: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israel‘s military operation in Gaza’s Nuseirat internally displaced persons camp on June 8 “overwhelmed the already limited capacity of hospitals,” in Deir al Baleh and Khan Younis. Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said a UN interagency mission that day found that Al Aqsa hospital in Deir was dealing with about 700 patients — nearly five times the capacity for in-patient services — with only one generator operating. Moreover, many displaced families in Gaza are “forced to rely on dirty sea water for their daily needs,” said the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). And the World Food Program (WFP), the UN’s “logistics arm” in Gaza, is “temporarily pausing operations” at the US-built humanitarian pier delivering aid into the enclave “until a thorough assessment of the security situation is conducted to ensure the safety” of its staff and partners. (UPDATE, June 14: The review is continuing.) US Central Command said the pier was “not used” in Israel’s military operation in Nuseirat.

• The Security Council approved a US-led resolution calling for yet another ceasefire in Gaza (14 yes; 1 abstention, Russia). The resolution is premised on the latest iteration of a proposed peace plan between Israel and Hamas, announced on May 31 by President Biden and yet to be agreed on. After the Council vote, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy, said: “Colleagues, today, this Council sent a clear message to Hamas: Accept the ceasefire deal on the table. Israel has already agreed to this deal. And the fighting could stop today if Hamas would do the same. I repeat: the fighting could stop today. This Council and countries across the region and the world have endorsed this agreement.”

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Russia said, in part: “We are convinced that the Security Council should not subscribe to agreements with vague parameters, without guarantees of their implementation on the ground, and also without any clear understanding of how the parties feel about them. In essence, the Council is giving carte blanche and endorsing a plan whose details it does not know.”

• Anacláudia Marinheiro Centeno Rossbach of Brazil is the new executive director of UN-Habitat.

The UN led a fund-raiser at the Dead Sea in Jordan for humanitarian aid to Gaza, with Secretary-General Guterres, center, and his top principals in the Gaza assistance domain, June 11, 2024. MOHAMMAD ALI EID ALI/UN PHOTO

Tuesday, June 11

Spokesperson’s briefing: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that at least 49 migrants, including 31 women and 6 children, died and 140 others are missing, after a boat carrying 260 migrants capsized off the Yemen coast on June 10. The IOM said that search and rescue operations are ongoing, and it has dispatched two mobile medical teams “to provide immediate assistance to the survivors,” as the situation is “further complicated” by attacks from the Houthi rebels in Yemen in the Red Sea and counterattacks by the US and UK.

Wednesday, June 12

Spokesperson’s briefing: Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), told the Security Council that the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is “trapping people in unmitigated suffering,” and causing “instability with wider regional ramifications.” In the meeting, led by South Korea, Turk said that widespread repression of freedom of movement, freedom of expression, harsh socioeconomic conditions and persistent forced labor all contribute to the “dire human rights situation” in North Korea and that his agency confirms that forcibly repatriated DPRK citizens “are subjected to torture, arbitrary detention or other serious human rights violations.”

UN diplomats marked the first International Day of Play, June 11, 2024, “to preserve, promote, and prioritize playing so that all people, especially children, can reap the rewards and thrive to their full potential,” the UN said. MARK GARTEN/UN PHOTO

Thursday, June 13

Spokesperson’s briefing: Presenting to the media the UN secretary-general’s annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC), Virginia Gamba, the executive tasked on the subject, said that the “evolving nature, complexity, and intensification of armed conflict, as well as the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, has led to a shocking increase in grave violations committed against children,” in 2023. The report verifies almost 33,000 “grave violations” against 22,557 children last year and blacklists Israel for the first time as well as Hamas, which led the Oct. 7 massacre against Israel with the Palestine Islamic Jihad (also named). Israel’s Foreign Ministry tweeted that the report “is a biased and political report which completely ignores the extensive human rights violations of the Palestinians and Israel’s immense efforts to protect the lives of innocents on both sides.”

Gamba, an Argentine who has held the UN post since 2017, is mandated by the Security Council to implement the monitoring of six grave violations against children. Yet she has never issued an explicit statement on the Gaza war since Oct. 7 regarding her official No. 1 priority: killing and maiming of children. A reporter, for example, asked in the briefing about Gamba’s “relative silence” on the number of Gazan children killed in the nine-month conflict (approximately 16,000 so far), to which Gamba noted “this business of my not being more outspoken or not.” She added, “Clearly, I’ve spoken about it more than seven times” with “issuing public statements that doesn’t seem to register anyway.” But the website of her office, recently reorganized, lists three “recent posts” on the Gaza war’s effects on children plus a joint statement with the Violence Against Children office; two “press releases” on relevant Security Council resolutions and one on famine in Gaza and Sudan; and no “official statements” on the matter.

Gamba has not visited Gaza — which in the course of her work would be appropriate, a predecessor told PassBlue — saying she hasn’t been invited, though she wasn’t clear in the briefing who would ask her: the UN, Israel or the Palestinians? Yet, she said, “I go when I’m asked to go.” In April, PassBlue asked her spokesperson if Gamba had tried to visit Gaza, to which we were told that she hadn’t asked. “The entry into Gaza is limited to immediate and urgent humanitarian operations, which have priority and we are not a humanitarian actor,” Gamba’s spokesperson added. (Despite repeated requests in the June 13 briefing to be called on by the deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, PassBlue was not able to ask Gamba questions.) — DULCIE LEIMBACH

Friday, June 14

Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has found in a new report that although countries have “intensified their efforts” to eradicate female genital mutilation, or FGM, they are being undermined by people traveling to other countries to force girls to undergo the painful, sometimes deadly, procedure. Moreover, attempts are being made to roll back laws against female cutting. Gambia’s landmark ban on the practice, for example, is at risk of being repealed.

Don’t Even Think of Missing This

• Forecast of the Kyiv summit on peace in Switzerland, June 15-16.

• Open letter from Gaza academics and administrators on Israel’s “scholasticide”


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the UN's children in wars report?

Arthur Bassas

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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