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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending June 21

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South Sudanese refugees living in Uganda mark World Refugee Day, wearing their country’s colors, June 20, 2024. New data show an unprecedented number of 120 million “forcibly displaced” people globally, according to the UN. YONNA TUKUNDANE/UNHCR

Welcome to This Week @UN: Sudan’s UAE accusations; prostitution vs. sex work; Ukraine peace summit; top UN jobs. Plus: Small arms; Greece; HIV/AIDS; pollution; Gaza.

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Our #1 story this week: Sudan Steps Up Accusations Against the UAE at the UN

The month: Sudan Steps Up Accusations Against the UAE at the UN (Damilola Banjo hits the jackpot)

From PassBlue this week:

Sudan Steps Up Damning Accusations Against the UAE at the UN, by Damilola Banjo, with reporting by Joe Penney and Jessica Le Masurier

Prostitution: Righting a Wrong at the UN, op-ed by Jessica Neuwirth

Blue Smoke: Time Is Running Out, by The Blue Smoke Team

The Ukraine Peace Summit Must Now Become a Great-Powers Summit, op-ed by Tapio Kanninen

Top UN news:

Monday, June 17: The UN was closed for Eid Al-Adha.

Tuesday, June 18

Spokesperson’s briefing: Izumi Nakamitsu, who runs the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), delivered remarks on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres at the fourth review conference at the UN headquarters on small arms and light weapons, calling it a “critical opportunity” to address the “vital importance of small arms control in preventing conflict and sustaining peace.” The New Agenda for Peace, Nakamitsu noted, recommends ways “to strengthen national, regional and global arms control efforts on both the supply and demand side.”

• Asked by reporters whether Guterres would authorize an inquiry into media reports of Greek coast guards throwing refugees offboard while zip-tied, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has asked Greek authorities for “a full and effective investigation” into reports of “summary forced returns, some of which have reportedly resulted in the loss of human lives.” Haq said Greek officials have begun probes but have given UNHCR “little information about their progress or outcome.”

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Wednesday, June 19

Spokesperson’s briefing: Amina Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general, said that three-quarters of people with HIV are receiving lifesaving treatment and that access to antiretroviral therapy has “expanded massively” across sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia/Pacific region, where 80 percent of those with HIV live.

Unicef and the Health Effects Institute, a US-based nonprofit, released a joint report saying that air pollution has become the “second leading global risk factor for [human] death,” accounting for 8.1 million fatalities in 2021, and the “second-leading risk factor” for deaths after malnutrition of children under five years old, who are “especially vulnerable” to health effects such as premature birth, low birth weight, asthma and lung diseases. Deaths of 700,000 children in that age group were linked to air pollution in 2021, 500,000 of them connected to household air pollution due to cooking indoors with polluting fuels, mostly in Africa and Asia.

• The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report: “Israeli use of heavy bombs in Gaza raises serious concerns under the laws of war.”

Thursday, June 20

Spokesperson’s briefing: OCHA) reports that “access constraints continue to severely undermine the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance and services across Gaza,” noting that between June 1-18, only 28 of the 61 humanitarian aid deliveries to northern Gaza were facilitated by Israeli authorities, 8 were denied access, 16 were impeded and 9 were “canceled due to logistical, operational or security reasons.” Asked how the recent announcement by Israel of “tactical pauses” affected humanitarian operations in Gaza, Haq said the UN is “encouraged” by the temporary halts, but “a lack of public order” makes it “hard to confirm that aid is getting to the people who need it.” [UPDATE, June 21: Haq said that the World Food Program, which handles offloading aid from the US-pier near Gaza (which reopened on June 20), can’t “resume” activities there because of security problems]

Friday, June 21

• Spokesperson’s briefing: Roza Otunbayeva, Guterres’s special representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council that meetings between the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (Unama) and “hundreds of Afghans, especially women,” revealed a “broad agreement” that the Taliban should attend the third UN-led Doha meeting, but that “there should also be no recognition of the de facto authorities until the issues of women’s rights, girls’ education, and an acceptable constitution were broadly addressed.” Otunbayeva noted the continuing denial of education for women and girls and restrictions in their movements, which are causing growing depression, among other problems.

• Haq, UN deputy spokesperson, said that María Angela Holguín, UN personal envoy for Cyprus, is planning to meet with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders separately offe the island “in the coming weeks.” Our related story.


We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on how Afghan women and girls are treated by the Taliban?

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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