Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
Leaders meet in Egypt to review climate action
On Sunday, the Paris Climate Agreement review conference, known as COP27, got underway. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered the sobering warning that “we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” He said that climate chaos could soon be irreversible if the international community does not hit the target of keeping Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century and reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Watch more on what’s at stake:
US envoy Thomas-Greenfield visits Kyiv
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Tuesday and expressed Washington’s “steadfast” support for the country, which is suffering rolling power blackouts, water shortages and Russian shelling. During her surprise visit, the U.S. envoy visited a granary to highlight the importance of extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative. She also made stops in neighboring Albania and Poland.
Black Sea grain deal discussed
On Friday, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and U.N. trade organization Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan met in Geneva with a high-level Russian delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin. They discussed the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the complementary deal that helps facilitate the unimpeded export of food and fertilizers from Russia. The deal’s initial 120-day period could expire November 19 if a party refuses to renew. Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with the deal and briefly suspended its participation for a few days earlier this month. A senior U.S. official told VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching this week that there would be daunting consequences for global food security if Russia did not renew.
Taliban urged to respect rights of women, girls
The General Assembly called on Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities Thursday to reverse their policies and practices restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls. In a vote of 116 in favor, no votes against and 10 abstentions, it issued a strong call to respect and protect human rights, develop inclusive governance and fight terrorism.
Peacekeeping’s Lacroix in South Sudan
U.N. Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix called for greater efforts to stabilize South Sudan during a visit to the country this week. The country is struggling with a series of challenges, including climate shocks and intercommunal conflicts, which have worsened the humanitarian situation. The U.N. says nearly 9 million people need assistance and 7.7 million of them are acutely food insecure.
— Secretary-General Guterres traveled from COP27 to Cambodia, where he addressed ASEAN summit leaders Friday in Phnom Penh. Of the situation in Myanmar, which is on the agenda, Guterres said the political, security, human rights and humanitarian situation “is sliding ever deeper into catastrophe.” He condemned rising violence and the disproportionate use of force, and warned that indiscriminate attacks on civilians may constitute war crimes under international law. Guterres also repeated his call on the military authorities to release all political prisoners and launch an inclusive process to return to the democratic transition.
— A group of U.N. agencies, including the World Food Program, and partner NGOs appealed Monday for global solidarity in preventing famine in the Horn of Africa. The agencies said nearly 21 million people are highly food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, largely due to two years of unprecedented drought. Nearly 7.5 million children under age 5 are estimated to face acute malnutrition, and child deaths are on the rise. In Somalia, parts of the Bay region are projected to face famine conditions, while several other central and southern areas face a risk of famine by the end of the year. More than 300,000 people in Somalia are already witnessing catastrophic/famine conditions. Humanitarian appeals for these drought response plans are only half-funded, severely limiting the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond.
— U.N. human rights chief Volker Turk on Saturday issued an open letter to the new owner of Twitter, mega-billionaire Elon Musk, urging him to “ensure human rights are central to the management” of the social media platform. He urged Musk to protect free speech and users’ privacy, and prevent the spread of hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence on the platform. The letter came a day after the new Twitter chief fired around 3,700 employees — nearly half the company’s staff — including the entire human rights team and all but two of the ethical artificial intelligence team.
— While the international spotlight is on Egypt as host of the COP27 climate review conference, human rights chief Turk also issued an appeal to Egyptian authorities to immediately release a human rights activist who has been on a seven-month hunger strike. British-Egyptian democracy activist Alaa Abdel Fattah is serving a five-year sentence on charges of publishing false news. He began a partial hunger strike in April to protest his imprisonment and detention conditions and stepped it up on November 1. He has stopped drinking water and his condition has reportedly become more fragile.
— On Tuesday, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations urged the world body to review its handling of any past abuse or sexual harassment allegations against a former U.N. employee who was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail by a U.S. district court last month for the drugging and sexual assault of one victim and making false statements to cover up another sexual assault. According to the indictment, Karim Elkorany, 39, admitted during the investigation that he had drugged and/or sexually assaulted 18 additional victims between 2002 and 2016. Elkorany held communications posts with UNICEF and the U.N. in Iraq from approximately October 2013 until April 2018. The assaults took place in Iraq and the United States. At least one victim reported Elkorany to the United Nations and at least one other victim was a U.N. contractor. A U.N. representative said Wednesday that the U.N. takes accountability for misconduct very seriously and is constantly trying to improve its approach to prevent abuse and ensure accountability.
Quote of note
“I think the biggest challenge is to really communicate that this is not a war between Russia and the United States. It’s not between East and West. This is an attack on the U.N. Charter. It is an attack on the sovereignty of Ukraine, an independent country – on the integrity of their borders.” — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on the message that Washington wants to deliver to G-20 leaders next week, during an interview with VOA’s Myroslava Gongadze in Poland on Wednesday.
Watch the interview here:
On Monday, the General Assembly will resume its special emergency session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands and Ukraine requested the meeting to discuss and vote on their draft resolution recognizing the need for the establishment of an international mechanism for reparations from Russia for Ukraine. The draft, which has 46 co-sponsors to date, also recommends creating a register of damage to record evidence and claims information on damage, loss or injury as a result of Russia’s war. Seventeen countries, including Russia, have requested a debate before the vote.
Read the draft resolution here.