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.
UN chief delivers bleak report on state of the world at Davos
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday that the world is “looking into the eye of a Category 5 hurricane” in terms of the confluence of challenges. Some of his strongest language was aimed at the fossil fuel industry — it was recently reported some executives were aware of the role of their products in climate change 40 years ago. Guterres said, “Some in big oil peddled the big lie.”
At Davos, UN Chief Warns the World Is in a ‘Sorry State’
UN chief: No immediate end in sight to Ukraine war
Guterres also said at Davos that he does not think there will be an end to the Russian war in Ukraine this year. “I do not see a chance at the present moment to have a serious peace negotiation between the two parties,” he said. The secretary-general said the solution needs to be based on international law and the respect of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the conditions for that are not currently ripe. He added that in the meantime, the United Nations is focusing its efforts on lessening the impact of the conflict on both the Ukrainian people and the international community.
Mass graves discovered in eastern DRC
The U.N. said Wednesday that its peacekeepers had discovered two mass graves containing the remains of 49 people in the eastern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, following a series of attacks blamed on a local militia. Six children were among the dead. Peacekeepers discovered the graves during patrols following reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militia over the weekend.
UN Says 49 Bodies Found in Congo Mass Graves
Pakistani children at heightened risk of hunger, disease following historic floods
The U.N. children’s fund warned Tuesday that 4 million children living near contaminated and stagnant waters in flood-affected districts of Pakistan are fighting for survival. UNICEF reports about 1.6 million children were already suffering from severe acute malnutrition and an additional 6 million from stunting before last year’s disastrous floods struck Pakistan, submerging a third of the country.
UNICEF: Millions of Pakistani Children in Flood-Affected Areas at Risk of Dying
Rohingya refugees dying on dangerous sea crossings
The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that it had recorded an alarming rise in the death toll of Rohingya refugees while attempting dangerous sea journeys in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal last year. At least 348 people died or disappeared while fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh by sea in 2022, making it one of the deadliest years since 2014.
Alarming Rise in Deaths of Rohingya Refugees Fleeing by Sea
— Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, U.N. Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, and Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations made a four-day mission to Afghanistan this week, where they met with Taliban officials. The U.N. delegation visited Kabul, Kandahar and Herat and delivered a message to the de facto authorities on the need to uphold human rights, especially for women and girls. In the most recent of a string of decrees limiting the rights of Afghan females, the Taliban banned women from working for national and international nongovernmental organizations, a move that has undermined the ability of humanitarian groups to reach the needy. They have also cut off girls from university and secondary schools and restricted their movement outside the home. Ahead of their mission to Afghanistan, the U.N. officials made several stops in Muslim nations across the Persian Gulf and Asia to rally their support.
— In the nearly six months since it was created, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has facilitated the export of more than 18 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs to 43 countries, the Joint Coordination Center that runs the operation said Wednesday. Nearly half of the wheat exported has been shipped to low- and lower-middle-income countries. The World Food Program has purchased 8% of the total wheat exported under the initiative to support its humanitarian operations.
— A joint analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and Lebanon’s Ministry of Agriculture found that about 2 million people in Lebanon, including 1.29 million Lebanese residents and 700,000 Syrian refugees, are facing food insecurity. The situation is forecast to worsen in the coming months. Lebanon is facing a severe economic and currency crisis and has had only a caretaker government since May. It recently lost its right to vote in the U.N. General Assembly because it has been unable to pay its back dues.
— The U.N. staff union said Friday that at least 32 peacekeeping troops and police were killed in deliberate attacks last year. The U.N. stabilization mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, was the deadliest for peacekeepers for the ninth consecutive year, with 14 deaths. The mission in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, suffered 13 deaths. Four peacekeepers were killed in the Central African Republic Mission and one in Lebanon. The killing of U.N. peacekeepers may rise to the level of a war crime. The staff union called for accountability for their deaths.
On January 27, the U.N. will hold its annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. Speakers will include the secretary-general, as well as Holocaust survivor Jacques Grishaver of the Netherlands. Holocaust historian professor Deborah Dwork will deliver the keynote address. Musician Michael Shaham will perform on a “Violin of Hope.” It is the first time since 2020 that the commemoration will be conducted in person.