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.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy briefs Security Council
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that Russia must be completely isolated internationally for its sham referendums in his country. In a video briefing to the council, he warned such a move would destroy the possibility of any peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskyy to UN: Isolate Russia
On Friday, President Putin held a ceremony in Moscow to officially annex the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in its south. Later in the day, Russia used its veto at the U.N. Security Council to block a resolution brought by the United States and Albania condemning the sham referendums and Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Ukrainian territory. Brazil, China, Gabon and India abstained in the vote.
As this article was published Friday afternoon, the Security Council was about to be briefed on leaks that appeared earlier this week in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines that carry gas from Russia to Europe. Russia requested the briefing. Ahead of the meeting, the U.N. ambassadors of Sweden and Denmark sent a joint letter to the U.N. Security Council president. They said two massive explosions “probably corresponding to an explosive load of several hundred kilos” caused the leaks. They assess “that those explosions are the result of a deliberate act.” The two countries are investigating.
More on the leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline here:
Mystery Leaks from Pipelines Bubble Up in Baltic Sea
Human rights office calls for release of Russian anti-draft protesters
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military call-up last week has sent tens of thousands of Russian men fleeing the country. Thousands of Russians have also taken to the streets in several cities to protest the mobilization of 300,000 men to fight in Ukraine. As of Wednesday, nearly 2,400 protesters had reportedly been arrested. The U.N. human rights office is calling for their release.
UN Calls for Release of Russian Draft Protesters
Secretary-General calls for prompt investigation into death of Iranian woman
Secretary-General Antonio-Guterres called Tuesday for a “prompt, impartial and effective” investigation into the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old woman died in Iranian police custody after she was detained for not covering her hair properly. Massive street protests have erupted in more than a dozen Iranian cities and around the globe following her death, to which security forces have reacted with force. Guterres’ office said he stressed to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on September 22 the need to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The U.N. human rights office also condemned the unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against the protesters.
UN Rights Officials Condemn Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Iran
Security Council considering new sanctions on Haitian gang leaders
Mexico and the United States are working on a draft resolution to sanction the criminal gangs who have been seeking to exploit a political vacuum since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his home in the capital on July 7, 2021. Haiti’s foreign minister welcomed the action at a council meeting on Monday. The gangs have paralyzed the Caribbean nation, terrorizing civilians, blocking main roads and looting aid warehouses.
UN Security Council Considering Sanctions on Haitian Gang Leaders
— Secretary-General Guterres deplored a powerful suicide bombing Friday that ripped through a packed classroom in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, killing and injuring more than 60 mostly female students of the Hazara Shia minority. Guterres said the Taliban must “protect the rights of all Afghans — regardless of ethnicity or gender — to access education safely and securely.” UNICEF said in a statement that schools must be “havens of peace” and the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said “education must be prejudice and violence-free.” There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
— The U.N. chief also condemned Monday’s deadly attack on a convoy carrying vital supplies to the town of Djibo, in Burkina Faso. The attack happened near Gaskinde, in Burkina’s Sahel region. Eleven troops, who were among those escorting the aid convoy, were killed and dozens of civilians are missing. Armed groups affiliated with al-Qaida and Islamic State terror groups operate in the area. Burkina Faso is in dire humanitarian condition, with nearly a fifth of the population in need of assistance. As of June, 1.5 million people were displaced from increasing insecurity in the country.
— The General Assembly on Tuesday approved U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi for another 2.5-year term. Grandi served his first five-year term from January 2016-2020. When the secretary-general wanted to recommend his reappointment for a second five-year term, Grandi suggested a shorter one, but has since agreed to extend to the full five years. His tenure will now continue through December 31, 2025.
— The World Health Organization said Tuesday that cases and fatalities are rising quickly from a highly contagious strain of the Ebola virus in Uganda. On September 20, WHO declared an outbreak from the Sudan virus (SUDV) in the country. It is the first time in 10 years that strain has been detected in Uganda. As of September 25, WHO recorded 36 confirmed and probable cases in three districts. There have been 23 deaths.
— Thursday was the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. The U.N. Environment Program says more than 930 million tons of food waste were generated in 2019 — about 20% of available food. The waste levels are similar in rich and poor countries alike. Food waste has serious implications for global hunger, but also for climate change. The U.N. says the food waste is responsible for 8-10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
On Tuesday, Ukraine surpassed the 5 million metric ton milestone via the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has helped to start moving 20 million metric tons of grain that had been stuck for months in silos and on ships due to Russia’s blockade. By Friday, that number had reached 5.5 million metric tons. The grain and other food stuffs have been credited with gradually easing international food prices.
Quote of Note
“It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It is a dangerous escalation. It has no place in the modern world. It must not be accepted.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday condemning Russia’s announced intention to officially annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The Kremlin went ahead and did it on Friday anyway.
What we are watching next week
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to vote on a resolution presented by the United States condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The move follows a report released by former High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in the final minutes of her term, which concluded that there were “credible” allegations of widespread and serious abuses of the Uyghurs. China has been very vocal in saying the allegations are false.
Have you seen …
The giant mural brightening up the U.N. Dag Hammarskjold Library building? Renowned Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra completed it just ahead of the General Assembly high-level week. It is a gift of Brazil to the U.N. as part of the country’s 200-year independence commemorations. The mural of a man and a little girl holding a greened earth is about sustainable development. It will be on display till the end of the year.