UN Weekly Roundup: October 1-7, 2022

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.

Security Council discusses DPRK missile launch

Japan and South Korea urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to send a “clear and unequivocal” message to North Korea, following its latest launch of a ballistic missile that flew over Japan. Tokyo’s ambassador, Kimihiro Ishikane, said “silence is not an option,” in response to Pyongyang’s test-firing on Tuesday of a reported intermediate-range ballistic missile. The launch violates numerous Security Council resolutions. North Korea responded by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea as the council met in New York.

Japan, South Korea Urge UN Security Council Response to North Korea

China escapes Uyghur debate at rights council

The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council rejected a resolution on Thursday to hold a debate next year on alleged human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region by a narrow margin of 19 votes against, 17 in favor and 11 abstentions. The move follows a report released by former High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in the final minutes of her term on August 31, which said there were “credible” allegations of widespread and serious abuses of ethnic Uyghurs that could constitute crimes against humanity. China has been very vocal in saying the allegations are false.

UN Council Rejects Uyghur Resolution on China by Narrow Margin

Appeals for humanitarian corridor in Haiti

The United Nations and humanitarian agencies called Thursday for the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor in Haiti to allow fuel to be accessed at the country’s main fuel terminal. The Varreux Terminal, which is Haiti’s main entry point for fuel, has been blocked by armed gangs since mid-September, causing widespread fuel shortages that have led to power shortages, hospital closures and obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid.

UN Appeals for Humanitarian Corridor to Access Haiti Fuel

In brief

— The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia from kidney injuries may be linked to contaminated cough and cold syrups made by an Indian drug manufacturer. The agency is investigating along with Indian regulators and the manufacturer, New Delhi-based Maiden Pharmaceuticals.

WHO says the four products are Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup. Laboratory analysis of samples from each product confirms that they contain “unacceptable amounts” of diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol that can be fatal. WHO says the four medications have been identified in Gambia, but may have been distributed, through informal markets, to other countries or regions.

— The World Trade Organization forecast this week that global trade growth will slow sharply to 1% in 2023, down from an expected high of 3.5% this year. WTO economists say trade has played a key role in keeping the global economy running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While merchandise trade plunged amid lockdowns in 2020, it subsequently rebounded. But multipronged crises, including the war in Ukraine, continue to disrupt supply chains. Fiscal and monetary policies and inflationary pressures are also causing energy and commodity prices to rise.

— The General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution by consensus expressing solidarity and support to the people and government of Pakistan in the aftermath of catastrophic floods that the government says have affected 33 million people. Monsoon flood waters submerged a third of the country and killed at least 1,500 people. WHO says there are now outbreaks of malaria, cholera and dengue. The U.N. appealed on October 4 for $816 million to assist 9.5 million people, but has received only $89.8 million so far, or 11% of the appeal.

— The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution Friday deciding to appoint a special rapporteur on human rights in Russia for one year. In a vote of 17 in favor, 6 against and 24 abstentions, the council also strongly urged the Russian authorities to comply with all their obligations under international human rights law. The special rapporteur is mandated to collect, examine and assess relevant information, make recommendations and present a report a year from now. Russia was suspended from its membership on the HRC in an April vote in the General Assembly because of its invasion of Ukraine.

— On Tuesday, the U.N. refugee agency announced that former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the winner of this year’s Nansen Award. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Merkel displayed great moral and political courage by helping more than a million refugees survive and rebuild their lives. As chancellor, Merkel provided a haven to refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Syria in 2015 and 2016, when other countries were turning them away. She will be presented with the award, which has a $150,000 cash prize, at a ceremony in Geneva on October 10.

Good news

This week, Sierra Leone became one of the first countries in West Africa to introduce and roll out the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine as part of routine immunizations. Cervical cancer is the second-most frequent cancer among women in the country. More than 500 women are diagnosed annually and 75% of them end up dying from the disease. UNICEF and the World Health Organization supported the authorities to launch a nationwide campaign to target over 150,000 10-year-old girls through schools with two doses over six months. The United Nations Population Fund is also supporting the efforts and ensuring support for vaccination storage.

Quote of Note

“Civil society groups are the oxygen of democracy, and catalysts for peace, social progress and economic growth. They help keep governments accountable and carry the voices of the vulnerable into the halls of power. Yet today civic space is narrowing across the world.”

— Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulating the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winners. The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that it has honored Ales Bialiatski, a human rights advocate from Belarus, and two human rights organizations, one in Ukraine and one in Russia.

What we are watching next week

On Monday, the president of the general assembly will reopen the 11th emergency special session which focuses on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Member states will discuss the attempted annexation by Russia of four parts of Ukraine. The discussion could take a few days. Then they will be asked to consider a European Union-drafted resolution that condemns and declares void under international law Russia’s organization of so-called referendums in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and their attempted illegal annexation. Already, a showdown appears to be brewing over whether it will be a public, recorded vote (which the drafters are asking for) or a secret ballot (which Russia wants). Secret ballots are normally used for elections in the general assembly, but U.N. legal guidance from 1977 says they can be used for other matters if states agree.

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