UN Weekly Roundup: October 22-28, 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.    

Russia and Ukraine trade allegations at Security Council

Russia called three meetings of the Security Council this week to press its allegations against Ukraine and its Western allies that they are building dirty bombs to use against Russia and to deny that Moscow had received drones from Iran in violation of a Security Council resolution. Western countries said the dirty bomb meetings were a waste of time and accused Russia of using the council to promote Kremlin disinformation. They have asked the U.N. to send investigators to Ukraine to examine drone debris to determine their origin.

In a private session, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Grossi updated the council on his efforts to establish a de-militarized protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The Russian-occupied facility has been repeatedly shelled during the conflict and has raised fears of a nuclear incident or accident.

Difficult winter ahead for millions of Syrians

The United Nations appealed Tuesday for more money and access to needy Syrians, as winter sets in and a cholera outbreak strains limited resources. At least 14.6 million people need assistance – more than at any other time during the 11-year civil war. In January, the U.N. Security Council will consider renewing the authorization for the cross-border aid operation from Turkey into northwest Syria. Russia has long sought to end the operation, and the already difficult negotiations will take place against the backdrop of council divisions intensified by the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a new study of U.N. contracts in Syria found that a large share of donor funds went to companies owned by individuals with troubling human rights records or associated with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The report, by U.K.-based nongovernmental organization Syrian Legal Development Program and the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks, said nearly half of U.N. procurement funds went to “risky” or “highly risky” suppliers.

UNEP: Greenhouse gases need to be drastically cut by 2030

Ten days before leaders meet at the COP27 climate review conference in Egypt, the U.N. Environment Program warned Thursday that the window for preventing a climate catastrophe is quickly closing. The agency’s latest Emissions Gap Report says greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030 to stop climate change. UNEP says the world is falling far short of the Paris climate agreement goals, with no credible pathway for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

Rights expert calls for new strategy on Myanmar

The U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar warns that unless the international community changes how it deals with the military junta in that country, the already catastrophic situation will only get worse. Tom Andrews told VOA in an interview this week that countries should form a coalition to implement a coordinated strategy to deprive the military of arms, fuel for their aircraft, financing and the legitimacy the junta seeks.

He singled out Myanmar’s civil society, human rights defenders and journalists as “heroes” who are risking their lives to document atrocities and deserve international support. The junta, he said, has committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.

More atrocities without peace in Ethiopia’s Tigray

A commission of independent U.N. experts examining rights violations and atrocities in the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said Friday that without an end to the fighting, the risk of further atrocity crimes is growing. The U.N. International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia said that Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan forces have all committed violations in the hostilities that began two years ago, several of which rise to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  

Read more on the humanitarian crisis in Tigray:

WHO: Blockade of Humanitarian Aid to Tigray Puts Millions at Risk of Deadly Diseases

In brief

—  The International Organization for Migration said Monday that at least 5,684 migrants have died on European migration routes since the start of 2021. The agency said the numbers of deaths are rising on routes across the Mediterranean, on land borders to Europe and within the continent. The IOM said this highlights the need for more legal and safe pathways for migration.

— As protests across Iran enter their seventh week, the U.N. said Friday it is increasingly concerned about reports of increasing fatalities. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned “all incidents that have resulted in death or serious injury to protestors” and reiterated that security forces must “avoid all unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against peaceful protestors.” The U.N. has called for accountability and for the Iranian authorities to respect human rights, women’s rights and the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

—  The U.N. has expressed concern about outbreaks of cholera and watery diarrhea in at least 29 countries this year, including most recently, Haiti, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The situation is even more worrying, as the World Health Organization said recently there is a shortage of cholera vaccines due to the high number of outbreaks.

Good news

On Thursday, the governments of Lebanon and Israel signed separate letters with the United States delineating the maritime border, ending a yearslong dispute. The signing took place at the U.N. peacekeeping premises in south Lebanon. The letters will be deposited with the United Nations. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the agreement can promote increased regional stability and enhanced prosperity for both nations. The deal between the two enemies that have fought multiple wars removes a hurdle to each country being able to exploit hydrocarbon fields along the border.

Quote of note

“A war without witnesses, as you know, can be terrible.” 

Radhika Coomaraswamy, a member of the three-person U.N. International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to reporters Friday on the need for access to conflict areas in northern Ethiopia.

What we are watching next week

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council will hold an informal meeting on the weeks of protests in Iran sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The United States and Albania have called the meeting to highlight “the ongoing repression of women and girls and members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Iran.” Briefers will include Nobel Laureate and human rights defender Shirin Ebadi and Javaid Rehman, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

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