UN Weekly Roundup: August 5-11, 2023

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.

Niger military refuses to hand back power

West African regional group ECOWAS said Thursday it has activated its standby military force, after a deadline passed for Niger’s military coup leaders to reverse their actions and reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern for the president and his family, who were reportedly living without electricity, fresh food or water. Guterres reiterated his concern over the health and safety of the president and his family and repeated calls for Bazoum’s immediate, unconditional release and his reinstatement as president. U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk said Friday that Bazoum’s detention could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of international human rights law.

UN warns Sudan at risk of fragmentation if war continues

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Martha Pobee briefed the Security Council Wednesday on the deteriorating situation in Sudan, especially violence in the Darfur region. She warned that the longer the conflict goes on, the greater the risk the country could fragment.

 

Why is Sudan’s humanitarian crisis so underfunded?

Funding gaps are causing major challenges for humanitarians in Sudan, where they hope to reach 18 million of the most vulnerable. Watch this report from Henry Wilkins in Renk, South Sudan.

Syria agrees to allow UN use of 3 border crossings for up to 6 months

The United Nations said late Tuesday that it had reached agreement with the Syrian government on the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey into northwestern Syria. That agreement and a three-month extension on two other crossings means that the U.N. and its aid partners will now have better access to 4 million Syrians living in areas outside government control. But the length of the extensions also means they could run out during the winter months, when needs are at their highest.

Impact of Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal felt in Nigeria

Russia’s exit from the Black Sea grain deal is affecting Nigeria’s effort to become self-reliant in wheat production. The country was already facing production challenges because of climate change and insecurity. Watch this report from Timothy Obiezu in Abuja.

Good news

Guterres welcomed the release of five U.N. staff members who were held in Yemen by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula for 18 months. The four Yemeni and one Bangladeshi men work for the Department of Safety and Security. The U.N. said they all appeared to be in good health. The five were kidnapped in the southern governorate of Abyan as they were returning to Aden from a field mission. Guterres called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

In more good news from Yemen, the U.N. Development Program announced Friday that a complex operation to transfer more than a million barrels of crude oil from an aging and decaying supertanker has successfully concluded, averting fears of a potential environmental disaster. The FSO Safer will now be towed, environmentally cleaned and taken to a green scrap yard for recycling.

In brief

— Türk, the U.N. rights chief, condemned the killing of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio and the injuring of nine other people Wednesday at a campaign rally. He called for a transparent, thorough and independent investigation to hold the perpetrators accountable. “Violence against political candidates is a serious threat to the electoral process and the people’s ability to express their democratic will,” he said.

— The World Bank said Tuesday it is suspending new financing to Uganda following the adoption of an anti-homosexuality law. The bank said eradicating poverty “can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender or sexuality. This law undermines those efforts.” Ugandan officials have expressed concern over the bank’s decision.

— The World Meteorological Organization confirmed Tuesday that the global average temperature for July 2023 was the highest on record for any month. Above-average temperatures and heat waves affected several continents, including Antarctica. WMO scientists warn that the next five years are likely to be the warmest on record.

Next week

The United States has called for an open U.N. Security Council meeting on August 17 to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea and its link to its illicit missile programs. Washington was joined in its request by Japan, South Korea and Albania. It is the first time the council will hold a public session on the rights issue in North Korea since 2017, and U.S. envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it is “long overdue.”

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