UN Weekly Roundup: March 11-17, 2023
Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
Will Ukraine-Russia grain deal continue?
The package deal that facilitates the export of Ukrainian grain, Russian food and fertilizer products to international markets faces another renewal on Saturday. If neither party objects, it will automatically continue. But Russia has said it wants only a 60-day extension, rather than the agreement’s mandated 120 days. Ukraine and Turkey, which helped broker the deal, have both backed the four-month extension.
During a Security Council meeting Friday afternoon on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told council members that the deal is “vital for global food security” and must continue and be fully implemented. He said the U.N. is doing everything it can to make sure the Black Sea Grain Initiative can continue. Under it, Ukraine has exported almost 25 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs from three ports since the deal was signed in late July, while Russia has received assistance in removing obstacles to the export of its food and fertilizer products.
Hague tribunal seeks Putin’s arrest for war crimes
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes for his alleged involvement in the abduction of children from Ukraine.
This comes on the heels of a report published Thursday from an international commission of inquiry that alleges Russia has committed wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine. The report is based on more than 500 interviews as well as satellite images and visits to detention sites and graves.
Special envoy for Myanmar warns no political settlement in sight
The United Nations envoy for Myanmar said Thursday that the prospect for a political settlement to that country’s military takeover is unlikely. “With both sides intent on prevailing by force, there is no prospect for a negotiated settlement,” Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer told the General Assembly in a briefing on the situation.
Nuclear watchdog says uranium missing in Libya
Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday, raising safety and proliferation concerns. The IAEA said it is working to “clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”
Labor study: Essential workers underpaid, ill-treated
A new study by the International Labor Organization finds that essential workers are undervalued, underpaid, laboring under poor working conditions, and exposed to treatment that “exacerbates employee turnover and labor shortages, jeopardizing the provision of basic services.” Data from 90 countries show that during the COVID-19 crisis, key workers suffered higher mortality rates than non-key workers overall, with transport workers being at highest risk.
— The United States, Albania, Japan and South Korea co-hosted an informal meeting of the Security Council, known as an Arria meeting, on Friday to highlight North Korea’s ongoing human rights violations and their link to Pyongyang’s illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs. Two North Korean defectors shared their stories. The hosts pointed to Pyongyang’s use of forced labor to earn revenue and other abuses used to fund its weapons program while its population struggles with food insecurity. China blocked the hosts from airing the meeting on the U.N. website and their representative said the session was not constructive.
— Humanitarian efforts continued this week to assist victims of Cyclone Freddy in Malawi and Mozambique. Search-and-rescue operations continue in Malawi and aid efforts are scaling up as floodwaters subside. Aid workers are mobilizing air transport and boats to ship supplies to areas that cannot be reached by road. In Mozambique, the U.N. is working with authorities to reach more than 49,000 displaced people and access areas that remain cut off by floodwaters. The U.N. says cholera is also spreading and there is a shortage of water purification supplies. On Thursday, the U.N. released $10 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund for cyclone relief.
— The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to renew its assistance mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, for another year. In a second decision, the council was also united in passing a resolution calling on the secretary-general to launch an independent assessment for an international approach to Afghanistan. The panel would report to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by mid-November with recommendations for an “integrated and coherent approach” to dealing with humanitarian, political and development challenges in the country.
— The secretary-general announced the members of his next Youth Climate Advisory Group on Thursday. The seven young climate leaders come from Colombia, Gambia, Ireland, Philippines, Poland, St. Lucia and the United States and will each serve a two-year term. Guterres has said that young people are on the front lines of the climate fight and are central to keeping society on track to meet global goals to slow the planet’s warming. The U.N. says the advisers will work with youth climate movements and leaders around the world to bring youth perspectives and solutions directly to the secretary-general and to major climate decision-making meetings.
March 22 is World Water Day and the U.N. will mark it this year with a three-day conference on charting a course to a more water-secure world. The U.N. says by the end of this decade, the global demand for fresh water is expected to exceed supply by 40%. The conference will look at ways to integrate water and climate policies for current realities. A major outcome is expected in the Water Action Agenda, which will include commitments from governments, businesses, civil society and other groups.