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.
Anti-UN protests turn deadly in DRC
The acting head of the United Nations mission in eastern Congo said Wednesday that they would carry out a joint investigation with national police into the shooting deaths of three peacekeepers and a dozen Congolese civilians during anti-U.N. protests this week.
Iraq calls for Turkish troop withdrawal at UN Security Council
Iraq’s foreign minister took his government’s demands Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council, where he sought the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Iraqi territory following a deadly strike on a vacation resort that Baghdad has blamed on Turkish forces. Turkey denies carrying out the July 20 strike, accusing a Kurdish terrorist group.
Calls for repeal of Hong Kong’s National Security Law
A U.N. monitoring committee called Wednesday for the repeal of Hong Kong’s National Security Law (NSL), saying it undermines the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people in the territory. The U.N. Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said it is deeply concerned about the overly broad interpretation of the law, which was passed by the National People’s Congress of China without consultation with the people of Hong Kong.
— Following the signing in Istanbul on July 22 of a package deal to get millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to world markets and remove hurdles to Russian exports of fertilizer and grain, the U.N. says the first grain ships are expected to leave the Ukrainian port of Odesa in the coming days. A joint coordination center (JCC) has become operational in Istanbul and will oversee the movement of commercial vessels carrying grain through safe lanes in the Black Sea.
— The World Health Organization is urging people who may have been exposed to or at risk of monkeypox to get vaccinated against the disease as a preventive measure. Since it declared monkeypox a global health threat last week, the WHO says the disease has continued to spread around the world, with cases topping 16,000 in at least 75 countries. The monkeypox virus is spread from person to person through close bodily contact. It can cause a range of symptoms, including painful sores. Those at higher risk for the disease or complications include men who have sex with men, women who are pregnant, children and people who are immunocompromised.
— WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned this week that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. He said COVID-19 cases and deaths have been on the rise for the last five weeks. Tedros says new tools must be developed to curb the virus, while public health measures that are known to work must be maintained and strengthened, including vaccinations. The latest WHO report puts the number of confirmed global cases at nearly 566 million, including more than 6.3 million deaths.
— The International Criminal Court unsealed an arrest warrant Thursday for a former Central African Republic government minister who is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mahamat Nouradine Adam is accused of committing crimes during his tenure as Minister of Security between March 31 and August 22, 2013, including alleged “acts of savagery” at detention centers in the capital of Bangui. Prosecutors say Adam was involved in torture, persecution, enforced disappearances and cruel treatment of prisoners at these detention centers. Prosecutors say Adam had a prominent role in the Seleka group, which seized power and forced President Francois Bozize to step down from office in 2013. Adam is believed to be moving from country to country within the region.
— The U.N. Security Council on Friday voted to relax a 9-year-old arms embargo imposed on the Central African Republic but stopped short of lifting it as the Bangui government, the African Union and some other regional groups had wanted. The African members of the council – Gabon, Ghana and Kenya – along with Russia and China, abstained in the vote. CAR Foreign Minister Sylvie Baipo-Temon spoke in person at the meeting, saying the embargo is no longer justified. Under the new resolution, the government will be able to get certain weapons, but the sanctions committee must be notified ahead of their delivery. Some non-lethal forms of equipment are no longer prohibited. The embargo is intended to keep weapons out of the hands of rebels, mercenaries and armed groups in the country.
On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. Activists called the adoption “historic” and said it has been 50 years in the making. While General Assembly resolutions are largely symbolic, this one had strong support, with 161 countries voting in favor and none against. U.N. Environment Program chief Inger Andersen said the resolution sends a message that “nobody can take nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate away from us – at least, not without a fight.” UNEP hopes this will encourage governments to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in national legislation and international treaties, as well as give a boost to the work of environmental advocates.
Quote of note
“Anywhere in the world, the act of walking outside your front door is an ordinary part of life. But for many Afghan women, it is an act that is extraordinary. It is an act of resistance.”
— U.N. Women Afghanistan Deputy Country Representative Alison Davidian to reporters on Monday about the challenges women and girls in that country are facing after nearly a year of Taliban rollbacks on their human rights.
What we are watching next week
On Monday, the 10th review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) gets underway at U.N. headquarters through August 26. The treaty aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and further the goal of nuclear disarmament.