UN Weekly Roundup: June 11-17, 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.
UN human rights chief won’t seek second term
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Monday that she will step down when her term finishes at the end of August. The news was welcomed by China rights activists, who have criticized Bachelet for failing to more forcefully criticize Beijing’s incarceration of nearly 2 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang, including during her recent visit to China.
Activists Welcome UN Rights Chief’s Decision to Step Down
Truce eases Yemen violence, but hunger remains grave threat
U.N. officials said Tuesday that a temporary truce in place across Yemen since April 2 has eased some hardships, but the country is still facing a dangerous food crisis in which 19 million people are going hungry.
Hunger Stalks Yemenis as Truce Eases Some Hardships
UK cancels controversial deportation flight to Rwanda
On Tuesday night, Britain canceled its first deportation flight to Rwanda after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, which decided there was “a real risk of irreversible harm” to the asylum-seekers involved. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has been among critics of the plan. “This is all wrong,” Grandi told reporters Monday.
UK Cancels First Flight to Deport Asylum Seekers to Rwanda
— The heads of six U.N. humanitarian agencies called Thursday on the U.N. Security Council to renew the mandate allowing aid agencies to bring critical food and medical supplies into northwestern Syria from Turkey. The resolution authorizing the cross-border aid operation is due to expire on July 10. Russia has previously opposed renewing it and forced the council to gradually go from four crossing points to just one. The U.N. officials said the operation provides life-saving assistance to 4.1 million Syrians trapped in nongovernment-controlled areas. Damascus would like to see the cross-border operations end, saying all aid distribution should be through the government from inside the country. The U.N. has said such cross-line distribution is insufficient but would like to see it expanded.
— Senior U.N. officials continue to work with Kyiv and Moscow on getting some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain blocked at a port in Odessa to international markets to ease the growing global food crisis. The drop in Ukrainian grain has particularly hurt parts of the Middle East and Africa and has dramatically driven up operating costs for the World Food Program. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters Friday that alternative routes and methods are being sought, “but certainly they are much less efficient than using big ships through the ports.” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday at the U.N. that Washington is looking at helping Ukraine build temporary silos along its border to prevent Russian troops from stealing grain and to make space for the upcoming winter harvest.
— The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, concluded her post this week. In a farewell statement, she said that when she accepted the job two years ago she could not have imagined the Afghanistan she is now leaving. Lyons said she is heartbroken, especially for the millions of Afghan girls who have been denied their right to education and for the talented women told to stay at home by the Taliban authorities. Her replacement is expected to be named soon. On June 23, the Security Council will hold its regular meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.
Quote of note
“We have not seen a single genocide or Holocaust, or anything of that nature, that has happened without hate speech. People do not recognize that what Hitler did with his Ministry of Propaganda that was headed by [Joseph] Goebbels, that really was hate speech at the highest level you can imagine. Official hate speech.”
— Alice Nderitu, U.N. Special Adviser on Genocide, in remarks to reporters Friday ahead of the first International Day for Countering Hate Speech on June 18.
What we are watching next week
Monday, June 20, is World Refugee Day. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said this week in its Global Trends report that the war in Ukraine has pushed global displacement to over 100 million. Watch more here:
World Refugee Day: More than 100 Million People Seek Safety Worldwide