UN Recap: November 7-12, 2021

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 staffers detained in Ethiopia 

Ethiopia’s federal government detained nearly two dozen of its nationals who work for the United Nations in the capital, Addis Ababa, earlier this week. More than 70 truck drivers contracted to drive humanitarian assistance into the northern Tigray region for the U.N. and international NGOs were also rounded up in the country’s north. The move comes amid reports that the government is targeting ethnic Tigrayans as tensions rise between the government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

As Diplomatic Efforts Continue, Ethiopian Forces Detain UN Staffers, Truck Drivers 

Tensions simmer on Belarus-Poland border

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council discussed the situation of migrants who have legally traveled to Belarus from the Middle East and Afghanistan in order to migrate into the European Union. The migrants are now camped on the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which accuse Moscow and Minsk of weaponizing the migrants. Russia and Belarus deny they are manufacturing a migration crisis.

Western Nations Condemn Belarus at UN Security Council 

Climate negotiations near finish line

Negotiations at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, are slated to conclude Friday with a new deal among countries to stay on course to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stated in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. As we went online, the U.N. Secretary-General was in Glasgow meeting with negotiating groups, as talks continued and could go beyond the Friday evening deadline.

COP26: Draft Climate Deal Published as Negotiations Enter Crucial Final Hours 

News in brief 

— The United States and China, two of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to cooperate on climate action. This was welcome news at the United Nations.

— On Thursday, Sudan’s top military commander appeared to tighten his grip on power, appointing a new governing council that he will lead, two weeks after the military overthrew the joint civilian-military government. Nationwide demonstrations are expected Saturday against the move, prompting calls from the U.N. on Sudanese security forces to exercise restraint. More than a dozen protesters have been killed since the October 25 coup. 

Some good news 

On her 16th birthday in July 2013, Pakistani-born activist Malala Yousafzai made her U.N. debut. The survivor of a shooting attack on her school bus the year before by the Taliban, she gave a captivating speech on the importance of education for all saying, “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” In 2014 she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2017 she was named a U.N. Messenger of Peace with a focus on girls’ education. Today she is a 24-year-old Oxford University graduate, and on Tuesday announced she had gotten married. The U.N. Secretary-General’s spokesman said, “We are so happy for her. We wish her and her husband a life of joy and happiness.” 

Quote of note

“Now we have over 22 million people marching toward starvation, of which 8.7 million of those are at famine’s door as we speak.”

— World Food Program chief David Beasley, speaking Thursday on Twitter from Kabul airport on the escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 

What we are watching next week

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations embarks on a 5-day trip to the Middle East. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the first Cabinet-level official in the Biden administration to go to Israel since the new government was formed in June. She will also go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders, and then on to Jordan. 

Did you know? 

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also known by its acronym UNESCO, celebrates its 75th anniversary on Friday. The Paris-based agency was established following the end of World War II. The organization aims to build peace through cooperation in the fields of education, science and the preservation of cultural heritage. 


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