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 launches record humanitarian appeal for 2023
The United Nations launched a $51.5 billion appeal Thursday for humanitarian needs in 2023. Needs are the highest they have ever been, with 339 million people in 69 countries requiring some form of humanitarian assistance. That’s 65 million more people than at the start of this year. The U.N. and its partner agencies hope to reach 230 million of those most in need in 2023. U.N. Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that 2022’s extreme events are spilling into next year, including deadly climate events such as droughts and floods, and the impact of the war in Ukraine. More than 100 million people are displaced globally and 828 million people are facing severe food insecurity. Famine is a real risk for 45 million of them. So far this year, donors have provided $24 billion as of mid-November, but the funding gap stands at 53% with just three weeks left in the year.
EU chief calls for UN-backed tribunal on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called Wednesday for a special U.N.-backed court to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression against Ukraine. The U.N. secretary-general’s spokesman said any decision to establish such a tribunal, with or without U.N. involvement, rests with member states. But creating such a court may be difficult.
EU Calls for Special Russia Aggression Tribunal May Be Tough to Realize
Watch this explainer on how Russians accused of war crimes in Ukraine could face prosecution: Video Explainer: How Could Russians Accused of War Crimes in Ukraine Face Prosecution?
Russia donates 260,000 tons of fertilizer to African nations
Russia has donated 260,000 metric tons of fertilizer it produced that was sitting in European ports and warehouses for use by farmers in Africa, the United Nations said Tuesday. The U.N. welcomed the move, saying it would help alleviate humanitarian needs and prevent catastrophic crop loss in Africa. World fertilizer prices have surged 250% since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia Donates 260,000 Tons of Fertilizer to Africa
UNESCO warns Australia’s Great Barrier Reef at risk from climate change
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, said Tuesday that “a rapid escalation of corrective measures” is needed to safeguard the future of the country’s Great Barrier Reef. The 2,300 kilometer reef runs along Australia’s northeastern coast and is home to 9,000 known species of marine life. In a report, UNESCO said Australia had failed to adequately address climate change and other key threats, including poor water quality and over-fishing. UNESCO’s World Heritage committee will consider next year whether to recommend the reef be listed as “in danger.”
UN Warns Australia Over Health of Great Barrier Reef
— UNAIDS said in a report to mark World AIDS Day on December 1 that gender inequalities are holding back the goal of ending the virus by 2030. Watch this VOA report about women at risk in South Africa: African Women and Girls Most at Risk of HIV
— U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Turk called on Myanmar to suspend all executions and return to a moratorium on the death penalty Friday, following reports that more than 130 people have now been sentenced to death by secret military courts since the February 2021 coup. At least seven university students were also sentenced to death by a military court on Wednesday and as many as four youth activists were reportedly sentenced to death on Thursday. The U.N. human rights office said it is seeking clarification of those sentences. The high commissioner said the military is using the death penalty as a political tool to crush opposition and it shows their disdain for the efforts of regional bloc ASEAN and the international community in trying to end the violence and start a political dialogue.
— The International Labor Organization said in a report Wednesday that real monthly wages have fallen significantly in many countries, hurting low-wage earners the most. The ILO estimates that global monthly wages fell in real terms to minus 0.9% in the first half of 2022, making it the first time this century that real global wage growth has been negative. The organization attributed the decline to global inflation combined with the slowdown in economic growth, due in part to the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis.
— The U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, told reporters Wednesday that as temperatures begin to drop and snow will soon make many roads impassable, it’s urgent to pre-position humanitarian assistance across the country. Funding shortfalls are making that difficult, as the $4.4 billion humanitarian response is just under half funded. He said 6 million Afghans are a step away from famine levels of hunger and 25 million people overall need some form of assistance. Alakbarov said $768 million is needed to complete winter preparedness — $614 million by the end of this year.
— An inter-agency convoy of 16 trucks carrying 482 metric tons of food and other humanitarian supplies, crossed conflict front lines from Aleppo into Sarmada in northwest Syria on Wednesday. The U.N. said it is the ninth such cross-line convoy since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2585 in July 2021. While important, the U.N. says cross-line convoys are currently unable to replace the massive cross-border operation from Turkey into northwest Syria, which reaches 2.7 million people each month. That operation is up for renewal next month and is likely to face a contentious negotiation, as Russia and the regime in Damascus, have been opposed to its continuation for the last few years.
Quote of Note
“Peace is never easy — but peace is always necessary.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking to reporters Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the African Union-U.N. annual conference.
What we are watching next week
Let’s be honest … football. With the whole world represented at the United Nations, there is definitely some serious World Cup fever going on in Turtle Bay. As the field shrinks to 16, the excitement is growing.