Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
‘Broad agreement’ on deal to export blockaded Ukrainian grain
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday there is “broad agreement” on a deal between Russia and Ukraine, with Turkey and the United Nations, to export millions of tons of Ukrainian grain stuck in silos since Russia’s invasion on February 24. Breaking his silence to speak to reporters at U.N. headquarters, Guterres said important and substantive progress had been made and the parties are getting closer to a comprehensive agreement.
UN Chief Cites ‘Broad Agreement’ on Ukrainian Grain Exports
Cross-border aid operation into Syrian renewed for six months
On Tuesday, after days of difficult negotiations, the U.N. Security Council renewed for an initial six months the mechanism that allows humanitarians to bring about 800 aid trucks a month from Turkey into opposition-controlled areas of northwest Syria. More than 4.1 million Syrians depend on that assistance, but they will face the possibility of losing it in the dead of winter, when, at the insistence of Russia, the council will have to vote again to extend it.
UN Aid Operation to NW Syria Gets 6-Month Extension
Thousands of children maimed, raped or killed in conflicts last year
The United Nations said Monday that thousands of children in war zones suffered grave abuses last year, including rape, severe injuries and death, and that concerns are growing for children in new regions of conflict, including Ukraine. The secretary-general’s report on children in armed conflict verified nearly 24,000 grave violations against children. More than 8,000 were killed or maimed because of conflict; 6,310 were recruited and used in combat; and nearly 3,500 children were abducted, among other violations.
UN: Thousands of Children Suffer Grave Abuses in War Zones
Gang violence driving more Haitians into poverty and hunger
The World Food Program said Tuesday that nearly half of Haiti’s 11.4 million people are facing hunger because of gang violence and soaring food costs. The violence has killed scores of people and made it more dangerous and difficult for farmers to get produce to the country’s markets. Humanitarians are also having to move food by sea and air to parts of the island nation that are too dangerous to reach by road, making aid more expensive and harder to distribute. The Security Council is due to vote late Friday on a proposed resolution that includes a ban on small arms to Haitian gangs and threatens them with sanctions if they do not end the violence. The U.N. says at least 99 people have been killed in recent days.
Gang Violence, Rising Prices, Send Food Shortages in Haiti Spiraling Out of Control
World’s population projected to be 8 billion by November
The United Nations projected this week that the global population will hit 8 billion people by November, and that it will gradually increase to 8.5 billion by 2050, and to more than 10 billion by 2080. That growth will come with significant economic and environmental implications. India is soon expected to overtake China as the most populated nation on Earth.
Continued Global Population Growth Creates Challenges, Opportunities
— Guterres urged leaders in Sri Lanka to embrace a compromise for a peaceful democratic transition, as that country experiences a political and economic crisis that saw President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign and flee the country this week. Guterres said it is important that the root causes of the conflict and protesters’ grievances be addressed. The U.N. says humanitarian needs are on the rise, with nearly 5.7 million people in need of assistance.
— Following the deaths of seven of its peacekeepers in Mali this year, Egypt is suspending its participation in the stabilization mission known as MINUSMA, as of August 15. Egypt is one of the largest contributors of troops and police to the mission, with 1,039 personnel. Most recently, on June 28, two Egyptian peacekeepers were killed in northern Mali and nine others were wounded when their convoy hit an improvised explosive device.
— The U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday that nearly two-thirds of refugees who fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in late February plan to stay in their host country in the coming months. That compares with 16% who said they plan to return to Ukraine. Another 9% said they would go to another host country, while 10% were uncertain. Refugees said their most urgent needs are cash, jobs and housing. UNHCR estimates that at the end of June there were at least 5.5 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe, with another 7.1 million people displaced within Ukraine.
— The World Health Organization and the U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said Friday that 25 million children missed out on one or more doses of routine vaccinations last year. The report attributed the decline to factors including increased misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19-related disruptions. UNICEF said it is the largest sustained disruption in 30 years and the consequences could be deadly for many children.
Botswana is set to become the first country in Africa to achieve the 95-95-95 target of diagnosing 95% of HIV-positive individuals, providing them antiretroviral therapy and achieving viral suppression. The southern African nation is eight years ahead of the 2030 target date. The U.N. says a recent survey found 93% of people living with HIV in Botswana are aware of their status and 97.9% of them are receiving antiretroviral therapy. Of that group, 98% have achieved viral load suppression to reduce the amount of HIV to an undetectable level, which also helps prevent transmission.
Quote of note
“In a world darkened by global crises, today, at last, we have a ray of hope.”
— Guterres on Wednesday, welcoming news from Istanbul that a deal is nearing completion on exporting Ukrainian grain that Russia has blocked in the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa.
Monday, the U.N. will commemorate Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will deliver the keynote address in the General Assembly. He will be accompanied by his wife, Meghan Markle. The day is also marked with community service to honor the late South African leader. On what would have been Madiba’s 104th birthday, U.N. participants will do their good works at the Thomas Jefferson Park in New York’s neighborhood of East Harlem.