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.
Alarm at shelling of Ukrainian nuclear plant
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday that a preliminary assessment from his agency’s experts concluded that there was no immediate threat to nuclear safety following shelling around a major nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, but he cautioned that “could change at any moment.” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told the U.N. Security Council that he and a team of experts need to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as soon as possible.
U.N. encouraged by movement of grain ships from Ukraine
The U.N. representative at the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center, which oversees the agreement among Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the U.N. to export Ukrainian grain trapped in Black Sea ports, said Wednesday that 370,000 tons of food stuffs had moved in the first week since the deal was implemented.
On Friday, as we went to press, a U.N.-chartered ship was about to dock at Ukraine’s Yuzhny (Pivdennyi) port to collect wheat purchased by the World Food Program. It is the first shipment of humanitarian food assistance under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the other ships have been fulfilling pre-existing commercial contracts. The 23,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat will go to WFP operations in Ethiopia, that are supporting the massive Horn of Africa drought response, where more than 21 million people face high levels of food insecurity after four failed rainy seasons.
Truce between Israel and Palestinian militants holding, but fragile
U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland told Security Council members Monday from Jerusalem that a tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants was holding. The Egyptian and U.N.-brokered cease-fire went into effect late Sunday, after two and a half days of violence that killed 46 Palestinians, including 15 children. As we went to press Friday, the situation remained calm. It was the worst Israeli-Palestinian escalation in more than a year.
— The World Food Program and the U.N. Refugee Agency, joined by the Ethiopian government, appealed Tuesday for $73 million to provide food rations over the next six months to more than 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia. They warned that the WFP will completely run out of food for refugees by October. A lack of cash has already forced the WFP to cut rations for 750,000 refugees living in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Somali and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.
— The World Meteorological Organization said this week that July was one of the three warmest months globally on record, despite a weak La Nina event, which is supposed to have a cooling influence. Meteorologists warn the heatwave that swept through large parts of Europe last month is set to continue in August. The WMO says Europe and other parts of the world will have to get used to and adapt to the kind of heatwaves WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas calls “the new normal.”
— The International Labor Organization says the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the youth labor market. The organization’s “Global Employment Trends for 2022” report released this week, found that job prospects for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are lagging behind other age groups. The data estimate the total global number of unemployed youths will reach 73 million this year. While that is a slight improvement from 2021 levels, the ILO says the number of young people without jobs is still 6 million above the pre-pandemic level of 2019. Arab states had the highest and fastest growing youth unemployment rate.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that globally, the number of new COVID-19 cases remained stable during the first week of August, as compared to the previous week, with over 6.9 million new reported cases. Weekly deaths were down by 9%, with over 14,000 fatalities reported, as compared to the previous week. The WHO says that as of August 7, there were 581.8 million confirmed cases of the virus and 6.4 million deaths reported globally.
Quote of note
“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing and I hope that those attacks will end, and at the same time I hope that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] will be able to have access to the plant and to exercise its mandated competencies.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to reporters in Tokyo Monday, responding to a question about shelling around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
What we are watching next week
August 15 will mark one year since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The United Nations has warned that the country’s economic and financial crisis, as well as severe drought, has left more than 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has also criticized the Taliban for reneging on its pledge not to roll back the rights of women and girls, which it has done.
Did you know?
The U.N. secretary-general received the gift of a horse named “Hope” in Mongolia during a visit there this week that highlighted that country’s commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Mongolia, known for its vast steppes and deserts, has also embarked on the goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2030. Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said that Hope the horse would remain in Mongolia, where she would be well-cared for.