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 chief: We cannot abandon the Afghan people
The U.N. secretary-general warned on Wednesday that Afghanistan is "hanging by a thread," as the organization appealed for a total of $8 billion to scale up humanitarian assistance to more than 22 million Afghans this year.
Norway hosts talks between Taliban and Afghan civil society
Norway hosted three days of talks in Oslo between a Taliban delegation and members of Afghan civil society. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said at the U.N. this week that the meeting did not confer recognition or legitimacy on the Taliban but was "a first step" in dealing with the de facto Afghan authorities to prevent a humanitarian disaster in that country.
Military coup in Burkina Faso
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the January 23 military coup in the West African nation of Burkina Faso that deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and his government. Guterres said the role of militaries must be to defend their countries and people, not attack their governments and fight for power.
The secretary-general's special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, will travel to Burkina Faso this weekend on a good offices mission.
A U.N. team of experts arrived in Lima, Peru, on January 24 to assess the social and environmental impacts of an oil spill linked to the underwater volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in the Pacific island nation of Tonga. The team is specialized in contamination assessment and will advise authorities on how to manage and coordinate their response.
Some good news
World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the agency's executive board on January 24 that if countries change the conditions driving the spread of coronavirus infections, it is possible to end the acute phase of the global pandemic this year. That includes vaccinating 70% of their populations, monitoring the emergence of new variants and boosting testing.
A small but important glimmer of hope in Libya: the U.N. political chief told the Security Council on January 24 that the overall humanitarian situation improved in 2021. Rosemary DiCarlo said the U.N. recorded a 36% decrease in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, from 1.3 million at the start of 2021 to 803,000 by the end of the year. Additionally, about 100,000 of the more than quarter million displaced Libyans returned home last year.
Quote of note
"Were we to observe a minute of silence for each victim, that silence would last more than eleven years."
— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing a virtual U.N. memorial ceremony marking the International Day for Holocaust remembrance on January 27.
What we are watching next week
On January 31, the U.N. Security Council will hold an open meeting to discuss tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The meeting was requested by the United States, and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, "This is just one more step in our diplomatic approach to bring the Russians to de-escalate and look for an opportunity to move forward." The meeting will take place one day before Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the 15-nation council for the month of February.
Did you know?
The ancient Greek tradition of an Olympic truce goes into effect on January 28. It starts seven days before this year's Winter Olympics open in Beijing and continues for a week after the close of the Paralympic Games. The U.N. General Assembly endorsed the truce during a meeting on January 20. The U.N. secretary-general is headed to Beijing for the opening ceremony on February 4.