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.
Ukrainian sites flooded following blast at dam
On Tuesday, a major dam in southern Ukraine was blown up, resulting in flooding that has displaced thousands, destroyed crops and killed livestock, and potentially dislodged landmines and unexploded ordnance that could now pose hazards to the general population. Ukraine and Russia accused each other of being behind the blast at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam, which is under Russian control. The dam also provides water upstream to cool reactors at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop. The U.N. has been assisting the affected region with humanitarian aid, including clean drinking water. The U.N. Security Council met late Tuesday in an emergency session at both Ukraine’s and Russia’s insistence. Ukraine’s president visited the region Thursday, calling for a scaled up international response.
300 children rescued from Sudanese orphanage
The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said Thursday that nearly 300 children were safely relocated from an orphanage in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to a transit center in a safer location. The International Committee for the Red Cross facilitated the evacuation of the children and their caretakers. At least 70 children had reportedly died at the Mygoma orphanage since fighting began April 15. Read more from The Associated Press:
Food aid diverted in Ethiopia
The World Food Program said Friday that it is speeding up efforts to roll out improved safeguards and controls to ensure humanitarian food aid reaches the people it is intended for in Ethiopia. WFP’s announcement follows a joint statement by Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry and USAID about revelations of food aid diversion in the country. WFP paused food distributions in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in April, after evidence of significant food aid sales in local markets. In a statement, WFP said while it has temporarily halted food aid assistance in Ethiopia, it has continued nutrition assistance to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, school meals programs, and activities for building the resilience of farmers and pastoralists. More than 20 million people across Ethiopia need food assistance this year.
Tanzanian peacekeepers repatriated after sexual abuse and exploitation scandal
The United Nations said Friday that it is sending home a unit of 60 Tanzanian peacekeepers from the Central African Republic after a preliminary investigation found credible evidence that 11 of them allegedly sexually exploited and abused at least four victims. It is not the first time peacekeepers from MINUSCA have been implicated in such abuses.
Five new members elected to U.N. Security Council for 2024-25
The U.N. General Assembly approved five new members for two-year terms on the organization’s powerful 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday. Slovenia routed Belarus 153 to 38 for the only contested seat. Algeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and South Korea will start their terms on January 1, 2024.
— The U.N. Mission in South Sudan said at least 13 people have died and more than 20 were injured during an outbreak of intercommunal fighting at a protection of civilians site in Malakal, in Upper Nile State on Thursday. Some of the injured were treated at the U.N. mission’s hospital. The U.N. said the violence erupted following a stabbing at the site, which houses more than 37,000 displaced persons. Doctors without Borders put the toll higher, saying that 20 people were killed and 50 injured, including two of their staffers who live in the camp.
— In Mali, one U.N. peacekeeper from Burkina Faso was killed Friday near Ber town in the Timbuktu region and eight others were seriously injured during an improvised explosive device attack that was followed by direct gun fire. Terrorists and armed groups frequently attack peacekeepers in Mali; nine have died so far this year.
— The United Nations rejected the designation of U.N. envoy Volker Perthes as persona non grata by Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan this week. A U.N. spokesperson said that “the doctrine of persona non grata is not applicable to or in respect of United Nations personnel, and its invocation is contrary to the obligations of states under the Charter of the United Nations, including those concerning the privileges and immunities of the United Nations and its personnel.” Perthes is presently traveling outside Sudan.
— This week, the U.N. headquarters’ host city, New York, experienced heavy smoke and hazardous air quality levels from wildfires burning to the north in Canada. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted about the link between rising global temperatures and the need to reduce wildfire risk.
Secretary-General Guterres welcomed the announcement Friday that the government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have agreed to a six-month bilateral national cease-fire and a mechanism to define the participation of Colombian society in the peace process. The U.N. chief said these are important steps forward that send hope to the Colombian people, especially the communities that are most impacted by conflict. President Gustavo Petro of Colombia and the First Commander of the ELN, Antonio Garcia, both attended a signing ceremony in Havana, Cuba. Guterres said the U.N. verification mission in Colombia is ready to continue to assist the dialogue process.
What we are watching next week
On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council will discuss the link between climate change and peace and security, under the chairmanship of the United Arab Emirates, which holds the council’s rotating presidency for June. The UAE will host the next climate review conference, COP28, in November, and the president-designate of the conference will chair Tuesday’s council meeting. Sultan al-Jaber is the UAE’s special envoy for climate change, the minister of industry and advanced technology, and more controversially, the CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).