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UN Weekly Roundup: May 20-26, 2023

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.

Seven-day cease-fire in Sudan

The United Nations welcomed the start on Monday of a U.S.-Saudi brokered 7-day cease-fire across Sudan, intended to allow civilians and humanitarians to move safely. While fighting has continued during previous cease-fires, this one was agreed upon during formal negotiations and has a basic monitoring mechanism. As of Friday, sporadic clashes had been reported between the warring Sudanese army and rival Rapid Security Forces in the capital, Khartoum and in West Darfur, which has seen deadly fighting.

7-Day Cease-Fire Starts in Sudan

The U.N. refugee agency is moving tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees in Chad away from the Sudan border into new camps. UNHCR's visiting deputy says concerns about security and access to aid are increasing, along with the number of refugees. Watch this report from Henry Wilkins at the Gaga refugee site in Chad:

UN Moves Sudanese Refugees in Chad Away From Border

UN chief: Warring parties must protect civilians

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians, an obligation that is preserved in international humanitarian law. Guterres said international humanitarian law “is the difference between life and death” in conflict zones.

UN Chief: Warring Nations Must Protect Civilians

Ukrainian exports at their lowest since grain deal began

Despite renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on May 17, exports of grain and food from Ukraine have slowed to their lowest levels this month since they resumed under the deal in August, as Russian officials repeat complaints that Moscow is not benefiting enough from the initiative. The Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center that oversees the implementation of the deal said Friday that only two of the three Ukrainian ports authorized to receive and send ships are working, no new vessels have been registered to participate in the initiative in nearly a month, and the number of daily ship inspections have dropped significantly.

Ukrainian Exports Under Black Sea Deal Hit Lowest Levels

UN rights chief urges Iran to decriminalize mandatory hijab for women

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Iran on Wednesday to decriminalize mandatory veiling laws, warning that the harassment of women, including what they do or do not wear, appears to have intensified as street protests have died down. Volker Türk urged Tehran “to heed Iranians’ calls for reform,” and to begin by repealing regulations that criminalize violations of mandatory dress codes. Parliament is considering tightening penalties for people and institutions that fail to comply with regulations.

UN Rights Chief Urges Iran to Decriminalize 'Mandatory Veiling Laws'

Funding for Horn of Africa drought-affected countries falls far short

Donors raised around $1 billion Wednesday in new commitments for the drought-stricken Horn of Africa during a pledging conference held at the United Nations but failed to close the gap on an appeal seeking $7 billion. The U.N. says the $7 billion is needed this year to assist nearly 32 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia who are facing acute food insecurity after five failed rainy seasons caused unprecedented drought.

UN: Substantial Funds Still Needed for Drought-Stricken Horn of Africa

In brief

— Secretary-General Guterres welcomed the arrest of Rwandan fugitive Fulgence Kayishema in South Africa, for allegedly committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda in 1994. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda charged him in 2001 with having orchestrated the killings of more than 2,000 people on April 15, 1994, at a church in Nyange, Kibuye Prefecture, in western Rwanda. A U.N. spokesperson said the arrest sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed such crimes cannot evade justice and will eventually be held accountable, even more than a quarter of a century later.

— The humanitarian community appealed for $333 million on Tuesday to help 1.6 million people impacted by Cyclone Mocha in the Myanmar states and regions of Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Sagaing and Kachin. The U.N. says it’s in a "race against time" to provide people with shelter and prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

— The World Health Organization will begin Africa’s largest polio vaccination campaign since 2020 on Saturday, aiming to immunize 21 million children under the age of 5. Vaccinations will begin in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic. The Lake Chad region has one of the highest proportions of so-called “zero dose” children – those who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. The campaign comes in response to 14 detections of the poliovirus this year.

Quote of note

“But the fact of the matter is that today’s world leaders have thus far failed miserably by putting selfish national interests ahead of urgent global needs. They have failed to see the big picture — that the world will sink or swim together — or they have decided to play a dangerous game of chicken — demanding that others do more to curb CO2 emissions.”

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and current member of The Elders, regretting that his generation is passing the climate crisis to the next, during his commencement address to graduates at Harvard’s Kennedy School this week.

What we are watching next week

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to brief the Security Council on Tuesday. Rafael Grossi has been seeking a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant for months and has made several trips to Ukraine and Russia in its pursuit.

Did you know?

The U.N. marked the 75th anniversary of U.N. Peacekeeping on Thursday. The first U.N. mission of military observers was deployed to the Middle East in 1948. Since then, there have been 71 operations around the world. More than 2 million peacekeepers – or “blue helmets” as they are known for their distinctive colored head gear – from 125 countries have served. Women did not really participate until the 1990s. Today, women make up about 9% of the 87,000 peacekeepers serving in a dozen missions. It is not easy or safe work; more than 4,200 have died in the line of duty since 1948.