(Editor’s Note: This is the latest in Just Security’s weekly series keeping readers up to date on developments at the United Nations at the intersection of national security, human rights, and the rule of law.)
Rights Commissioner Echoes Calls for Israel to Abandon Annexation Plans
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously announced plans to annex portions of the occupied West Bank as soon as July 1. On that date, an Israeli government official signaled delay in the execution of the plan, upon which the Israeli government has not yet acted. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said June 29 “the precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted … but they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.” Bachelet expressed full support for the Secretary-General’s earlier call for Israel to abandon the plan. English Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, among many others, have voiced their opposition to the proposed annexations.
Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling for Global Ceasefire
The 15-member security council unanimously voted on July 1 to adopt resolution 2532 (2020) (to be made available here once released). The resolution calls for the cessation of hostilities globally for at least 90 days, although this excludes military operations combatting Security Council-designated terrorist organizations, like ISIL. The resolution provides the council’s backing to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’s initial call, made in March, for a global ceasefire. Guterres welcomed the resolution, saying that it “will send an important signal to conflict parties and may help change calculations on the ground,” and urging states “to redouble their efforts for peace.”
UN Labor Chief Warns Pandemic’s Impact on Jobs Worse than Expected
International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder said on June 30 that “there is not going to be a simple or quick recovery” from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. His comments coincided with the release of the fifth edition of the ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. The monitor data shows that, in the second quarter of 2020, working hours fell 14 percent globally, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs. The ILO set out three possible recovery scenarios, but none of these predict the global job situation will reach pre-pandemic strength in the next six months. Ahead of the upcoming Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, Ryder urged governments to create a “better normal,” which includes addressing women’s persistent inequalities and vulnerabilities in the workplace.
UN Experts Call for Action to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in China
On June 30, the Chinese government imposed a new security law on Hong Kong that aims to corral the city’s recent sweeping protests. U.N. experts had previously called on the Chinese government to heed its international obligations and withdraw the law on June 26. The experts also raised concerns about other pressing human rights issues in China, including the repression of minority religious and ethnic groups, particularly in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the detention and disappearance of lawyers and activists. With an eye to these concerns, the experts “call on the international community to act collectively and decisively to ensure China respects human rights and abides by its international obligations.”
Human Rights Council Discusses Human Rights Violations in Myanmar
According to reporting, as many as 10,000 residents of the Rakhine state in Myanmar have fled recent military “clearance operations,” a term describing Myanmar’s operations against insurgents and the Rakhine state’s minority Rohingya Muslim population. Commissioner Bachelet highlighted “airstrikes, shelling of civilian areas, and the destruction and burning of villages” as part of an ongoing series of gross human rights violations in the region. She noted that the human rights situation in the Rakhine state has not improved, and the conditions for the safe return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh have not been met. During the discussion at the Human Rights Council on the situation in Myanmar, speakers “emphasised that the Government of Myanmar showed no willingness to facilitate the return of Rohingya refugees,” and said “the impunity which States like Myanmar enjoyed was an abhorrent reality that must be put to an end, and the Government of Myanmar must undergo deep reflection and reform.”
UN Investigating Video of Purported Sexual Misconduct by Field Staffers
The U.N. is investigating a video, which has surfaced on social media, that allegedly shows sexual misconduct by staffers “likely assigned to the UN Truce Supervision Organization” (UNTSO) in a U.N. vehicle on a Tel Aviv street, said U.N. Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric in a daily briefing on June 26. “The behaviour seen in it is abhorrent and goes against everything that we stand for and having [sic] been working to achieve in terms of fighting misconduct by UN staff.” UNTSO also issued a statement on June 26 indicating that it is “deeply disturbed” by the actions in the video and similarly condemning them as “abhorrent.”
Commissioner Bachelet updated the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Venezuela on July 2. According to VOA reporting, Bachelet told the council that Venezuela’s “social and economic crisis will not go away until its profound political standoff is resolved through government negotiations with political opponents.”
Ahead of peace talks starting this month between Afghan government and Taliban negotiators, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urged parties to the ongoing conflict on July 2 to redouble efforts to protect civilians and de-escalate the conflict “in order to save lives and create a conducive environment for the upcoming talks.”
Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo affirmed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program as crucial to ensuring nuclear non-proliferation, amid clashes between the United States, Russia, and China over extending the arms embargo on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an arms embargo on Iran to be extended indefinitely by the Security Council on June 30, however, this request is expected to not be heeded by council members.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros warned that countries taking a “fragmented approach” to the coronavirus pandemic “face a long, hard road ahead,” as the world surpasses 10 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The U.N. held a ceremony on June 30 honoring fallen U.N. colleagues. Secretary-General Guterres paid tribute to the fallen for their sacrifice to save future generations “from the scourge of war and to pursue better standards of living for all in larger freedom.”
Image: Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam is seen on a giant screen remotely addressing the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s 44th session on June 30, 2020 in Geneva. Hong Kong’s chief executive defended China’s sweeping national security law for the city before the United Nations, urging the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security.” (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)