(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.)
Security Council Extends Turkish Aid Access into Syria for a Year
The United Nations Security Council voted on July 11 to authorized cross-border humanitarian aid from Turkey to Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for an additional year after Council authorization for two border aid crossings from Turkey to Syria under resolution 2504 expired midnight, July 10. This was the fifth attempt to renew aid authorization: Russia and China vetoed the first two proposals put forth by Germany and Belgium, while two Russian proposals did not receive enough votes to pass. Germany and Belgium’s proposals called for two border crossings for aid and a year of authorization to use them; Russia’s proposals reduced the number of available border crossings from two to one and reduced the authorization’s length from one year to six months. Germany and Belgium sponsored this final proposal, and in a joint statement after the vote they said that “one border crossing is not enough, but no border crossings would have left the fate of an entire region in question.”
Rwandan Peacekeeper Killed During Attack in Central African Republic
Members of the “Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation” (3R) militia group, one of the parties to the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic (CAR) carried out an attack on United Nations peacekeeping forces on July 13 that killed 1 and injured 2. The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) wrote on Twitter that “this criminal attack constitutes a new violation of the peace agreement by the 3R & its leader Abass Sidiki.” A statement attributable to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he “expresses his deepest condolences to the family of the victim as well as to the people and Government of Rwanda” and urged CAR authorities “to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of this attack.”
UN Migration Organization Warns of Forced Transfers and Stranded Migrants in Yemen, Security Council Extends Political Mission
Tens of thousands of predominantly Ethiopian migrants are currently stranded in Yemen, at least 14,500 of which have already been forcibly transferred internally amid fears that migrants contribute to the spread of Coronavirus, according to the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM). Migrant workers often pass through Yemen in search of work in oil-rich Arabian states, but passing through Yemen has become increasingly dangerous due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing civil war: on July 12, an airstrike killed seven children and two women, leading U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande to say “it is incomprehensible that in the middle of the COVID pandemic, when options for a cease-fire are on the table, civilians continue being killed in Yemen.”
Meanwhile, on July 14, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2534, which renews the mandate of the U.N. Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) until 15 July 2021. The resolution, which monitors the city and port of Hudaydah in addition to the Salif and Ra’s Issa ports, is intended to ensure peace between the Government of Yemen and the Houthi militia in the area.
UN Rights Chief Reports Exploitation, Abuse, and Murder amid Venezuelan Mining Boom
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Venezuelan authorities were not investigating crimes, including extortion, child labor, murder, and trafficking, committed in the Arco Minero del Orinoco region in her report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Mining in Venezuela has increased dramatically in recent years, with criminal syndicates controlling many mines. Abuses continue despite a considerable military presence, thanks at least in part, the report alleges, to a “system of corruption and bribery.” Bachelet said that “authorities should take immediate steps to end labour and sexual exploitation, child labour and human trafficking, and should dismantle criminal groups controlling mining activities.”
Rights Expert Calls on Governments to Get Rid of WMDs
On the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Toxics Baskut Tuncak said that legacies of nuclear testing, which led to two nuclear bombs being dropped on Japanese cities, the detonation of nuclear bombs over pacific islands, and the disposal of nuclear waste on indigenous lands, “is one of the cruelest examples of environmental injustice witnessed.” Tuncak also noted that “numerous Native American tribes received funding to store unwanted nuclear waste on their lands,” leading to increased cancer rates. “Unaddressed, the dangers of radioactive contamination will persist for centuries, and so too will the harmful legacy of racism that surrounds this tragic chapter of humanity,” he said.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock chastised G20 nations for their self-centered and short-sighted approach to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, including economically. Lowcock is set to request $10.3 billion USD to fund the humanitarian response to the pandemic, and warned that 265 million people globally could face starvation by the end of the year due to pandemic and other causes, creating the “prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do.”
Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ruiz Massieu warned the killings of rights advocates, social leaders and ex-fighters are serious threats to the Colombian peace process. Massieu said that fighters who had laid down arms require protection to reintegrate into social life.
WHO and UNICEF warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting immunization schedules, threatening hard won progress to proliferate vaccination. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before, but the pandemic has put those gains at risk.”
WHO Director General Dr. Tedros joined Spanish leaders in honoring those who have died from COVID-19 and saluting health workers. He said “Spain has shown that with political leadership and action, backed by community support, that COVID-19 can be controlled, no matter at what stage virus transmission is at in a country. From being greatly challenged, Spain has reversed the trajectory of the outbreak.”
WHO also expressed concern about a growing Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since June 1, 53 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the country, making the current outbreak already worse than the previous outbreak in the country two years ago.
Hours after the U.N. condemned the use of lethal force against demonstrators, Police in Mali’s capital fired into the air to dispel protestors, leaving several injured by falling bullets and teargas canisters. The U.N. has over 13,000 peacekeeping soldiers in Mali and has recently criticized the government’s response to protests.
Following unrest and violence in two towns, Sudan has declared a state of emergency in the Western Darfur region. The African Union-U.N. Mission in Darfur sent a team into North Darfur after reports of protests and burning police stations and cars.
U.N. demographers published an article in The Lancet forecasting the world population. The article forecasts that continued declines in fertility rates could result in the global population peaking in 2064 at 9.7 billion people, and subsequently lowering to 8.8 billion by 2100.
Image: A wide view of the July 14, 2020 Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East (Yemen) as the Council unanimously adopts resolution 2534 (2020) renewing the mandate of the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) in Yemen until 15 July 2021. UN Photo # 844429