WFP Wins Nobel Peace Prize

On Friday morning, the UN World Food Program (WFP) was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The Chair of the Nobel Committee announced that the award recognized the agency’s “efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

WFP assists nearly 100 million people around the world with emergency assistance, relief, rehabilitation, and development aid. The overwhelming majority of this work is in conflict-affected countries.

The COVID-19 crisis has severely aggravated hunger this year: WFP already estimated that 135 million people would face acute food insecurity in 2020, before the pandemic began. Now, WFP projects that that number will double.

Transitional President of Mali Appoints Prime Minister, Special Rep. Informs Security Council

Transitional President of Mali Colonel Major Ba N’Daw, who was appointed following a coup d’état on Aug. 18, has named a new prime minister. Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Mahamat Saleh Annadif informed the Security Council on Oct. 8 that N’Daw appointed former Minister of Foreign Affairs Moctar Ouane to the post on Sept. 27. The country’s transitional council also announced a new cabinet – including members of the junta which carried out the August coup – and released numerous political prisoners who were arrested during the coup. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also announced this week that it would lift some sanctions levied after the coup, in recognition of “notable advances towards constitutional normalization.” These sanctions had included the closure of borders, an air embargo, and suspension of financial transactions.

Security Council warned that DR Congo’s progress “could yet unravel”

On Oct. 6, Leila Zerrougui, Head of the UN’s Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), addressed the Security Council. MONUSCO is planning for a drawdown of the mission. Peacekeepers will withdraw “relatively soon” from the Kasai region, while drawdown will take place at a slower pace in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. Zerrougui noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has made progress towards peace but warned that significant tensions remained among political elites. Felix Tshisekedi became president last year after a disputed election, and the DRC will hold the next presidential elections in 2023.

On Oct. 6, UNICEF released a report that found that conflict had worsened in Ituri province since the beginning of the year. The conflict has had particularly severe effects on children, and the report documented 91 children who had been killed, 27 children maimed, and 13 children sexually abused. UNICEF stated that 2.4 million people in Ituri are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. UNICEF noted that the DRC Humanitarian Action for Children appeal is experiencing a 74% funding shortfall.

Secretary-General “gravely concerned” by conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh through a statement issued by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, on Monday. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaging in hostilities in the disputed region since Sept. 27. Guterres’s statement noted reports that populated areas have been targeted, and the statement called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and reminded the parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law. Also on Monday, the United States, France, and Russia issued a joint statement calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the conflict.

Dujarric noted that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is deeply concerned by the conflict and reports of attacks on civilians. Dujarric said that more than 40 civilians had been killed and over 200 wounded. UNICEF issued a statement saying that a cessation of hostilities would be “in the best interest of every child.” The statement said that four children had reportedly been killed and seven injured.

Thirty-nine countries condemn China’s treatment of Uyghurs

On Oct. 6, 39 primarily-Western countries condemned China’s human rights record. The countries also noted the restrictions on Hong Kong’s autonomy and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet, but they focused in particular on China’s treatment of Uyghurs. On behalf of the 39 countries, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said that “widespread surveillance disproportionately continues to target Uyghurs and other minorities, and more reports are emerging of forced labor and forced birth control, including sterilization.” Heusgen called on China to close the Uyghur detention camps and British envoy Jonathan Allen called on China to allow U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit Xinjiang.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun responded to the criticism by praising China’s human rights record and urging the United States to “take a good look in the mirror.” Zhang pointed to recent protests in the United States against racial discrimination. Forty-five countries signed onto a Cuban statement arguing that China’s measures in Xinjiang are justified for counter-terrorism and deradicalization reasons.

UN panel finds starvation used as a weapon of war in South Sudan

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, issued a new report on Oct. 6. Commission Chair Yasmine Sooka said that “it is quite clear that both Government and opposition forces have deliberately used the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in these states, sometimes as an instrument to punish non-aligning communities.” The report noted the grave need for humanitarian assistance in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei, and Central Equatoria States, and Sooka said that food insecurity in the states is “almost entirely human-induced.”

Secretary-General “closely monitoring” situation in Kyrgyzstan

Protests broke out in Kyrgyzstan this weekend after opposition parties objected to alleged fraud in the parliamentary elections. At least one person had reportedly been killed as of Oct. 6, when Secretary-General Guterres stated his regret at the loss of life. He urged “all involved to exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from violence.” Officials have nullified the results of the parliamentary elections and opposition figures have announced plans to form a new government.

As COVID-19 deaths cross one million, WHO notes “critical moment”

The global death toll from COVID-19 reached one million last week. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the pandemic’s effects have been “uneven.” 70 percent of cases and deaths have come in just ten countries. The WHO estimated that 10 percent of the global population may have already been infected. WHO Executive Director Tedros Ghebreyesus said that “it is never too late to turn the tide.” He further stated that “this is a critical moment in the outbreak response” and urged countries to put preventive measures in place.

The WHO also warned that the pandemic is disrupting mental health services. A WHO study found disruptions to mental health services in 93% of the 130 countries surveyed. The study noted that low-income countries in particular have struggled to transition to teletherapy.

On Oct. 7, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a policy brief titled “COVID-19 and Universal Health Coverage.” Guterres urged greater investment in universal health coverage. He noted that a “hard lesson” of the pandemic is that “under-investment in health can have a devastating impact on societies and economies.”

Image: Issa Konfourou, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mali to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Mali on 8 October 2020, New York, United States of America