Secretary-General Chairs Three Days of Talks to Revive Cyprus Peace Negotiations

Beginning Tuesday, Secretary-General António Guterres chaired three days of talks in Geneva to revive negotiations on reunification of Cyprus as the next part of a decades-long U.N. endeavor to establish peace in the region. The U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been present in Cyprus since 1964 and has taken on greater responsibilities since a 1974 coup d’état split the country between the Turkish Cypriot forces in the north and the Greek Cypriot forces in the south. The Turkish Cypriot breakaway is recognized only by Turkey while the Greek Cypriot government is formally recognized as the Cyprus government. The talks brought Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot, Turkish, Greek, and British ministers together, and was the first attempt at negotiation since 2017. The Turkish Cypriot leaders, with support from Turkey, argue that a two-state solution is the only viable option while the Cyprus government, with support from Greece, advocate for the U.N. federal solution, as defined in past U.N. resolutions on the issue. Thousands in Cyprus marched this last Saturday, on both sides of the divide, in favor of peace, reunification, and the federal solution. At the outset, Guterres stated he is “realistic” on chances for progress but hopes the parties will be creative, sincere, and frank. On Thursday, Guterres stated that the talks have not yielded “enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations.”

COVID-19: Kamala Harris Speaks  on Future Pandemic Preparation; U.N. Providing Equipment to India;  New U.N. Global Immunization Strategy

On Monday, Kamala Harris addressed a U.N. body on the need to prepare for the next pandemic and broadly outlined steps countries should take to enable them to detect and respond to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the U.N. promised to provide “critical equipment and supplies to central and state governments” in India, which is suffering the world’s worst current outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. promised 7000+ oxygen concentrators, 500 nasal devices, lab supplies, and to set up mobile field hospitals and oxygen plants. A U.N. staff member in India described the situation as a tsunami, with over 300,000 new infections per day. The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and Russia have all pledged or already delivered equipment to India as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global vaccination efforts against at least 60 diseases in 50 countries. A new U.N. global immunization strategy launched this week, World Immunization Week, to deliver lifesaving vaccines to children who may have missed their jabs. With the vaccines are now on “the forefront of everyone’s mind,” U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta Fore hopes to use the energy to “help every child catch up on their measles, polio, and other vaccines.”

U.N. Bodies and Secretary-General Condemn Recent Outbreak of Violence in Mogadishu

Violence broke out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, following accusations President Mohamed Adbullahi Mohamed unconstitutionally grabbed power after his failure to hold elections in February and subsequent signing of a law that extended his term by two years. The violence, characterized by some reports as “some of the worst in the Somali capital for years,” caused great alarm and concern. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) issued a statement condemning the violence, reiterating the importance of 17 September agreement (where leaders approved an indirect electoral model), and encouraging restraint from all parties. A Spokesperson for Secretary-General Guterres issued a statement of urging “all Somali stakeholders to resume negotiations immediately and forge an agreement based on the 17 September Electoral Model and Baidoa proposals.” Before the violence broke out, on April 23, the Security Council expressed concern for the “continued political impasse and disagreement among Somalia’s political leaders on the model for elections.”

U.N. Experts Report to Security Council on South Sudan

A report sent to the Security Council from a panel of experts warned that slow moving reforms could push the country back into conflict. The report indicated rising internal tensions in the government as political disputes grow over how to implement the 2020 ceasefire and 2018 peace agreement. The people are also suffering with nearly 100,000 facing “famine-like conditions.”

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of U.N. Peacekeeping, reported to the Security Council concerning the disputed Abyei region. He told them that while there is continued rapprochement between Sudan and South Sudan, tensions on the ground as still high. He noted that “modest progress” has been made towards the seven benchmarks the 2020 Security Council resolution.

U.N. Human Rights Experts Express Concern Over the New Members of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission

U.N. Human Rights experts expressed concern over the integrity of Nepal’s Human Rights Commission, finding that the appointment process “failed to implement the essential requirements of the Paris Principles.” The experts called on the Government to reverse its appointments and facilitate a new, transparent, and open process. The experts also noted that the appointments process did not comply with Nepali domestic law.

U.N. Human Rights Expert Writes Open Letter to Myanmar Junta

On 27 April, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews wrote an open letter to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing asking him to make a public commitment to protect the Myanmar people’s freedom to express their views without fear of retaliation. This letter was issued after Hlaing attended the ASEAN Leaders Meeting on April 24, where the final consensus document called for an end to violence against protesters.

IOM Calls for Action After Libyan Shipwreck Kills 130 People

A recent shipwreck off the Libyan coast cost the lives of 130 people. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported that over 500 people have drowned on this central Mediterranean route this year alone. Other reports this week have indicated that more boats on this route were intercepted and returned to Libya, found to have dead passengers, or are missing. IOM and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called for urgent action to prevent loss of life at sea.

Image: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres removes his protective facemask prior to attend a press conference, following the 5+1 meeting on Cyprus, in Geneva, on April 29, 2021. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)