Venezuela Ousts U.N. Human Rights Body

On Thursday, the Venezuelan foreign minister announced on Twitter that the staff of the U.N. Office of the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have 72 hours to leave the country. On a televised broadcast, he accused the U.N. agency of being instrumental to “coup-plotters and terrorists,” a claim that comes on the heels of recent accusations that the Venezuelan government has suppressed dissenting voices criticizing President Nicolás  Maduros. Only a few days ago, Rocío  San Miguel, a renowned security expert and human rights activist in Venezuela, was detained and since reported missing. Her disappearance raised a collective concern among U.N. organs that identified an increasing ferocity and frequency in intimidation tactics employed by the Venezuelan government against its vocal critics. 

Concern Over State of Democracy in Libya

On Thursday, Abdoulaye Bathily, the Special Representative for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the U.N. Security Council that Libyans have yet to realize “their aspirations for sustainable peace and democracy,” citing political stalemate and military standoff as interrelated causes. Even though foreign militants that once entered Libya as mercenaries returned to Chad, armed groups still jostle for control of Tripoli, according to the Special Representative, who also reported that armed groups were violating human rights in Libya without impunity. Bathily further observed that although parties to a complete and permanent ceasefire have not violated the historic agreement, the armed groups have refused to withdraw their forces due to a lack of political compromise between the key stakeholders. As an instance of political impasse, he cited the closure of the country’s High National Elections Commissions field offices ordered by government officials appointed unilaterally by the House of Representatives. The UNSMIL head also expressed concern over the national reconciliation law, which he said was recently drafted without any legal guarantees for fundamental rights to truth, justice, reparations, and non-repetition. 

Ukraine: Third Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment

The government of Ukraine, the U.N., the World Bank, and the European Union jointly issued The Third Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA3) on the war-ravaged country, updating the assessment of damage incurred since Russia launched the full-scale invasion of  Ukraine in February 2022, and covering the period to December 2023. The new report estimated $152 billion in direct damage to Ukraine, mostly concentrated in the hardest hit regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Kyiv, and assessed further that almost 2 million homes have been either destroyed or damaged, contributing to the displacement of Ukrainians. According to the Ukrainian numbers, reconstruction and recovery priorities set at national and local levels will require $15 billion in 2024 alone. The figures and findings in the RDNA3 map onto the Ukraine Plan and the EU’s Ukraine Facility, two key instruments that lay out reform and investment agenda for Ukraine as it enters a four-year accession process towards EU membership. 

Conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo Threatens Civilians

The U.N. Refugee Agency on Wednesday reported alarm over the risk to civilians arising from a conflict between the government forces and non-state armed groups in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that escalated last week. The agency reported that roughly 135,000 internally displaced people had fled the eastern town of Sake towards the provincial capital of Goma. Bombings and shelling on civilian populations were also reported in both locations, where Goma already is a shelter to 65,000 internally displaced people. They called “for an immediate cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations to resolve the conflict and alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians caught in the violence.”

IMAGE: The United Nations Headquarters, in New York city, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)