Editors’ 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.

Guterres Condemns Attack on Iranian Diplomatic Premises in Damascus

On Monday, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres condemned an attack on Iranian diplomatic premises in Syria. In his statement, Guterres reaffirmed the need to respect for “the principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises and personnel.” He cautioned against miscalculations that could lead to broader conflict, calling upon all concerned “to exercise utmost restraint and avoid further escalation.”

The U.N. Security Council was briefed on the strike, which Iran attributed to Israel, reportedly killed two generals and five officers. At the briefing, Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood warned Iran not to retaliate against the United States for the attack, emphasizing that the United States had no prior warning of the strike. On Wednesday, the United States, United Kingdom, and France opposed a Security Council statement, drafted by Russia, which would have condemned the attack.

“Unprecedented” Human Rights Abuses in Haiti

On Tuesday, in a video message to the Human Rights Council, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called current human rights abuses in Haiti “unprecedented in modern Haitian history.” In particular, he cited killings, kidnappings, sexual violence, and acute malnutrition, with an estimated 5.5 million Haitians “now dependent on humanitarian protection and assistance” and over 1,400 people having been killed in gang-related violence this year, as of March 20th. Türk emphasized the need to restore public order and called for “strong cooperation with the mandated Multinational Security Support mission,” noting that he hoped the deployment of the mission would be imminent. The Multinational Security Support Mission –  headed by Kenya – was approved by the Security Council in October 2023, but has yet to be deployed amid domestic legal challenges to the force in Kenya. 

A report published last week by the U.N. Human Rights Office called the situation in Haiti “cataclysmic.” The report cited “corruption, impunity and poor governance, compounded by increasing levels of gang violence” as bringing state institutions “close to collapse.”

Note: Readers may be interested in our Haiti coverage.

World Bank Estimates the Damage in Gaza

On Tuesday, the World Bank released a joint report with the U.N. which estimated the cost of damage to critical infrastructure in Gaza at $18.5 billion. The report further estimated that “more than half the population of Gaza is on the brink of famine” and two-thirds of the population is displaced. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification process – a multi-stakeholder platform that analyzes data from the World Food Programme, other U.N. agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to determine the severity and magnitude of hunger crises  – an estimated 1.1 million Gazans are facing “catastrophic” food shortages.

U.N. Temporarily Halts Nighttime Aid Operations After Killing of Aid Workers

On Wednesday, U.N. Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric announced that U.N. aid operations in Gaza would be temporarily halted after dark in response to the killing of aid workers. World Central Kitchen and other charities suspended aid operations after seven World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed by Israeli airstrikes. Dujarric noted that charities’ suspension of operations has had a “double impact” in Gaza, both on the people who depend on the organizations for aid and a “chilling effect” on the humanitarian workers. Dujarric said the U.N.’s message to Israel is to “let humanitarian aid workers do their job.”

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority formally asked for renewed consideration of its application to join the United Nations as a full member. The application – which was submitted in 2011 – is expected to be blocked by the United States.

Note: Readers may be interested in our Gaza coverage.

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