Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch. 


Afghanistan’s economy


U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths appealed for flexible and sustained international funding before the end of this year to prevent the further collapse of Afghanistan’s economy. He told VOA in an interview that he will press the United States to help during his meeting next week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. 


UN Aid Chief: Afghan Economy Needs Restart Before Year-End


COVID-19 ‘not going away’


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered a bleak forecast for 2022, saying December16 that COVID-19 “is not going away” and vaccines alone will not end the pandemic. 


UN Chief: Vaccines Alone Won’t End Pandemic 


JCPOA negotiations


U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council on December 14 that Iran is “slow-walking” talks on the 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna. She said Tehran’s actions would not give them any negotiating leverage. 

US Official: Iran ‘Slow-Walking’ Nuclear Talks 

Security Council resolution 


Russia vetoed a draft Security Council resolution on December 13 that warned about the security implications of climate change. The landmark proposal was supported by 113 countries from among the U.N. membership, including countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis. 


Russia Vetoes UN Resolution on Climate’s Impact on Global Security


In brief 

— On December 13, the U.N. said food aid for starving Ethiopians was stolen from the World Food Program by armed men in northern Ethiopia. The incident, in the town of Kombolcha in the northern province of Amhara, happened on the night of December 10. 


The U.N. said 18 WFP trucks were stolen by forces believed to be from either the “Ethiopian National Defense Forces or an affiliated allied military force.” Fifteen trucks have since been returned, and three remain unaccounted for, along with their drivers. It was the second time in a matter of days that humanitarian supplies were looted or stolen from WFP. 


— In Geneva, on December 17, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a European Union-drafted resolution calling for the establishment of an international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia during a special session. 


One-third of the council’s 47 members must agree to hold a special session and none of the 13 African members voted to have it. The resolution, adopted by a vote of 21 countries in favor, 15 voting against and 11 abstentions, authorizes the president of the HRC to appoint three experts initially for one year to investigate, collect and preserve evidence of human rights violations by all parties to the conflict in Tigray since it began in November 2020. The federal government of Ethiopia rejected Friday’s meeting, saying it was politically motivated. 


Some good news 


The World Health Organization and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading cancer treatment center in the United States, have formed a partnership to provide cancer medication free of charge to children in developing countries. 


New Initiative Provides Free Treatment for Children with Cancer in Developing Countries 


Quote of note 


“There is no way Lebanon can find the right track if the Lebanese political leaders are not able to understand that this is the moment, probably the last possible moment, to come together.” 


— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking about the political and economic crisis in Lebanon, where he arrives Sunday for a 3-day visit. 


Next week


Libya has been working toward presidential and legislative elections on December 24, but they were thrown into doubt last week when the Upper House of parliament called for a two-month delay for the presidential elections, amid disagreements over the legal framework for the elections and who is eligible to run. 


With barely a week to go until the poll, there is no final list of candidates and little time left to even print one for ballots. 


Did you know? 


The U.N. Security Council has five permanent veto-wielding members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States). The other 10 members are elected for 2-year terms in groups of five in alternating years.


On December 31, Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam will wrap up their terms. On January 1, 2022, Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates will take up their seats. The other five elected members are India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway. 


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