UN, Reform & multilateralism October 2023-

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UN High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence
UNGA Resolution 377
Multilateralism needs an overhaul.
– Here’s where to start


Ceasefire or pause? Words UN members can’t agree on to stop Israel’s bombs
A look at the words dividing UN Security Council members in their efforts to temporarily halt fighting in Gaza.
Ceasefire – essentially means that the fighting stops. A ceasefire is subject to agreement by all parties and usually involves a formal political process with commitments to de-escalate conflict, such as withdrawing weapons or repositioning forces. It tends to cover the entire geographical area on which the war is being waged. It may lead to a permanent settlement.
This is the long-term option rejected by the US, the UK and other countries, which back Israel’s right to defend itself — by continuing its war on Gaza. By contrast, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has publicly called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Cessation of hostilities is generally less structured. Agreements don’t tend to cover issues like objectives, timelines, security and monitoring. They enable parties to break from fighting as a step to talking and perhaps moving towards a sustained ceasefire. In this sense, cessation could be viewed as a potential stepping stone towards ending the war.
Truce is even looser than a cessation of hostilities, with no formal negotiations. Parties in conflict may have decided to take a break after intensive combat. By their very nature, truces may come and go during a conflict, sometimes applying to specific areas. They can enable activities like the removal of the wounded or burial of the dead. It is understood that opposing forces should not change positions while a truce is in force.
Humanitarian pause refers to the temporary cessation of fighting, purely for humanitarian reasons…effectively a truce to allow passage of aid or displaced people.
Days of tranquility: a mechanism that would grant medics and other personnel access to war zones on specific days. It is often used by UNICEF to ensure that children have access to healthcare during conflict. (October 27 2023)

Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

The Promise and Potential of the UN’s Summit of the Future
Negotiations have begun in earnest
Mark Leon Goldberg
(Global Dispatches) The United Nations is hosting a “Summit of the Future” in September during the annual opening the UN General Assembly. If all goes according to plan, world leaders will endorse a so-called “Pact for the Future” that will serve as a vehicle for enacting meaningful reforms to the United Nations.
The Summit of the Future is a big deal in UN circles — it is very much a force that is driving the agenda at the United Nations even as other crises may dominate the news cycle. Namibia and Germany are co-facilitating complex negotiations over what will be included in the pact. Last week, they released a so-called “Zero Draft” that will serve as the basis for negotiations going forward.
1 February
The Promise and Potential of the UN’s Summit of the Future
Negotiations have begun in earnest
(Global Dispatches) Interview with Dan Perell, [who] has been following this process closely. He serves as a representative for the Baha’i International Community’s United Nations Office. We kick off discussing why the Secretary General is so invested in the Summit of the Future and its potential to encourage key reforms to the United Nations. We also discuss what role civil society organizations like the Bahai International Community can play in helping ensure a successful Summit of the Future

15 May
An Idea So Crazy it Just Might Work
A UN Trusteeship for Gaza?
Mark Leon Goldberg
(Global Dispatches) So how could Gaza be administered in a way that both satisfies Israel’s legitimate security concerns and recognizes Palestinian aspirations for self-determination? The answer, according to three prominent Canadian diplomats and scholars, is to revive a long-dormant branch of the United Nations called the “Trusteeship Council.”
A UN Trusteeship for Palestine
A Temporary Fix That Can Lead to an Enduring Peace
By Lloyd Axworthy, Michael W. Manulak, and Allan Rock
The situation cries out for an international arrangement to help all sides realize their self-interest in a durable peace for Gaza and, ultimately, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To last, any such arrangement will have to be backed by regional leaders, have the clear goal of strengthening Palestinian institutions as a prelude to statehood, and guarantee Israel’s security. Fortunately, there is an established, long-dormant mechanism that can do just that: a UN trusteeship.

3 July
Russia Assumes the Presidency of the Security Council | Whither R2P? | Republicans Seek to Defund the UN
(UN Dispatch) A new month means a new president of the UN Security Council. On July 1, Russia took the helm of the most powerful body in the United Nations system and announced that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would chair two Security Council meetings during Russia’s presidency. The problem is, Lavrov is under a travel ban and asset freeze by the United States for his actions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In our first segment, we discuss what happens when leaders under American sanctions come to the United Nations in New York? We also discuss Russia’s plans for its month-long presidency and why the credibility of the Security Council is not really impacted by Russia taking its turn at the helm.

3 June
It’s Election Time At the UN!
What to expect from Security Council elections this week
(Global Dispatches) By the end of the week, there will be five new members elected to the United Nations Security Council. On Thursday, the General Assembly vote on new members of the UN Security Council to replace countries whose terms are expiring at the end of the year. These elections are a significant event at the United Nations because they shape the composition of the single most important body in the UN system—the only one that can authorize military intervention, impose international sanctions, and approve peacekeeping missions, among other duties.
At the Security Council election this week, each of the outgoing members will be replaced by another country from the same region. In all, there are four separate elections for these five seats: to replace the African seat, the Asia-Pacific seat, the Latin American seat, and the two vacating Western European seats.
By the end of the week, Somalia, Denmark, Greece, Panama, and Pakistan will be elected.
These particular Security Council elections have fallen victim to a common practice at the United Nations in which regions collude amongst themselves to nominate an equal number of candidates as there are open seats. So, Somalia is the only candidate for the one African seat; Greece and Denmark are the only two candidates for the two open Western European seats, and so on. This results in uncompetitive elections—the General Assembly vote is a mere formality.

31 May
UN refugee chief says 114 million have fled homes because nations fail to tackle causes of conflict
(AP) — The number of people fleeing their homes because of war, violence and persecution has reached 114 million and is climbing because nations have failed to tackle the causes and combatants are refusing to comply with international law, the U.N. refugee chief said Thursday.
In a hard-hitting speech, [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)] Filippo Grandi criticized the U.N. Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, for failing to use its voice to try to resolve conflicts from Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan to Congo, Myanmar and many other places.
He also accused unnamed countries of making “short-sighted foreign policy decisions, often founded on double standards, with lip service paid to compliance with the law, but little muscle flexed from the council to actually uphold it and — with it — peace and security.”
Grandi said non-compliance with international humanitarian law means that “parties to conflicts — increasingly everywhere, almost all of them — have stopped respecting the laws of war,” though some pretend to do so.

9-10 May
United Nations General Assembly backs Palestinian bid for membership
Resolution does not give Palestine full UN membership, but recognises them as qualified to join and extends rights
The assembly adopted a resolution on Friday with 143 votes in favour and nine against – including the US and Israel – while 25 countries abstained. …
The UNGA resolution “determines that the State of Palestine … should therefore be admitted to membership” and it “recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter favourably”.
A Mostly Symbolic Vote on Palestine’s Status at the UN
How to understand a General Assembly vote on Friday
(Global Dispatches) … The vote is largely symbolic. An entity can only become a full UN member with the approval of the Security Council, and Palestine’s bid failed in a vote last month due to a U.S. veto.
However, this General Assembly vote provides the 193 existing UN member states an opportunity to formally express their support—or lack thereof—for Palestine’s UN membership. The resolution also offers some marginal upgrades to Palestine’s current status as a “non-member observer state.” What it definitely does not do is confer upon the State of Palestine a status at the UN equivalent to that of a member state.
Palestine is a “non-member observer state,” along with the Holy See. This status confers on these two entities certain privileges at the UN, like the ability to directly engage in specific negotiations, the opportunity to co-sponsor resolutions in some contexts, and a seat in the back of the General Assembly hall. This General Assembly resolution offers some upgrades to this status, including moving Palestine’s physical seat in the General Assembly from the back of the room to its rightful alphabetical place between Palau and Panama. The resolution also gives Palestine the right to speak and participate in different kinds of meetings than its current status allows.

8 April
Reforms for a 21st century global financial architecture Independent expert reflections on the United Nations ‘Our Common Agenda’
(Brookings) The Global Economy and Development Program (Global) at the Brookings Institution has undertaken an inclusive, multistakeholder process to discuss the reform of the international financial architecture. Forty experts representing over 25 institutions from across the Global North and Global South convened through a series of four round tables on: global economic governance, climate and development financing and sovereign debt restructuring, global tax architecture, and the global financial safety net. Among other questions, the experts explored: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed reforms? What is missing? How can the proposed reforms be strengthened? The four chapters presented in this report reflect the independent expert views from each round table. The chapters present medium- and long-term recommendations to move forward reforms on the international financial architecture and, ultimately, strengthen the multilateral system.
Download Report Reforms for a 21st century global financial architecture (PDF)

27 March
Starving the UN of funds will cause irreversible harm
Kelly T. Clements, deputy high commissioner for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.
As the world turns to other preoccupations, financial support for my agency is dwindling. But the UN carries out lifesaving humanitarian work that aids to tens of millions — and it also provides hope.
(Politico Eu) Classes taught under trees, overstretched clinics offering the most basic health care, long walks to reach clean water, and the chilling shadow of sexual violence … These were just some of the privations recently relayed to me by refugees in Chad’s remote eastern border with Sudan.
Since armed conflict erupted in Sudan last year, over 8.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes, seeking safety wherever they can find it, inside or outside the country.
Most of the refugees arriving in this arid region in the last year — almost half a million individuals — wouldn’t be alive today without the United Nations, its donors and partners. And yet, as the world turns to other preoccupations, financial support for the U.N. humanitarian agencies — and hence, millions of refugees — is dwindling.
It’s not just funding that’s waning — moral backing is eroding too. We hear it argued that the U.N. should be scrapped, that it makes no difference; is broken, bureaucratic and corrupt.
Some of this is longstanding griping coming from those who will never want tax dollars spent outside their own neighborhoods or countries. Some of it is also misinformation — like reports wrongly suggesting that the U.N. is encouraging people on the move to head to the United States border.

25 March
UN chief urges massive Gaza aid flow, sees ‘dramatic starvation’
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
(Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for a massive supply of aid to Gaza to fight starvation, saying there was a growing international consensus to tell Israel a ceasefire is needed in its war on Hamas.
Speaking on a visit to Jordan, Guterres said he also saw a growing consensus for telling Israel that any ground invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town on the Egyptian border, could mean a humanitarian disaster.
Israel stopped all imports of food, medicine, power and fuel into Gaza at the start of the war. Although it later let in aid deliveries, aid organisations say security checks and the difficulty of moving through a war zone have greatly hindered their operations.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, accompanying Guterres, appealed to U.N. Security Council members to vote on Monday in favour of a resolution calling for a ceasefire and pressing Israel to allow unimpeded aid, saying it would send a “message that what’s happening is unacceptable and what’s happening has to stop.”
Will the Gaza Ceasefire Resolution Make a Difference?
(Global Dispatches) The Security Council finally passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The resolution was crafted by the so-called “E-10.” These are the ten non-veto-wielding elected members of the Security Council who can sometimes band together and shame the P-5 into taking action they might otherwise veto. In this case, the United States cast a decisive abstention, marking the first time that the Biden administration opted not to veto a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The resolution cleverly adopts the formula long insisted upon by the United States, that a ceasefire must coincide with the release of hostages and increased humanitarian access for Gaza.

21 March
General Assembly adopts landmark resolution on artificial intelligence
The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a landmark resolution on the promotion of “safe, secure and trustworthy” artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will also benefit sustainable development for all.
(GZERO media) The UN General Assembly adopted its first-ever draft resolution on artificial intelligence pledging “to refrain from or cease the use of artificial intelligence systems that are impossible to operate in compliance with international human rights law or that pose undue risks to the enjoyment of human rights.”
The resolution was brought by the US delegation with the support of 123 member nations — including China and Russia. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said it’s crucial “to govern this technology rather than let it govern us.”
The resolution comes one week after Europe became the first major government to pass comprehensive regulation to rein in the most severe risks of AI. Read our interview with MEP Eva Maydell, one of the architects of the law, for more on the future of AI regulation

22 February
Brazil puts reform of UN at heart of its G20 presidency
(The Guardian) Mauricio Carvalho Lyrio, the Brazilian sherpa at the G20, said the world was facing 183 conflicts and was currently only putting out fires. “The idea is that we have an effective reform of the UN so that it really is an effective instrument to prevent conflicts from occurring,” he said.
Lyrio said Brazil would stage a second meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New York in September at the UN general assembly, to which other UN states would be invited to thrash out a detailed plan.
UN reform has been discussed for more than 30 years and although most states agree that the current structure – assembled in the wake of the second world war – is archaic, there is no consensus on a replacement, and reluctance among the five countries with permanent seats on the UN security council to see their power diluted.
Lyrio said: “There are countries that are in favour of reforming the security council, others that are in favour of strengthening the general assembly or strengthening the economic and social council. Brazil has always been very open to reform as a whole. The UN has to be more representative and more up to date with contemporary needs.”
Brazil has floated the idea of the five permanent members on the security council – China, France, the US, the UK and Russia – losing their veto if an issue under debate directly affects them.
The UN has found itself sidelined in a succession of disputes, most recently Gaza and Ukraine, two issues that dominated the first day of discussion in Rio. The west and the global south address both issues differently. Lula afforded Lavrov a separate meeting once the G20 ended, underlining how he does not regard the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a barrier to relations.

19-20 February
The US vetoes an Arab-backed UN resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza
(AP) — The United States on Tuesday vetoed an Arab-backed and widely supported U.N. resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying it would interfere with negotiations on a deal to free hostages abducted in Israel.
The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13-1 with the United Kingdom abstaining, reflecting the strong support from countries around the globe for ending the war. … It was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza and came a day after the United States circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary cease-fire linked to the release of all hostages.
US proposes UN resolution calling for temporary ceasefire in Gaza
Biden administration explicitly backs ceasefire for first time and appeals for Israel to abandon offensive on Rafah
(The Guardian) The US has proposed a UN security council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire and for Israel not to go ahead with a planned offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza.
The draft text marks the first time the US has explicitly backed a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, though it adds that the temporary truce should be begun “as soon as practicable”, leaving some room for manoeuvre by the Israeli military.
The text is being offered by the Biden administration as an alternative to an Algerian draft resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that is due to be debated on Tuesday.

17 February
The head of the UN’s lead agency helping Palestinians accuses Israel of seeking to destroy it
(AP) The head of the main United Nations agency supporting people in Gaza alleged that Israel is intent on “destroying” the organization along with the idea that Palestinians are refugees and have a right to return home one day.
Philippe Lazzarini accused Israel in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger of having a “long-term political goal” of eliminating the U.N. aid agency he leads, which is known by the acronym UNRWA. It was created more than 70 years ago to assist Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation
“At the moment, we are dealing with an expanded, concentrated Israeli campaign, which is aimed at destroying UNRWA,” Lazzarini said in the interview published Saturday. His remarks provided his most sweeping pushback yet against Israeli accusations that the agency ignored alleged attempts by Hamas to infiltrate its Gaza operation.

10-12 February
Israeli minister: Remove UNRWA’s offices from Israeli territory immediately
(Jerusalem Post) The Minister of Construction and Housing, Yitzchak Goldknopf, has issued an immediate directive for the eviction of UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) offices from Israeli territories. Goldknopf (United Torah Judaism), following revelations by the IDF about UNRWA’s collaboration with Hamas is spearheading efforts to terminate the organization’s lease agreements with the Israel Land Authority across Israel.
He demanded an immediate cessation of all contractual engagements with UNRWA, instructing for their eviction from both leased and utilized lands within Israel.
U.N. agency struggles to serve Gaza as scrutiny mounts over alleged Hamas links
(WaPo) … Political pressure on the U.N. Relief and Works Agency mounted further on Saturday after Israel said it had uncovered a tunnel passing under UNRWA’s main headquarters in Gaza City. The Israeli military posted pictures of what it called an electrical supply hub powering a vast Hamas underground network in the area and said “large quantities of weapons” had been recovered there.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Saturday that the agency had no knowledge of the underground tunnel and had neither the “military and security expertise nor the capacity” to conduct military-grade inspections of the premises. Israel, he added, had not formally notified UNRWA of the findings under the compound, which staff evacuated on Oct. 12 amid Israeli bombardment.
U.N. Agency in Gaza Fought Hamas Infiltration; Not Hard Enough, Israel Says
(NYT) The main U.N. agency in Gaza said it has long investigated claims of links, firing several employees over the years. Israel says it is a compromised organization too weak to protect itself.
By Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman, who spoke to current and former UNRWA officials, interviewed the agency’s head, and visited a tunnel underneath the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.
7 February
‘Reckless’: Proposed ban on US funding for UNRWA raises alarm
Advocates say growing bipartisan support for curbs to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees is ‘concerning’ and ‘reckless’.
A United States security bill that would curtail funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees is raising alarm, as rights advocates say a years-long effort to dismantle the agency is gaining steam amid Israel’s war on Gaza.
The proposed $118bn legislation, a draft of which (PDF) was blocked in the US Senate on Wednesday, includes a provision prohibiting Washington from allocating any funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

3 February
Why is Israel targeting key UN agency UNRWA in Gaza? – YouTube
Israeli intelligence accuses a UN refugee agency of collusion with Hamas – and the media take it at face value.
(Al Jazeera) Israel has for years been claiming that the United Nations refugee agency (UNRWA) is in cahoots with Hamas. The latest allegations – which coincided with the International Court of Justice’s order for Israel to prevent genocide – bear the hallmarks of a distraction tactic. So far, the media have taken the bait.
1 February
Israel’s Claims Torn Apart By Ex-UN Spokesperson: The Truth About UNRWA, w/ Chris Gunness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KrsOLdlcQA
The UN’s agency for the welfare of Palestinians – UNRWA – is under massive coordinated attack. Israeli claims about a tiny proportion of staff have been used to justify Western countries pulling the plug on funding – catastrophic collective punishment during a humanitarian disaster.
This man knows the truth – he knows UNRWA inside out. He’s Chris Gunness, who was UNRWA spokesman until 2020 for 14 years. Listening to him is so important – it’s a matter of life and death – as he takes apart the false claims and gives us the truth.

29-31 January
Millions of Palestinians rely on UNRWA. Why is the US suspending funding based on Israeli accusations?
(The Guardian) Twelve of the agency’s 13,000 Gaza employees were allegedly part of the 7 October attack – so the US and its allies are meting a horrific collective punishment
There should be no question that the 7 October attacks were atrocities. But to punish the UNRWA – and, by extension, the Palestinian people as a whole – because of accusations against 12 people is unconscionable. It is an act of political retaliation that puts the lives of millions of people needlessly at risk and an abdication on an international scale of the United States’ supposed western liberal values.
Donors Rally Behind UNRWA, as U.N. Seeks to Restore Confidence
The U.S. envoy to the United Nations urged it to “take quick and decisive action” over Israeli allegations that 12 employees of UNRWA, the main aid agency for Palestinians, had taken part in the Oct. 7 attack.
(NYT) After days of sharply criticizing the U.N. agency charged with assisting Palestinian civilians, donor countries signaled on Wednesday that they would continue to support the organization under the right conditions and stressed its essential role in delivering lifesaving aid as widespread starvation and disease loom in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

Abolish the U.N.’s Palestinian Refugee Agency
Bret Stephens
(NYT) United Nations agencies and officials are no strangers to scandal and infamy.
U.N. peacekeepers caused a cholera epidemic in Haiti and committed horrific sexual abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.N.’s oil-for-food program for Iraq became a multibillion-dollar kickback scheme through which Saddam Hussein all but bribed his way out of international sanctions. In the 1980s, Kurt Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary general, was unmasked as a former Nazi. He was the same secretary general who denounced Israel’s 1976 rescue of Jewish hostages in Entebbe as “a serious violation” of Uganda’s national sovereignty.
Now comes the latest scandal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, better known as UNRWA. … Last Friday, Israeli officials presented the U.S. government with an intelligence dossier detailing the involvement of 12 UNRWA employees, seven of them schoolteachers, in the massacre of Oct. 7. As reported by The Times’s Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley, the charges range from kidnapping an Israeli woman to storing rocket-propelled grenades to murdering civilians in a kibbutz.
Biden’s UN ambassador: US wants ‘fundamental changes’ to UN agency in Gaza
UNRWA has been Gaza’s main provider of food, water and shelter during the war.
(Politico) The Biden administration needs to see “fundamental changes” at a United Nations aid organization operating in Gaza before it resumes funding that group, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Tuesday.
[Her] remarks are the starkest indication to date that those funding spigots won’t be turned back on soon. They also represent the most concrete demands for structural change at UNRWA to date from someone inside the Biden administration.
“We need to look at the organization, how it operates in Gaza, how they manage their staff and to ensure that people who commit criminal acts, such as these 12 individuals, are held accountable immediately so that UNRWA can continue the essential work that it’s doing,” she said after being briefed on the situation in the Middle East.
Canada’s UNRWA funding pause was a long time coming, observers say
‘The evidence was so stark that there was clearly documentation that shows members of UNRWA were actually moonlighting as terrorists’
(National Post) Shimon Koffler Fogel, President and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), praised the move, saying they’ve been issuing warnings about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for years.
“There’s been a very long track record of not just of internal corruption within UNRWA, but there were a number of UN investigations of the agency and impropriety on the part of their staff — not just its local-hired staff, but the international UN staff that manages the organization.”
The U.N.’s lead agency in Gaza fears its funding will soon collapse.
(NYT) The main United Nations relief agency [UNRWA] in Gaza warned on Monday that its funding could dry up by the end of February if more than a dozen countries do not reverse their decisions to suspend their support following Israeli accusations against some of the agency’s workers.
The withholding of funding for the agency threatens the organization’s relief efforts in Gaza at a time when they are needed most. With more than 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.2 million people displaced by Israel’s military campaign, the agency says it is providing shelter to most of the people in the territory.
… António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, will meet on Tuesday in New York with representatives of countries that are major UNRWA donors

26 January
Key takeaways from UN court’s ruling on Israel’s war in Gaza
(AP) — The U.N. world court on Friday came down hard on Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to “take all measures” to prevent a genocide of the Palestinians. But it stopped short of demanding an immediate cease-fire, as the South African sponsors of the case had hoped.

US pauses funding to UN agency for Palestinians after claims staffers were involved in Hamas attack
(AP) — The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees fired a number of its staffers in Gaza suspected of taking part in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants on southern Israel, its director said Friday, prompting the United States — the agency’s biggest donor — to temporarily halt its funding.
The agency, known by its acronym UNRWA, has been the main agency providing aid for Gaza’s population amid the humanitarian disaster caused by Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza triggered by the Oct. 7 attack. …
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said it terminated contracts with “several” employees and ordered an investigation after Israel provided information alleging they played a role in the attack. The U.S. State Department said there were allegations against 12 employees. UNRWA has 13,000 staffers in Gaza, almost all of them Palestinians, ranging from teachers in schools that the agency runs to doctors, medical staff and aid workers.
UNRWA probes employees over suspected involvement in October 7 attack
UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary healthcare and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon
(Al Jazeera) The US has paused funding to the UN agency after Israel said some of its staff were allegedly involved in the attacks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “horrified by this news”, according to his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. He added that the UN chief had asked Lazzarini to conduct a probe to ensure any UNRWA employee guilty of abetting the October 7 attacks be terminated and referred for potential criminal prosecution.

19 January
Preventing Big AI
(Project Syndicate) As generative artificial intelligence is applied in a rapidly growing number of industries, a slew of recent lawsuits, summits, legislation, and regulatory actions have bolstered efforts to establish guardrails for the technology. While some of the challenges AI poses might prove relatively straightforward to solve, others will require creative thinking – and strong political will.
…according to Carme Artigas, James Manyika, Ian Bremmer, and Marietje Schaake – all members of the Executive Committee of the UN High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence – national-level efforts will not be enough. “The unique challenges that AI poses demand a coordinated global approach to governance,” and only the United Nations “has the inclusive legitimacy needed to organize such a response.”


26 December
Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands’ former deputy prime minister and a Mideast expert, was appointed as the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid to war-torn Gaza.
Kaag has, for years, worked in the Middle East, including in the Palestinian territories. The announcement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres follows the Security Council’s adoption of a resolution on Friday requesting him to expeditiously appoint a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, where more than 2 million civilians are in desperate need of food, water and medicine. Kaag, who speaks fluent Arabic and five other languages, is expected to start on Jan. 8.
What we know about the veteran Dutch diplomat tasked with getting more aid to Gaza

21 December
Interim Report: Governing AI for Humanity
The UN Secretary-General’s AI Advisory Body has launched its Interim Report: Governing AI for Humanity. The report calls for a closer alignment between international norms and how AI is developed and rolled out. The central piece of the report is a proposal to strengthen international governance of AI by carrying out seven critical functions such as horizon scanning for risks and supporting international collaboration on data, and computing capacity and talent to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also includes recommendations to enhance accountability and ensure an equitable voice for all countries.

10-12 December
UN General Assembly votes to demand immediate ceasefire in Gaza
CNN — The United Nations General Assembly has voted to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in war-torn Gaza, in a rebuke to the United States which has repeatedly blocked ceasefire calls in the UN’s Security Council.
A majority of 153 nations voted for the ceasefire resolution in the General Assembly’s emergency special session Tuesday, while 10 voted against and 23 abstained.
While a General Assembly vote is politically significant and seen as wielding moral weight, it is nonbinding, unlike a Security Council resolution.
The vote, hailed as “historic” by Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, comes as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its third month, and as medics and aid groups sound alarm bells on the humanitarian situation in besieged Gaza. More than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza since fighting broke out, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the enclave said Monday.
The resolution “does not ‘call for’ or ‘urges’ – it demands, and we will not rest until we see compliance of Israel with this demand,” Mansour said. A ceasefire is necessary to move the “massive” amounts of humanitarian assistance needed by Gaza’s besieged civilian population, he added.
UN General Assembly likely to vote Tuesday on Gaza ceasefire demand – diplomats
(Reuters) – The 193-member United Nations General Assembly is likely to vote Tuesday on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip, diplomats said on Sunday.
(AP) Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., told The Associated Press that it’s similar to the Security Council resolution the U.S. vetoed Friday.
There are no vetoes in the General Assembly but unlike the Security Council its resolutions are not legally binding. They are important nonetheless as a barometer of global opinion.

7-8 December
UN resolution demanding immediate cease-fire in Gaza fails
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and “only plant the seeds for the next war.”
US vetoes UN resolution backed by many nations demanding immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza
The United States vetoed a United Nations resolution Friday backed by almost all other Security Council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Supporters called it a terrible day and warned of more civilian deaths and destruction as the war goes into its third month.
The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining. The United States’ isolated stand reflected a growing fracture between Washington and some of its closest allies over Israel’s months-long bombardment of Gaza. France and Japan were among those supporting the call for a cease-fire.
In a vain effort to press the Biden administration to drop its opposition to calling for a halt to the fighting, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday. But their meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken took place only after the U.N. vote.
The UN secretary-general invoked ‘Article 99′ to push for a Gaza cease-fire. What exactly is it?
Guterres invoked Article 99 of the U.N. Charter — last used over half a century ago — which says the secretary-general may inform the council of matters he believes threaten international peace and security.
US criticizes Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand
By Bassam Masoud and Humeyra Pamuk
– “The Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law,” says draft resolution for UN Security Council
– UAE asks for Friday vote by council on demand for Gaza ceasefire
(Reuters) Arab states have renewed their push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and to that end, the United Arab Emirates has asked for the U.N. Security Council to vote on Friday morning on a draft resolution.
The United States and ally Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas. Blinken is due to meet top diplomats from Arab states, including Egypt, on Friday in Washington.
The draft was amended to say both “the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law” and to “demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”
A resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain – to be adopted. The U.S. does not support any further action by the council at this time.

6 December
Israeli rage at United Nations comes as Gaza aid hits crucial moment
Relations between Israel and the United Nations have hit a new low point after almost two months of war.
(WaPo) This breakdown in relations comes at a crucial time, just as the United Nations is called on to do more to aid civilians in Gaza as warfare resumes. While often portrayed as ineffectual because of the geopolitical disputes between its member states at the General Assembly and the Security Council, the institution of the U.N. plays an irreplaceable role on the ground with its staff at considerable risk.
A plethora of U.N. agencies are working to help civilians in Gaza, including familiar ones like the World Health Organization and the World Food Program, to more specialized ones like the United Nations Mine Action Service, which works to clear explosives from war zones.
Israel and the U.N. have rarely enjoyed a good relationship throughout history, but the scale of the divide at present may be a new nadir.
…the most damning criticism has been reserved for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which is the largest aid agency in Gaza. …
There could be serious implications for the United Nations. The body may have an enormous footprint in crisis areas and logistical capabilities that few countries can match, but doing so comes at a major cost. In September, before the outbreak of war in Gaza, the U.N. said global funding requirements for humanitarian needs had hit $55 billion with 250 million people — but warned less than 30 percent of that funding had so far been met.

15 November
UN Security Council adopts resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors in Gaza
(AP) — The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip” after four failed attempts to respond to the Israel-Hamas war.

13 November
This Rare UN Peacekeeping Success Offers Model for Gaza
The Croatia mission was heavily armed, fully in charge and had a clear task.
Mark Champion
(Bloomberg) … That leaves the United Nations, widely dismissed due to its dismal record in keeping the peace where that doesn’t already exist. The list of horror stories, from Bosnia to Rwanda, is long. Yet there is one success that offers useful lessons to any transition force, or even a model: the 1996-1998 mission known as UNTAES, to a 2,600-square kilometer (1,000-square mile) area of Eastern Croatia.
the mission was one of few in UN peacekeeping history to be given full authority to administer the territory, rather than having to act at the discretion of a host state. The task was to hand over control to Croatian authorities at the end of the transition period, but how to get there was up to the UN personnel on the ground. In the meantime, the mission ran local services by retaining — rather than purging — the rebel Serbian authority’s functionaries. A mass grave was uncovered, indicted war criminals were pursued and, in one case, arrested.

11 November
Can the next UN vote stop Israel’s war on Gaza?
Malta has circulated a new draft resolution focusing on Gaza’s children, Al Jazeera has learned. Will the US veto it?
Tense and difficult negotiations continue at the United Nations Security Council in an effort to break the deadlock crippling the world’s most powerful decision-making authority – as death and despair rain down on Gaza.
Al Jazeera has learned that Malta’s ambassador to the UN, Vanessa Frazier, has circulated a new resolution among the Council members for consideration and a potential vote, hoping to finally pass a resolution on the war on Gaza, after serial failed efforts over the past month.
Malta is one of 10 elected members of the Council and has been the penholder on children in armed conflict since 2022. This position gives Malta the opportunity to play a leading role in the UNSC’s efforts to protect children in conflict zones. Diplomatic sources have told Al Jazeera that this new resolution is being drafted with a focus on children in the hopes that all 15 members of the UNSC can agree on protections for children in the ongoing conflict.

8 November
UN chief: Gaza death toll suggests Israel’s tactics are ‘clearly wrong’
Secretary-General António Guterres jabs Israel again.
(Politico Eu) U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday said the death toll in Gaza amid Israel’s war with Hamas demonstrates something is wrong with Israel’s military operations.
“There are violations by Hamas when they have human shields. But when one looks at the number of civilians that were killed with the military operations, there is something that is clearly wrong,” he said at the Reuters NEXT conference.
Guterres made those remarks as Israel continues to attack Gaza by air, expand its ground operation and impose a complete siege on 2.2 million people in Gaza, ignoring international calls for a cease-fire and pauses in the war.

2 November
UN Secretary-General Launches Advisory Board to Support AI Governance
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the establishment of a new advisory body on addressing risks and opportunities in international governance of artificial intelligence (AI). The High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence will enable a global, multidisciplinary, and multistakeholder conversation on the governance of AI.
The High-Level Advisory Body will explore ways to link various AI governance initiatives and, by the end of 2023, make preliminary recommendations on how to leverage AI to accelerate the delivery of the SDGs.
The recommendations will focus on: international governance of AI, a shared understanding of risks and challenges, and key opportunities and enablers.
Bringing experience across government, the private sector, the technology community, civil society, and academia, the Body’s 39 members will serve in their personal capacity.
26 OctoberStressing Artificial Intelligence Could Power Extraordinary Progress for Humanity, Secretary-General Says New High-Level Advisory Body ‘Is the Starting Point’
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the press conference launching the High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence, in New York today:

Why did the United Nations hand a human rights job to Iran’s ambassador?
Andrew Tettenborn
(Spectator, UK) What does Iran have to teach the world about human rights? The United Nations appears to think we have plenty to learn from a pariah state which backs Hamas, arrests and beats women for failing to wear a hijab, executes protesters and hangs gay people. In Geneva, the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council – essentially a human rights jamboree – opens today; its chair is Ali Bahreini, Iran’s UN ambassador, who will oversee a conference discussing the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the promotion of human rights. Iran, which has used facial recognition technology to identify dissidents, is likely to have some expertise here.
The appointment is symptomatic of the way in which the UN is abandoning its role as honest broker and becoming partisan. The mask slipped last Tuesday when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, having formulaically deplored Hamas’s raid of 7 October, made it abundantly clear he was not on Israel’s side. Referring to ‘years of suffocating occupation,’ he called, in effect, for an immediate ceasefire from the IDF, even as rockets fired from Gaza City continued to rain on civilians in southern Israel. Israel reacted furiously, saying it would deny visas to UN officials: Guterres, given a chance to retract and save face, instead doubled down, calling again this week for an immediate ceasefire. As the UN gets closer to becoming like Dr Johnson’s Ireland (a place where no-one ‘wears even the mask of incorruption’), it cannot really complain if its authority begins to drain away.
It’s true that, although there is a great deal wrong with the UN, the organisation still does much to keep the peace – at least where major powers are not directly involved and the Security Council cannot be stymied by a veto from Russia or China. However, with an organisation that has no troops of its own, any peacemaking ability depends on retaining world respect, which, in turn, depends on remaining ostensibly impartial. As soon as it, or its institutions, is seen to have been captured by a given interest group, this advantage evaporates. Members will be less prepared to provide it with troops, even if asked by the Security Council; warring parties will be less inclined to respect any troops in blue helmets who do arrive. Slowly but surely the UN is in danger of becoming either just an institution like the medieval papacy, to be brought in on behalf of whichever side can persuade it to intervene, or a well-meaning but ultimately ineffective organisation like the League of Nations in the 1930s.
31 October
Top UN official in New York steps down citing ‘genocide’ of Palestinian civilians
Craig Mokhiber, director of human rights body, accuses the US, UK and much of Europe as ‘wholly complicit in the horrific assault’
(The Guardian) The outgoing director’s departure letter did not mention the 7 October attack by Hamas on southern Israel killing more than 1,400 people and taking 240 hostages. Even more contentiously, his letter calls for the effective end to the state of Israel.
Mokhiber has worked for the UN since 1992, serving in a number of increasingly prominent roles. He led the high commissioner’s work on devising a human rights-based approach to development, and acted as a senior human rights adviser in Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan.
A lawyer who specialises in international human rights law, he lived in Gaza in the 1990s.
In his role as director of the New York office of the high commissioner for human rights, he has come under occasional fire from pro-Israeli groups for his comments on social media.

30 October
Gaza needs equitable, long-term solution
UN deliberations show that an intractable deadlock prevails in the global political arena
Uday Bhaskar
(The Tribune, India) The vote at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, which saw India’s abstention, is illustrative of the political deadlock over the war in Gaza.
A Jordan-drafted resolution that called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities, but did not make any mention of Hamas, got 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions.
Among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US voted against the UNGA resolution; Russia, China and France were in favour; and the UK abstained. During the negotiations, Canada and the US co-sponsored an amendment seeking the introduction of a paragraph which would state that the UNGA “unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on October 7 and the taking of hostages, demands the safety, well-being and humane treatment of the hostages in compliance with international law, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”
India voted in favour of the Canadian amendment, along with 87 other nations, while 55 member states voted against and 23 abstained. However, this fell short of the required majority and the final resolution had no mention of Hamas as a group or its terrorist tag.

27 October
The First Step Toward World Peace: Fix the United Nations
Louise Blais, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, and consul general in Atlanta. She is now an advisor to the Pendleton Group and diplomat in residence at l’Université Laval.
The saddest part of the spectacle of three competing UN Security Council resolutions on the Israel-Hamas conflict all failing this week is that it was classic UNSC intractability and, as such, not a surprise.
(Policy) The inability of the Council to uphold and apply the UN Charter is all-too familiar. Decades of gridlock and self-interest on the part of certain members of the P5 were capped in 2022, when Russia, the aggressor, was able to veto Ukraine-related resolutions. That crisis could have been a turning point. A moment of reckoning for the United Nations. An “enough is enough” catalytic opportunity for a majority of the 193 to put their collective feet down.
The UN Charter provided the tool to do so in Article 27(3) which states that a party to a dispute in the Council (including both permanent and elected members) shall abstain from voting in decisions under Chapter VI of the Charter. In fact, in the first six years of the UN — between 1946 and 1952 — Security Council members regularly adhered to the obligatory abstention rule. Members that voluntarily abstained during this period include the UK, France, India, Pakistan.
Alas, over time, the P5 have curtailed the application of this mechanism. While there were private conversations about invoking Article 27(3) over Russia’s behavior, none of the 10 elected members had the courage, vision or backing to put forward a resolution. One can only assume that the other veto wielding powers; the US, UK, France and China had zero interest in supporting such a move for fear it would limit their own power in the future.
… I would argue that the General Assembly needs to pass an existential resolution; one that gives it precedence over the UNSC in times of conflict so that all countries who wish it can speak as equal members in the Great Hall of the UNGA, not as an afterthought to glaring inaction on the part of the UNSC. This way, each member state can speak, not as invited non-voting presenters in the undemocratic, cynical club that is the UN Security Council, but as equal nations.
Such a resolution should stipulate that the General Assembly can instruct the Security Council to take action to protect civilian life. This is possible. But it takes conviction.
The will of the two-thirds majority of the General Assembly is as close as you can get to fairness, legitimacy and the values that underpin the UN. I have rarely seen that majority act immorally. It is the ultimate protection against the self-dealing and gamesmanship of the UNSC.

25-27 October
Here’s Where Every Country Stands on a Humanitarian Truce for Israel and Gaza
Results from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly
(Global Dispatches) …the United Nations General Assembly suspended its emergency meeting on Israel and Gaza to hold a vote on a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce. The resolution was drafted by Jordan and co-sponsored by more than 40 other UN member states. This vote comes on the heels of failed efforts at the Security Council earlier this week to secure “humanitarian pauses” (as the United States insisted) or “an immediate ceasefire” (as the Russians demanded).
With those votes failing at the 15 member Security Council, the locus of diplomatic action shifted to the 193 member UN General Assembly. Here, every country has a vote and no country has a veto. The resolutions are not binding, but they are an important reflection of international sentiment. Today, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of UN member states want an immediate humanitarian truce.
The voting began with a Canadian amendment to the Jordan draft which included a direct condemnation of Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack. Canada, the United States and many western countries insisted that this condemnatory language be included in order to secure their support. That amendment failed to garner the required two-thirds majority to pass, failing with a tally of 88 in favor, 53 against, and 23 abstentions.
With that amendment failed, the General Assembly voted on the original resolution which called for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.” This language was crafted as a compromise…but its intention was clear: the fighting needs to halt immediately for humanitarian reasons.
After the Canadian amendment failed most European (and western) countries opted to abstain from the resolution, rather than joining the United States in voting against it. This includes Canada! It would seem that very few countries are willing to be on the record opposing a humanitarian truce as the conditions in Gaza so rapidly deteriorate.

UN rejects Canadian push to call out ‘deliberate cruelty’ of Hamas attacks
(CTV) …On the second day of an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, delegates debated the language of a draft resolution calling for a “truce” to allow aid to enter the Gaza Strip and trapped civilians to escape. But the resolution, introduced by the UN’s 22-nation Arab coalition, made no mention of Hamas, the attacks or the tactics employed by a group that has long been considered a terrorist organization by Canada and the U.S., among others.

UN General Assembly set to vote on nonbinding resolution calling for a `humanitarian truce’ in Gaza
(AP) The assembly’s emergency special session on Israeli actions, which began Wednesday, continued Friday with U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoing Israel’s envoy in calling the resolution to be voted on “outrageous” for never mentioning Hamas and saying it is “detrimental” to the vision of a two-state solution.
She said the United States backed a Canadian amendment, which will be voted on first, that would unequivocally reject and condemn the Oct. 7 “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demand the immediate and unconditional release of hostages taken by Hamas. For adoption, the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of assembly members.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group, which drafted the resolution, called for an afternoon vote before all 112 speakers get to the assembly’s rostrum, because of the urgency of taking action.
The Arab group is seeking action by the 193-member world body because of the failure of the more powerful 15-member Security Council to agree on a resolution after four attempts.
At UN podium, Israel’s envoy plays gruesome Hamas attack video
(Reuters) Ambassador Gilad Erdan told diplomats the victim seen in the few seconds of footage he played for them on a tablet was not Israeli or Jewish, but an agricultural worker from Thailand.
Erdan’s comments were delivered as the assembly began a two-day meeting on the Middle East on Thursday.
It is due to vote on Friday on a resolution drafted by Arab states that calls for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
At each seat in the hall at United Nations headquarters, Israeli diplomats placed a print out of a QR code with the title “Free Gaza from Hamas, scan to see Hamas’ atrocities”. It linked to photos and videos from the Oct. 7 attack.

US and Russia Offer Competing Security Council Resolutions on Gaza Crisis | Updates from a Dramatic Week at the UN
What’s even the difference between a “humanitarian pause” vs “ceasefire?”
Why “Humanitarian Pauses” vs “Ceasefire” is Becoming the Central Debate at the UN
(Global Dispatches) …an extremely contentious debate underway at the United Nations this week over whether to endorse a “humanitarian pause,” a “ceasefire,” — or neither.
Antonio Guterres is in a bit of trouble with Israel right now. At a Security Council meeting yesterday, Guterres reiterated his calls for a ceasefire, called for the immediate release of Israeli hostages, and unequivocally condemned the Hamas terrorist attack, saying “nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians.”
But then he added: “It is important to also recognize that the Hamas attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.” (But he stressed again, “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks of Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”)
The Israelis took extreme exception to this. The Israeli foreign minister was intended to have a meeting with Antonio Guterres, along with family members of hostages. That meeting was cancelled. Then, Israeli’s UN ambassador went a step further and called for Antonio Guterres’ resignation.
…things escalated sharply overnight when Israel’s UN Ambassador said that Israel had denied a visa to Martin Griffiths, a British national and the UN’s top humanitarian official. “Due to his [Guterres’s] remarks, we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives,” [Gilad] Erdan told Army Radio. “We have already refused a visa for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. The time has come to teach them a lesson.”
This is a big deal. Griffiths is the UN official most responsible for coordinating aid deliveries to Gaza from Egypt. That Israel is denying Griffiths a visa suggests that Israel’s commitment to allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is rather tenuous — and a concession to the international community that can be easily revoked. Given the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza (the UN says its relief agencies will run out of fuel tonight) this is not a good sign at all.
Is Israel’s UN ban a blow to peace efforts?
If it was permanent, I’d say yes as it is. I think we won’t be talking about it in a few days. Look, obviously, on the back of these horrific terrorist attacks, everyone in Israel is on edge and more willing to lash out when they hear anything that sounds not 100% aligned with the message they want to hear. I’m empathetic to that, and I expect they’re going to back away, especially because the Secretary-General has been consistent in talking about how he has condemned Hamas terrorist attacks.

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