Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
Russia further isolated in General Assembly vote
Russia found itself further isolated in the international community on Thursday, when the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution demanding Moscow immediately stop its war against Ukraine. In a 140-5 vote with 38 abstentions, nations adopted the text, put forward by Ukraine and backed by more than 80 countries, that also demands the protection of all civilians and civilian infrastructure, humanitarian and medical personnel, and journalists.
Humanitarian truce declared in northern Ethiopia
This week, the federal government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral humanitarian cease-fire in northern Ethiopia, where it has been fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November 2020, resulting in a grave humanitarian crisis. The Tigrayans responded that they were open to an immediate cessation of hostilities if their humanitarian needs were met. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the development on Friday, saying it should lead to improvements on the ground, where a de facto government blockade on the TPLF’s stronghold of Tigray has left more than 5 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict has spread to the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, leaving an additional 4.2 million people in need of aid.
Taliban break promise to allow all Afghan girls back to school
Guterres expressed “deep regret” after the Taliban announced this week that secondary education for girls had been suspended until further notice, breaking a pledge to allow them back to go back to school March 23. He urged Taliban authorities to open schools for all students without further delay. The U.N. Security Council was also being briefed on the situation late Friday by the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. Ten of the 15 council members called the development “a profoundly disturbing setback” in a joint statement ahead of the discussion.
— UNICEF and the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said this week that 4.3 million children — more than half of Ukraine’s child population — have been displaced because of Russia’s invasion of the country. More than 1.8 million are refugees, and 2.5 million are internally displaced. Overall, 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, of which about 6.5 million are internally displaced and 3.7 million people are now refugees. Some 13 million people are believed to be stranded in conflict-affected areas.
— Guterres said Tuesday that the war in Ukraine was “unwinnable” and that it was time the parties negotiated a cease-fire. He told reporters at U.N. headquarters that “continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical.
— Late Friday, the Security Council will discuss North Korea’s launch this week of a massive new intercontinental ballistic missile. It was North Korea’s fourth ICBM test, and its first since 2017. The launch was a violation of several council resolutions.
Quote of note
“Should we take food from the children who are hungry to give to the starving?”
— World Food Program chief David Beasley this week on the impact of a shortage of billions of dollars in funding for several major humanitarian crises.
On March 31, the United Nations will host a pledging conference for Afghanistan. Some $4.4 billion is needed to assist millions of Afghans who are facing acute hunger due to drought and a dire economic crisis. With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine, humanitarians worry about funding shortages for Afghanistan and other nations in crisis.
On Wednesday, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright died of cancer at age 84. Before rising to that role, she was President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997. Guterres offered his condolences on her passing, saying she was his “dear friend” and “a trailblazer, a role model, and a champion of multilateral action and international cooperation.” He also spoke of her as one of the “most influential U.S. foreign policy leaders of her time.” Learn more about her life and career: