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UN chief ‘deeply concerned’ by stalled Black Sea Grain Initiative

On Sunday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said, in a statement for the Secretary-General, that Mr. Guterres has decided to delay his departure for the Arab League Summit in Algiers by a day to focus on the issue.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, mountains of grains built up in silos, with ships unable to secure safe passage to and from Ukrainian ports, and land routes were unable to compensate.

This contributed to vertiginous rises in the price of staple foods around the world. Combined with increases in the cost of energy, developing countries were pushed to the brink of debt default and increasing numbers of people found themselves on the brink of famine.

The Initiative was due to run out in the second half of November, but there was an option to extend it, if all parties, including Russian and Ukraine, agree.

Millions saved from extreme poverty

The deal was demonstrably successful in bringing down prices, allowing millions of tonnes of grain to be safely transported from Ukrainian ports. By September, Rebecca Grynspan, the head of the UN trade body, UNCTAD, and Amir Abdulla, the UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, could proudly announced that prices had come down five months in a row, and that the Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, had decreased nearly 14 per cent from its March peak.

According to UN estimates, the Initiative has indirectly prevented some 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty.

However, on Saturday Russia announced that it was suspending its involvement in the deal, citing an attack the same day on ships in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol in the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

The move reportedly took traders by surprise, and raised fears of another steep rise in food prices. Arif Husain, Chief Economist at the World Food Programme (WFP), reportedly warned that Russia’s decision poses a danger to a large number of countries, and should be resolved as soon as possible.

Mr. Dujarric said that the Secretary-General is continuing to engage in intense contacts aimed at ending the Russian suspension of its participation in the Initiative.

This engagement, he explained, also aims at the renewal and full implementation of the initiative to facilitate exports of food and fertilizer from Ukraine, as well as removing the remaining obstacles to the exports of Russian food and fertilizer.

Joint Coordination Committee meets to consider next steps

  • The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – which comprises senior representatives from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine, and the United Nations, and was set up to implement the deal – met  in Istanbul on Sunday, where the Russian delegation confirmed the country’s decision to indefinitely suspend its participation in the implementation of the activities of the Initiative, including in inspections.

  • The delegation announced that it will continue the dialogue with the United Nations and the Turkish delegation on pressing issues, and expressed its readiness to cooperate remotely on issues that require immediate decision by the JCC. 

  • In an information note released on Sunday, the United Nations Secretariat, in close cooperation with the Turkish delegation at the JCC, declared that it will continue to engage all representatives, to offer options on next steps regarding the JCC operations in accordance with the goals and provisions stated in the Initiative.

  • During the session, it was proposed that, In order to continue fulfilling the Initiative, the Turkish and United Nations delegations will provide 10 inspection teams on Monday, aiming to inspect 40 outbound vessels. This inspection plan has been accepted by the delegation of Ukraine; the Russian Federation delegation has been informed. 

  • Currently, there are 97 loaded vessels and 15 inbound vessels registered for JCC inspection around Istanbul. There are an additional 89 that have applied to join the Initiative. 

  • In addition, the Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations delegations agreed on a movement plan for Monday, 31 October, for the maritime humanitarian corridor of 14 vessels, 12 outbound and two inbound.

  • The UN delegation, in its capacity as JCC Secretariat, informed the delegation of the Russian Federation on the movements in accordance with the JCC established procedures. As per JCC procedures, all participants coordinate with their respective military and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. 
     

Peacekeepers turn ground-breakers in the Central African Republic

Operating an excavator, a bulldozer or a wheel loader did not come naturally to Chief Private Ryan Herdhika, an avid motorcyclist and soldier in the Indonesian Army’s 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion. But he has just passed his heavy engineering equipment test and will next month be deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) as part of the Indonesian peacekeeping force there.

“It will be the first time in my life I will go abroad, and I am proud that my first trip is as a UN peacekeeper, not a tourist,” said Chief Private Herdhika, while getting on a motor grader to practice how to level the ground in a training field in Sentul, at the Indonesian military’s vast peacekeeping centre.

With close to 2,700 soldiers on active duty in seven UN peace missions, Indonesia is the eighth largest contributor to global peacekeeping operations.

A Japanese military instructor helps a soldier of the Indonesian Army’s 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion perfect his skills in driving a motor grader – equipment he will need to operate at the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.
UNIC Indonesia/Rizky Ashar

Solid foundations for a fragile peace process

Under the UN’s Triangular Partnership Programme (TPP) – which brings together countries that provide trainers and resources, and troop contributing countries that deploy to peacekeeping missions – military engineers with extensive experience in operating heavy engineering equipment in peacekeeping missions from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) trained 20 Indonesian soldiers.

The personnel of the Indonesian Armed Forces who completed the training will use their skills to help build and repair UN mission and host country infrastructure including supply routes and camp grounds, and support national recovery efforts following natural disasters in the Central African Republic. MINUSCA has been present in the country since 2014, with a mandate to protect civilians and support the fragile peace process and the transitional government.

“This is a very hard course, having to learn to use a diverse set of equipment in just nine weeks,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tsuyoshi Toyoda, Commander of the JGSDF Training Team. “The trainees worked hard, passed the test and are ready to deploy.”

While there are commercial instructors available to teach these skills in a civilian setting, the complexities of UN peacekeeping operations require trainers with peacekeeping experience.

“In a normal construction site, operators specialize in a single kind of equipment, but here we need the soldiers to learn and operate six types of machines,” said Colonel Herman Harnas, Director of International Cooperation at the Indonesian Armed Forces Peacekeeping Centre. “In a peacekeeping situation, you also do not have the luxury to have separate staff for maintaining the vehicles – so the soldiers need to learn that as well.”

This is the first time such a training course is taking place in Indonesia, though similar courses have been held in Brazil, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Uganda and Viet Nam, countries that are also important contributors to the UN’s peacekeeping efforts.

Enhancing the preparedness and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions is at the core of the TPP’s raison d’être. But the work of a peacekeeping engineer serving in UN missions requires more than specialized technical knowledge, and the TPP reflects the harsh reality of the peacekeeping environment.  

“Our soldiers also learn discipline and the importance of following protocols, which is particularly key in emergency situations, when they need to act quickly,” says Colonel Harnas. “The soldiers are now able to deploy to MINUSCA, one of the UN’s most complex peace operations.”

Chief Private Ryan Herdhika of the Indonesian Army’s 3rd Combat Engineering Battalion is practicing how to flatten a surface – a task he will need to perform regularly at the UN’s MINUSCA peacekeeping mission once he deploys next month.
UNIC Indonesia/Rizky Ashar

A particular set of skills

The UN is committed to continue strengthening engineering, medical and technological capacities of uniformed peacekeepers, says Rick Martin, Director of Special Activities at the UN’s Department of Operational Support in New York.

“As we face new operational challenges within UN peacekeeping operations, high-quality enabling units in engineering and other key capability areas will need to continue to be a priority area if we are to close capability gaps and improve the performance of UN peacekeeping operations,” he adds.

Next year, the UN and Japanese trainers will be back in Sentul to hold a training-of-trainers course, this time teaching future equipment instructors from armies from across the region who contribute to peacekeeping. By then, Chief Private Herdhika will be operating engineering equipment in the Central African Republic. “But after I come back, I hope to be able to pass on my knowledge and experience to my future peacekeepers colleagues as well,” he says.

UN Security Council boosts commitment to fight digital terror

The non-binding document, known as The Delhi Declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes was adopted in the Indian capital on Saturday, following a series of panels that involved Member States representatives, UN officials, civil society entities, the private sector, and researchers. 

The declaration aims to cover the main concerns surrounding the abuse of drones, social media platforms, and crowdfunding, and create guidelines that will help to tackle the growing issue.

The Delhi declaration lays out the foundation for the way ahead,” said David Scharia from the Counter-Terrorism Executive Committee. “It speaks about the importance of human rights, public-private partnership, civil society engagement, and how we are going to work together on this challenge. It also invites the CTED [the Secretariat for the Committee] to develop a set of guiding principles, which will result from intensive thinking with all the partners.”

Human Rights at the core

Respect for human rights was highly stressed in the document, and during the debates. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, underscored that there must be “concrete measures to reduce these vulnerabilities while committing to protect all human rights in the digital sphere.” 

In a video message, Mr. Guterres added that human rights could only be achieved through effective multilateralism and international cooperation, with responses that are anchored in the values and obligations of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Representing the Human Rights Office, Scott Campbell, who leads the digital technology team, echoed the Secretary-General, explaining that “respecting rights when countering terrorism is fundamental to ensuring sustainable and effective efforts to protect our security.”

“Approaches that cross these important lines not only violate the law, but they also undermine efforts to combat terrorism by eroding the trust, networks, and community that is essential to successful prevention and response,” he said.

Mr. Campbell argued that international law and human rights present many answers to the issue, recalling that the Member States have a duty to protect the security of their population and to ensure that their conduct does not violate the rights of any person.

Regulation and censorship

He also stressed that companies and States should be cautious when filtering and blocking social media content, as it can “affect minorities and journalists in disproportionate ways.”

To overcome the issue, Mr. Campbell suggested that restrictions should be based on precise and narrowly tailored laws, and should not incentivize the censoring of legitimate expression. He argued that they should have transparent processes, genuinely independent and impartial oversight bodies, and that civil society and experts should be involved in developing, evaluating, and implementing regulations.

During the closing session of the meeting, the Committee chairperson, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, stated that the outcome document takes note of the challenges, and proposes “practical, operational, and tactical possibilities of addressing the opportunities and the threats posed by the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.”

 

She added that the global policymaking community “must be agile, forward-thinking, and collaborative” to meet the changing needs of States facing new challenges from digital terror.

Delhi Declaration highlights:

  • In the Delhi Declaration, Member States agree that guidelines and implemented actions should be based on international law and human rights.

  • Members of the Committee will draft recommendations to counter the terrorist exploitation of Information and Communications Technology, such as payment technologies and fundraising methods and misuse of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones).

  • The body will assist Member States in the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions to countering the use of technologies for terrorist purposes, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

  • A new set of non-binding guiding principles to assist Member States in countering the digital terrorism threat will be issued, with a compilation  of good practices on the opportunities offered by the same set of technologies to tackle threats.

  • The relevant offices will commit to deepening engagement and cooperation with civil society, including women and women’s organizations, relevant private-sector entities, and other stakeholders, and build partnerships.
     

UN chief reaffirms support for deals to ensure export food and fertilizer from Ukraine and Russia

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement brokered by the UN and Türkiye in July, which was set up to reintroduce vital food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world, is due to run out in the second half of November, but it can be extended, if all parties, including Russian and Ukraine, agree.

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Guterres promised that the UN is continuing its active and constant engagement with all parties towards that goal. “We underline the urgency of doing so to contribute to food security across the world”, he said, “and to cushion the suffering that this global cost-of-living crisis is inflicting on billions of people.”

“If food and fertilizers do not reach global markets now, farmers will not have fertilizers at the right time and at a price they can afford as the planting season begins, endangering crops in all regions of the world in 2023 and 2024, with dramatic effect on food production and food prices worldwide. The current crisis of affordability will turn into a crisis of availability.

Mr. Guterres reiterated the positive impacts of the Black Sea Grain Initiative so far: since it was signed, exports of grain and other food products – which are closely monitored by the Joint Coordination Centre, comprising representatives from the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN – have surpassed nine million tonnes.

It has also contributed to the lowering of the price of wheat and other commodities, which had soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: the FAO Food Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, has declined for seven months in a row and, according to UN estimates, has indirectly prevented some 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty.

The UN chief urged all parties to make every effort to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative and implement both agreements to their fullest, including the expedited removal of any remaining impediments to Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

“Governments, shipping companies, grain and fertilizer traders and farmers all over the world are now looking for clarity on the future”, he declared.

The vital role of Syrian women in resolving bitter conflicts

The protracted fighting has taken countless lives, displaced millions in and outside the country and left much of the country’s infrastructure in tatters. The failure of international efforts to make much progress has been ascribed to the lack of understanding amongst formal mediators of the situation on the ground in local communities.

This is where Syrian women come to the fore. Most women involved in local mediation have some connection to the dispute, and are perceived as trustworthy and credible by the disputing parties. As “insider mediators”, they demonstrate two consistent strengths: the ability to build or leverage relationships, and the possession of detailed knowledge on the conflict and its parties.

An example of this strength came early in the war, in the Zabadani district, northwest of Damascus. As the district began to fall under the control of opposition forces, it was besieged by the government. The authorities demanded that men hand over weapons and surrender, which meant that only women could move safely across the lines of control.

A reversal of roles

Whilst, before the war, Zabadani women were usually expected to focus on responsibilities inside the home, the new restrictions and risks suddenly faced by men made it acceptable—and even necessary—for women to get involved in negotiations with government forces.

Quickly stepping into this newfound role, a group of women in Zabadani gathered and initiated a mediation process with the besieging forces in order to negotiate an end to the siege as well as a potential ceasefire.

“Most of these women became involved because their husbands were implicated with the opposition forces and were wanted by the government,” says Sameh Awad,* a peacebuilding expert familiar with the case. “The women themselves were mostly housewives and did not have any formal role in the community, but they gained their significance because they wanted to protect their husbands”.

Although the ceasefire later collapsed, doe to the changing political context, the women were, for a period of time, able to ensure that civilians were protected and evacuated.

In another example, in the northwestern city of Idlib, informal groups of women were able to save the lives of a group of detainees. After hearing a rumour that they were about to be killed by soldiers, a group of female teachers worked to convince a wider group of women, including the detainees’ mothers, to approach the headquarters of the battalion leader. The encounter ended with the faction leader agreeing to speak with the military council and, a month later, the detainees were released as part of an exchange deal.

Syrian women have also led mediation efforts with government forces to address security issues and service provision in areas formerly under opposition control. “The government insisted that men needed to complete military service, and this made many young men afraid to emerge in the public sphere,” explained MS. Awad. “So, women were involved in going out and exploring to what extent the discussions with the new authorities in the area were possible. During these negotiations, they discussed early recovery in their areas.”

The Qadi Askar neighbourhood of Aleppo in Syria has been extensively destroyed due to the decade-long conflict in the country.
© WFP/Jessica Lawson

Repairing social cohesion

Several years after the start of the conflict, Mobaderoon, a women-led civil society organisation in Damascus, noted an increase in localized violence towards internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had arrived in the capital. To address this violence, the organisation formed local committees made up of community and local government leaders, other influential community members such as teachers and civil society activists, and ordinary residents. They established neutral spaces where people could meet and discuss issues affecting their neighbourhoods, and where they could build their confidence and skills to address these issues.

After some time, the women-led organisation expanded its work to Tartus, a coastal city in western Syria, and partnered with another women-led organisation that enjoys strong community ties and presence in the area.

“Because of the war and the influx of IDPs there were no services, or not enough services,” says Farah Hasan*, a member of Mobaderoon. “Local youth accused the IDPs of being responsible for the war, because they originated from areas under opposition control, and they carried out violent attacks against them in nearby camps.”

This violence was creating substantial instability in the area, so the head of Tartus met with influential community members and local business actors, to convince them that the IDP camp should be integrated as a part of the community, so that IDPs could participate in the local economy.

Attitudes slowly changed, and the targeted neighbourhoods in Tartus witnessed notable differences in the treatment of IDPs: they reported less harassment and violence from host community members, greater acceptance of their children in schools, and more economic opportunities. 

Find out more about the ways that women are involved in peace and security issues here.

* Names changed to protect privacy

Northern Ethiopia facing devastating spike in preventable disease: WHO

“There are 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray; that number includes 3.8 million people who are in need of health assistance and we need to reach these people,” said Ilham Abdelhai Nour, World Health Organization Team Lead for Ethiopia, Incident Management System and Emergencies Operations.

‘No access to Tigray’

“We have access in Amhara and Afar, so we know more about the situation there and we were able to intervene and support,” Ms. Nour said, referring to the regions bordering Tigray.

“However, we do not have access in Tigray; there is no air or road access in Tigray for the last six weeks.”

Malaria spike

According to WHO, malaria infections have risen by a full 80 per cent in Tigray and by 40 per cent in neighbouring Amhara compared to last year – although cases are decreasing in Amhara.

But malaria is just one of the deadly threats facing millions of people affected by the conflict and humanitarian agencies have issued repeated alerts on their behalf, since fighting between federal troops and separatists in Tigray erupted in November 2020.

Providing help in Tigray is difficult, as more than half of the region’s health facilities are closed, leaving people untreated for trauma and injuries, food insecurity and malnutrition, sexual and gender-based violence, communicable diseases such as malaria and cholera, as well as reduced access to treatment for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.

Earlier this month, the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, reported that civilians waiting to receive much-needed humanitarian assistance came under fire.

It also warned that newly displaced people in Tigray’s Zelazele were “in a dire situation with the vast majority sleeping in open areas directly exposed to cold weather and other protection risks”.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – himself an ethnic Tigrayan – has echoed widespread concerns about the crisis several times, including last week, when he warned that there was only a “very narrow window” to prevent genocide there.

Despite the physical and telecommunications access barriers faced by aid teams working in Tigray, enough regular updates have emerged from the region – sometimes delivered by hand to WHO – to warrant Friday’s alert, the UN agency insisted.

Mothers bring their children to be treated for malnutrition at a displaced persons camp in Tigray, Ethiopia.
© UNICEF/Nahom Tesfaye

Mothers bring their children to be treated for malnutrition at a displaced persons camp in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Food shortages

Citing UN World Food Programme (WFP) data, WHO noted that in Amhara and Afar, 19 per cent and 14 per cent of mainly displaced children under five were now food insecure, while in Tigray, “a staggering” 89 per cent of the population is food insecure and nearly half are severely food insecure.

“Almost one in every three children under five in Tigray is malnourished,” said Altaf Musani, Director of the Health Emergencies Interventions, speaking in Geneva. “Severe acute malnutrition among children in the region is six per cent, 65 per cent of children have not received nutritional support in over a year.”

Highlighting the clear link between malnutrition and disease, Mr. Musani described how basic health services had been cut. Understanding the true scale of needs has also been complicated by the fact that only 30 per cent of health facilities in Tigray are still able to provide weekly situation reports to WHO.

Key jabs stopped

“Immunisation services (are) a lifeline to children to keep them alive; those services have stopped,” Mr. Musani said. “We know that there are confirmed reports of stockouts, IV fluids, antibiotics other treatment medicines don’t exist in those facilities, we’ve had first-hand reports of that information.”

As peace talks between the combatants began this week in South Africa, Tigrayan communities urgently need guaranteed and safe access to provide lifesaving assistance, WHO insisted.

“Access was intermittent between March and August and during the humanitarian truce (in Afar, Amhara and Tigray) we were able to bring in, not a lot, but really a small quantity that covers really a small amount of the needs there, said Ms. Nour.

“We were also able to support essential services in Tigray, support the measles campaign there, but we were unable to distribute supplies very quickly because of little cash and fuel. We were unable to undertake malaria prevention activities because of the same reasons; we were not able to extend the COVID-19 vaccination campaign beyond the capital Mekelle, so we have a huge issue of access there.”

UN Resident Coordinators a key link in achieving development goals

Ambassadors and UN leaders recently reaffirmed their support for the Organization’s Resident Coordinators, who lead teams servicing more than 160 countries and territories.

These 130 senior officials are the Secretary-General’s designated representatives in the field and coordinate UN operational activities for development.

They are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed by the UN’s 193 Member States seven years ago, which promise a more just, equitable and “green” world by 2030.

A force for solutions

Resident Coordinators were at UN Headquarters this month for a series of interactive sessions with the Secretary-General, the Deputy Secretary-General, UN Sustainable Development Group principals and Member State representatives, to review progress and challenges, four years into UN development system reforms.

This marked their first in-person gathering since the onset of the pandemic.

During his meeting with them, Secretary-General António Guterres called on Resident Coordinators to keep ambitions high, as they are the “UN development system’s biggest convening force to forge solutions” in countries at a time of myriad challenges.

He also warned of yet another difficult year ahead, and the need for UN support with greater scale than ever before.

‘Long road ahead’

That message echoed throughout the interactive dialogue between the Resident Coordinators and Member States, hosted by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.

She said the reforms of the UN development system are delivering results, noting that 95 per cent of host Governments confirm that the reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system and the new generation of UN country teams are more integrated and more collaborative.

“At the same time, we are aware that there is still a long road ahead of us and that the global crisis we face has raised the bar even higher,” she added.

Ms. Mohammed highlighted key priorities for the coming year, which the Secretary-General had outlined in his meeting with the Resident Coordinators.

They are mitigating the impact of the global cost-of-living crisis, advancing climate action, and accelerating just economic transitions across energy, digital and food systems that both empower people and protect the planet.

Accelerate the transition

The UN deputy chief also listed the actions required to support these priorities, such as financing. 

“Transformative change and a just transition cannot happen without financial investments at speed and at scale — and without significant reforms to our global financing architecture,” she said.

Ms. Mohammed stressed that 2023 must be the year countries accelerate the transitions that will reshape and power economies to deliver the SDGs.

“Together, we must raise the ambition and urgency needed to leapfrog from the multiple crises we face and, together, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Praise for reform

Several Member State representatives at the meeting commended Resident Coordinators for their role in ensuring the implementation of crucial action plans that support sustainable development in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

The Ambassador of Barbados, François Jackman, also said the reform is “unqualifiedly a success”, adding that Small Island Developing States are benefitting, including through integrated responses to natural disasters.

Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Ambassador and chair of the Group of 77 and China developing country coalition, said his government sees that the UN development system reform “has been a successful exercise.”

While in New York, Resident Coordinators from different regions also told UN News how country teams are making a difference at a critical time for the international community.

The view from Brazil

Silvia Rucks arrived in Brazil roughly a year-and-a-half ago, at the height of the pandemic.  The situation was difficult, but she was impressed with how well the 25 UN agencies, funds and programmes in the country were uniting in the face of the crisis.

“When we think about UN reform, Brazil is a good example of how these agencies work together,” she said.

Teams mobilized resources, supplies, and medicines, particularly to support the most affected populations, such as indigenous communities.

Ms. Rucks added that the UN system in Brazil works in other key areas, such as humanitarian assistance and human rights, in addition to promoting sustainable development
 

UN counter-terrorism committee pays tribute to victims of worldwide attacks

The event kicked off in Mumbai, at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where a series of coordinated terrorist attacks left 31 dead and many injured, in November 2008. Among the survivors is Karambir Kang, who also gave testimony to the meeting, ensuring that the views and needs of victims themselves, were heard loud and clear.

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He is part of the hotel’s workforce, and recalled the hours of terror, that saw him lose his wife and son, and many colleagues. 

‘Our house was attacked’

“We felt that our house was attacked. Therefore, we had to defend it. The Taj Mahal is our monument of love. […] Terrorism is not something that happens to other people in some other place. It is real, and it can happen to anyone anywhere”, he said.

As a survivor, he stressed that his “act of defiance” was to rebuild the hotel in just 18 months. “I would therefore urge the Security Council to defy these acts of terrorism by acting and cooperating, resolutely, against terrorism,” he concluded.

Two-years-old at the time, Moishe Holzberg was also a survivor of the attacks. Saved by his nanny, he now lives in Israel with his grandparents – his mother and father were shot dead during the terrorist rampage.

“Your gathering here in Mumbai is very important. It is very important that you find new ways to counter terrorism, so that no one will have to go through what I have gone through”, he urged in a video message. 

‘victims of an attack on humanity’

The opening event was hosted at the hotel in memory of its victims and included Security Council Member States – both current and those recently elected, who begin serving next year.

The Committee Chair, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, stressed that these testimonials are vital to show the international community the consequences of terrorist acts and the resilience of their survivors.

“One thing that remains common to all of us [survivors] is the pain,” added Ms. Chaphekar. “We are the victims of an attack on humanity,” she concluded.

The Secretary-General, António Guterres, was in India last week and visited the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. In his speech reflecting on the attacks, he stated that “terrorism is absolute evil and has no room in today’s world.”

He added that “fighting terrorism must be a global priority,” and it is a central priority for the action of the United Nations.” He also expressed his solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Mumbai attacks.

Informal briefing to the United Nations Security Council by the Counter-Terrorism Committee gets underway in Mumbai, India.
Ministry of External Affairs of India

Informal briefing to the United Nations Security Council by the Counter-Terrorism Committee gets underway in Mumbai, India.

The many faces of terrorism

Following the tribute ceremony, the representatives got down to business, debating the core topic of the special meeting, on how useful technology is being abused, to spread terror. They presented their concerns, and were briefed by UN experts.

When one thinks of terrorism, the image that comes to mind is often large attacks conducted by notorious extremist groups, mostly against civilians. However, technology has revealed another façade of terrorism, bringing the threat of ‘invisible’ attacks way closer and, in many cases, literally just one click away.

On Saturday in the Indian capital New Delhi, there will be several sessions to discuss the online financing of terrorism, the use of drones in conflicts, and the importance of human rights to define guidelines on the issue. 

Mr. David Scharia, Chief of Branch of Counter-Terrorism Executive Committee, told UN News that the CTED is hoping to achieve some understanding in how to balance the benefits and the risks of these innovations.

Risks and challenges

“There are a lot of benefits that our economies and our societies get from these technologies. At the same time, it will probably recognize that there is a risk and a challenge in dealing with that risk, which will require several steps”, he argued.

Moreover, Mr. Scharia is confident that the outcomes will “not sacrifice our values, in particular, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to information, the right to privacy.”

Expert roundtable

According to him, an essential asset to the discussion is to bring civil society, the private sector, and academia, together around the table.

“They [the private sector] understand the technologies far better than governments, and they also know whether our solutions would be effective or not.”

Representatives from international tech companies such as Google and Meta are expected to brief Security Council members.

He explains that the “meeting will not conclude with a very specific action plan” but will pave the way, in collaboration with Member States, for further discussions, which he considers to constitute meaningful progress on this key part of the counter-terrorism agenda.

Following a wreath laying ceremony in tribute to the #victims of the 26/11 #Mumbai terrorist attacks, @ruchirakamboj, Chair of the @UN Security Council #CounterTerrorism Committee, asked those present to observe a minute of silence to commemorate all victims of terrorism https://t.co/HhoyrFp566

COP27: What you need to know about this year’s big UN Climate Conference

The Secretary-General has said COP27 must deliver a “down-payment” on climate solutions that match the scale of the problem, so, will leaders deliver?

UN News will keep you informed during the two weeks of the conference officially kicking off on Nov 6th, but before our multimedia team heads for the shore of the Red Sea, we’ve compiled this guide to some of the most important things you need to know.

Delegates seated in the main plenary at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

Delegates seated in the main plenary at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

What’s the story with all these COPS?

The COPs are the biggest and most important annual climate-related conferences on the planet.

In 1992, the UN organised the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in which the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted and its coordinating agency – what we know now as the UN Climate Change secretariat – was put into place.

In this treaty, nations agreed to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system”. So far, 197 different parties have signed it.

Since 1994, when the treaty entered into force, every year the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits or “COPs”, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’.

During these meetings, nations have negotiated various extensions of the original treaty to establish legally binding limits on emissions, for example, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, in which all countries of the world agreed to step up efforts to try and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, and boost climate action financing.

This year marks the 27th annual summit, or COP27.

Civil organizations demonstrate at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
UN News/Laura Quiñones

Civil organizations demonstrate at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

How is COP27 different from the other COPs?

Last year’s COP26, which marked five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement (one year was skipped because of the COVID pandemic), culminated in the Glasgow Climate Pact, which kept the goal of curbing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, but “with a weak pulse”, as the then UK Presidency declared.

Advancements were made to make the Paris Agreement fully operational, by finalizing the details for its practical implementation, also known as the Paris Rulebook.

At COP26 countries agreed to deliver stronger commitments this year, including updated national plans with more ambitious targets. However, only 23 out of 193 countries have submitted their plans to the UN so far.

Glasgow also saw many pledges made inside and outside the negotiation rooms regarding net-zero commitments, forests protection and climate finance, among many other issues.

According to the Presidential vision statement, COP27 will be about moving from negotiations, and “planning for implementation” for all these promises and pledges made.

Egypt has called for full, timely, inclusive, and at-scale action on the ground.

According to experts, besides reviewing how to implement the Paris Rulebook, the conference will also see negotiations regarding some points that remained inconclusive after Glasgow.

These issues include “loss and damage” financing so that countries at the frontlines of the crisis can deal with the consequences of climate change that go beyond what they can adapt to, and the fulfilment of the promise of $100 billion every year from adaptation finance, from developed nations, to low-income countries.

The negotiations will also include technical discussions, for example, to specify the way in which nations should practically measure their emissions so there’s a level playing field for everyone.

All these discussions will pave the way for the first Global Stocktake at COP28, which in 2023 will assess the global collective progress on mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

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UNEP

World must urgently increase action and ambition to cut another 25 per cent off 2030 emissions.

So, what are the big objectives this time?

1. Mitigation: how are countries reducing their emissions?

Climate Change Mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energy sources, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behaviour.

Countries are expected to show how they are planning to implement the Glasgow pact call, to review their climate plans and create a work programme related to mitigation.

This means presenting more ambitious 2030 emissions targets, since UN Climate Change has said that current plans are still not enough to avoid catastrophic warming.

Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.
© WFP Haiti/Theresa Piorr

Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.

2. Adaptation: how are countries going to adapt and help others do the same?

Climate change is here. Beyond doing everything we can to cut emissions and slow the pace of global warming, countries must also adapt to climate consequences so that they can protect their citizens.

The fallout varies depending on location. It might mean the risk of more fires or floods, droughts, hotter or colder days or sea-level rise.

At COP26, delegates adopted a work programme on the global goal of adaptation established in the Paris Agreement.

The plan was put in place to equip communities and countries with the knowledge and tools to ensure that adaptation actions they take, are indeed moving the world towards a more climate-resilient future.

The COP27 Presidency expects nations to capture and assess their progress toward enhancing resilience and helping the most vulnerable communities. This means countries making more detailed and ambitious commitments in the adaptation components of their national climate plans.

Last year, developed countries agreed to at least double finance for adaptation, and many stakeholders are calling for even greater levels of adaptation funding to match the amounts that are now being spent on mitigation, as established in the Paris Agreement. This will definitely be a big conversation topic at Sharm el-Sheikh.

UNFCCC is clear that to respond to the present and future climate risks it is necessary to significantly increase the scale of adaptation finance, from all sources – public and private sources. All players must come on board – governments, financial institutions, and the private sector.

Developed countries promised to mobilise $100 billion every year for climate adaptation.
Unsplash/Jason Leung

Developed countries promised to mobilise $100 billion every year for climate adaptation.

3. Climate Finance: the elephant that never leaves the negotiation room

Climate finance will be a top theme once again at COP27, many finance-related discussions are already on the agenda, with developing countries making a loud call for developed countries to reassure sufficient and adequate financial support, particularly to the most vulnerable.

We will probably hear a lot about the yearly $100 billion promise by developed nations that isn’t being delivered. In 2009 in Copenhagen, rich countries committed to this financing, but official reports still show that this target is being missed. Experts expect COP27 to actually make this pledge a reality finally, in 2023.

The Egyptian Presidency aims to follow up on this and other commitments and pledges made in previous COPs.

On 3 September 2022, four-year-old Rahim stands on the rubble of his house, destroyed by the floods in Pakistan.
© UNICEF/Asad Zaidi

On 3 September 2022, four-year-old Rahim stands on the rubble of his house, destroyed by the floods in Pakistan.

What’s this ‘Loss and Damage’ issue we hear so much about?

Climate change, through extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, desertification and rising sea levels, causes costly damage to countries.

Because the intensification of these otherwise “natural disasters” is being caused by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from rich industrialised countries, developing countries – often the most affected – argue that they should receive compensation.

Denmark made headlines during the latest high-level week of the UN General Assembly after being the first country to announce that it will give $13 million to developing countries that have suffered damage due to climate change.

The issue of these payments, known as “loss and damage” will be more than likely a big topic of discussion at COP27, even when it hasn’t been put officially on the agenda yet.

The group of the 77 and China (which essentially includes all developing nations) has requested to add it to the agenda, which will require consensus across all countries on the first day of the talks.

To date, there have been discussions around establishing a Loss and Damage fund, but nothing concrete. Experts such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate, Ian Fry, are hoping to build further momentum and “get it done”.

“There are major developed countries that are quite concerned about it and looking at this issue from the perspective of what the polluter pays. Now, the countries most affected by climate change and suffering the costs are having to deal with those costs themselves.

“So, it’s time the big countries, the major emitters, stood up and said, ‘we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to make a contribution to these vulnerable countries’”, he told UN News during a recent interview.

A technician works at a solar panel plant in Thailand.
© ADB

A technician works at a solar panel plant in Thailand.

How is the war in Ukraine affecting all this?

According to Ilana Seid, Permanent Representative of Palau to the United Nations, and climate negotiator, this COP is going to be “confusing” given the current sociopolitical landscape and energy crisis.

“The war in Ukraine happened, so there are so many things that so many countries agreed to, and now they can’t do. As a result of the war, the landscape has shifted”, she explained.

Indeed, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a global inflation, energy, food and supply chain crisis. Countries such as Germany have had to scale back on their climate goals in the short term, while the historical China-US Climate Working Group announced in Glasgow has now been suspended.

COP27 will most likely see a setback in the pledges and commitments some countries did last year.

However, Special Rapporteur Ian Fry considers that the war could also be a “wake-up call” for nations to become self-sufficient in energy.

He argues that the cheapest way to do this is through renewables, which are key to reducing emissions.

“We’re seeing Portugal moving towards 100 per cent renewable, we know Denmark is also doing that, and I think that will drive other countries to see the need to be renewable and energy self-sufficient”, he told UN News.

Young climate activists take part in demonstrations at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
UN News/Laura Quiñones

Young climate activists take part in demonstrations at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Will civil society participate at COP, or just delegates?

The main event will be held at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, from 6-18 November.

So far, there are over 30,000 people registered to attend representing governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society groups.

The 197 Parties to the UNFCCC treaty, often get in groups or “blocs”, to negotiate together such as the G77 and China, the Africa Group, the Least Developed Countries, the Umbrella Forum, the Small Island Developing States, and the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The negotiations also include observers, which have no formal part in them but make interventions and help maintain transparency. Observers include United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, faith-based groups, and the press.

But besides the official negotiations, there will be conference rooms, a pavilion section, and thousands of side events happening, divided over thematic days,

This year’s themes are: Finance, Science, Youth & Future Generations, Decarbonization, Adaptation & Agriculture, Gender, Water, Ace & Civil Society, Energy, Biodiversity and Solutions (the newest theme this COP).

As usual, the conference will happen in two zones – The Blue Zone and the Green Zone, which this year are located right across from each other.

The Blue Zone is a UN-managed space where negotiations are hosted and, to enter, all attendees must be credited by the UNFCCC Secretariat. 

This year there will be 156 pavilions inside the Blue Zone, double the amount at Glasgow. Many UN agencies, countries and regions will be represented, and there will also be for the first time a Youth and an Agrifood pavilion.

The Green Zone is managed by the Egyptian Government and open to the registered public. It will include events, exhibitions, workshops and talks to promote dialogue, awareness, education, and commitment on climate action.

According to the Presidency, the Green Zone will be the platform where the business community, youth, civil and indigenous societies, academia, artists and fashion communities from all over the world can express themselves and their voices can be heard.

This year, the Green Zone will also include a special “protest zone”, and a huge outdoor lounge and terrace space.

Negotiators marking the closing of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which opened in Glasgow, Scotland, on 31 October.  The conference sought new global commitments to tackle climate change.
UN News/Laura Quiñones

Negotiators marking the closing of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which opened in Glasgow, Scotland, on 31 October. The conference sought new global commitments to tackle climate change.

How can I follow the discussions and events from home?

  • Following our dedicated COP27 page
  • Subscribing now to our daily COP27 climate newsletter
  • Subscribing to the Lid is ON COP27 special edition podcast
  • Following UN News on Twitter @UN_News_Centre
  • Subscribing to the official COP27 Youtube Channel

Millions face flooding threat across west and central Africa

The alert comes amid the worst floods in a decade, which have swept across Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon.

UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado said that hundreds of people had died in Nigeria, where floodwaters in the northeast swept through sites for internally displaced people and host communities in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States.

Crisis, is now

Ms. Sarrado added that temperatures in the Sahel are also rising 1.5 times faster than the global average:

“The climate crisis is happening now – destroying livelihoods, disrupting food security, aggravating conflicts over scarce resources and driving displacement.”

More than 1.3 million people have been displaced so far in Nigeria and 2.8 million have been impacted by flooding, with farmlands and roads submerged.

In Central Sahel countries – Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso – above-average rains and flooding have killed hundreds, displaced thousands, and decimated over one million hectares of cropland.

“Countries and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis need urgent support and financing to build defences, to adapt, and to minimize the most harmful consequences.”

‘Dangerously’ underfunded

To help those most in need in West and Central Africa, UNHCR appealed to all donors for urgent support, as its humanitarian operations are “dangerously and chronically underfunded”.

“In Chad, only 43 per cent of the funds UNHCR needs in 2022 have been received. Our 2022 operations in Burkina Faso are just 42 per cent funded. With less than two months left, we have received 39 per cent of the funds needed in Nigeria and 53 percent in Niger,” Ms. Sarrado said.

Worst in 40 years

Beyond the Sahel, she reminded that we are witnessing the worst drought in 40 years and the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, a devastating cyclone season in Mozambique, and historic floods for a fourth consecutive year in South Sudan and Sudan.

“Extreme weather across the African continent in 2022 has killed hundreds and forced millions to flee their homes”, she told journalists.

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