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Last UN peacekeepers poised for complete withdrawal from Mali

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was deployed to Mali in 2013 following a violent insurrection by separatist rebels attempting to take control of the north of the country and a subsequent military-led coup.

Established by UN Security Council resolution 2100, the mission included more than 15,000 troops and personnel who served in cities and towns around the country.

“I think our work impacted the lives of many civilians in Mali,” said El-Ghassum Wane, outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSMA.

Tackling range of challenges

In its decade of operations, MINUSMA aided Mali in tackling multiple challenges. Among the UN’s most challenging peacekeeping missions, it has suffered more than 300 fatalities of its troops and personnel amid continuing extremist violence and rampant insecurity across much of the north and centre.

On Saturday evening, the UN Secretary-General expressed his deepest gratitude to MINUSMA personnel, including the Head of Mission, Mr. Wane, who “has provided outstanding leadership in a challenging context”, said Stéphane Dujarric, the UN spokesperson.

Paying tribute to the 311 MINUSMA personnel who lost their lives and the more than 700 who were injured in the cause of peace during the 10 years the Mission was deployed in Mali, he and “the entire United Nations family stands in sympathy and solidarity with the loved ones, friends and colleagues of the fallen staff as we remain inspired by their selfless devotion to the cause of peace”, Mr. Dujarric said.

Mr. Guterres also recognized “the key role MINUSMA has played in protecting civilians, the mission’s support to the peace process, including by ensuring respect for the ceasefire in the context of the 2015 peace and reconciliation agreement, as well as to the transition, its efforts towards the restoration of State authority and the provision of peace dividends to the population”, Mr. Dujarric said.

Election officials in Mali prepare materials for the second round of the presidential elections  on the day of the vote at a polling station in the Banaconi district in Bamako in 2018. (file)
MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko

Election officials in Mali prepare materials for the second round of the presidential elections on the day of the vote at a polling station in the Banaconi district in Bamako in 2018. (file)

Supporting political process

MINUSMA supported the political process and carried out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, creating conditions for providing humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons as well as preparing free, inclusive and peaceful elections.

The peace operation also was tasked with using all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which included the protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and protection of UN personnel from residual threats, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment.

A UN civilian staff member explains the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, to students in Bamako, Mali, in 2013. (file)
UN Photo/Marco Dormino

A UN civilian staff member explains the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, to students in Bamako, Mali, in 2013. (file)

Mission terminated

Mali’s foreign affairs minister requested the withdrawal of MINUSMA in a related UN Security Council meeting on 16 June. On the same day, the transitional government issued a communiqué reiterating its demand for the UN mission to leave without delay.

UN peacekeeping mandates are determined by the Security Council, but politically and practically, missions cannot operate without the support and cooperation of the host authorities. 

On 30 June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2690 effectively terminating MINUSMA’s previous mandate and requesting the transfer of its tasks as well as the safe and orderly drawdown and withdrawal of the Mission by 31 December 2023, to be followed by a liquidation period.

A Rwandan peacekeeper from the MINUSMA Formed Police Unit speaks with children while patrolling the streets of Gao in northern Mali.
UN Photo/Marco Dormino

A Rwandan peacekeeper from the MINUSMA Formed Police Unit speaks with children while patrolling the streets of Gao in northern Mali.

Integrated withdrawal plan

To fulfill this goal, MINUSMA developed an integrated withdrawal plan based on ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel, meeting the 31 December deadline, safeguarding the mission’s legacy and preserving an environment conducive to long-term UN engagement in Mali.

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Since 1 July, MINUSMA has gradually withdrawn its personnel and handed over its bases to Malian civilian authorities where possible. 

Over the past six months, MINUSMA has been withdrawing its personnel under challenging security circumstances. On Sunday, the mission will have completed its drawdown.

Liquidation period begins

The start of the liquidation period begins on Monday, 1 January 2024.

A smaller team and the rear parties of troop- and police-contributing countries will remain at sites in Gao and Bamako to oversee the orderly transportation of assets and appropriate disposal of UN-owned equipment, the UN spokesperson said.

In this regard, the UN chief is counting on the transitional government’s full cooperation to ensure this process is completed as soon as possible, he added.

MINUSMA leaves, but UN will stay

MINUSMA chief Mr. Wane said the mission might be leaving, but the UN will remain in Mali.

“UN funds, agencies and programmes were in Mali well before the deployment of MINUSMA and will stay in Mali well after the withdrawal,” he said.

UN peacekeepers from Chad patrol the streets of Kidal, Mali, in 2016. (file)
MINUSMA/Sylvain Liecht

UN peacekeepers from Chad patrol the streets of Kidal, Mali, in 2016. (file)

Echoing that statement, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to work with the Malian people and transitional government towards the restoration of constitutional order, as well as the promotion of peace and security and sustainable development, his spokesperson, Mr. Dujarric, said.

The entire UN system, including the 21 agencies, funds and programmes of the Country Team in Mali, in collaboration with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, will continue its support in pursuit of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in the country.

These efforts include advancing the UN-Government of Mali jointly agreed objectives of the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for 2020 to 2024, Mr. Dujarric added.

For a look back at MINUSMA’s efforts over the past decade, take a look at our photo essay here.

Residents of Timbuktu pass by Djingareyber Mosque, among the historical architectural structures that earned the city the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Residents of Timbuktu pass by Djingareyber Mosque, among the historical architectural structures that earned the city the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Security Council holds emergency meeting on attacks in Belgorod, Russia

At least 18 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on Belgorod, said Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General in the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UN DPPA), briefing the Council on the latest developments.

Russia had called for the emergency meeting following reported attacks on Belogorod. Located about 40 km north of the Ukrainian border, Belgorod is home to more than 300,000 residents.

The emergency session was held less than 24 hours after the Council convened a meeting on Ukraine following large scale attacks by Russia against Ukrainian towns and cities.

‘We unequivocally condemn attacks’

“We unequivocally condemn all attacks on cities, town and villages, in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation,” Mr. Khiari said. “Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must end now.”

He said that even as the Council meets today, reports of new air raid alerts were also coming in from across Ukraine, including in the Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Cherkasy, Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Indeed, just a few hours ago, the city of Kharkiv was reportedly attacked, resulting in civilians injured and civilian infrastructure damaged, he said.

Civilian deaths in Belgorod

Mr. Khiari said attacks on locations in the Belgorod city centre reportedly resulted in damage to civilian infrastructure, including the regional government office and the medical college of Belgorod State University.

“The strikes were reported as among the deadliest cross-border attacks on the Russian Federation since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, launched in violation of the UN Charter and international law,” he said.

At the same time, he said, the Russian military authorities reported separate overnight Ukrainian drone attacks in the Bryansk, Oryol, Kursk and Moscow regions of Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities reported new overnight Russian drone attacks targeting the Kherson region, he said.

“As the war continues, we will see more Ukrainian and Russian civilians killed and injured,” he said. “Protection of civilians must be the main priority. The fighting and bloodshed must cease, the war must come to an end.”

Vassily Nebenzia (centre), Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia, addresses the Security Council.
United Nations

Vassily Nebenzia (centre), Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia, addresses the Security Council.

Russia: EU complicit in ‘terrorist attack’

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the city centre of Belgorod was struck with missiles and attacks using prohibited cluster munitions as well as Czech-produced Vampir missiles. Targets included a sports centre, ice skating rink and a university.

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“This is a deliberate act of terrorism,” he said, requesting Czechia and other Western States to account for where their assistance is going.

“There’s no use pretending,” he said. “The European Union countries are complicit in the crimes committed by the gang in Kyiv.”

Council members: Civilians should not be a target

Council members roundly condemned attacks targeting civilians.

Schools should be safe havens for children, said UAE Deputy Ambassador Mohamed Issa Abushahab.

“Civilians must be protected, and civilian objects should not be targets for attacks,” he said.

French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière echoed a point raised by several Council members, emphasizing that if Russian troops were not on Ukrainian soil, “we wouldn’t be here this afternoon”.

Calls for Russia to end war

The United Kingdom’s representative Thomas Patrick Phipps said that Russia is trying to draw equivalence to Friday’s Council meeting on Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities and towns.

However, Russia started this war and can end it, he said.

Many speakers agreed, calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory and end hostilities.

The United States’ representative John Kelly said Russia alone is responsible for starting this war, in violation of the UN Charter.

“As long as Russia persists, the US will support Ukraine in its right to defend itself,” he said, calling on Moscow to immediately end the war and for the protection of all civilians on all sides in every conflict.

China’s representative Geng Shuang was deeply concerned about the long, drawn out crisis in Ukraine.

“There are no winners in conflict,” he said, reiterating China’s willingness to work towards a peaceful solution.

Serhii Dvornyk, Counsellor and Political Coordinator at Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
United Nations

Serhii Dvornyk, Counsellor and Political Coordinator at Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.

Ukraine: Still recovering from Russia’s ‘horrendous’ strikes

Ukraine’s representative Serhii Dvornyk said his country is “still recovering from Friday’s horrendous strikes”.

“Just hours ago, Russia again terrorized Kharkiv with S-300 missiles, hitting a residential building and a hotel,” he said. “Since this morning a number of cities and villages in Ukraine have come under Russian fire.”

They include Dnipro, Nikopol and Vyshetarasivka in Dnipropetrovsk region, Kharkiv, Vovchansk, Kupyansk and Velyka Shpakivka in Kharkiv region and Antonivka and Tomina Balka in Kherson region.

“The Security Council convened yesterday and is meeting again today, and you should be ready to meet tomorrow, the day after tomorrow – every day that the Russian war against Ukraine lasts,” he said. “Because as long as this war, unleashed by the Kremlin dictator, endures, the toll of death and suffering will continue to grow.”

Once “Russia’s bloody war” is over there will be no more human suffering, no more civilian casualties in Europe and no more reason for further Security Council meetings on this issue, he said.

Watch the meeting here, and visit UN Meetings Coverage for full summaries of this and other UN meetings, in English and French.

Lookahead to 2024: January to June

Whilst we can’t predict what will be making the headlines, we do know that the UN will make full use of its unique convening power, to bring together leaders and decision-makers in the hope of making the world a more peaceful, equitable and prosperous place for all.

A market in Egypt (file)
© FAO/Pedro Costa Gomes

January: A health check for the global economy

As many people look forward after the end of year celebrations, the release of the flagship World Economic Situation and Prospects report probably won’t provide much relief: the 2024 edition of this authoritative study is likely to predict that economic growth, and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, will be slow. 

The gloomy outlook, led by the UN Department of Economic Affairs (DESA) is down to monetary tightening, weak global trade and investment, and rising debt vulnerabilities, compounded by heightened geopolitical risks and worsening climate impacts.

On the plus side, inflation is likely to fall, but further global conflict could push it back up. Improved international cooperation will be promoted as a way to improve the world’s economic prospects. The report is launched on 4 January.

In other news: A desperate Gazan Winter 

The conflict in Gaza is likely to continue dominating UN News and global media outlets, possibly for months. The Security Council resolution adopted on 22 December, calling for more aid to be delivered to the strip, is a step in the right direction, but the situation remains desperate for the civilian population. Ramping up and monitoring the flow of aid will be the primary responsibility of Sigrid Kaag, the newly appointed UN Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for Gaza, whose brief also includes reconstruction of the territory, once the fighting ends.

Following the agreement adopted at COP28 UN Climate Conference which, for the first time, saw the nations of the world agree to a transition away from fossil fuels, 2024 will see the inaugural International Day of Clean Energy on 26 January. The introduction of the Day reflects the rapid growth in the use of renewable energy sources, which are becoming cheaper and within the reach of communities which, until now, have had no access to electricity. 

Young girls carry water from a source near Yangambi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
CIFOR/Axel Fassio

February: The ‘World’s Environment Parliament’ meets

The state of the environment will be high on the agenda in February, when the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meets. The “world’s parliament on the environment”, brings together governments, civil society groups, the scientific community, and the private sector, to highlight the most pressing environmental issues and improve global governance of the environment.

Held between 26 February and 1 March at the HQ of the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, UNEA 2024 will focus on climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

In other news: Two full years of war in Ukraine

24 February marks two full years since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The UN has continued to provide humanitarian aid to affected communities throughout the conflict.

Imagine not being able to access education in your mother tongue. That is the fate of around 40 per cent of the population worldwide. On 21 February the UN celebrates International Mother Language Day, to raise awareness for the importance of multilingual education in a child’s first language.

Women participate in a vocational learning programme in Bihar, India.
UN Women

March: The fight for women’s rights

Over eight decades, the high-profile Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been pushing for action on gender equality. CSW contributed to some of the most widely agreed upon international conventions in UN history, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1967, and the 1995 Beijing Declaration, the key global gender equality policy document.

The 2024 session will take place from 11 to 22 March, with an emphasis on speeding up the achievement of gender equality, empowering women and girls by addressing poverty, and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.

In other news: Not a drop to drink

In 2015, the world committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – the promise that everyone would have safely managed water and sanitation by 2030. Yet we’re way off track, and billions of people are being held back, because they don’t have sufficient access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

On World Water Day, 22 March, the UN raises awareness of the need to accelerate change, often with the help of actor Matt Damon, who has made frequent appearances at UN Headquarters, as co-founder of the charity water.org. 

“Arranged in words, coloured with images, struck with the right metre, the power of poetry has no match,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director General of the UN agency for culture (UNESCO) on the website for World Poetry Day, celebrated on 21 March. The aim of the Day is to promote the artform, particularly in endangered languages. 

Indigenous people from Brazil gather at the UN in New York.
UN News/Eleuterio Guevane

April: Indigenous Peoples have their say

When the UN was created, the rights and priorities of Indigenous People were generally not considered a priority, but this all changed with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), typically the largest gathering of peoples in the UN System.

The Forum was established in 2000 to give them a voice and enable them to come together to discuss global issues. Expect the 2024 meeting, which takes place between from 15 to 26 April, to have a youthful feel to it: many Indigenous youth leaders will be invited to speak about the issues that affect them and their communities. 

In other news: too many or two few?

There are now more than eight billion people on the planet, and the population has more than doubled in the last 50 years. However, there are growing fears of an “underpopulation crisis,” or even a collapse in the human population, as fertility rates slow.

On 16 April, the UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), will release its annual State of World Population report, and is likely to again underline the importance of women having autonomy over their own bodies, and being able to make their own decisions over health care, sex, or contraception.

What breaks down barriers, is a symbol of unity and peace, and encourages new forms of expression? Yes, the answer is…jazz! And that is why 30 April is International Jazz Day, which is led by the legendary pianist Herbie Hancock. Expect another star-studded concert to mark the Day.

Digital technologies such as AI are transforming digital ecosystems and could help the fight against climate change.
UN Photo/Elma Okic

May: The threats and opportunities of digital technology

In the early years of this century, there was a growing realization that digital technology would have a profound impact on our lives, for good and ill. In response, governments and UN agencies came together in 2003 for the first World Summit on the Information Society, in the hope of adopting multilateral agreements on the use of tech.

Twenty-one years on, and in the wake of heightened fears surrounding the development and use of Artificial Intelligence, the Summit convenes in Geneva from 27 to 31 May. Delegates will discuss the challenges and opportunities of new technology, and the importance of international agreements to govern its use.

In other news: SIDS fight to stay afloat

Despite their small size and population, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have attracted a lot of attention at recent climate conferences, raising awareness of the existential threat that the climate crisis poses: some island states risk being completely submerged as a result of sea level rises in the coming years. Sustainable development and resilience in the face of the crisis will be addressed at the fourth International Conference on SIDS, which will be held in Antigua and Barbuda from 27-30 May.

It’s around us all day, and we take it for granted, but light plays a role in science, culture and art. The UN celebrates the International Day of Light, on 16 May, the anniversary of the first successful operation of a laser in 1960. 

Rwanda is due to hold a once-in-a-decade meeting of landlocked developing countries.
© WFP/JohnPaul Sesonga

June: A path to prosperity for landlocked developing countries

Landlocked developing countries face specific challenges, from high transportation costs to expensive imports and isolation from world markets. In recognition of this, the UN held a conference held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2003, devoted to the needs of these nations. 

Twenty years on, the third edition (LLDC3) will take place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 18-21 June. The delegates will be tasked with shaping the new development agenda for landlocked developing countries over the next decade.

In other news: Cats, dogs, and crows

Ban Ki-moon , the only surviving former UN Secretary-General , who led the organization from 2007-2016, is due to celebrate his 80th birthday on 13 June. Under Mr. Ban ‘s leadership, UN Women, a major new agency, was created, and he was instrumental in pushing the climate crisis up the international agenda, with the 2007 Climate Change Summit.

There will be plenty of rolled up mats coming through the security gates of UN Headquarters on 21 June, when colleagues will attempt to stretch themselves into positions named after cows, cats, dogs, and crows, some more gracefully than others. The occasion is part of the celebrations for the International Day of Yoga, which is hailed for its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

Report card 2: Half-way to the global goals deadline

Launched in 2015, the Agenda set out a 15-year plan to realize 17 interconnected targets, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and change that trajectory.

In the second of a two-part series, UN News looks at how far the world has come since 2015 in tackling climate change, creating clean energy and sustainable food production and protecting the planet.

2015: Overconsumption, under-protection

In 2015, only a small fraction of the world was officially protected: 14 per cent of land and less than nine per cent of marine ecosystems. One third of global marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels. 

Meanwhile, more and more plastics were polluting the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes. By 2015, 60 per cent of all plastic ever produced was discarded as waste.

All country commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions combined put the world on a trajectory of a 3°C temperature rise by 2100, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

That is double the 1.5°C global temperature rise that a series of UN reports, scientists and governments agreed would help to avoid the most destructive impacts of higher temperatures and maintain a liveable climate.

SDG 12
United Nations

SDG 12



  • Achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
  • Halve per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels and encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices
  • Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture
  • Phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption

Despite calls for a global phase-out, fossil fuel subsidies doubled between 2020 and 2021, in large part due to global crises.

2023: Stopping the war on nature

At the halfway mark to the 2030 deadline, global awareness of biodiversity protection has increased, but efforts to transform human interaction with nature and resource consumption still lag behind in terms of speed and scale.

In 2023, three quarters of land on Earth and about 66 per cent of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. More than one third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 per cent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.

Combined with skyrocketing levels of pollution, the degradation of the natural habitat and biodiversity loss are having serious impacts on communities around the world. 

In 2023, an estimated 100 to 300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats.

Many communities are building back better, from Pakistan’s launch of the biggest climate initiative in the country’s history to the UN Secretary-General’s new global Early Warnings for All initiative.

Increasing investments in solar, wind power, hydropower and biomass will be essential to reduce global reliance on coal and oil.
© UNDP Georgia

Increasing investments in solar, wind power, hydropower and biomass will be essential to reduce global reliance on coal and oil.

2015: Fossil fuel versus clean energy

When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, 87 per cent of the world had access to some form of electricity, but nearly 1.1 billion people did not, with most living in Africa and Asia.

Oil prices plunged to an all-time low and fossil fuels dominated the market with global investments amounting to nearly $1.3 billion. Coal alone accounted for nearly 40 per cent of global electricity generated. 

But, just 60 per cent of the world’s population had access to clean cooking fuels; the numbers in sub-Saharan Africa were much lower.

Women, in particular, bore a heavier health burden as a result, were vulnerable to indoor air pollution and respiratory disease.

2023: Drive towards renewables

A drive towards clean energy is making some inroads. While 91 per cent of the world now has access to electricity, progress hasn’t been fast or inclusive enough. The number of people with access to electricity has increased to 675 million since 2015.

Global investment in clean energy has hit near record highs at $ 1.7 trillion, and renewables now account for more than 28 per cent of global electricity, growing by nearly 5 per cent since 2015.

Nevertheless, 2.3 billion people still continue to rely on coal, kerosene or solid biomass as their primary cooking fuel. A lack of clean cooking is contributing to nearly 3.7 million premature deaths annually, with women and children most at risk. 

About 80 per cent of the world’s population without electricity continues to live in rural areas, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Studies now show that meeting these clean energy goals will require the world to triple its annual investments between now and 2030. Nations are already walking the talk, from Indonesia’s Just Energy Transition Partnership to a fresh approach of the Nairobi Declaration, adopted in September at the African Climate Summit.

United Nations



  • Increase share of renewable energy globally
  • Double global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern, sustainable energy services
  • Enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology
  • Expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing nations, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and land-locked developing countries


International funding for clean energy in developing countries has dropped to just $10.8 billion in 2021 from a peak of $26.4 billion in 2017.

2015: Zero hunger pledge

When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, more than 795 million people were facing hunger. That is 11 per cent of the global population.

In countries enduring protracted crises, hunger rates were more than three times higher than elsewhere. Poor nutrition contributed to impaired growth and development for 159 million children under age five.

A woman shops at an indoor market in Hissar, Tajikistan. (file)
© FAO/Nozim Kalandarov

A woman shops at an indoor market in Hissar, Tajikistan. (file)

2023: New approach to food security

The question of how food is produced, traded and consumed in a sustainable manner has come to the fore, with one third of all food produced globally ending up lost or wasted and more than three billion people unable to afford healthy diets.

The prevalence of hunger has dropped only marginally since 2015, to 9.2 per cent of the global population. Progress has been frustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in climate shocks and conflict, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has driven up the costs of food, fuel and fertilizers.

In 2022, approximately 735 million people faced hunger, which is still well above the pre-pandemic level, and 148 million children still faced stunting from poor nutrition; just over a two per cent decrease since 2015.

United Nations




  • End hunger and malnutrition, and ensure access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food year-round for all
  • Double small-scale food producers’ agricultural productivity and income
  • Ensure sustainable food production systems, and implement agricultural practices that increase productivity/production and strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change and disasters
  • Correct and prevent trade restrictions in world agricultural markets


Globally, one in three people struggles with moderate to severe food insecurity.


At the same time, not enough is being done to support developing economies adapt their food production to the impacts of climate change. Small-scale farmers from developing countries produce one third of the world’s food, yet they receive only 1.7 per cent of climate finance.

To transform this trend, the UN Food Systems Summit in Rome in 2021 and a subsequent stocktaking moment in 2023 have provided a platform for countries to share their experience. That led to the launch in July of the UN Secretary-General’s Call to Action for accelerated food systems transformation.

The adoption of more sustainable agriculture practices is key to increasing the productivity and income of rural farmers.

The adoption of more sustainable agriculture practices is key to increasing the productivity and income of rural farmers.

UN chief condemns Russian attacks against Ukrainian cities and towns

Overnight, Russian armed forces reportedly launched 158 missiles and drones in several waves targeting locations across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Cherkasy, Odesa and Zaporizhzhia regions.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure “violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must end immediately”.

He also extended his deepest condolences to the families of all the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured, the statement added.

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Security Council discusses situation in Ukraine

Also on Friday, the Security Council held an urgent meeting on the situation in Ukraine, where members were briefed by Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

Since the Department’s last briefing to Council members on 6 December, “we have continued to see daily reports of attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns, including on critical civilian and energy infrastructure, with many resulting civilian casualties,” he said.

During the Christmas period alone, attacks on the city of Kherson reportedly killed several people and wounded many others, while apartment buildings, a medical facility and a railway station packed with more than a hundred civilians awaiting evacuation, were struck.

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the overnight large-scale missile and drone attack by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian cities and towns across the country, including against civilian and critical infrastructure. The attack reportedly resulted in at least 24 civilians killed and more than 134 injured.

Attacks against civilians must stop immediately

Mr. Khiari reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s condemnation of the attacks on cities and towns across Ukraine.

“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” he stressed.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified some 1,888 civilian deaths and a further 6,334 injuries in 2023, bringing the total casualties since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 to 29,113.

The actual figures are likely considerably higher.

2023 ending as it began

Mr. Khiari went on to note that, tragically, 2023 is ending as it began – with devastating violence against the people of Ukraine.

“Once again, Ukrainians are forced to spend the holidays seeking shelter, clearing the rubble, and burying the dead, amidst freezing temperatures,” he said.

“As we look to the New Year in the hope of avoiding further escalation, we recall the Secretary-General’s appeal to all concerned to do their part to help lay the foundations for sustainable peace in Ukraine – in accordance with the UN Charter, international law, and resolutions of the General Assembly,” he added.

Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari briefs the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine.

Suffering and poverty ‘deepen’ through Ukrainian winter

United Nations agencies have continued to provide aid to Ukrainians in a war which has left at least 10,000 civilians dead and 3.7 million displaced in the country and 5.9 million abroad, as of November.

Ms. Brown spoke to UN News as she visited Kupiansk, a small town on the front line in the east of Ukraine, on Christmas Day, as part of an aid delivery convoy. 

She started with describing the scene.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

A young girl stands in front of a building damaged by shelling.
© UNICEFAndriy Vashkiv

A young girl stands in front of a building damaged by shelling.

Denise Brown: We are working during Christmas because the war does not stop; we can still hear shelling in the background. It does not matter what day of the year it is, people in these communities need support. I think it is particularly important on this day to show solidarity from the international community with the people of Ukraine who are suffering the impact of the war since the Russian invasion in February 2022.

We are delivering winter supplies, it is cold. We have brought clothes, mattresses, blankets, solar lamps, essential supplies that we deliver to frontline communities in Ukraine so that people can stay in their homes during these very difficult winter months.

UN News: You have travelled a lot to visit communities in Ukraine. What challenges do people face?

Denise Brown: People in frontline communities are determined to stay at home and to carry on their life with their families as best they can. Sometimes there is no electricity, gas, or water, so they need support in order to manage. We put in place a system well over a year ago, to deliver in one go what people need on the frontline.

This is essential for the wellbeing of people impacted by this horrendous war.

Rescue workers clean up following an airstrike  on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on 12 December, 2023.
© UNOCHA/Viktoriia Andriievska

Rescue workers clean up following an airstrike on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on 12 December, 2023.

UN News: How traumatized are people?

Denise Brown: It is hard to gauge the trauma, but we hear it in the voices of the people we talk to and see it in the faces of all the elderly and young people. We hear the incessant noise of shelling, of the air sirens. It is very disturbing for all of us.

We are trying to better connect the delivery of supplies with services by connecting to local organizations that can bring the psychosocial support that people need. And we are very grateful to Right to Protection, the Ukrainian Red Cross and Caritas, organizations which provide that psychosocial support, care which is as important as the supplies we are delivering today.

UN News: What are the priorities?

Denise Brown: Our priority is life-saving assistance to communities along the front line. The UN is involved in convoys several times a week which do not only bring supplies, but also moral support, as well as the protection that our presence provides. 

Our priority is life-saving assistance to communities along the front line

Another key priority is helping internally displaced people who had to flee their homes, and ensuring that medical services continue to be provided, including to victims of conflict-related sexual violence or gender-based violence. 

All of this is done alongside the national government, regional and local authorities, as well as civil society. I think we have really found the way to work together to successfully provide a package of support to people who are suffering from this war.

UN News: What challenges do you face?

Denise Brown: People have made very difficult decisions to stay in these places and our assistance ensures that they have the minimum and a dignified life no matter where they are.

Delivering aid close to the frontline requires extremely good planning and coordination and we need to ensure that we do not put colleagues at risk. 

Where we have absolutely not had success is delivering humanitarian support to the Ukrainians who live on the other side of that frontline. This remains a particularly important issue and we are determined to provide that support.

Crossing the frontline requires guarantees on safety and security from both parties. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get that guarantee from the Russian Federation. This is about humanitarian assistance, it is not political. I regret very much that we have not been able to support people.

UN humanitarian workers visit the village of Hroza in the east of Ukraine, following an airstrike in October. (file)
© UNOCHA/Saviano Abreu

UN humanitarian workers visit the village of Hroza in the east of Ukraine, following an airstrike in October. (file)

UN News: How are those people doing?

Denise Brown: We have a good idea of what is going on the other side of the frontline. We know people’s daily lives are being disrupted, that supply chains are affected, and we have good reason to be very worried about the Ukrainians living there.

UN News: Are you receiving enough funding?

Denise Brown: This year we have been able to do our job thanks to the support of Member States and to private sector foundations. Homes, hospitals, and clinics have been destroyed, people have been displaced. If we are able to immediately help that is hugely reassuring to people who find themselves in a conflict that they have nothing to do with. 

The war continues in Ukraine, the suffering continues, and therefore the humanitarian response, alongside the government response, remains essential.

The UN does not work alone. So even here today not far away from the front line, all the volunteers came out to help offload and store the essential winter supplies. We do things together; it is that solidarity of the community under very difficult circumstances, coming to work alongside us which is hugely successful. It is a model for other countries.

It is the small things that make a difference. Bakhmut is one of the hotspots of this war close to the frontline, there is no electricity, no running water, no gas. On our second trip there, this wonderful elderly woman who has lived there for 15 years told us she was not leaving.  She was so appreciative of our presence, and I do not know how she did it, but she made us these fantastic apple donuts and insisted that the truck drivers ate them too. 

It was such a moment of human kindness in the most extreme of situations, but it is those small moments which make a huge difference to us and the work that we do to support the people of Ukraine

Assistance is provided in a civic centre to residents of Bakhmut, close to the frontline of the conflict.
© UNOCHA/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Assistance is provided in a civic centre to residents of Bakhmut, close to the frontline of the conflict.

UN News: What role are women playing here?

Denise Brown: Women are on the frontline as volunteers, as mothers looking after their families. I have met women who stayed behind in very difficult contexts, running local clinics so that people there would continue to receive medical support. I have met women mayors and activists. 

The backbone of the humanitarian response, I must say, is made up of women, both local and from overseas and somehow, we have found each other and connected to ensure that we do as much as possible together to alleviate the suffering caused by this horrific war.

UN News: Looking ahead to 2024, what support do Ukrainians need?

Denise Brown: The winter continues, it is cold in Ukraine up until the end of March, so this winter response will have to remain in place for the next three to four months.

As long as this war continues, not only does the suffering continue, but it deepens, as does the poverty, and this we need to be prepared for.

Security Council discusses crisis in the Middle East; UN chief warns of conflict’s ‘further spillover’

Video feed of the Security Council meeting.

1:37 PM

Meeting adjourned

With all speakers having delivered their statements, the President of the Security Council adjourned the meeting.

1:31 PM

Violence, deaths and detentions have grown: Ecuador

José Javier De La Gasca, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Ecuador and Security Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity and said his country unequivocally condemns the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October.

Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, he said the magnitude of the violence in Gaza has meant that events in other localities have slipped away from the spotlight.

Nevertheless, the negative trends since the beginning of October in the West Bank have also increased, he continued, noting that the level of violence has grown, as have deaths and detentions.

Those responsible for violent attacks must be brought to justice, he stressed, condemning all terrorist attacks and adding that security forces must always use restraint.

The Ecuadorian Ambassador also voiced his strong opposition to all unilateral measures that make peace more difficult, including construction and expansion of settlements, and the confiscation of Palestinians’ land, demolition of their homes and their displacement.

1:12 PM

Too many civilians have been killed: UK

Barbara Woodward, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom (UK) to the UN underscored her country’s commitment to Israel’s security and the need to address the threat posed by Hamas.

“But, too many civilians have been killed,” she said, stating that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law and clearly differentiate between terrorists and civilians.

Further, as the situation in the occupied West Bank underlines the urgent need to progress towards peace, Israel must stop settler violence immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable, Ambassador Woodward added.

She further called on Israel to adhere to its commitments and cease all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and stressed that approving further settlements serves only to raise tensions in the West Bank.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should demonstrate – through their policies – a genuine commitment to a two-State solution, the Ambassador urged.

She also warned of the spillover potential of the conflict and underscored that a full-blown conflict between Israel and Hizbullah would be “catastrophic” for Lebanon and the wider region.

1:03 PM

No safe place in Gaza: China

GENG Shuang, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN said that the protracted nature of the war would only cause more casualties on both sides.

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” he said, warning that the situation on the ground is not allowing humanitarians to carry out their work and reach people in need with aid.

Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and its continued escalation of raids have eroded the basis of a two-State solution, he added, stressing that Israel must cease all settlement activities and hold perpetrators accountable.

He further highlighted the importance of implementing the two-State solution and as well as guarantee the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

“We support Palestine’s full membership in the UN, and the early resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel,” Ambassador Geng added.

12:42 PM

International law must be implemented by all: France

Nicolas de Rivière, French Ambassador and Permanent Representative, expressed his country’s “deep concern” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“The priority must go the immediate implementation of a lasting ceasefire, with the help of all regional and international partners,” he said, adding that humanitarian aid must urgently be delivered to civilians in the enclave along with guarantees of access “without restrictions”.

He also stressed the need for implementing the two Security Council resolutions adopted recently.

“In this regard, France recalls that International humanitarian law must be implemented in all circumstances and by all,” the Ambassador said, noting that his country will remain fully involved with humanitarian efforts for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

He also said that the Security Council cannot be solely limited to addressing the “symptoms” of the crisis, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. He also urged the 15-member body to condemn the terrorist attacks committed by Hamas and other groups on 7 October, including sexual violence.

“It is incomprehensible that this Council has still not been able to do this,” he said, while also highlighting the importance of the two-State solution.

12:29 PM

2023, the bloodiest year for West Bank: Russia

Vassily Nebenzia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, said that his country is following the “very tense” situation in the West Bank, against the background of crisis in Gaza.

“We are seeing continued operations by Israeli security forces and violent settlers, which not only threaten a large-scale humanitarian disaster but also to spread the crisis to the rest of the region,” he said.

He noted increasing tensions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while Egypt and Jordan are facing unprecedented risks of a massive exodus of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.

Ambassador Nebenzia also said that 302 Palestinians, including 79 children, were killed by Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 7 October.

“Overall their numbers reached 504 people. 2023 was the bloodiest year for the inhabitants of the West Bank,” he said, adding that the “multiple security operations by Israel on this part of the occupied territory began long before the terrorist attack of 7 October.”

Categorically condemning the terrorist attacks of 7 October, Mr. Nebenzia said that the raids began “without any linkage” to the terrorist threat that the Israelis have used as a justification to conduct the unprecedented operation to clean up Gaza, claiming the lives of over 21,000 people, including 144 UN staff members.

12:28 PM

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric. UN Photo/Evan Schneider (file)
UN Photo/Evan Schneider (file)

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric. UN Photo/Evan Schneider (file)

UN Secretary-General ‘gravely concerned’ over further spillover

The Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General has, meanwhile, issued a statement on the Middle East.

“As the hostilities between Israel and Hamas and other groups in Gaza intensify, the Secretary-General remains gravely concerned about the further spillover of this conflict, which could have devastating consequences for the entire region,” the statement, issued by Stéphane Dujarric, said.
There is a continued risk of wider regional conflagration, the longer the conflict in Gaza continues, given the risk of escalation and miscalculation by multiple actors, it added.
The statement also noted that the escalating violence in the occupied West Bank, including intensified Israeli security forces operations, high numbers of fatalities, settler violence and attacks on Israelis by Palestinians, is “extremely alarming”.  

Regional stability impacted

“The daily exchanges of fire across the Blue Line risk triggering a broader escalation between Israel and Lebanon and affecting regional stability,” it said, noting also the UN chief’s increasing worry about the spillover effects of continuing attacks by armed groups in Iraq and Syria, and attacks by the Houthi group in Yemen against vessels in the Red Sea, which have escalated in recent days.  
“The Secretary-General urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint and take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions in the region,” the statement added, highlighting his appeal “to all members of the international community to do everything in their power to use their influence on the relevant parties to prevent an escalation of the situation in the region.”
“The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” the statement concluded.

12:20 PM

Death of any civilian is a tragedy: US

John Kelley, Minister Counsellor and Political Coordinator at the Permanent Mission of the United States (US) to the UN, said that his country shared the concern regarding the “sharp increase” in violence by extremist settlers in the West Bank and the “unprecedented” number of Palestinian fatalities there as well as in Gaza.

“We know 2023 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank,” he said, stressing “the death of any civilian, whether they were one of the individuals killed by Hamas terrorists on 7 October, or one of the Palestinians killed in the West Bank or in Gaza is a tragedy.”

“The United States continues to stress to the Israeli Government the importance of preventing extremist settler violence as well as investigating and holding accountable those who commit acts of violence,” he added.

Mr. Kelley also noted that the US will continue to implement visa restrictions, announced on 5 December, targeting individuals believed to have been “involved in or meaningfully contributed” to undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank.

“These restrictions reinforce the US’ long held belief advancing settlements in the West Bank undermines the prospects of a future Palestinian Sate and a two-State solution, as do any actions that undermine stability in the West Bank, including attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and Palestinian attacks against Israelis,” he said.

“Let us be clear, a two-State solution where Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in peace, is the path to peace,” he added.

12:14 PM

The ‘very viability’ of two-State solution at risk: UAE

Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN said that today’s briefings “underscore” the urgency of the meeting on the “very viability” of the two-State solution and stability in the Middle East region.

“In this latest war of this decades long conflict, it is clear that we are at a crossroads,” she said, noting that Security Council members, including the UAE, “have to make bold and perhaps uncomfortable decisions.”

The alternative, she warned, is the “hellscape” of Gaza expanded into the West Bank, Israel, Lebanon, and the other parts of the Middle East.

“Gaza in 2023 demonstrated the immense capacity of humans to inflict untold horror on other humans,” she added, noting that the war is a “war of extremists”.

She went on to note the desperate situation of civilians in the enclave amid continuing bombardment by Israeli forces, which not only risk the lives of Palestinians but also those of Israeli hostages remaining in the Strip.

“In the face of this carnage, we have all rediscovered the urgency of achieving the two-State solution as a way forward out of this,” she said, urging “decisive action” to keep it on track.

11:52 PM

Northern Israel reaching the ‘point of no return’

Gilad Menashe Erdan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel to UN, questioned why an “urgent briefing” of the Security Council is not called when Israeli civilians and civilian sites are attacked.

Gilad Erdan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel, addresses the Security Council.
United Nations

Gilad Erdan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel, addresses the Security Council.

“Do these attacks sound like a mere spillover, is this violence occurring magically on its own. Is it not clear genocidal terrorists are seeking to murder Israeli citizens every single day,” he said.

“This Council is quick to show solidarity with civilians across the Middle East so long as they are not Israelis,” he added, asking why the Security Council is silent when innocent Israeli civilians are targeted.

“Why have you not condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon, Syria and Yemen,” he said, warning that the situation in northern Israel is “reaching the point of no return.”

“Every day, innocent Israelis are under attack. If these attacks persist, Israel will ensure that these acts of terror stop,” Ambassador Erdan said, reiterating that if the attacks continue, “the situation will escalate and may lead to a full scale war.”

11:35 AM

Killing of Palestinian civilians ‘not a collateral effect’

Majed Bamya, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine addressed the Security Council, stating that the killing of Palestinian civilians is “not a collateral effect” of war.

Majed Bamya, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine, addresses the Security Council.
United Nations

Majed Bamya, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine, addresses the Security Council.

“This Israeli assault relies, by design, on mass and indiscriminate killing of civilians. The humanitarian catastrophe is not the consequence of the war, it is a tool employed by Israel to pressure people and force them out,” he said.

He went on to note that the Council has called for the protection of civilians and for immediate, safe, unhindered and expanded humanitarian access to deliver assistance throughout the Gaza Strip, for respect for the laws of laws, and that it has rejected forced displacement.

“All of which require an immediate ceasefire that this Council has been prevented to call for, repeatedly,” he said, noting that Israel has reacted with “disregard and disdain.”

“Why are they getting away with murder at this unprecedented scale,” he said, adding “because they were never held accountable.”

“That is why they confess to their crimes, that is why steal our lives, our land, our resources, our money, our past, our present and our future in broad daylight,” he said.

11:28 AM

All parties showing ‘reckless disregard’: Norwegian Refugee Council

Itay Epshtain, Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), informed Council members of the legal observations that underpin the NRC’s response to the humanitarian crisis.

“Some capture serious violations that have been perpetrated and continue to occur, others relate to premeditated atrocities that should be prevented by this august Council,” he said, noting that all parties – Palestinians armed groups and Israel – have shown reckless disregard for the norms of international law, including the basic rules of international humanitarian law, “the very rules they must comply with in all circumstances, breached.”

He emphasized that the NRC has condemned the atrocious violence launched by Hamas against Israeli civilians and continues to call for the immediate release of all hostages. It also calls for humane treatment of Palestinians detainees, in keeping with international law.

“The same legal certainty must also mean a halt to the Israeli offensive from which ordinary Gazans have no refuge before it claims the lives of even more civilians, many of them women and children,” he said.

11:15 AM

‘The choice is ours’: Marwan Muasher

Marwan Muasher, Vice President for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan, said he wanted to focus on the first day after the war and the prospects for a political settlement.

Before that, however, he pointed out that the immediate priority must be ending the war on Gaza.

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“The Palestinians have suffered enough,” he said, adding that there is no international or humanitarian law that condones the carpet-bombing of civilians the world is witnessing today.

He noted that the question that is being asked repeatedly by the international community is “who is going to rule Gaza after Hamas,” adding that it is the wrong question to pose, if the implication is that this is the endgame as any policy based on this will lead to disastrous results.

“The repeated killings of civilians on both Israeli and Palestinian sides, the destruction of Gaza once again, the creation of another potential 1.5 million Palestinian refugees, and the looming danger of mass transfer should teach us that we cannot solve the problems by sticking to old paradigms that did not work,” he warned.

Mr. Muasher urged Council members to engage “at least hypnotically” in imagining the elements of a process forward, in which settlement activity would be completely frozen and fresh elections held in both Israel, and Gaza and the West Bank.

“If the international community decides that this is too unrealistic, let us look at what the alternatives might look like,” he said, noting that the international community is partly to blame for the situation today.

He argued that either a bold decision is taken to end the conflict now and effect a viable two-State solution or the world “will have to deal not only with the occupation but the more difficult question of Apartheid”.

“The choice is ours,” he said.

11:08 AM

Risk of spillover ‘remains high’: UN official

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East at UN DPPA, informed Council members that the situation in the Middle East is alarming and continues to deteriorate, including “several interconnected theatres conflict”.

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General, briefs the Security Council.
United Nations

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General, briefs the Security Council.

He noted “intense” Israeli ground operations and fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas and other groups in most areas of Gaza, as Hamas and other Palestinian factions continue to fire rockets from Gaza into Israel.

“Civilians from both sides […] continue to bear the brunt of this conflict,” he said.

Reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, Mr. Khiari warned that the risk of regional spillover of this conflict with potential devastating consequences for the entire region “remains high” given also a multitude of actors involved.

He informed Council members of “continued daily exchanges” of fire across the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, posing a “grave risk” to regional stability.

“Increasingly, there have been strikes on civilian areas, with civilian casualties, on both sides of the Blue Line, in addition to a rising number of fatalities among combatants,” he added.

Mr. Khiari also noted attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria, with the US conducting some airstrikes against groups suspected of these actions in Iraq and Syria. He also cited reports of Israeli air strikes inside Syria, as well as tensions in the Red Sea. 

11:05 AM

Meeting called to order

José Javier De La Gasca, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ecuador, which holds the Presidency of the Security Council for December, called the meeting to order.

Israel has been invited to the meeting, as has the been the Observer State of Palestine.

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs; Marwan Muasher, Vice President for studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan; and Itay Epshtain, Norwegian Refugee Council Special Advisor and Senior Humanitarian Law and Policy Consultant will brief the meeting.

10:35 AM

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a non-permanent member called for the urgent meeting, and a senior UN official from the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is expected to brief ambassadors.

The meeting follows a resolution adopted last week by the Security Council calling for a scale-up in aid deliveries to civilians in the Gaza Strip. The resolution passed with 13 votes in favour, and the US and Russia abstaining.

Tensions in occupied West Bank

Earlier this month, Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, voiced “deep concerns” over escalating tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Briefing the Security Council on 19 December, he noted “intensified armed exchanges” between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, predominantly in the context of Israeli operations, which led to exceedingly high levels of fatalities and arrests.

Mr. Wennesland also expressed alarm at lethal attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and by Palestinians against Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Israel.

“All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” he stressed.

Humanitarian situation in Gaza

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the enclave remains dire.

Earlier today, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) cited reports from Gazan health authorities that half of all the pregnant women seeking safety in shelters suffer from thirst, malnutrition and a lack of healthcare. There is a lack of vaccinations for newborns and one in every two displaced children faces dehydration, malnutrition and disease.

Some 1.9 million Gazans, or 85 per cent of the enclave’s population, have been internally displaced since the start of Israel’s retaliation following Hamas’ deadly terror attacks in southern Israel on 7 October.

Report card 1: Half-way to the global goals deadline

Launched in 2015, the initiative set out a 15-year plan to realize 17 interconnected targets, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since then, the ambitious goals have shaped national action plans, from building resilient cities and reducing inequalities to taking climate action and forging strong public and private sector partnerships. 

This two-part series looks the progress made between 2015 and 2023 in key areas. The first part examines bridging the digital divide, education for all and decent work.

2015: Dawn of the digital divide

When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, the world was already in the midst of a fast-paced digital revolution, with 3.2 billion people using the internet and more than 7 billion mobile phone subscribers, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

At the same time, the first instances of a digital divide were already taking root. While 80 per cent of households in developed countries had internet access, only 34 per cent of households in developing countries were connected. Least developed countries lagged further behind, with only 7 per cent of households having online access.

For millions of people around the world, a life without digital connectivity is unthinkable, from accessing information to paying for services to getting medical help and studying online.

2023: Digital inequalities starker than ever

With a click of a button, millions of people of all ages around the world engage every single day with digital infrastructure. Yet, digital divides and inequalities are starker than ever. More than two thirds of the planet use the internet, and as of 2022, there were 8.63 billion mobile subscribers.

There was a massive jump in the number of people in least developed countries with access to the internet – 36 per cent of the population, compared to seven per cent in 2015. In comparison, 92 per cent of the population in high-income countries and 79 per cent of the population upper-middle-income countries are connected to the internet.

On a global scale, less women use the internet than men: 63 per cent of women, compared to 69 per cent of men. Meanwhile, new technologies, turbo-charged by risks posed by the increased and unchecked use of artificial intelligence (AI), can easily drive loss of data privacy and escalate risks of online harm, spreading online violence and hate speech along with mis/disinformation. 

UN agencies and partners are working hard to address bridge the digital divide led by the UN Secretary-General’s call for developing a global digital compact and the launch of his policy brief on information integrity on digital platforms.

Today, globally, some 250 million children are out of school.
© UNIC Pakistan

Today, globally, some 250 million children are out of school.

2015: Education, for some

When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, primary school enrolment in developing countries stood at 91 per cent. Still, 59 million children of primary school age remained out of school; about 33 million of these were girls.

Other disparities were striking. In conflict-affected countries, nearly 36 per cent of all children were out of school. About 757 million people globally could neither read nor write, of whom two-thirds were women.

The SDGs represented world leaders’ first attempt to also focus on quality education and learning across levels. With its transformative effect and impact across all other goals, education is a steppingstone for sustainable development and enduring hope for a better future, from the remote archipelagos of the Pacific to the forests of Latin America and islands of the Caribbean, the make-shift classrooms in war-torn Ukraine and refugee camps in northern Kenya.

United Nations



  • Ensure all children complete free, equitable and quality education and have access to quality early childhood development
  • Increase number of young adults with employment skills for 
  • Eliminate gender disparities and ensure equal access to all levels of education
  • Ensure all youth and most adults achieve literacy and numeracy
  • Build and upgrade education facilities to be child, disability and gender sensitive
  • Increase number of qualified teachers


Without additional measures, 84 million children will be out of school, 300 million students will lack basic numeracy and literacy skills, and only one in six countries will achieve the target of universal secondary school completion.

2023: Half-time report card

While strides have been made, the COVID-19 global pandemic outbreak saw education across the planet take a significant hit. Nearly 1.5 billion children and youth globally were affected by school closures. 

Today, globally, some 250 million children are out of school. Of this, about 64 million children of primary school age now remain out of school. Nearly half of all refugee children globally also lack access to education. Globally, 763 million adults are illiterate.

By 2030, it is estimated that nearly 84 million children and young people will still be out of school.

The UN Secretary-General convened the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, which called for more urgent and escalated measures to deliver inclusive and quality education, particularly for girls, low-income students, students with disabilities or in the midst of crisis.

Access to quality education is a growing concern. Globally, nearly 617 million globally are failing to meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.
© UN Cambodia

Access to quality education is a growing concern. Globally, nearly 617 million globally are failing to meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.

2015: World of work

In 2015, 6.1 per cent of the global population of people of working age were unemployed. This number was higher for women, who were overrepresented in vulnerable and informal jobs and more likely to be unpaid caregivers. In most countries, women employed in full-time jobs earned between 70 and 90 per cent of what men earned.

A total of 1.5 billion people around the world were employed in vulnerable jobs without formal work arrangements, according to the World Employment Social Outlook by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

United Nations



  • Take immediate measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking
  • Protect labour rights, and promote safe, secure environments for all workers
  • Sustain per capita economic growth and at least seven per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in least developed countries
  • Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technology and innovation
  • Improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production
  • Decouple economic growth with environmental degradation

Global unemployment is expected to fall below pre-pandemic levels, although not in low-income countries

2023: Working out post-pandemic progress

Wage losses, job insecurity, and a rising cost of living crisis have been a common thread in the past few years, across the world, directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The global unemployment rate has overall fallen slightly to 5.8 per cent, but it is still impacted by the pandemic. In 2021, ILO found that an estimated 125 million full-time jobs were lost as a result of the pandemic, which disproportionately affected women and young people. 

Last year, more than 2 billion workers globally were employed in the informal sector without social protection coverage, according to the agency’s latest employment outlook report.

In 2021, the UN Secretary-General launched the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, to expand social protection to the four billion people and to create at least 400 million decent jobs. From 2020 to 2022, the Joint SDG Fund’s Portfolio on Integrated Social Protection provided critical financing to sustain and expand social protection coverage in 39 countries around the world, with UN country teams supporting governments in reaching 147 million vulnerable people with access to new or extended social protection benefits.

Indonesia has been a trailblazer in the shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy, securing greener jobs and livelihoods for communities.
© UNDP Indonesia

Indonesia has been a trailblazer in the shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy, securing greener jobs and livelihoods for communities.

Gaza: UN calls for urgent aid scale-up amid new mass exodus to Rafah

“A traumatized and exhausted population” is being “crammed into a smaller and smaller sliver of land,” UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths warned on social platform X on Friday.

But serious obstacles persist to bringing more aid to those in need amid relentless Israeli bombardment and intense fighting on the ground.

UN humanitarian affairs coordination office OCHA cited reports from Gaza’s health authorities that half of all the pregnant women seeking safety in shelters in the Strip suffer from thirst, malnutrition and a lack of health care, there is a lack of vaccinations for newborns and one in every two displaced children faces dehydration, malnutrition and disease.

Some 1.9 million Gazans, or 85 per cent of the enclave’s population, have been internally displaced since the start of Israel’s retaliation following Hamas’ deadly terror attacks in southern Israel on 7 October.

Dire overcrowding

According to OCHA, the latest wave of displacement was prompted by an intensification of hostilities in the southern towns of Khan Younis and Middle Gaza’s Deir al Balah, as well as evacuation orders issued by the Israeli military. 

Some 10 days ago Rafah was already estimated to be the most densely populated area in Gaza, exceeding 12,000 people per square kilometre, OCHA said, which is more than in New York City. 

Aid access compromised

Despite a UN Security Council resolution adopted last week calling for a scale-up in aid deliveries to the enclave, access to people in need has remained overwhelmingly insufficient. 

Only 76 trucks entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Thursday, “well below the daily average of 500 truckloads (including fuel and private sector goods) that entered every working day prior to 7 October”, OCHA noted.

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“You think getting aid into Gaza is easy? Think again,” the UN’s Mr. Griffiths wrote on X on Friday. He listed the impediments faced by humanitarians working to help people in the Strip, including “three layers of inspections before trucks can even enter”, insufficient entry points, “constant bombardment” and damaged roads.

“This is an impossible situation for the people of Gaza and for those trying to help them. The fighting must stop,” he insisted.

Last week UN chief António Guterres said that “an effective aid operation in Gaza requires security; staff who can work in safety; logistical capacity; and the resumption of commercial activity”. 

“These four elements do not exist,” he concluded.

‘Race against time’ to bring food

Despite the challenges, humanitarians have continued doing their utmost to assist desperate Gazans. On Thursday the UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributed food parcels for 10,000 displaced families in makeshift camps in Rafah. 

OCHA reported that some 200 community leaders were identified to collect assistance on behalf of surrounding families in their communities, with each parcel covering a family’s food needs for 10 days. 

Incredible to see the collab[oration] between the team and communities as we race against time to deliver life-saving food in Gaza,” WFP representative in Palestine Samer AbdelJaber wrote on social platform X.

The distribution was set to continue on Friday after time and safety constraints meant that only 45 per cent of people targeted with assistance were reached on the first day. 

Last week, humanitarians warned that more than one in four households in Gaza were enduring “catastrophic” hunger. The risk of famine occurring in the Strip within the next six months was confirmed by the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report, which showed that the entire population of Gaza, some 2.2 million people, is living with “crisis or worse” levels of acute food insecurity. 

Ethiopia: Prioritize victims amidst legacy of rights abuses, UN office urges

A joint report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission emphasized the need to implement all components of transitional justice equally. These include criminal accountability, truth-seeking, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence, involving effective remedies for victims, legal reforms, and reconciliation.

One of the recommendations stemming from the November 2022 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, signed between the Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is the establishment of transitional justice policies. This agreement marked the end of the bloody conflict in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions.

In 2018, Ethiopia witnessed a surge in human rights violations, marked by killings, torture, and ethnic- and faith-based violence. The situation escalated with the eruption of an armed conflict in the Tigray region in November 2020, claiming thousands of lives and displacing millions.

Ongoing ethnic-based violence in various regions further intensified the crisis, prompting a nationwide state of emergency in August 2023 due to escalating tensions in the Amhara region.

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Victim-centred approach critical

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed Ethiopia’s steps to develop a national transitional justice policy aligned with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

“It is crucial for such efforts to be holistic and consistent with international human rights norms and standards, placing victims and affected populations, especially women and girls, at the centre,” he added.

Key recommendations

The report sets out findings of 15 community consultations held from July 2022 to March 2023 with hundreds of participants, including victims and their families, in Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali and Tigray regions, and in the Dire Dawa city administration.

It sets out 31 recommendations, including on the design and implementation of the transitional justice process, justice and accountability, truth seeking and recommendations, and guarantees of non-repetition.

“By amplifying the experiences and voices of directly affected populations across Ethiopia, it is important that this report properly informs ongoing discussions on the development of a legitimate, holistic, genuine, and inclusive policy on transitional justice,” Mr. Türk added.

States’ obligations

The UN rights chief also stressed that States have a duty to investigate and prosecute gross human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including those which amount to crimes under international law.

“Those who have been subjected to violations or abuses are entitled to justice, including adequate, comprehensive, prompt, and effective reparations,” he said.

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