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UN chief saddened at death of Iranian President in helicopter crash

The crash, which occurred in a mountainous region of northwestern Iran, also claimed the lives of Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and six other passengers.

“The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and to the Government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr. Guterres’ Spokesperson said in a statement released in New York on Monday.

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The members of the Security Council joined the Secretary-General in expressing condolences as they convened on Monday.

Led by Pedro Comissário Afonso, Permanent Representative of Mozambique and Council President for May, the ambassadors observed a moment of silence at the start of the body’s 9629th meeting.

According to media reports, President Raisi’s funeral is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, and all cultural events in the country have been cancelled during what is now an official period of mourning.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, led a minute of silence in honour of the passing of those who died, at a conference on nuclear security taking place in Vienna on Monday.

IAEA inspectors have been working with authorities for years at Iran’s nuclear sites in order to limit capacity to purely civilian use.

India’s LGBTQIA+ community notches legal wins but still faces societal hurdles to acceptance, equal rights

UNAIDS, the main advocate for coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the UN Development Progarmme (UNDP) offices in India have been important partners in this effort. 

On this International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), celebrated annually on 17 May, we reflect on the journey of some members of this community in India and shed light on the challenges they are still faced with.

‘All hell broke loose’

Noyonika* and Ishita*, residents of a small town in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, are a lesbian couple working with an organization advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights.

But despite her advocacy role in the community, Noyonika has been unable to muster the courage to tell her own family that she is gay. “Very few people know this,” she says. “My family is very conservative, and it would be unthinkable for [them] to understand that I am gay.”

Noyonika’s partner, Ishita, is Agender (not identifying with any gender, or having a lack of gender). She says that she realized in childhood that she was different from other girls and was attracted to girls rather than boys. But her family is also very conservative, and she has not told her father about her reality.

Twenty-three-year-old Minal* and 27-year-old Sangeeta* have a similar story. The couple are residents of a small village in the northwestern state of Punjab. They now live in a big city and work for a well-regarded company.

Sangeeta said that although her own parents eventually came to terms with the relationship, Minal’s family was extremely opposed to the point of harassing the couple. “All hell broke loose,” said Minal.

“In 2019, we got permission to live together through a court order,” Sangeeta explained, but after this Minal’s family started threatening her over the phone.

“They used to say that they would kill me and put my family in jail. Even my family members were scared of these threats. After that [Minal’s family] kept stalking and harassing us for two to three years,” she said.

Today, Sangeeta and Minal are still struggling to have their relationship legally recognized.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

A trans* activist from Odisha, Sadhana’s commitmentextends beyond administrative circles to actively engage withthe transgender community.
UN News

Struggles for acceptance

Heart-rending stories like these can be found across India, where societal prejudices and harassment continue to plague lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities.

Sadhna Mishra, a transgender activist from Odisha, runs a community organization called Sakha. As a child, she faced oppression because she was seen as not conforming to societal gender norms. In 2015, she underwent gender confirming surgery and her journey towards her authentic self began.

Recalling the painful days of her childhood, she said, “Because of my femininity, I became a victim of rape again and again. Whenever I used to cry, my mother would ask why, and I would not be able to say anything. I used to ask why people called me Chhakka and Kinnar [transgender or intersex]. My mother would smile and say that’s because you are different and unique.”

It is because of her mother’s faith in her that Sadhna is now active in fighting for the rights of other transgender persons.

Still, she remembers well the hurdles she has faced, like the early days of trying to get launch her organization and the difficulties she had even finding a place for Sakha’s office. People were reluctant to rent space to a transgender person, so Sadhna was forced to work in public places and parks.

Social prejudices

A lack of understanding and intolerance towards the LGBTQIA+ community are similar, whether in larger cities or in rural areas.

Noyonika says that her organization sees many instances where a man is married to a woman because of societal pressure, without understanding his gender identity. “In villages and towns, you will find many married couples who have children and are forced to live a fake life.”

As for the rural areas of Assam where her organization works, Ishita gave the example of a cultural festival Bhavna being celebrated in Naamghars, or places of worship, where dramas based on mythological stories are presented. 

The female characters in these dramas are played mostly by men with feminine characteristics. During festivals they are widely praised, and their feminine characteristics are applauded, but out of the spotlight, they can become victims of harassment.

“They are intimidated, they are sexually exploited, they are molested,” Ishita explained.

A slow path to progress

In recent years, there have been positive legal and policy decisions acknowledging the LGBTQIA+ community in India. This includes the 2014 NALSA (National Legal Service Authority) decision, in which the court upheld everyone’s right to identify their own gender and legally recognized hijras and kinnar (transgender persons) as a ‘third gender’. 

In 2018, the application of portions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to criminalize private consensual sex between men was ruled unconstitutional by India’s Supreme Court. Further, in 2021, a landmark judgment by the Madras High Court directed the state to provide comprehensive welfare services to the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Over the past 40-plus years, the rainbow Pride flag has become a symbol synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community and its fight for equal rights and acceptance across the globe.
Unsplash/Tim Bieler

United Nations advocacy

Communication is an important way to foster dialogue and help create a more tolerant and inclusive society, and gradually, perhaps even change mindsets.

To this end, UN Women, in collaboration with India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, has recently contributed to the development of a gender-inclusive communication guide.

Meanwhile, the UNAIDS and UNDP offices in India are working to assist the LGBTQIA+ community by running awareness and empowerment campaigns, as well as provide those communities with better health and social protection services.

“UNAIDS supports LGBTQ+ people’s leadership in the HIV response and in advocacy for human rights, and is working to tackle discrimination, and to help build inclusive societies where everyone is protected and respected,” said David Bridger, UNAIDS Country Director for India.

He added: “The HIV response has clearly taught all of us that in order to protect everyone’s health, we have to protect everyone’s rights.”

In line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Organization’s broad commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, UNDP, is working with governments and partners to strengthen laws, policies and programmes that address inequalities and seek to ensure respect for the human rights of LGBTQIA+ people. 

Through the “Being LGBTI in the Asia and the Pacific” programme, UNDP has also implemented relevant regional initiatives.

Opportunities and challenges

UNDP India’s National Programme Manager (Health Systems Strengthening Unit), Dr. Chiranjeev Bhattacharjya said, “At UNDP India, we have been working very closely with the LGBTQI community to advance their rights.” 

Indeed, he continued, there are currently multiple opportunities to support the community due to progressive legal landmarks like the NALSA judgement, decriminalization of same sex relationships (377 IPC) and the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019 which has raised awareness regarding their development. 

“However, there are implementation challenges which will need multi-stakeholder collaboration and we will continue to work with the community to address them so that we leave no one behind,” he stated.

Even as the Indian legal landscape has inched towards broader inclusion with the repeal of Section 377, the country’s LGBTQIA+ communities are still awaiting recognition – and justice – when dealing with many areas of their everyday lives and interactions, for example: who can be designated ‘next of kin’ if one partner is hospitalized; can a partner be added to a life insurance policy; or whether legal recognition could be given to gay marriage. 

UN security staff killed in Gaza; Guterres calls for probe

Condemning all attacks on UN personnel, Secretary-General António Guterres called for a full investigation, his deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, told journalists in New York. 

“With the conflict in Gaza continuing to take a heavy toll – not only on civilians, but also on humanitarian workers – the Secretary-General reiterates his urgent appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for the release of all hostages,” he said.

Questioned by journalists, Mr. Haq said that the UN was still gathering information on the incident. He later confirmed that the security personnel killed was an international staff member, marking the first such UN death in the Gaza conflict.

Separately, UN Palestine refugee agency UNRWA reported that another of its staff members had been killed in the war, bringing the total number to 188.

The 53-year-old senior projects officer was killed on Sunday in an Israeli strike in the central town of Deir Al Balah, after leaving Rafah. 

 

‘Keep working with us to build a better world,’ Guterres says, as major UN civil society forum closes in Kenya

At the closing session of the 2024 United Nations Civil Society Conference in the Kenyan capital, Secretary-General António Guterres and President William Ruto praised the efforts of civil society and underscored their “indispensable contributions.”

In his address, Mr. Guterres said time and again he had witnessed the enormous impact of civil society in every corner of the world; easing suffering, pushing for peace and justice, standing for truth, and advancing gender equality and sustainable development, with many working at great personal risk.

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Pointing to current conflicts – the devastating civilian death toll in Gaza, the civil war raging in Sudan, and ongoing crises in the Sahel, Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions – he pledged: “We won’t give up in our … push for peace, justice and human rights, and I know you won’t give up either. My best hope for the future is you.”

 

‘Keep working with us’

Mr. Guterres went on to stress that the involvement of civil society was crucial to tackling the many problems being faced by the world today, including when responding to crisis, closing the digital divides, and revitalizing the collective approach to peace and security. 

“We need to be informed by your frontline know-how; We need your can-do attitude to overcome obstacles and find innovative solutions,” explained the UN chief, adding: “We need you to use your networks, knowledge and contacts to implement solutions, and to persuade governments to act. Your contributions have been indispensable, and I thank you.”

The Secretary-General invited civil society to bring their spirit to the so called ‘Action Days’ being held in connection with this September’s highly anticipated UN Summit of the Future and asked them to engage their governments to demand ambitious commitments at that event.

“Keep working with us to build a better world,” he concluded.

For his part, Kenyan President William Ruto outlined his government’s commitment in recognition of the civil society sector, noting that yesterday, it had moved to bring the Public Benefits Organization Act into law in the country.

The Act now consolidated the operations of civil society into one predictable legal regime, making it easier for civil society, including those from outside of Kenya, to operate. 

“We are determined to reinvigorate our development agenda by harnessing the organizing and advocacy power of civil society,” he said, but stressed that it was evident that significant work lay ahead. 

There is no room to lock others outside: “Kenya remains steadfast in its commitment to a strong partnership with an empowered civil society, to advance our pursuit of a sustainable, just and inclusive future.”

Attendees at the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, listening to addresses by the speakers.
UN Photo/Duncan Moore

 ‘Bold, honest conversations’ 

Over the past two days, the 2024 Civil Society Conference, held at the UN Office at Nairobi (UNON), featured a host of briefings, interactive dialogues, and some 37 workshops, and 20 ImPACT coalitions. 

The Conference took place ahead of the Summit of the Future, which will bring delegations from all over the globe to UN Headquarters in New York this September to agree a roadmap of bold multilateral actions aimed at ensuring a fairer, safer and more sustainable world now and for generations to come. 

Friday’s closing of the Civil Society Conference also heard from Mithika Mwenda, of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, who emphasized the need for “boldness and honest conversations” to achieve the radical transformations needed to ensure sustainable development for all, poverty alleviation, and ultimately, an action-oriented Pact for the Future [one of the expected outcomes of the Summit]. 

Chola Milambo, Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN and Co-facilitator of the Global Digital Compact, delivering a statement on behalf of all the Co-facilitators, said the Conference had heard from a rich variety of voices, including from the youth, women and those from underrepresented regions from around the world. 

The Co-facilitators remained open to dialogue, to engage with civil society and to hear all the voices in the process, she added.

Conference Co-Chair Nudhara Yusuf said that over the past two days, civil society had made a “big statement” of what they expected from intergovernmental processes and what they could offer. If the Summit of the Future expected UN Member States to be ambitious, civil society must be willing to do the same.  

For her part, Co-Chair Carole Ageng’o said that at the close of the Conference, she was highly optimistic among others, considering the new partnerships that had been formed which opened space for all stakeholders to engage towards creating a more inclusive, sustainable and safe future for all.

Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General of Global Communications, who’s Department had organized the Conference, underlined that civil society ideas and voices had always been crucial for the world of the United Nation’s: from the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, to delivering impact and setting the stage for the Summit of the Future. 

Solidarity was needed more today than ever before, said Ms. Flemming, and the Conference had set a powerful example in this regard. 

Find full coverage of today’s events at the Conference here.

‘Outrageous’ arson attack forces UNRWA to temporarily shutter East Jerusalem compound

Posting on social media, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said “Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter” on Thursday evening.  UNRWA personnel and staff from other UN agencies were inside the compound at the time. 

“Our director with the help of other staff had to put out the fire themselves as it took the Israeli fire extinguishers and police a while before they turned up,” he said.

This marked “the second appalling incident in less than a week” following a similar violent protest on Tuesday. 

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‘An outrageous development’ 

While there were no casualties among UNRWA staff, the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas, he said, noting that a petrol and diesel station is on the grounds to service the agency’s fleet of cars. 

A crowd accompanied by armed men were witnessed outside the compound chanting “burn down the United Nations,” he added. 

“This is an outrageous development,” he said. “Once again, the lives of UN staff were at serious risk.”   

Protest turned violent 

Mr. Lazzarini said he has taken the decision to close down the compound “until proper security is restored”.  

Israeli extremists have been staging protests outside the UNRWA compound in Jerusalem over the past two months “called by an elected member of the Jerusalem municipality.” 

He noted that Tuesday’s protest had turned violent when demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and at the buildings, “under the watch of the Israeli police.”

Harassment, intimidation and vandalism 

“Over the past months, UN staff have regularly been subjected to harassment and intimidation. Our compound has been seriously vandalized and damaged. On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns,” he said. 

The UNRWA chief stressed that it is the responsibility of Israel as the occupying power to ensure that UN personnel and facilities are protected at all times.  

“I call on all those who have influence to put an end to these attacks and hold all those responsible accountable,” he said.  “The perpetrators of these attacks must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. Anything less will set a new dangerous standard.” 

 

First UN civil society forum held in Africa heralds ‘inclusive’ Summit of the Future

Bringing together civil society actors, government representatives, senior UN officials, young changemakers, academic and other stakeholders, the UN Civil Society Conference is the premier event on the civil society calendar at the United Nations, ahead of the Summit of the Future, set for this coming September. 

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, in a video message to the event, began by expressing deep condolences to the victims of the devasting floods in Kenya and reiterating the United Nation’s continued commitment to supporting the Kenyan Government during this challenging time. 

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Civil society’s ‘strong voice’

She underscored how every day, civil society groups around the world work tirelessly to advance the goals of the United Nations. 

“You fight for global justice, for social justice and for climate justice.  For peace, for gender equality, for human rights and for the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals],” said Ms. Mohammed, said, adding: “You stand in solidarity with the vulnerable and the marginalized.” 

“This Conference is a testament to the strong voice of civil society, despite rising threats and shrinking space.”

Ms. Mohammed went on to explain the Conference reaffirmed that the upcoming Summit of the Future must resonate with civil societies priorities, concerns and expectations. September’s Summit was a generational opportunity to update international institutions and build a more inclusive multilateralism that served the interests of all peoples.

Organized by the UN Department of Global Communications, the Civil Society Conference will run for two days over May 9 and 10 at the UN Office at Nairobi (UNON). 

‘We need you, civil society’ 

Opening the event, Maher Nasser, Director of the UN communication department’s Outreach Division, said that more than 3,600 civil society representatives from 2,750 entities had registered for the Conference, along with around 400 representatives of 64 governments, seven inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), 37 UN entities and over 100 media reporters.  

In addition, 70 per cent of those registered were from Africa and 40 per cent of all registrations were youth, in the age group 18 to 34. Climate was the top issue for youth registrants. Before handing over to the Co-Chairs, Mr. Nasser implored the audience to remember that “today is yesterday’s tomorrow and last year’s future.”

Dennis Francis, President of the UN General Assembly, speaking via video message, said: “For the Summit to serve as a catalyst for impactful global action, we need robust collaboration and buy-in from those directly affected to drive its action-oriented outcomes.”

Referring to the documents that are expected to emerge from the Summit – the Pact for the Future, the Global Digital Compact and the Declaration on Future Generations – the Assembly President said, “we need you, civil society, to play a critical role in this process.” 

Participants gathering at the opening of the UN Civil Society Conference, which is being held at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, from 9-10 May 2024.
UN Nairobi

Participants gathering at the opening of the UN Civil Society Conference, which is being held at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, from 9-10 May 2024.

Guy Ryder, UN Under-Secretary-General for Policy, said the next two days were a vital step in the journey towards the Summit of the Future. The insights, commitment, and call for action were indispensable to the processes that lay ahead. 

“We are all acutely aware that we need to work together, if we were to have any chance of meeting today’s global challenges; ongoing conflicts, escalating geopolitical tensions; multiplying humanitarian crisis; rising inequalities…the climate emergency and so much more,” he stated.

Moreover, cooperation and solidarity were needed at all levels. 

“And for that, we need systems, institutions, mindsets that are up to the task and reflect contemporary realities,” Mr. Ryder said, urging everyone, especially young people, to get involved and encouraged everyone to ramp up engagement with their governments in the lead up to September.  

‘We want real change’

A highlight of the opening session was a keynote address from Karimot Odebode, SDG Young Leader, one of the 17 young leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, who leads a civil society organization in Nigeria. 

She read a poem entitled The Journey Ahead

“My generation is tired,” she said, stressing, “we want real change. Are you ready to commit to peace? Are you ready? Because I commit. Do you?”

Ms. Odebode said that civil society had gathered today as a matter of urgency, to develop a roadmap towards a sustainable future. Civil society leaders had a unique responsibility in shaping the future of global and sustainable progress, she stressed. 

Florence Syevuo, another SDG Young Leader, said the Conference was a call from civil society to address global inequality once and for all, particularly those between the Global North and South. Some 70 per cent of the participants hailed from Africa, which was important; those left out of the ‘New York bubble’ could not meaningfully engage in conversations on sustainable development.

“No future UN civil society conference should be held where the UN only sits for administrative purposes…we are hoping we can go to many Global South countries,” Ms. Syevuo said.

UN officials and civil society leaders presiding at the opening of the UN Civil Society Conference, which is being held at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, from 9-10 May 2024.
UN Nairobi

UN officials and civil society leaders presiding at the opening of the UN Civil Society Conference, which is being held at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, from 9-10 May 2024.

‘Raise the bar on multilateralism’ 

Carole Agengo, co-chair of the Planning Committee of the 2024 Civil Society Conference and Africa Regional Representative at HelpAge International, said civil society in the Global South faced challenges in accessing previous conferences for various reasons, mostly due to visas.  

Reflecting on this, the current Conference had set a premium on inclusion and participation. Ms. Agengo said it was vital for organizations in the Global South to unleash the power in their numbers and collaborate, as they moved forward towards the Summit of the Future. 

For her part, Nudhara Yusuf, Co-Chair of the Planning Committee of the 2024 Civil Society Conference, Global Governance Innovation Network and Youth Coordinator, Coalition for the UN We Need, said the Conference aimed to meaningfully support the Summit of the Future, which would be held at a critical moment.

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During that Summit, civil society would ask UN Member States to raise the bar on multilateralism. In turn, civil society needed to be willing to push the envelope on how they engaged with multilateral and intergovernmental processes, he said. 

The work of the Conference

The Conference on Thursday also featured 37 on-site workshops, co-organized by stakeholders, including civil society and United Nations entities and attended by various participants including UN Member States. 

This was followed with the discussion on civil society recommendations on the Pact for the Future, Declaration on Future Generations, and Global Digital Compact and an interactive dialogue on those proposed outcomes and related issues.

Friday is expected to kick off with an interactive dialogue, Looking ahead to the Summit and Beyond and a panel discussion, with responses from UN agencies, philanthropic groups and UN Member States. 

The closing session will take place in the afternoon and will be attended by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the President of Kenya, William Ruto.

Palestine: General Assembly discusses failed UN membership bid

A 2022 initiative, resolution76/262, calls for the UN’s most representative body to meet within 10 days if the veto is used in the Security Council by one of its permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – who are granted this special voting power. 

During a Council meeting on 18 April,  the US vetoed a draft resolution that recommended that the General Assembly should hold a vote to allow Palestine full UN membership. 

Palestine is a ‘Permanent Observer State” at the UN, meaning that it can participate in all UN proceedings, except for voting on draft resolutions and decisions in its main organs and bodies. 

Council divisions persist 

Wednesday’s discussion took place against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by the bloody 7 October Hamas-led attacks on Israel. 

It was convened “as the divisions in the Security Council persist and hinder the Council’s ability to effectively discharge its responsibilities,” Assembly President Dennis Francis said in remarks read on his behalf. 

He encouraged countries to use the discussion “as an opportunity to deliberate on how the two main organs of the United Nations, the General Assembly and the Security Council, can work together to achieve a comprehensive just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question.” 

Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States, addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood of the United States, addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

US: No opposition to statehood 

US Deputy Representative Robert Wood said that as a permanent member of the Security Council, his country has a special responsibility to ensure that its actions further the cause of international peace and security, in addition to being consistent with the UN Charter. 

He said the report by the Committee on the Admission of New Members reflected that there was not unanimity among members as to whether the applicant met the criteria for membership, as set out in Article IV of the UN Charter, including questions around whether it meets the requirements to be considered a state. 

In this regard, he said the US has long called on the Palestinian Authority to undertake necessary reforms, noting that “Hamas, a terrorist organization is currently exerting power and influence in Gaza, an integral part of the State envisioned in this resolution”.  

Reiterating that Washington continues to strongly support a two-State solution between Israelis and Palestinians, he said the vote “does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties.” 

Mr. Wood concluded by noting that the General Assembly is holding two meetings on the casting of the same veto as a group of countries has formally requested a meeting of its 10th Emergency Special Session on the matter. 

“We think that the convening of this meeting today is both inconsistent with resolution 262 and is an improper use of the General Assembly’s time and resources,” he said. 

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Palestine: UN membership ‘long overdue’ 

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, said he stood before the General Assembly “as the massacres against the Palestinian people continue unabated”.  

He said an immediate ceasefire – long called for by the Assembly and demanded by the Security Council – is indispensable and cannot be delayed any further. 

Stating that Palestine’s membership in the UN is “long overdue”, he said “we will never accept that the Palestinian people’s right to self- determination, to statehood and admission to the UN, could be in any way subject to an Israeli veto.” 

He said Palestine will now bring the matter for consideration by the General Assembly at the resumed 10th emergency special session and urged the Security Council to reconsider its application for admission. 

Mr. Mansour called for every State to use the means available to them to end the carnage in Gaza and advance freedom and peace. 

He said, “the time for recognition of the state of Palestine is right now,” and expressed gratitude to the more than 140 countries that have taken this “important step”. 

“For those who have not yet recognized the state of Palestine, we say there are no grounds for further delay. Those who want to destroy the Palestinian state, and with it any chance for peace, are not waiting,” he said. 

Ambassador Gilad Erdan of Israel addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Ambassador Gilad Erdan of Israel addresses the UN General Assembly plenary meeting on the use of the veto on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Israel: No ‘rogue state’ 

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan noted that Tuesday marked the end of the Passover holiday and “every Jewish family had an empty hole in their hearts” as they were focused on the atrocities of 7 October and the suffering of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas. 

“Yet as my people mark this Passover with grief, the UN is again seeking to reward the perpetrators of the horrors,” he said.  “The UN couldn’t care less about Israel. To hell with our safety, to hell with our future, and to hell with our hostages.” 

He said, “nothing exemplifies the UN’s rotten values more than the advancement of a Palestinian statehood.” 

Mr. Erdan stated that there has never been condemnation of Hamas, or a single UN initiative taken for the sake of the Israeli hostages, adding “instead this body has focused only on recognizing a Palestinian terror state” .

He said the Palestinian Authority does not meet the criteria for statehood, and not one Palestinian leader has condemned Hamas. 

Granting Palestine full UN membership would only have two “destructive results”, he said – furthering terrorism and sending a clear message to the Palestinians that they never have to sit at the negotiating table, let alone make compromises. 

“These UN sessions will be remembered in the future as one of the primary obstacles to resolving the conflict.  Remember my words. The UN today is the main impediment to peace,” he said. 

UN updates on probe into allegations of staff collusion during 7 October attacks

“We are exploring corrective administrative action to be taken in that person’s case,” he said, speaking during the daily press briefing in New York. 

Meanwhile, eight staff remain under investigation by the UN’s internal oversight body, OIOS, which also suspended three cases “as the information provided by Israel is not sufficient for OIOS to proceed with an investigation”. 

UNRWA is now also considering what administrative action to take in those three cases.  

Immediate action taken 

The accusations surfaced in January when Israel informed UNRWA of the alleged involvement of the staff members in the brutal assault on its territory. Some 1,200 people were killed and another 250 were taken to Gaza as hostages. 

Of the 12 people implicated, UNRWA immediately identified and terminated the contracts of 10, while two were confirmed dead.  

The UN Secretary-General immediately ordered OIOS to investigate, while an independent panel was appointed to conduct a separate assessment into whether UNRWA is doing everything to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they arise. 

The panel, headed by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, published its report on Monday which found that “the set of rules and the mechanisms and procedures in place [at UNRWA] are the most elaborate within the UN system”. 

Seven more cases 

Mr. Dujarric said the UN subsequently received information from Israel about seven more cases – five in March and two in April. One case has also been suspended pending receipt of additional supporting evidence, and OIOS are investigating the remainder. 

“OIOS has also informed us that its investigators had travelled to Israel for discussions with the Israeli authorities and will undertake another visit in May. These discussions are continuing and have so far been productive and have enabled progress on the investigations,” he said. 

No alternative to UNRWA 

The initial Israeli allegations prompted 16 countries to stop contributing to UNRWA, which mainly relies on donations to fund its operations across five locations in the Middle East, including Gaza.  

The agency is the largest humanitarian organisation in besieged Gaza, where more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, according to the authorities.

This week, Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said several donor countries “have come back”, and UNRWA has sufficient funding to keep operations running until the end of June. 

Separately, UNRWA launched a $1.2 billion appeal to meet urgent needs in Gaza and in the West Bank, where violence is increasing. 

“The past months proved that there is no replacement or alternative to UNRWA,” Mr. Lazzarini said on Wednesday, announcing the appeal.

Guterres upholds UNRWA as a ‘lifeline’ following receipt of independent panel’s report

The final report, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, was due to be released later on Monday. Ms. Colonna was also preparing to speak to journalists at a scheduled noon briefing in New York as Chair of the Independent Review Group on UNRWA. 

“The Secretary-General accepts the recommendations contained in Ms. Colonna’s report,” Mr. Guterres’s Spokesperson said in a statement. 

“He has agreed with (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini that UNRWA – with the Secretary-General’s support – will establish an action plan to implement the recommendations contained in the final report.”

The statement concluded that “moving forward, the Secretary-General appeals to all stakeholders to actively support UNRWA, as it is a lifeline for Palestine refugees in the region.”  

The review group presented interim report findings and recommendations to the UN Secretary-General four weeks ago. These included evidence that UNRWA had “a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the humanitarian principle of neutrality” although “critical areas…still need to be addressed,” Mr. Guterres’s office noted at the time. 

The review panel – working with respected research organisations the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, the Michelsen Institute and the Danish Institute for Human Rights – announced that it would proceed with developing concrete and realistic recommendations to strengthen and improve the agency.

Gaza, West Bank violence unabated

The development came amid reports of further Israeli bombardment across Gaza at the weekend and concerning levels of violence in the West Bank.

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In Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, reported on Monday that a baby had been saved by emergency Caesarean section after its mother was critically injured in an airstrike and later died.

“Doctors in Gaza were able to save the life of the baby from the womb of the mother as she passed away from the head injury she’d sustained,” said Dominic Allen, UNFPA Representative for Palestine. The mother was 30 weeks pregnant when she died, along with her husband and the baby’s siblings, Mr. Allen noted.

Waiting for bombs to fall

In Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health highlighted the huge toll on mental health that recent months and decades of violence have taken on the enclave’s besieged population and medical professionals. 

“Imagine living under the constant anticipation of a bomb or a gun, or being shot while you’re trying to get food or water or play. That is in itself a form of violence,” said Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng. “To anticipate that your life could be extinguished in any moment and for children to grow up with that level of trauma is not normal. But, for decades, that has been normalised for the people of Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

On a daily basis, life continues to worsen for ordinary Gazans after nearly seven months of constant Israeli bombardment and a ground operation, launched in response to Hamas-led terror attacks in southern Israel that left some 1,200 dead and more than 250 taken hostage.

A child dies every 10 minutes in the enclave, UNRWA said at the weekend, in a fresh call to end the violence and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid into the enclave.

To date, Gazan health authorities report that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and some 77,000 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since 7 October. 

Underscoring the looming health dangers from warmer spring conditions, UNRWA expressed renewed concerns over poor waste management and disease. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Scott Anderson, Senior Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, warned that substandard water and sanitation were far below what the population needed to stay healthy.

 

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Secretary-General calls for UN 2.0 to tackle 21st century challenges

Amid multifaceted crises ranging from conflicts and climate to poverty and inequality, the world looks to the UN “to help deliver the better, safer and greener world we need”, Mr. Guterres said.

“But, we cannot solve 21st century problems with 20th century tools. We need a UN 2.0,” he stressed in a message opening the UN 2.0 week.

The transformation in skills and culture, encapsulated in the UN chief’s vision of a UN 2.0, is focused on fostering cutting-edge capabilities in data, digital solutions, innovation, foresight and behavioural science to deliver stronger results and help countries accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Secretary-General’s vision is elaborated in a policy brief launched last September.

‘Forward-thinking culture’

In his message on Monday, Mr. Guterres also underlined the need for a “forward-thinking culture” at the Organization, powered by rapid technological advances.

He said this was particularly important, given the fundamental changes proposed in Our Common Agenda, his vision for global cooperation and getting the SDGs back on track, as well as the Summit of the Future, which will be convened on 22 and 23 September in New York.

“We’re already seeing what is possible: From online resources for remote schools to humanitarian aid based on real-time data and technology that helps countries forecast and build resilience to disasters,” the UN chief said.

“Ultimately, UN 2.0 will make us better partners for countries as they achieve results for their people.”

UN 2.0 Week High-Level Opening

What is UN 2.0?

Also speaking at the opening, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed explained that UN 2.0 is the Organization’s response to how “we will pivot and meet the world where it is at and where it needs to go”.

“Thinking about what that means for investing in our staff, but also attending to many of the ‘quintet of change’ issues,” she added, pointing to the five topics – data, digital solutions, innovation, foresight and behavioural science.

She expressed hope that the transformations will make the UN more fit for purpose.

“That we can actually get out there and raise the ambitions and be more responsive for the needs,” she added.

UN 2.0 Week

Taking place from 22 to 26 April, UN 2.0 Week showcases a series of virtual events, including panel discussions and best practice sharing dialogues. Over 40 speakers from across the UN system and partner organisations are slated to speak.

Click here to find out more about and sign up for UN 2.0 Week events.

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