UN Weekly Roundup: Jan. 27-Feb. 3, 2023 

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch. 

Two years since Myanmar military coup

The U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar warned Tuesday that two years after its coup, Myanmar’s military will try to legitimize its hold on power through sham elections this year, and he urged the international community not to recognize or engage with the junta.

Humanitarians await ‘guidelines’ from Afghan Taliban on women aid workers

The U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday he is awaiting a list of guidelines from Taliban authorities to allow Afghan women to work in the humanitarian sector, following a decree last month that has restricted their work. Martin Griffiths said he also asked Taliban officials if they are not going to rescind their decree now, then they should extend exemptions to cover all aspects of humanitarian work.

Iran dismisses IAEA report

Iran’s atomic energy organization on Wednesday dismissed a report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog that said Tehran had made an undeclared change to uranium enriching equipment at its Fordow plant. The IAEA said its inspectors found a modification to an interconnection between two clusters of centrifuges that was substantially different than what Iran had declared.

Red Cross warns world dangerously unprepared for next pandemic

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned Monday in its World Disaster Report that the world is dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic, and this will have severe health, economic and social consequences for countries around the world.

In brief 

— The World Health Organization said Monday that COVID-19 continues to be a global health emergency. Following a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on January 27, WHO Chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic is probably at a transition point that must be carefully navigated. The committee offered temporary recommendations including continuing vaccinations especially for high-risk groups. The health agency says as of January 29 there have been more than 753 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 6.8 million deaths globally.

— WHO also launched a new initiative Friday to reach the target of saving 2.5 million women’s lives from breast cancer by 2040. The campaign seeks to promote early detection, timely diagnosis and comprehensive management of breast cancer. WHO says there are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer annually, making it the most common cancer among adults. In 95% of countries, breast cancer is the first or second leading cause of female cancer deaths. Survival rates vary dramatically both between and within countries, with nearly 80% of deaths from both breast and cervical cancer occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Saturday is World Cancer Day.

— The Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday that global food commodity prices had dropped in January for the 10th consecutive month. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 131.2 points in January, 0.8% lower than in December and 17.9% below its peak in March 2022. The price indices for vegetable oils, dairy and sugar drove the January decline, while those for cereals and meat remained largely stable. Wheat prices were down by 2.5% as production in Australia and Russia outperformed expectations. The FAO said low domestic prices could result in a small cutback in wheat plantings in Russia, the world’s largest exporter, while the impact of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine are estimated to reduce winter wheat area plantings by 40%. Record plantings are forecast in India.

— The U.N. said that an inter-agency aid convoy delivered five truckloads of medications, shelter materials, tool kits, hygiene items and solar lamps to the Zaporizhzhia region in the southeast Ukraine on Thursday. The supplies are headed for people in Huliaipole, where about 3,000 people remain close to the front line. Humanitarians say the community has been without electricity and water since March, as power stations were damaged by fighting and cannot be repaired because of the ongoing hostilities. This is the second convoy this week to reach frontline communities, after a convoy reached Donetsk region on January 31. U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths will brief the U.N. Security Council on the humanitarian situation on February 6.

What we are watching next week

On February 6, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will brief member states on his priorities for the year ahead. With the world facing conflicts, inflation and climate catastrophes, look for him to amplify his calls for unity and urgent action.

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