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.
Ukrainian grain starts its voyage to world markets
Following the signing on July 22 of the package deal to get millions of tons of Ukrainian grain out to world markets and ease the growing food crisis, the first commercial vessels sailed from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk this week. While another vessel was enroute Friday into Chornomorsk to pick up cargo for export.
UN troops open fire on border post in DRC
After anti-U.N. protests turned deadly last week in the eastern Congo, the U.N. stabilization mission MONUSCO faced new troubles Sunday after Tanzanian peacekeepers returning from leave opened fire on a Ugandan border post, killing at least two people and injuring 15 others. The mission's spokesman was also told to leave the country by the government.
IAEA: Iran's nuclear program moving ahead very fast
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday that Iran's nuclear program is 'growing in ambition and capacity' and his agency needs full access to verify all aspects of it. Separately, Thursday in Vienna, negotiators from Iran, the United States and the European Union resumed indirect talks to try to bring Washington and Tehran back into the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
- The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference got underway Monday at U.N. headquarters. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned there are crises with nuclear undertones from the Middle East to the Korean Peninsula, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He said there are nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world. The conference will run through August 26 and look at ways to strengthen the NPT, which entered into force in 1970. Guterres landed Friday in Japan, where he will participate in the August 6 annual commemoration at Hiroshima, where the United States dropped the world's first atomic bomb in 1945.
- Two weeks after the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency, the United States followed suit Thursday, declaring a domestic public health emergency. More than 6,600 cases have been verified in the United States. India reported its first confirmed death from the virus Tuesday, while Spain reported its second death. WHO is urging people who may have been exposed to or at risk of monkeypox to get vaccinated as a preventive measure. WHO has registered more than 18,000 cases since early May in at least 75 countries. The monkeypox virus is spread from person to person through close bodily contact. It can cause a range of symptoms, including painful sores. Those at higher risk for the disease or complications include men who have sex with men, women who are pregnant, children and people who are immunocompromised.
- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is on a four-day mission in Africa this week, making stops in Uganda, Ghana, and Cabo Verde focused on the impact of food insecurity on the continent. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40% of Africa's wheat supplies and the war has impacted the continent, where drought, conflict and COVID-19 have already pushed millions to crisis levels of hunger. Thomas-Greenfield has announced nearly $150 million in new development assistance during her trip.
- WHO said life expectancy in Africa rose by nearly 10 years between 2000 and 2019, from 46 years to 56 years, but that is still well below the global average of 64 years. WHO Assistant Regional Director for Africa Lindiwe Makubalo warned the life expectancy gains could easily be lost unless countries strengthen and make greater investments in the development of health care systems.
The United Nations said Tuesday that the parties to the Yemen war have agreed to extend a truce in place for the past four months for an additional two months, a move humanitarians welcomed. The truce between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels has brought some relief to the population, 19 million of whom the U.N. says are going hungry and 160,000 who are 'on the brink of famine.'
Quote of note
'Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.'
- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the opening of the 10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference Monday at U.N. headquarters.
What we are watching next week
The secretary-general is in Hiroshima, Japan, to draw attention to the need to eliminate stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He will participate in Saturday's Peace Memorial Ceremony and meet a group of surviving victims of the atomic bombs, known as the hibakusha, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His travels will continue until August 12, with stops in Mongolia and South Korea.