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Ukraine: Cycle of death, destruction, dislocation, and disruption ‘must stop’

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Peace and Security - The “horrific conflict,” in Ukraine shows no signs of abating, the UN political and peacebuilding chief told the Security Council on Tuesday, pointing out that since her last update on 5 April, “countless Ukrainian civilians” have been killed in indiscriminate attacks, cities and towns levelled, and much of the country’s arable land “horribly disfigured by shelling”.  

“The cycle of death, destruction, dislocation, and disruption must stop”, underscored Rosemary DiCarlo. 

Depravity of war 

Amidst a new wave in recent days of missile and airstrikes in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and other cities far from the frontlines, the senior UN official drew attention to the missile strike in Kremenchuk on a shopping mall, reportedly by Russia, that killed at least 18 civilians and injured 59 others. 

She warned though that “the final toll may be much higher”. 

The most intense fighting now is in and around the towns of Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk and Sloviansk in the Donbas, and also reportedly around the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson.  

“In scenes reminiscent of the World Wars, large-scale artillery duels are devastating industrial areas, with thousands of civilians forced to hide in basements or to flee for their lives,” said Ms. DiCarlo.  

“Large military casualties are claimed on both sides”.  

‘Too high a price’ 

“Civilians continue to pay too high a price in this war,” she continued, telling ambassadors that as of 26 June, the UN human rights office (OHCHR), has recorded 10,631 civilian casualties in the country – 4,731 dead and 5,900 injured.  

She said that these figures are based on verified incidents and the actual numbers are “considerably higher”. 

Most were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, many of which are inherently indiscriminate when used in populated areas increasing casualties and devastating humanitarian impacts, she added.  

Probing crimes 

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine reported back earlier this month its first mission to the country, including to Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv and Sumy.  

Though only in the initial stages of its work, she said that the Commission received information and visited sites that “may support claims that serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, perhaps reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed”. 

The Commission, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and other fact-finding efforts, are “essential” for establishing accountability for the crimes and atrocities being committed. 

“This work must lead to justice…if we hope to be able to prevent such violations in the future, wherever they threaten to occur,” underscored Ms. DiCarlo.  

Perilous conditions  

Although more than 8.8 million people across Ukraine have received some form of humanitarian assistance and protection services, at least 16 million need aid. 

Meanwhile, humanitarian partners are working on a winterization assistance plan and extending the Flash Appeal to provide support until the end of 2022. 

And when it comes to health, safety, and access to food, the political affairs chief said that women in particular, were facing immense hardship. 

She cited a Rapid Gender Analysis by UN Women and anti-poverty and injustice NGO, CARE, that explained how they are increasingly becoming heads of households and leaders in their communities as men are conscripted.  

“They must be included in formal decision-making processes related to humanitarian efforts, peace-making, and other areas that directly impact their lives,” she spelled out. 

At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now recorded 323 attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel, resulting in 76 deaths. 

“We strongly remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law: All adequate measures must be taken to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” underscored Ms. DiCarlo, in her first briefing to the Council for ten weeks. 

Homes destroyed by conflict in Novoselivka, on the outskirts of Chernihiv in Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII
Homes destroyed by conflict in Novoselivka, on the outskirts of Chernihiv in Ukraine.


Since the start of the Russian invasion, more than a quarter of Ukrainians, or 12 million people, have been forced from their homes.  

And within the country, over 7.1 million remain displaced.  

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that over 5.2 million have taken refuge across Europe and over 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes on the continent. 

Long-term recovery 

Given the conflict’s increasingly protracted nature, Ukraine’s long-term recovery and rebuilding needs must also be considered now, she urged.  

She said the Council that the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a Resilience and Recovery Programme to support the Government’s emergency response, help keep the economy running and help assess priority needs.  

Beyond the borders 

The war is having devastating consequences on Ukraine, the immediate region, and far beyond its borders.  

On top of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, price shocks in the global food, energy and fertilizer markets are escalating. 

“To address this multi-dimensional threat, strong political will across the multilateral community and a comprehensive approach is foremost necessary,” said the political affairs chief. “For the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the entire world”. 

More to come

Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen), President of Ukraine, addresses the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on screen), President of Ukraine, addresses the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.

Rise of disinformation a symptom of ‘global diseases’ undermining public trust: Bachelet

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Human Rights - Societies everywhere are beset by “global diseases” including systemic inequality which have helped fuel a rise in disinformation, or the deliberate spreading of falsehoods, said the UN human rights chief on Tuesday, addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Michelle Bachelet said the restoration of public trust was essential, as disinformation should really be seen as a symptom of diseases such as systemic inequality, which has seen “deep-seated discrimination” flourish, along with fragile institutions, a loss of trust in effective governance, and “limited rule of law”.

She said those countries impacted by inequality were now threatened with instability and frayed co-existence within society.

Flourishing amid discontent

“Disinformation spreads when people feel that their voices are not heard. It arises in contexts where political disenchantment, economic disparity or social unrest flourish”, she said.

“It flourishes when civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and scientists cannot work, assemble and speak freely. When civic space is limited or closed. When the human rights to freedom of expression and access to information are threatened.”

It can be fuelled by governments and public officials, potentially leading to hate crimes and violence.

But she warned governments against trying to “officially ordain what is false, and what is true, and then attach legal consequences to those determinations. Our human right to access and impart information, is not limited to only what is deemed by the State as ‘accurate’”.

She called for a focus on “assessing how communications are being revolutionized by technology and on unpacking who is responsible for what.

“We need to look at how best to contain the harms caused by disinformation, while addressing the underlying causes that give disinformation life and allow it to gain traction.”

She said the sheer speed and volume of information circulating online, meant that it could be easily manipulated, with campaigns using automatic tools, rapidly creating a “false impressions of broad popular support for or against certain ideas, or be used to counter and marginalise dissident voices and ideas.”

Organized disinformation campaigns are also being used to silence rights defenders, journalists, and minority voices, “and as a result of repeated attacks, women, minority communities and others can be deterred from participating in the public sphere.”

Fighting back

The international response has to be consistent with universal rights obligations, she warned.

“When we debate the best ways to respond, we need to understand that censorship is not only an ineffective medicine - it can actually harm the patient.” Freedom of expression and the right to access information are essential, she underscored.

“I therefore call on States to uphold their international obligation to promote and protect these rights, whatever the social ill they seek to mitigate. Maintaining a vibrant and pluralistic civic space will be crucial in this endeavour.”

She called for policies which support independent journalism, pluralism in media, and digital literacy, which can help citizens “navigate” the online world and boost critical thinking.

“States must also ensure wide and free access to information so that it reaches all communities and constituencies…Trust can never be achieved without genuine government transparency.”

Social media regulation ‘insufficient’

The human rights chief said that social media businesses have transformed the way information circulates, “and they have a clear role to play.”

“To start with, we must understand better how they affect our national and global debates. While platforms have taken welcome steps to enhance their own transparency, and redress channels, progress remains insufficient.

She called for independent auditing of social media companies’ services and operations, and more clarity on the way advertising and personal data is being handled.

“And we need access for researchers and others to the data within companies, that can help us better understand and address disinformation.”

Two steps

Ms. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that there are two “critical needs” in the battle against rising disinformation.

“First, we need to deepen our understanding and knowledge: we need more research on how the digital sphere has transformed media and information flows; on how best to build public trust within this environment; and on how different actors can contribute to countering disinformation operations.”

Secondly, she said all discussions had to be framed within human rights norms. “Shortcuts do not work here: censorship and broad content take-downs are an ineffective and dangerous response.”


More than 70 grave violations against children caught up in war, being recorded daily: UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Peace and Security - A “staggering” average of 71 verified grave violations a day, are committed against children by parties to conflict in more than 30 settings across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

This is one of the key findings of a new report entitled, 25 years of children and armed conflict: Taking action to protect children in war, launched by the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, on Tuesday.

Speaking at a news briefing at the UN in Geneva, Tasha Gill, UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection in Emergencies, said that between 2005 and 2020, the Organization had verified over 250,000 grave violations in total, against children in the 30 locations.

“This is a staggering average of 71 grave violations against children daily”, she told reporters.

The report analyses 16 years of data on grave rights violations committed against children in conflict situations, to show the impact of armed conflict on children across the world.

Five hotspots

Ms. Gill emphasized that in the time frame examined, “82 per cent of all verified child casualties occurred in only five locations”: Afghanistan, Israel and the State of Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.

The report examines how engagement with parties to conflict – state and non-State actors alike – enables ending and preventing child rights’ violations.

According to Ms. Gill, “our analysis shows that despite decades of advocacy with parties to conflict and those who influence them – as well as enhanced monitoring, reporting and documenting grave rights violations - children continue to bear the brunt of war.

‘Unspeakable horrors’

“Every day, girls and boys living in areas under conflict experience and endure unspeakable horrors that no one should experience”.

During the period from 2005 to 2020, UNICEF found that more than 104,000 children were verified as killed or maimed, more than 93,000 children verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict and at least 25,700 were verified as abducted by parties to conflict.

“To give just some sense of the magnitude of the problem: in one decade alone - from 2010 to 2020, there was an increase of 185% of verified grave child rights violations committed against children in conflict situations,” said UNICEF’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection in Emergencies.

She added that “it is also important to note that many children experience more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, like recruitment and use and sexual violence”.

The effort of UNICEF staff, other UN and partner organizations to collect and verify information on grave violations to better understand and respond to the needs of children, has yielded positive results.

170,000 freed

Since 2000, at least 170,000 children have been released from armed forces, many having survived multiple violations, including abduction or sexual violence.

“While we are complaining or criticizing all members of wars parties to conflict for not upholding their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, we also believe that the international community at large can do more to protect children in conflict”, said Ms. Gill.


Sustainable blue economy vital for small countries and coastal populations

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Climate and Environment - With the livelihoods of about 40 per cent of the world’s population living at or near a coast, the second day of the UN Ocean Conference under way in Lisbon focused on strengthening sustainable ocean-based economiesmanaging coastal ecosystems.

The world’s coastal populations contribute significantly to the global economy – an estimated $1.5 trillion per year – with expectations pointing to some $3 trillion by 2030.

Ensuring ocean ecosystem health, supporting livelihoods and driving economic growth requires targeted support for key sectors, including fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, energy, shipping and port activities, and seabed mining, as well as innovative areas such as renewable energy and marine biotechnology.

Marine resources ‘essential’

This is particularly important to small island developing states (SIDS), for whom marine resources are critical assets, providing them with food security, nutrition, employment, foreign exchange, and recreation.

Further, through evidence-based policy interventions, these assets can also make enhanced and sustained contributions to the economic growth, and prosperity of SIDS and least developed countries (LDCs).

Participating in the main interactive dialogue of the second-day of the Conference, former President of Seychelles, Danny Faure, explained to UN News that it is “extremely important that small States have a place at the table, to ensure that they can put forward their aspirations and move in the right direction”.

Acknowledging that climate change continues to affect his own country, and several SIDS, Mr. Faure called on the international community to continue to support countries like Seychelles.

“The blue economy is essential for the livelihoods of our people and nations. I see [investment] coming very slowly and I believe it is very important that, internationally, we continue to maintain the focus, so we can build partnerships between civil society and private sector,” he stated.

Fish is sun dried at a landing site in Kigoma, Tanzania.
© FAO/Luis Tato
Fish is sun dried at a landing site in Kigoma, Tanzania.

What does a truly sustainable blue economy mean?

Despite of the lack of a universally accepted definition of the term blue economy, the World Bank defines it as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.

A blue economy prioritizes all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. When talking about sustainable development, it is important to understand the difference between a blue economy and an ocean economy. The term implies that the initiative is environmentally sustainable, inclusive and climate resilient.

In addition to providing goods and services measurable in monetary terms, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows and wetlands deliver critical ecosystem services such as coastal protection and carbon sequestration.

Seagrass, which evolved over 70 million years ago from terrestrial grass, is one of the most diverse and valuable marine ecosystems on the planet.
© Unsplash
Seagrass, which evolved over 70 million years ago from terrestrial grass, is one of the most diverse and valuable marine ecosystems on the planet.

Action now

Small island developing states control 30 per cent of all oceans and seas. But how can SIDS and the private sector build equitable and accountable partnerships for sustainable ocean?

Calling for the implementation of the promises set out in the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action, known by the shorthand SAMOA Pathway and the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, experts on the second day of the Conference reiterated the importance of harnessing private sector collaboration to make it possible.

Impacts of climate change

Speaking to UN News, the Secretary to Government of Tuvalu, Tapugao Falefou, said that his country was “not just beginning to understand what climate change is and how impacts [the world] but also physically understanding how it impacts [us].”

Describing major coastal erosion, drought and inland inundated by seawater, Mr. Falefou said “that didn’t happen 20 years back. These are the impacts of climate change that I can attest to, that larger countries may not experience.”

The path of multilateralism

With millions employed worldwide in fishing and fish farming, most in developing countries, healthy and resilient marine and coastal ecosystems are fundamental to sustainable development.

Other sectors that are critical to the resilience of developing countries include the coastal tourism sector, which contributes up to 40 per cent or more of the global gross domestic product (GDP) in some SIDS, and the marine fisheries sector, which provides nearly 20 per cent of the average intake of animal protein consumed by 3.2 billion people, and more than 50 per cent of the average intake in some least developed countries.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General, added that without multilateralism, no one can solve the problem of the Ocean.

“SIDS have the potential to be large ocean economies (…) if we do so sustainably, we can unlock development prospects”, she added, emphasizing the blue economy path.

A fisherwoman on her way to sell the fish she caught at Joal port in Senegal.
© FAO/Sylvain Cherkaoui
A fisherwoman on her way to sell the fish she caught at Joal port in Senegal.

Women and the ocean

Focusing on the interlinkage between the SDG14 and SDG 5 (gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) a panel of experts advocated for increasing women’s participation and leadership at all levels.

With women critically under-represented in the field of ocean actions, particularly in decision-making roles in ocean science, policy-making, and blue economy, the panel called for more action and a radical change in society.

“We have an enormous responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure the sustainability of our planet, and an event like this [Conference] is probably one of the most important in terms of the future of life,” said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University, based in Sweden.

Reiterating the importance of looking into women’s working conditions and pay-gap in fisheries, Ms. Doumbia-Henry added: “We need to focus on some of these questions, and what I am tired of is the lip service, we need to make the changes, and implement, to take it forward.”

Mainstream women’s participation

For Maria Damanaki, founder of Leading Women for the Ocean, concrete action plan is needed, along with legislation.

“We need to see women as part of the blue economy, we need to see them everywhere, to mainstream their participation, because without their leadership, humanity as a whole is going to lose a lot,” Ms. Damanaki said.

With the expected participation of over 12 thousand ocean advocates, including world leaders, entrepreneurs, youth, influencers, and scientists, the Conference will continue to ignite fresh impetus for advancing SDG14, at the heart of global action to protect life under water. Concrete measures will be adopted to build ocean resilience and more sustainable communities, underpinned by a new wave of commitments to restore the ocean’s health.

During the week, UN News will bring you daily coverage on the Conference as well as interviews, podcasts, and features, which you can access here.


UN rights office in probe call, after Morocco-Spain migrant deaths, Texas tragedy, show need for safer pathways

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Migrants and Refugees - The deaths of at least 23 migrants seeking to reach Spanish territory from Morocco should be investigated urgently by both countries, the UN rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday, reacting also to reports overnight of of least 50 migrants found dead in a truck in southern Texas.

The Morocco-Spain border incident took place last Friday when African migrants were reportedly “beaten with batons, kicked, shoved, and attacked with stones by Moroccan officials”, said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, in their attempt to scale the barbed-wire fence that separates Morocco from the North African, Spanish city of Melilla.

“This is the highest recorded number of deaths in a single incident over many years of migrants attempting to cross from Morocco to Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta,” she said. “140 Moroccan border guards also reportedly sustained injuries.”

Border protection call

The OHCHR official urged Morocco and Spain to ensure that migrants’ human rights were protected at their joint border, and that border officers refrain from any use of excessive force.

An independent investigation was needed in view of the “competing accounts” of what had happened, she said.

“We also call on them to take to all necessary steps alongside the European Union, the African Union, and other relevant international and regional actors - to ensure human rights-based border governance measures are in place,” Ms. Shamdasani continued.

“These include access to safe migration pathways, access to individualised assessments and protection from collective expulsions and from refoulement, as well as from arbitrary arrest and detention.”

Texas truck tragedy

In a related development, Ms. Shamdasani expressed shock at reports that at least 50 bodies of migrants, according to latest news reports, had been found in an abandoned truck on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, apparently after crossing the border from Mexico.

Reports say that the deceased migrants included two dozen from Mexico, seven Guatemalans and two Hondurans, who had suffered heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Four children were among those who were found alive, and transported to hospital for treatment.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the horrific incident.

“This is not the first such tragedy, and it illustrates again the critical need for regular safe pathways for migration as well as for accountability for those persons whose conduct has directly led to such loss of life,” the OHCHR official said.


Syria: Decade of brutal war left nearly 307,000 civilians dead

INTERNATIONAL, 28 June 2022, Peace and Security - Between 1 March 2011 and 31 March 2021, 306,887 civilians were killed in the on-going war in Syria - the highest estimate yet of conflict-related deaths in the country, according to a new report published by the UN rights office (OHCHR) on Tuesday.

“The conflict-related casualty figures in this report are not simply a set of abstract numbers, but represent individual human beings,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, in a press release.

“The impact of the killing of each of these 306,887 civilians would have had a profound, reverberating impact on the family and community to which they belonged”.

Tallying losses

Mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, the report documents 143,350 civilian deaths in detail, enhanced by statistical techniques of imputation and multiple systems estimation, to connect the dots on missing information.

Using these techniques, a further 163,537 civilian deaths were assessed to have occurred, in order to produce the stark new estimate.

“The work of civil society organizations and the UN in monitoring and documenting conflict-related deaths is key in helping these families and communities establish the truth, seek accountability and pursue effective remedies,” said Ms. Bachelet. “This analysis will also give a clearer sense of the severity and scale of the conflict”.

‘Direct result of war’

The report also disaggregates data for the documented deaths, including by age, gender, year, governorate, those likely responsible, and the weapon type used.

The 306,887 estimate translates to an average of 83 civilians suffering a violent death every day during the decade – representing “a staggering 1.5 per cent of the total population,” according to the report.

It also triggers serious concerns as to “the failure of the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law norms on the protection of civilians”.

“Let me be clear, these are the people killed as a direct result of war operations. This does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to healthcare, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights, which remain to be assessed,” said the High Commissioner.

Work continues

The report set out the challenges in recording casualties during a conflict, beyond the immediate risk to those trying to access the sites of attacks.

“Where civil society actors undertake casualty recording, efforts…can put the recorders themselves at risk. They also face multiple challenges in their documentation efforts, including the collapse of their usual networks of information as people are on the move, displaced or in areas where there is a general information shutdown; the limited, or lack of, access to mobile data, Internet and electricity to collect and transmit information; limitations on their movements; and surveillance,” the report stated.

Information pertaining to different periods across the 10 years covered, was sourced from various local human rights centres as well as government records and those of OHCHR itself.

Individuals, families, ‘at the centre’

The process placed “individuals, their families and communities at the centre by ensuring that those killed are not forgotten, and that information is available for accountability-related processes and to access a range of human rights,” the report states.

“Unless and until the conflict ends, there is a continued risk of civilian deaths. It is, therefore, critical that all States, the United Nations and civil society use all available means to end the conflict and support a transition to peace.”


Libya: UN highlights need to speed up progress towards national elections

INTERNATIONAL, 27 June 2022, Peace and Security - Leaders in Libya must resolve outstanding issues so that long-awaited presidential and parliamentary elections can finally be held, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council on Monday. 

“The United Nations’ priority in Libya remains to facilitate a return to the electoral process, based on a sound and consensual constitutional basis for elections. This is what the Libyan people have asked for,” she declared. 

Ms. DiCarlo commended recent progress following a final round of UN-facilitated consultations on the constitutional basis for the vote, which has been delayed since December.  

Consensus and differences 

The talks were held in held in Cairo, Egypt, and brought together representatives from two rival legislative chambers - the House of Representatives (HOR) in the east, and the High State Council (HSC), based in the western city of Tripoli – to review a reformed constitution that charts the way to a democratic future for all Libyans. 

Delegates reached broad consensus on most of the contentious articles in the 2017 Constitutional Proposal, though differences remain on measures governing the transitional period leading to the elections. 

Seize the opportunity 

The outcome marked “a step in the right direction”, said Ms. DiCarlo, and leaders will meet in Geneva this week in efforts towards resolution. 

“It is my hope the upcoming meeting in Geneva between the heads of the House of Representative and High State Council will lead to a final and implementable agreement that would lead to the elections at the earliest possible date,”  

Meanwhile, continued political divisions are contributing to a tense security environment in and around Tripoli, stemming from the standoff between two rivals who both claim to be the legitimate Prime Minister. 

Tensions rising 

The crisis erupted in March after the HoR selected a new government. However, the UN and internationally-backed interim premier, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, refused to stand aside. 

Fathi Bashagha, the eastern parliament’s choice, entered Tripoli backed by armed militia, leading to clashes between their supporters.  

Ms. DiCarlo warned of the risk of escalation as armed groups continue to position themselves in support of either man, and reiterated her call for maximum restraint and dialogue. 

Oil shutdown costing billions 

The political impasse is also affecting the economy.  Ms. DiCarlo reported that the partial shutdown of the oil sector continues. Since mid-April, Libyan oil exports have reduced by one third, costing the country more than $3 billion in lost revenue. 

“In addition, the disagreement over the control and use of public funds that triggered the partial shutdown continues and could lead to further oil field closures in the near term,” she warned. 

The Council also heard about the ongoing “alarming” human rights situation in Libya.  

Erosion of civil space 

Ms. DiCarlo said nine civil society and humanitarian workers, who were arrested between November and February for exercising their right to freedom of expression, are still in detention. 

“I remain concerned that civic space is consistently being eroded. Arbitrary restrictions continue to be imposed on civil society organisations. Politically active women and men defending human rights are targeted with hate speech and incitement to violence, compromising their safety and security,” she told ambassadors. 

The UN Mission in the country, UNSMIL, has also received reports of serious allegations of torture against Libyans, migrants, and asylum-seekers in detention facilities and prisons. 

Ms. DiCarlo stressed that the authorities must investigate all allegations of torture and other violations, and those responsible must be held accountable.  

She further called for extending the mandate of an independent fact-finding mission that is investing and reporting on violations. 


UN drug report shines light on cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine trends

INTERNATIONAL, 27 June 2022, Health - Legalized cannabis use in some countries and states appears to have accelerated daily use and related health impacts, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed in a new report released on Monday.

The World Drug Report 2022 also details the environmental consequences of the illicit drugs trade, the expansion of synthetic drugs to new markets, and an all-time high in cocaine production.

“Numbers for the manufacturing and seizures of many illicit drugs are hitting record highs, even as global emergencies are deepening vulnerabilities,” said UNODC chief Ghada Waly.

“At the same time, misperceptions regarding the magnitude of the problem and the associated harms, are depriving people of care and treatment and driving young people towards harmful behaviours”.

Global overview

The report outlined that some 284 million 15 to 64-year-olds used drugs in 2020, indicating a 26 per cent increase during the course of a decade.

Globally, 11.2 million people were estimated to inject drugs, around half of whom were living with hepatitis C; 1.4 million with HIV, and 1.2 million with both.

In Africa and Latin America, those under 35 represent most of the people being treated for drug use disorders.  

Repercussions of cannabis legalization

In North America, legalized cannabis on a state level – especially new potent products containing elevated levels of high-inducing THC - appears to have increased daily usage, particularly among young adults.

In addition to increasing tax revenues, it has also caused a reported surge among people with psychiatric disorders, increased suicides and hospitalizations while generally reducing possession arrests. 

Cocaine, meth and opium

In 2020, global cocaine manufacturing grew 11 per cent from the previous year to 1,982 tons and, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, seizures increased to a record 1,424 tons.

Nearly 90 per cent of cocaine seized last year was trafficked via land and/or sea, reaching regions beyond the regular markets of North America and Europe.

Methamphetamine (or meth) trafficking continued to expand geographically, with 117 countries reporting seizures between 2016 and 2020, versus 84 from 2006‒2010, with volume growing an astonishing five-fold, between 2010 and 2020.

While the global area being used for opium poppy cultivation fell globally by 16 per cent to 246,800 hectares between 2020 and 2021, increased Afghan production triggered a seven per cent jump to 7,930 tons during that period. 

Key drug trends

Most people in drug rehabilitation throughout Africa and South and Central America are primarily being treated for cannabis abuse while those in eastern and south-eastern Europe and central Asia, most often require help for the misuse of opioids.

In the United States and Canada, overdose deaths, predominantly driven by an epidemic of the non-medical use of fentanyl – which can be fatal in tiny doses, and is commonly used to ‘cut’ other drugs such as street cocaine - continue to break records.

Estimates in the US point to more than 107,000 drug overdoses last year, up from nearly 92,000 in 2020.

Conflict zone magnets

Meanwhile, the report reveals data from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggesting that conflict can act as magnets for synthetic drug manufacturing, which may increase if the violence is close to large consumer markets.  

Historically, parties to conflict have often used illegal drug profits to finance war.

Conflicts may also disrupt and shift drug trafficking routes, as has happened in the Balkans and most recently in Ukraine, since Russia annexed Crimea and separatists took control of areas of the east in 2014.

Indoor cannabis leaves a carbon footprint between 16 and 100 times greater than outdoor cannabis.

Reported clandestine laboratories in Ukraine have skyrocketed from 17 dismantled in 2019, to 79 in 2020 – 67 of which were producing amphetamines – the highest number of disassembled labs reported in any given country, in 2020.  

Environmental impacts

The carbon footprint of indoor cannabis is between 16 and 100 times greater, than for outdoor cannabis, on average, according to the report – due to the intensive energy demands of artificial cultivation. And it is 30 times greater for lab-produced cocaine, than that for cocoa bean production.

Other environmental impacts include substantial deforestation associated with illicit coca cultivation; waste generated during synthetic drug manufacturing, which can be 5-30 times the volume of the end product; and dumping other waste that can affect soil, water and air directly.

Other organisms, animals and the overall food chain, suffer indirectly, said UNODC.

Gender treatment gap

Although women remain in the minority of drug users globally, their consumption rate increases more rapidly than men on average, said the report, and fewer get treatment.

They use an estimated 45-49 per cent of amphetamine and non-medical pharmaceutical stimulants, pharmaceutical opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

And although women represent almost one in two amphetamines users, they constitute only one in five people in treatment for amphetamine use.

Moreover, they play a range of roles in the global cocaine economy, from cultivating coca to transporting small quantities and selling to consumers.

“We need to devote the necessary resources and attention to addressing every aspect of the world drug problem, including the provision of evidence-based care to all who need it, and we need to improve the knowledge base on how illicit drugs relate to other urgent challenges, such as conflicts and environmental degradation,” said UNODC chief Ghada Waly.

Global drug users as estimated in the World Drug Report 2022.
Global drug users as estimated in the World Drug Report 2022.

Ukraine: Dozens dead and injured as UN condemns ‘utterly deplorable’ shopping centre attack

INTERNATIONAL, 27 June 2022, Peace and Security - At least ten people have reportedly been killed by what Ukrainian authorities have said was a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping centre, and attack which the UN condemned on Monday as “utterly deplorable”.

At least ten people have reportedly been killed by what Ukrainian authorities have said was a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping centre, and attack which the UN condemned on Monday as “utterly deplorable”.

The mall in the eastern city of Kremenchuk – a city which has largely escaped being targeted – was hit in the late afternoon, with reportedly 1,000 or more shoppers inside.

At least 40 were injured in the strike, said authorities, and the number of dead and injured is likely to rise. Footage from the scene showed buildings on fire and widespread destruction.

Civilians should not be targeted

United Nations Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, told correspondents at the daily briefing in New York that although casualties still had to be verified, “whatever the number is any attack that hits a shopping mall, is utterly deplorable.”

“Any sort of civilian infrastructure, which includes obviously shopping malls, and civilians, should never ever be targeted”, he added.

Mr. Dujarric said there had been “disturbing reports of a new wave of airstrikes and shelling over the weekend and again today, with civilians having been killed or injured. Homes, health facilities and other civilian infrastructure were reportedly damaged.”

In a statement issued later in the day,  Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator for Ukraine, said she was appalled at news of the airstrike on the mall.

"My thoughts and my heart are with the families and loved ones, of the people that have been killed, with those injured, and with the people of Kremenchuk and Ukraine, that had to witness another tragic event."

She said it was one more example "of the massive suffering that Russia’s war on Ukraine is causing on the people of this country."

Kyiv hit

During the weekend, the capital, Kyiv, was hit again, and a residential building was damaged, with some people trapped in the debris, he added.

“Loss of life, injury, destruction of homes across Ukraine, wreak havoc in the lives of individuals, families, communities”, said Ms. Lubrani, in a tweet on Sunday. “Civilians must be protected wherever they are.”

Desperation in the Donbas

Meanwhile in the Donbas region on the front lines between the invading Russian forces and Ukrainian defenders, fighting has continued, with UN humanitarians facing “tremendous challenges” reaching civilians, “who are facing increasing needs”, said Mr. Dujarric.

“The challenges are not only due to insecurity, but also to lack of access due to administrative restrictions imposed by the parties. 

We once again stress that the parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

The UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, Amin Awad, tweeted at the weekend that as humanitarian needs grew, the UN would “continue to scale up and work side by side, with the Ukrainian Government and its people.”


Middle East: Mounting violence leaving ‘scores of Palestinian and Israeli casualties’

INTERNATIONAL, 27 June 2022, Peace and Security - “High level” violence has resulted in “scores of Palestinian and Israeli casualties”, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council on Monday.

Speaking via video conference from Jerusalem, Tor Wennesland, expressed alarm over continued demonstrations and clashes; settler-related violence; and the firing of a rocket from Gaza into Israel, the first in months, which he called “a concerning reminder of the fragility” within the Palestinian enclave.

“Mounting violence has been further fuelled and exacerbated by provocative steps and inflammatory rhetoric”, he said, calling for “immediate steps to lower tensions and reverse negative trends that undermine prospects for a peaceful two-State resolution of the conflict.”

The senior envoy drew attention to specific incidents, including the death of two Palestinian men, a 16-year-old boy and an Israeli settler.

Key observations

In updating the ambassadors on settlement activity and the seizure of Palestinian-owned structures, including internationally funded humanitarian projects, Mr. Wennesland reminded that the Israeli Government was in “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions and international law, and called on the country to stop seizures and demolitions.

He said he was “gravely concerned by continuing violence against civilians,” calling for it to stop, and for all perpetrators to be held accountable.

The UN envoy also called recent unjustified attacks by Palestinians and Arab-Israelis against civilians in Israel “the deadliest in years,” stressing that they “must be clearly rejected by all”.

“I also condemn the continued killings of Palestinians, including children, by Israeli security forces, particularly in incidents where they did not appear to present an imminent threat to life,” he continued, noting that 15 Palestinian children had been killed in the West Bank this year, compared to nine during the same period in 2021.

Mr. Wennesland reiterated that “security forces must exercise maximum restraint”, and only use lethal force to protect life.

Turning to the fatal shooting of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, he flagged the disturbing behaviour of some Israeli security services at her funeral and echoed the Secretary-General’s call for an independent and transparent investigation into her killing and for those responsible to be held accountable.

“Journalists must never be the target of violence,” he stressed.

Political fragility

Meanwhile, the persistence of conflict drivers and absence of political will to change course have empowered extremists and are eroding perceptions among Palestinians and Israelis that a lasting peace will ever be achievable, warned the Special Coordinator.

He said it was crucial to improve Palestinian lives in Gaza, and for Israel to ease restrictions and facilitate more economic activity, such as better access to the Israeli labour market for Gazan workers.

However, Mr. Wennesland acknowledged, maintaining a state of calm in perpetuity, “is neither sufficient nor sustainable”.

“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” he underscored. “I urge Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to take steps that will enable the parties to regain the path towards meaningful negotiations and, ultimately, peace”.

A boy rides his bike next to buildings destroyed after Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.
© UNRWA/Samar Abu Elouf
A boy rides his bike next to buildings destroyed after Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Money woes

The Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis – compounded by constraints of the occupation, the absence of serious Palestinian reforms and unclear prospects for donor support – requires urgent attention, according to the Special Coordinator.

“As commodity prices spike, humanitarian needs and costs are rising” across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), he explained, noting that the price of wheat flour has increased by some 20 per cent in the West Bank and more than 40 per cent in Gaza while shipping costs spiked more than 25 per cent since last year.

An additional $36 million is required to sustain OPT operations until the end of the year – and offset increasing costs.

Facing similar constraints, the UN Agency for Palestine refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) remains $100 million short.

Encouraging donors to provide the necessary financial resources to meet the growing costs, the senior UN official argued that assisting with basic services and humanitarian needs are not only a humanitarian imperative, “but also vital for stability going forward”.


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