The Covid-19 Anniversary; Seeking Women to Run for Secretary-General; a Sad Women’s Day

  • Maria Luisa Gambale reports for PassBlue on Beirut’s efforts to equitably combat Covid-19 through a novel project, financed by the Mayors Migration Council: a mobile medical unit to serve some of the extensive migrant/immigrant communities in the city. The council’s million-dollar Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response, initiated to respond to the urban needs of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people during the pandemic, chose cities in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone — and Lebanon. Coupled with management help from UN-Habitat, the project in Beirut will provide free Covid-19 testing and related offerings. The mobile unit could also act as a model for other cities with large migrant populations.
  • Richard Mills, the deputy representative for the US mission to the UN, spoke to civil society on how the US is re-engaging with the UN under the Biden administration, at a forum organized by the World Federation of United Nations Associations, or WFUNA.
  • Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres’s special envoy in Myanmar, Christine Schraner-Burgener, “remains in close contact with key actors in the country” and regional parties, “including senior officials in China, leaders of ASEAN countries and other regional organizations.” Yet “there’s no indication as to when she’ll be able to travel to the region, let alone inside the country,” the UN said. The UN Human Rights Office reports that, as of March 8, at least 67 people, including women and children, have been killed. Hundreds more people have been injured.
  • The US, in its role as president of the Security Council in March, released a much-negotiated presidential statement from the Council, reiterating its support to the UN envoy Schraner-Burgener and “encourages” her to “maintain communication” and continue to “to engage intensively with all relevant parties in Myanmar, and to visit Myanmar as soon as possible.”
  • UNA-UK, a nongovernmental organization that educates the British public on the work of the UN, published a letter from dozens of prominent national figures urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “champion a transparent, inclusive and merit-based appointment process for the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN’s most senior humanitarian official” — to succeed Mark Lowcock, a Briton who has recently resigned. The letter was sent with a press release that included PassBlue’s March 3 op-ed calling for qualified candidates for the high-profile post, and not necessarily a Briton. (Update: March 12, AFP’s UN correspondent reported that two candidates are finalists for the job: Nick Dyer of the UK; and Olof Skoog, a Swede who is the European Union’s ambassador to the UN.)
  • Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres released a statement that “commends” women, men and young people everywhere for adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic on its one-year anniversary. He reiterated his concern over unequal vaccine distribution and vaccine nationalism persisting globally. The UN, in conjunction with New York City, will hold a one-year virtual memorial on March 15 at the Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy in East Flatbush, “to honor victims of COVID-19 and reflect on the one year anniversary of the pandemic.” Worldwide, there have been more than 119 million cases of the disease and more than 2.5 million deaths. In the US, the toll has surpassed 29 million cases and more than 527,000 deaths. In New York City, the epicenter of the virus for several months last spring, more than 733,000 cases have been reported and more than 29,400 deaths.
  • “Myanmar’s military coup leaders accused the country’s toppled de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, of illegally taking payments, including gold, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. An army spokesman also accused the former president and other toppled ministers of corruption. Violence continues in the streets; at least seven protesters were killed on Thursday,” The Economist reports.
  • Stéphanie Fillion writes for PassBlue: A new grass-roots campaign, called #Forward, is launching open, digital global primaries to find a “people-backed” candidate to run for UN secretary-general this year, filling a five-year term starting in 2022. The campaign aims to make the selection process more transparent and democratic while also attracting more attention to the election itself. One catch: no men need apply. The story was reposted on Digital Diplomacy’s Medium page.
  • Spokesperson’s briefing: The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) runs March 15–26 (last year, it was canceled because of the pandemic); it will be a hybrid format with mostly virtual meetings. The theme is “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Guterres will speak at the opening and participate in a town hall meeting with civil society on Tuesday, streamed on UN WebTV. Vice President Kamala Harris will also speak at the CSW on March 16, the US said. In addition, 25,000 “feminists representing millions of women” globally will participate in a virtual forum held in parallel with the CSW, according to the NGO Committee on the Status of Women New York. Up to 700 events will be held.
  • The International Peace Institute announced that Zeid Raad Al-Hussein is its next president & chief executive. Zeid previously served as the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, from 2014 to 2018, after being a Jordanian diplomat, including as his country’s permanent representative to the UN and ambassador to the US. Zeid succeeds Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norwegian diplomat, who resigned last fall amid a scandal linking him to the accused pedophile (and now-deceased) Jeffrey Epstein, reported by PassBlue.
  • Rasna Warrah, a Kenyan writer and journalist, writes in Africa Is a Country, a possible hard truth: “Even if a woman is nominated and appointed as the UN Secretary-General, we are not likely to see significant reforms in the gender arena because such a woman would be reluctant to bring about major reforms for fear of being labelled too feminist or losing the support of influential UN member states.”



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Independent Coverage the United Nations. A project of The New School’s Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs, supported by the Carnegie Corporation.