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Good morning, this is Michelle. It’s crunch time for Cop28 as climate negotiations in Dubai enter their final days. But while countries wrangle over a phase-down or phase-out of fossil fuels, activists say the UN body overseeing the talks has kept them from speaking freely.

This week, Geneva will be swarming with high-level officials as the UN celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights and holds the Global Refugee Forum.

Both events come at a turbulent time amid widening geopolitical fractures. The universality of human rights is persistently challenged while border controls are tightened to keep migrants and refugees out.

Can governments come together and live up to their commitments to human rights and refugees made more than seven decades ago?

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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Climate activists at a protest in the restricted Blue Zone at the Cop28 in Dubai, waving watermelon signs, in the colours of the Palestinian flag, which like all flags is banned according to UNFCCC event rules. (Geneva Solutions/Paula Dupraz-Dobias)

Rights groups accuse UN climate body of censorship at Cop28. As the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, rights defenders in Dubai attending the Cop28 climate conference said freedom of expression within the vast United Nations-administered venue was under threat. Rights groups accuse the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that manages the climate talks, of imposing mounting restrictions on civil society organisations in attendance, including any calls to stop the war in Gaza as off limits and restricting physical spaces for protests to take place.

Geneva Solutions

What to watch this week

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(United Nations Photo, 2016 /Flickr)

🎂Not so happy birthday. The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights couldn’t come at a more turbulent time for fundamental rights. Not only are violations widespread but the idea that human rights are a western construct is a persistent narrative.

Habib Makik, the son of the Lebanese author of the document approved by the UN in Paris on 10 December 1948, tells Le Temps why this claim is not supported by the facts.

Read also: Universal Declaration of Human Rights: fit for the 21st century?

Did you know? The declaration has been translated into more than 500 languages and dialects, making it the second most translated text in the world after the Bible. You can peruse the texts here.

🛂Global Refugee Forum. From Wednesday to Friday, the UN Refugee Agency and Switzerland will hold the quadrennial event to galvanise support for refugees worldwide and the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees.

In numbers. It comes at a time when 110 million people are forcibly displaced, within and beyond borders globally, due to factors including climate change, conflict, violence and persecution. Over three quarters of refugees are hosted in the global south.

Pledges, please! Co-convened by Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan and Uganda, this year’s edition will focus on issues ranging from education to health and sports, with the hopes of obtaining pledges (both financial and thematic) from countries to help host communities and refugees.

Red carpet. Among the nearly 100 VIPs expected to open the forum on Wednesday are the king of Jordan, the vice president of Colombia, the prime ministers of Lebanon and the Central African Republic, and the president of Iran. The latter's presence in Geneva is already causing a stir, with his opponents planning to receive him with a protest.

There has also been talk of France’s Emmanuel Macron showing up if they resolve scheduling issues, but at the very least, he'll send high-level representation given that he is one of the conveners, according to the organisers. The French president faces domestic backlash at his immigration bill that, if approved by parliament, could make deportation easier and family reunification harder.

The presidents of Estonia, Greece, Poland, Senegal, Slovenia and Togo are due to speak at the human rights anniversary event on Tuesday, so some might stick around for the forum.

👑Red Cross crowning. The global Red Cross and Red Crescent network is due to choose a new president today in what can be described as a snap election. Francesco Rocca, who has been at the helm since 2017, announced in June he would step down early following controversy over a Pride event in the Italian Lazio region, which he presides.

We had spoken to Rocca last year following his re-election as president.

Who's in the running? That has left all but five months for aspiring candidates to rally as much support as they can. Vying for the position is American Red Cross’s Kate Forbes, current chairman of the IFRC’s Audit and Risk Commission. She’s been with the movement since the 1980s. Former Kenya Red Cross secretary general Abbas Gullet is also hoping that his five decades of experience with the movement will help him land the top job.

There is also new blood in the competition, promising to infuse much-needed innovation into the historical movement: Ramy ElNazer, CEO of Egyptian Red Crescent, which has been actively assisting Palestinians in Gaza, and economist Natia Loladze, president of Georgia’s Red Cross and IFRC vice-president.

Whose vote? Over 130 of the 191 national societies are expected to assist the assembly in person, while the rest will participate online. All except the Peruvian and Belarussian chapters, which are suspended, will cast a confidential vote, with the candidate who obtains a simple majority winning.

Also on the agenda

  • 📌12 December | Climate adaptation for peace. CGIAR, the agricultural global research partnership, will be launching a new tool that aims “to assess and increase the peace potential of climate adaptation projects” at the two-hour event hosted by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Discussions will also take place on the need to increase conflict-sensitivity and peace responsiveness of climate action.
    GCSP (EN)
  • 📌12 December | ‘The Swimmers’. On the occasion of the Global Refugee Forum, Ciné ONU will screen the Netflix film, which follows two sisters on a treacherous journey from war-torn Syria through the Mediterranean waters to the Rio Olympics. Yusra Mardini, one of the leads, will join a panel discussion before the screening to discuss the inclusion of women refugees through sports.
    UN Geneva (EN)
  • For more events, visit the Genève Internationale website.

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