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Good morning, this is Michelle. A little over a month since the escalation of hostilities in Gaza, we speak to the International Committee of the Red Cross about its crucial role in facilitating the release of hostages and keeping the dialogue going with all the warring parties.

On this week’s environmental agenda are technical discussions on the biodiversity deal struck last December in Geneva and plastics negotiations in Nairobi. On the human rights front, Egypt’s methods to stifle criticism will come under the spotlight.

And Geneva will receive the visit of a music legend.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

Photo article

Christian Cardon, in Versoix on 8 November 2023. (Le Temps/Eddy Mottaz)

‘We continue to engage in dialogue with Hamas’. As the Israeli army tightens its grip on Gaza, the ICRC finds itself playing a central role in reminding warring parties of the need to respect the Geneva Conventions, while facilitating hostage releases. Its chief protection officer, Christian Cardon, says choices made now by belligerents will shape future generations.

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What to watch this week

🌺Biodiversity follow-up. After countries struck a landmark deal to protect one third of lands and oceans last year, there are still some outstanding issues they have to sort out. Members of the Biodiversity Convention will meet in Geneva this week to discuss the role of traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous and local communities in implementing these conservation goals.

Also scheduled in parallel is the first meeting of a group set up to hash out the details of a multilateral mechanism to share benefits from digital sequence information from genetic resources, including a global fund. Among issues up for discussion are whether industry will be required to foot a part of the bill and intellectual property rights.

🥤Plastic treaty talks. Negotiations for a plastic treaty will enter their third round this week in Nairobi, one year and a half after countries agreed to hash out an agreement. How ambitious it will be remains to be seen.

Words matter. It will be the first time delegates delve into substantive talks on the basis of an all-encompassing proposal, or zero-draft, presented in September. The slightest comma will be the source of a fierce battle.

As the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) points out, using “shall” instead of “should” could be the difference between legally binding countries to implement a measure or leaving it to their discretion.

Rules of procedure are still a sticking point, namely around voting, and while a provisional agreement has already been found, CIEL warns that states might try to reopen the debate.

Clash of views. Up until now, most countries have agreed that the text should be ambitious and tackle plastics’ whole life cycle, but a handful of detractors may continue their efforts to narrow the focus of the treaty to, for example, only ocean plastics.

Rights groups will also be on high alert for attempts by the fossil fuel and chemical industry to influence negotiations and reduce ambition.

🇪🇬Egypt’s torture crisis. The country’s brutal crackdown on political opponents, human rights activists and journalists will come under scrutiny on Tuesday and Wednesday by the UN-backed Committee Against Torture. The situation is critical in the country, with 4,253 people forcibly disappeared since 2015, according to a report submitted by the World Organization Against Torture to the committee.

In another report, a group of NGOs found that authorities resort to torture in such a widespread and systematic way, backed by emergency and counter-terrorism legislation, that it amounts to a crime against humanity.

🇺🇳UN in mourning. UN flags will be lowered to half-mast, and staff will hold a minute of silence at 9:30 am in Geneva and across their duty stations in honour of their fallen colleagues in Gaza since the attack of Hamas on 7 October. As of Friday, over 100 workers of the UN's Palestinian refugee agency had been killed amid Israeli retaliatory bombings – the deadliest period in the world organisation’s history.

🕺Abba’s coming to town! The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a foundation co-founded by Abba star Björn Ulvaeus are launching a digital platform for musicians and other creators to learn about their intellectual property rights.

The legendary musician and songwriter will be in Geneva on Friday for the launch of CLIP, which aims to help creators understand how to get paid and credited for their work. WIPO boss Darren Tang will also be there.

Also on the agenda

In case you missed it

Photo article

International Labour Organization, 2008. (Flickr/Chris Heathcote)

👎Russia bid to amend Ukraine resolution fails at UN labour meet. Moscow attempted in vain to revise a resolution condemning its aggression at an executive meeting of the International Labour Organization. In a show of hands, 41 countries were opposed, while 11 abstained, and only China supported the Russian proposal.

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