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Hello, this is Kasmira. As Unrwa grapples with the fallout of serious allegations waged against several of its staff, UN officials warn of the risks of pulling the plug. Plus, the UN’s health agency is caught in the middle of US culture wars.

And in the hilltop villa headquarters of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in a leafy suburb of Geneva, its boss Martin Chungong tells Geneva Solutions about his organisation's efforts to keep parliamentary talks going in coup-hit nations and between countries at war.

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Kasmira Jefford


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Martin Chungong has been secretary general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union since 2014 when he became the first African to lead the organisation. (IPU)

The IPU's Martin Chungong on keeping the faith in democracy. Dubbed “the United Nations for parliaments”, the Inter-Parliamentary Union has been on a mission to help parliaments promote peace and democracy for 135 years. Its long-time leader, Martin Chungong speaks to Geneva Solutions about today's challenges to democracy amid a record election year.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Straight from the Palais

Bringing you the latest from UN press briefings in Geneva.

GAZA AID ON THE BALANCE. A wave of announcements of a pause in funding to the UN Palestinian agency, Unrwa, by its largest donors after Israel accused a dozen of its workers of taking part in the 7 October attacks has drawn pleas from UN officials to reconsider.

🚰Irreplaceable. Some two million Palestinians in Gaza depend on Unrwa for food, water, shelter, medical attention and other essential services. A former Unrwa official has said that if donors pull the plug, its operations would be brought to a grinding halt in a matter of weeks.

But the UN isn’t ready just yet to see Unrwa benched. UN humanitarian spokesperson Jens Laerke said the agency was still up and running, calling it “irreplaceable” in humanitarian operations there.

🙏Last-minute appeal. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who has described the move as “collective punishment” on millions of Palestinians was planning to meet with Unrwa's donors in New York yesterday evening in an attempt to maintain funding for the agency.

😶‍🌫️A distraction? WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said that while “criminal activity can never go unpunished, (...) the discussion right now is much of a distraction from what's really going on every day, every hour, every minute in Gaza”, referring to the more than 26,000 deaths in over three months of shelling, including on shelters and hospitals.

The revelations were made public by Unrwa on Friday as the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to prevent genocide in Gaza and ramp up humanitarian aid.

THREE YEARS ON. The upcoming third anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February will be marked by a “human rights crisis in freefall, with insufficient world attention paid to the misery and pain of its people”, according to the UN’s Human Rights Office.

⏸️Wobbly ceasefire. It comes as the junta’s grip on power is shaken by months of losing ground to ethnic armed groups in the north. Human rights head of Myanmar, James Rodehaver, said that this has caused the military to “lash out” and indiscriminately bomb villages, killing civilians caught in the crossfire, including Rohingyas.

Fighting has, for the most part, receded following a ceasefire brokered by China two weeks ago, he said, but the rebel alliance has accused the military of violating the truce repeatedly.

— By Michelle Langrand

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