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Hello, this is Michelle. Last week, the global Red Cross tapped an American to become its new leader. As we reported, the election was agitated, to say the least. Just hours before the vote, I spoke to the man at the centre of the ruckus.

After a year packed with crucial meetings and scores of events, Geneva's international agenda is winding down. But before the winter break, the Human Rights Council will hold two last debates on Ukraine and Nicaragua.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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IFRC outgoing president Francesco Rocca shakes the hand of one of the delegates at the general assembly convened in Geneva to elect his successor. (Geneva Solutions/Michelle Langrand)

Francesco Rocca: ‘humanitarians cannot be part of a double standard’. After six years representing the 191 Red Cross and Red Crescent chapters, Rocca bowed out on 11 December. It was an emotional day for the Italian lawyer, who has been with the movement since 2008. His departure was as rocky as his arrival, but as with all his life’s decisions, the 58-year-old felt no regrets, and if he “could go back”, he “would do the same”. On his last day, he spoke to Geneva Solutions about his successes and failures. He addressed the controversy that led to his downfall.

Geneva Solutions

What to watch this week

The Human Rights Council will hear this week from the UN Human Rights Office about Nicaragua and Ukraine, two countries where UN-backed experts have found crimes against humanity have been committed, as we have previously reported.

🐦‍⬛Beauty queen and politics don't mix. Countries will debate today ongoing abuses in Nicaragua. In his last report, UN rights chief Volker Türk said the government continued to “unduly limit the country’s civic and democratic spaces”. Since 2018, the government has stripped more than 3,000 civil society organisations of their legal status.

Celebrations in the country over the Nicaraguan candidate being crowned Miss Universe last month were quickly shut down after it emerged that Sheynnis Palacios took part in anti-government protests in 2018. The police have since accused the director of Miss Nicaragua and her family of treason, claiming they used the beauty pageant as a political platform.

🪖In Ukraine, war still raging. The attention will turn to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country pains to remain under the spotlight due to the Middle East conflict. The UN Human Rights Office’s latest report found that civilians continued to pay the price of Russia’s invasion, mainly near the frontline and mainly in the Ukrainian-controlled side. Since February 2022, over 10,000 civilians have been killed.

Among the findings are also continued arbitrary arrests and torture in areas controlled by Russia, as well as other abuses such as conscription and prosecution of prisoners of war in disregard of principles of combatant immunity.

The report also raises concerns about Ukraine bringing charges against more than 6,000 people for alleged collaboration with Russia’s occupying forces, in some cases for acts that are lawful under occupation, such as continuing to go to work to ensure social services.

Also on the agenda

A reason for hope

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Staff removing Cop28 banners at the climate conference venue at Expo City in Dubai, 8 December 2023. (Geneva Solutions/Paula Dupraz-Dobias)

⚕️Pushing health at Cop29. Barely a week has gone by since Baku was confirmed to welcome next year’s Cop29 climate conference, but the World Health Organization has already begun conversations with Azerbaijan, another oil-producing host, to ensure that health will continue to be central in boosting support for immediate climate action at the next Cop.

Maria Neira, WHO’s director for environment, climate change and health told journalists Friday, that “transitioning” away from fossil fuels, as agreed by nearly 200 countries last week at the Cop28 in Dubai “was not the wording we wanted to see”. More than 40 million health professionals had signed a statement to phase out fossil fuels to safeguard humanity and save one million people who die prematurely from air pollution. But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that focussing on health may be more effective in communicating the urgency of the climate crisis. “People understand” when climate affects health, he told UN-accredited journalists invited to WHO headquarters. “It’s about now. It’s about today.”

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