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Good morning, this is Michelle, with what you need to know to start your week. But first, my colleague Kasmira Jefford spoke to the new head of the UN’s regional body for Europe and beyond about how the conflict in the Middle East is affecting cooperation in the regional body. Israel is the latest of its members to enter a full-blown war after Russia and Ukraine.

This week, the convention on wildlife trade is holding a highly anticipated meeting where countries behaving illegally will be on the hot seat. And the UN is quadrupling its funding appeal for Gaza and other Occupied Palestinian Territories as needs soar.

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Michelle Langrand


On our radar

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Tatiana Molcean took up her post as executive secretary at the UNECE on 1 September 2023. (Geneva Solutions/Kasmira Jefford)

UNECE faces ‘new realities’ as Israel-Gaza war sends ripples across region. The former Moldovan ambassador is the new executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Joining at a fragile time for multilateral diplomacy and amid increasing conflicts, Tatiana Molcean wants to see less competition between UN agencies and more cooperation.

Geneva Solutions

What to watch this week

🐬Wildlife talks. A meeting on wildlife trade will attract record levels of attention this week, with 600 participants expected to be in Geneva for the standing committee of the Cites convention on trade of endangered plants and animals. The body, which provides guidance on how to implement the agreement, will go through the most urgent wildlife trade issues as well as the risk of zoonotic disease spillover – like Covid.

Bottom of the class. But the reason why so many are interested is that 25 parties, found to be in breach of the convention, are up for review. According to a Cites spokesperson, this includes the illegal trade of live birds in Bangladesh and the unlawful commercial trade of live Asian elephants in China.

The EU is on the hot seat for not applying stricter rules for trading in captive-bred specimens. Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening to drive the Vaquita marina to extinction.

🔮UN 2.0? The UN has gotten old and is in dire need of an upgrade. Enter the UN Summit of the Future, Antonio Guterres’ chance to make the UN fit for today's and tomorrow’s challenges. To make that happen, over the next 10 months, states will hash out a pact of the future to be adopted in New York.

Speaking to the Geneva press on Friday, Guy Ryder, UN under-secretary general, said the main idea (for now) was to reform the financial system, agree on a digital compact, including on AI, adopt a declaration on how we will protect future generations and, far more unlikely, reform the Security Council.

It is as ambitious as it sounds, and given current geopolitical tensions and a growing number of crises, it is difficult to picture that states will be able to agree on high commitments on all items.

Read more: The uncertain prospects of the UN’s future summit

Geneva included. While negotiations will be based in New York, Ryder said it “is a whole of UN system endeavour”, including Geneva’s wide array of UN and state representatives who will be asked to get involved.

Germany and Namibia, the co-facilitators, are launching informal consultations and a zero draft can be expected by the beginning of next year, Ryder said.

💵Cash wanted. After a month of bombing and now a ground assault on Gaza, the needs have become massive, to the point that the UN is asking for four times more money than at the beginning of the most recent phase of the war between Israel and Hamas.

In numbers. The appeal is expected to go out today officially, but a spokesperson told reporters in Geneva the amount will rise from $294 million to $1.2 billion. As of Friday, only 25 per cent of the initial appeal was funded, with the United States providing the bulk at $24 million.

What for? The aim is to get food, water, medicine, shelter and other types of aid to millions of Palestinians, including in the West Bank, where reports of killings and expulsions by settlers under the acquiescence of Israeli forces have the UN Human Rights Office worried.

🛩️Travel log. Human rights boss Volker Türk is planning to visit the region soon, his spokesperson said, but no date has been set yet. Unrwa’s chief, Philippe Lazzarini, who was meant to be in Geneva last week to brief member states but got held up by the situation in Gaza, is also looking to reschedule his trip here.

Also on the agenda


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“Look at all these crises, Mr President. And let this lifelong humanitarian worker tell you that we need your voice to address each one of them. Not your voices. Your voice. Your strong, united voice, carrying the authority which the Charter vests in this Council, but which the world does not hear any more, drowned as it is in rivalries and divisions.”

The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, had some harsh words for the UN's most powerful body at a meeting on forced displacement last week. He referred to the 114 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, from Sudan to the Sahel, to Ukraine, Central America and Armenia, which received 100,000 refugees in "a matter of days". Speaking of Gaza, he paid tribute to Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinians, which he formerly led, and pleaded for a ceasefire.

He expressed frustration at the funding crisis humanitarian groups are grappling with, "asked to do more with less". "Humanitarians are tough – but humanitarians, Mr President, are near breaking point," he said, and asked the 15-member council: "Will you continue to allow this jigsaw of war to be completed by aggressive acts, by your disunity, or by sheer neglect? Or will you take the courageous and necessary steps back from the abyss?"

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Have a good day!

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