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New ECOSOC President aims to ease crises which have ‘engulfed our societies’

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Ambassador Collen Vixen Kelapile, outgoing President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), shakes hands with incoming President Ambassador Lachezara Stoeva of Bulgaria at a handover ceremony. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Bulgaria’s UN Ambassador banged the gavel as President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the first time on Monday with a vow to build on the “solid foundation” left by the outgoing head and his bureau to transform the world into “a better place for the people of today and tomorrow”. 

Ambassador Lachezara Stoeva said in her opening statement that she was “honoured and humbled” to have been elected to lead one of the principal organs of the UN, while noting that the upcoming session will be “especially challenging for the world”. 

In addition to COVID recovery, she highlighted the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has “triggered massive food insecurity, energy shortages and financial crises”.  

The new ECOSOC chief elaborated on initiatives to assist in overcoming “the crises that have engulfed our societies”.  

Setting her agenda  

As ECOSOC President, Ms. Stoeva’s said her first priority was to ensure that the Council and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which is the climax of its work each year, provides “solid, evidence-based, innovative and actionable policy guidance” to curb and address the pandemic’s impacts on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Secondly, she aims to help bridge the “great finance divide” that has sharply curtailed the ability of many developing nations to recover. 

Her third priority is to ensure preparations advance for the SDG Summit taking place in September 2023, by building momentum and reviving “the passion that characterized the elaboration and implementation of the SDGs”, which were agreed in 2015.  

Fourth, she aims to build on the success of this year’s Humanitarian Affairs Segment to “support and reinforce” the UN and its humanitarian partners in addressing “profound humanitarian challenges” worldwide. 

Fifth, Ambassador Stoeva aims to follow-up on the recommendations made to ECOSOC in the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda blueprint for action, while her sixth priority will be to provide better access to youth, civil society and others.  

Her final priority she said, would be to implement the recommendations adopted by the General Assembly in June 2021 for reforming the work of ECOSOC and the HLPF.  

Ambassador Stoeva assumed her duties as Bulgaria’s Permanent Representative to the UN in February last year and has served as ECOSOC Vice-President responsible for the Management Segment, where she successfully led the Council’s review of the Functional Commissions and Expert Bodies. 

Fond farewell 

In a heartfelt speech, outgoing President Collen Kelapile said that he was “deeply honoured and elated” to have served in the top job for the past year. 

Reminding that it was the first time that Botswana had occupied the seat, he described it as “a momentous occasion for both my country and I personally”.  

Before handing over the reins, Mr. Kelapile looked back at the main theme of both ECOSOC and the HLPF this month, highlighting the “eight broad priorities”, of his term, which included vaccine equity, inequalities, post-conflict recovery, and youth engagement. 

He also highlighted the Council’s new Coordination Segment and a revitalized Partnership Forum to guide its subsidiary bodies, reminding that it has dealt with conflict, post-conflict and humanitarian emergencies, including in Haiti, South Sudan, and the Sahel region. 

The outgoing President also drew attention to meetings during his tenure surrounding the climate crisis, implementing the New Urban Agenda, and supporting the advance of the SDGs during the recent months of crises on multiple fronts. 

“I am pleased that the Council adopted a Resolution last Friday to ensure implementation of the outcomes of the Operational Activities for Development Segment,” he said.    

Championing the vulnerable 

As President, he reminded that ECOSOC continued to advocate for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as well as a special push on behalf of African countries, “providing them a platform to share their experiences and development challenges”.   

The Council has been actively involved in preparations for the Fifth UN Conference on LDCs next year, and in 2024, the Third Conference on LLDCs and the Fourth Conference on SIDS, he said. 

Ambassador Kelapile has called for strengthened international cooperation, global solidarity and partnerships to overcome their development challenges and lent support for inclusive and sustainable recovery in these countries.  

Looking ahead 

In passing the gavel to Ambassador Stoeva, he wished her “all the best” in leading ECOSOC’s work on COVID-19 recovery, and implementing the 2030 Agenda during the Decade of Action.    

He thanked all who supported him and asked that they “extend the same support and cooperation” to her.  

In closing, Ambassador Kelapile stressed the need to work together “harder” and coordinate further.  

“With less than eight years to 2030, it is clear that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals must remain our guiding framework”.  

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Substantial progress made in Vienna; sides focusing on Safeguards

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image source: Tehran Times

The third day of talks between experts from Iran and the EU centered around technical and legal matters regarding the Safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delegates from Iran, the EU and the U.S. resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday after nearly a five-month hiatus. This round of talks started on Thursday without the presence of nuclear negotiators from the European trio – Germany, France and Britain. Only experts from these three countries have attended the negotiations.  

Iran believes that any agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is dependent on putting an end to unsubstantiated allegations about Iran’s past nuclear program. Iran insists that these questions had already been resolved within the PMD, when the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

According to reports, substantial progress has been made in bringing the views of Iran and the U.S. closer together during the last three days. However, in Tehran’s view nothing is resolved until everything is settled.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), also confirmed on Saturday that talks are mainly focused on Safeguards issues.

“We are now negotiating,” Kamalvandi said of the talks between Iran’s nuclear experts with Mora.

On the atmosphere of the talks, he said, “It is not bad.”

Mohammad Marandi, a senior expert on nuclear issues, also told Al-Mayadeen TV that “progresses” have been made in Vienna, but one should be “cautious”. He argued the success of talks is 50 percent. Marandi said the differences remain only between Iran and the United States.

He added, “We have heard from certain European sources that the Americans have revived their views on certain issues.”

The Russian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted that there is “no unresolvable issue” on the table in the Vienna talks.

Source: Tehran Times

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Escalation of violence in Gaza

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Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike (file photo) UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

The ongoing and serious escalation of violence in and around Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel has claimed the lives of 13 Palestinians by Israeli airstrikes, including a 5-year-old child and one woman, informed Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the territory.

In a statement published on Saturday, Ms. Hastings expressed her grave concern for the situation that has left more than 100 Palestinians injured, as well as 7 Israelis.

Residential areas in both Gaza and Israel have also been hit and 31 families in Gaza are now homeless.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation.   The hostilities must stop to avoid more deaths and injuries of civilians in Gaza and Israel. The principles of international humanitarian law including those of distinction, precaution and proportionality must be respected by all parties”, she urged.

Basic services in danger

Ms. Hastings warned that fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is due to run out this Saturday and electricity has already been cut.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk”, she cautioned.

The Humanitarian Coordinator added that movement and access of humanitarian personnel, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel into Gaza, must not be impeded so that humanitarian needs can be met. 

She also underscored that Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups must immediately allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in accordance with international principles.

“I reiterate the United Nations Special Coordinator’s appeal on all sides for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the violence, to avoid destructive ramifications, particularly for civilians”, Ms. Hastings concluded.

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Nuclear-free world is possible, test-ban treaty chief says

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Nuclear weapons will continue to pose a risk to humanity unless countries fully adhere to the treaty that prohibits their testing, a senior UN official said at a press conference in New York on Friday. 

Journalists were briefed by Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the body that oversees the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago but has yet to enter into force because it requires ratification by a handful of key countries, which have nuclear capabilities. 

“Once in force, the CTBT will serve as an essential element of a nuclear weapons-free world. In order to achieve this world, we all aspire to, a universal and effectively verifiable prohibition on nuclear testing is a fundamental necessity,” he said. 

World at risk 

Mr. Floyd was speaking against the backdrop of the latest nuclear non-proliferation conference, which began this week at UN Headquarters after two years of pandemic-related delays. 

Countries are reviewing progress towards implementing the 50-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

At the opening on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world was “just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation, away from nuclear annihilation”

“Until we have full adherence to the CTBT, nuclear testing and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will continue to pose unacceptable risk to humanity,” said Mr. Floyd. 

Drop in testing 

The CTBT complements the non-proliferation treaty, said Mr. Floyd, and it has already made a difference in the world. 

“We’ve gone from over 2,000 nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1996, to fewer than 12 tests since the treaty opened for signature,” he said. “Only one country has tested this millennium.” 

The treaty has also received near-universal support. So far, 186 countries have signed the CTBT, and 174 have ratified it, four in the last six months alone.  

However, entry into force requires that the treaty must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify it: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States. 

Asked about these countries, Mr. Floyd replied “they have their own calculus and strategic objectives and geopolitical considerations as to whether they feel free to move forward”, adding that they all support the CTBT and its objectives. 

Helping nations 

Mr. Floyd also reported on the activities of the organization that promotes the treaty, which he heads. 

The CTBTO, as it has known, has built a state-of-the-art verification system to detect nuclear explosions, capable of 24/7 monitoring.  

Staff also train inspectors from Member States so that they are ready to conduct on-site verifications once the treaty enters into force. Furthermore, countries use CTBTO data for civilian and scientific applications, such as tsunami warning systems and other university research. 

“Even without having entered into force, the CTBT is already helping to save lives in countries around the world,” said Mr. Floyd.  “Even those that have not yet ratified the treaty are benefiting from this global collaboration and technological expertise.” 

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