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Annual review 2022: As conflicts escalate, international dialogue remains ‘the only hope’ for peace: Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will create global turmoil, and war, conflict and riots that will wreak havoc in all parts of the world by 2022. The UN stressed the importance of international dialogue and announced plans for a new peace agenda.

February saw a furious round of diplomacy at the UN, as it became increasingly clear that Russia intended to invade Ukraine, a crisis that UN Secretary-General António Guterres said was testing “the entire International system”.

“We need moderation and reason. We need a de-escalation now,” the UN chief explained, urging all parties to “refrain from actions and statements that would push this dangerous situation to the limit.” However, these calls were in vain and the war began, which Russia described as a “special military operation”.

Global ramifications of the Ukraine war: from food and fuel to nuclear threat

The conflict took on significance far beyond its effect on Ukraine and Russia. Global fuel and food prices have soared, with the UN trade body UNCTAD identifying the war as the main factor contributing to projections of a global economic recession, in a world still reeling from the consequences. of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dark memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion were revived, when the Zaporizhzhia plant in southeastern Ukraine, the largest in Europe, came under Russian military control.

The UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) has warned of potentially catastrophic consequences, expressing concern over alarming conditions at the plant and the bombing that took place not far from the reactors. Fighting in the vicinity of a nuclear plant was, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said in November, “playing with fire.”

The UN grain agreement is a “ray of hope to alleviate human suffering”

A highlight of UN diplomacy this year was undoubtedly the successful implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which saw exports resume from Ukrainian ports in July and paved the way for Russian food and fertilizer reach global markets, helping to curb the skyrocketing prices of grains, cooking oils, fuels and fertilizers around the world.

The delicately balanced deal involved the establishment of a Joint Coordination Center in the Turkish city of Istanbul, with representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye, to monitor grain loading at the three ports.

Ukrainian pilot ships guide the ships through the Black Sea, which is mined, after which they proceed through the Bosphorus Strait along an agreed corridor.

Perhaps most impressive, given the lack of trust between Ukraine and Russia, and with no prospect of a ceasefire in sight, the agreement was renewed for a further 120 days in November. By then, more than 11 million tons of essential food had been shipped from Ukraine, and food prices began to stabilize.

Africa: hope for peace in Sudan and Ethiopia, conflict continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali

UN peacekeeping forces in several African countries found themselves in danger this year as they carried out their role of protecting civilians from violence.

Throughout the year, Mali’s reputation as the world’s most dangerous destination seemed confirmed: almost every month there was an attack that killed or wounded peacekeepers, amid reports of massacres of civilians and a deteriorating security situation.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was torn apart by attacks by militant groups and intercommunal violence that displaced thousands of people. Hundreds of civilians were killed throughout the year, with peacekeeping forces once again making the ultimate sacrifice. In one attack in July, the UN Mission base in the troubled North Kivu region was attacked during violent demonstrations, killing three peacekeepers.

There was better news from Sudan, which began the year mired in political unrest following a military coup in 2021. Anti-regime protesters continued to be attacked, and the UN condemned excessive use of force, resulting in the deaths of several from them.

However, in December, Guterres was able to conclude a peace agreement between the civilian and military leaders, and the UN team in Sudan announced that it would guarantee a support package during the transition period.

In Ethiopia, which has seen fierce fighting centered on the Tigray region, efforts to defuse the conflict led to a ceasefire in March. However, this did not end the violence or the humanitarian crisis resulting from the unrest, but Guterres described a peace agreement, which was finally signed in November, as a “critical first step” to end the brutal war in two years. civil war.

Middle East: No end in sight for many longstanding conflicts

In March, Mr. Guterres called on the international community not to let the Syrian people down as the country entered the 11th year of a brutal civil war, which has killed 307,000 civilians.

The year ended with signs of military escalation and no prospects for a peace deal, but UN Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen continued to meet with a host of key Syrian and international stakeholders, seeking a political solution. ending to break the deadlock

Yemen is now in the seventh year of its catastrophic conflict, which once again took a cruel toll on its people. Hopes rose in April when the UN brokered a nationwide truce, the first in six years. However, the truce came to an end in October, creating new uncertainty.

Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy to Yemen, told the Security Council in October that he believed a peace agreement could still be achieved: “With so much at stake, it is critical that we do not miss this opportunity. The parties must demonstrate the leadership, commitment and flexibility necessary to reach an agreement urgently.

Little progress was made in Israeli-Palestinian relations, during a year in which more than 150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis were killed in the West Bank and Israel.

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland expressed deep concern over the sharp increase in violence against civilians on both sides, which he said undermines the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Mr. Wennesland called on Israel to stop the advance of all settlement activities, as well as the demolition of Palestinian-owned properties, and to prevent possible displacement and evictions. “The deepening of the occupation, the increase in violence, including terrorism, and the absence of a political horizon have empowered extremists and are eroding hope among Palestinians and Israelis alike that a resolution of the conflict can be achieved. conflict,” he warned.

Americas: Haiti ‘on the brink of the abyss,’ Colombia closer to lasting peace

It is hard to exaggerate the extent to which the security situation in Haiti collapsed in 2022. Virtually no part of the capital, Port-au-Prince, could be considered safe, as rival gangs fought over territory, terrorizing increasingly desperate citizens, who They were already struggling to survive. a humanitarian catastrophe.

In October, the UN Special Representative in the country, Helen La Lime, welcomed the sanctions regime adopted by the Security Council, which targets gang leaders and their patrons. She told the Security Council that even if a political solution could be found, it would not be enough to address the crisis.

Ms. La Lime indicated her support for the mobilization of a specialized military force, while the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council in October that the US and Mexico are working on a resolution that will authorize a “non-UN international security assistance mission” that would assist in the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid.

There were positive signs that Colombia, which has suffered decades of civil war, may be on the brink of a lasting peace.

Six years after the historic peace agreement signed between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, the country was still beset by outbreaks of fighting in 2022, and in July the UN human rights office called on the incoming administration to address the increase in violence, particularly in rural areas.

In October, the head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia felt confident enough to inform the Security Council that expectations were high for progress towards the full and final implementation of a lasting peace agreement: “I am certainly confident that Colombia can demonstrate to the world, once again, that there is no better alternative to end conflicts than through dialogue.”.

Asia: Korean nuclear tension, dozens attacked in Afghanistan

Much of the focus in Afghanistan has been on the steady erosion of women’s rights under the Taliban, the country’s de facto rulers, but security has been increasingly challenging.

The Afghan people have been rocked by waves of deadly terror attacks, from school explosions in April to the bombing of a mosque in August, claimed by the Islamic State group, also known as Da’esh. The group also carried out attacks on the Russian and Pakistani embassies, and on a hotel housing many Chinese nationals.

The UN’s top official in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, announced in December that the UN is maintaining open dialogue with the Taliban leaders, despite their divergent positions. While the Taliban face little to no political opposition, they cannot successfully deal with the terrorist groups operating in the country, she reported.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known as North Korea, continued to test missiles in 2022, prompting UN condemnation and fears the country was attempting to develop its nuclear weapons capability.

António Guterres declared that a long-range test in March violated Security Council resolutions and called the October drop on Japan a “reckless act”.

At a Security Council briefing in November, Rosemary Di Carlo, head of UN Peacebuilding and Political Affairs (DPPA), said the DPRK had reportedly launched its “biggest and most powerful missile , capable of reaching all of North America.”

Overall, Ms. Di Carlo said, the DPRK had launched about 60 ballistic missiles. She reiterated calls on the country to “desist from further provocative actions and fully comply with its international obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions.”

A new UN peace agenda

The broader issue of peace is likely to be higher on the UN agenda in 2023, when UN chief António Guterres presents A New Agenda for Peace to member states.

Addressing the Security Council in December, Mr. Guterres explained that the document will articulate the Organization’s work on peace and security; establish a comprehensive approach to prevention; link peace, sustainable development, climate action and food security; and consider how the UN adapts to cyber threats, information warfare, and other forms of conflict.

“The challenge ahead is clear,” Mr. Guterres said, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, with a reinvigorated multilateralism that is effective, representative and inclusive.”