UN Geneva round-up: world getting closer to 1.5 degree threshold, cyclone in Mozambique, hunger in Afghanistan

A general view of participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. (Credit: UN Photo/Jess Hoffman)

A summary of the most critical issues being discussed at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

World could temporarily breach 1.5 degree limit in next five years. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) released an update predicting a 50 per cent chance of global temperatures increasing to 1.5 degrees celsius in the next five years.

Scientists have established that if the globe warms up over 1.5ºC compared to preindustrial levels, the consequences for people and the planet will increasingly face catastrophic consequences.  It is also the lower temperature increase limit of the Paris Agreement.

For comparison, when the WMO began compiling this report in 2015, the chances of temperature increase reaching 1.5 degrees was close to zero per cent. With each passing year, the chances of hitting this point has increased.

Moreover, the WMO reported a 93 per cent chance that temperatures will reach record highs by 2027, surpassing  those seen in 2016, the hottest year on record.

Cyclones and conflict collide in Mozambique. With five tropical storms and cyclones along the coastal areas of the country this year, thousands of families in Mozambique have been displaced. Cyclone Gombe, the latest natural disaster to hit the country, left 730,000 people without shelter. Many of those affected were refugees from the conflict in the northern regions.

Beyond protection, food, and other needs, the displaced people need  documentation. Many lost their documents escaping the conflict or in the recent disaster, and are unable to access assistance as a result.

“This crisis illustrates how much climate change and extreme weather events can be both a triggering and aggravating factor for displacement,” Grainne Ohara, head of the UN Refugee Agency’s international protection division, told the press.

“This is a severe humanitarian emergency, but the situation is that of chronic underfunding. This is one of the hidden, overlooked, and forgotten emergencies.”

Food insecurity continues in Afghanistan. Over 50 per cent of the Afghan population continues to face acute hunger, according to a UN report.

Despite one of the largest humanitarian food operations undertaken by the World Food Programme (WFP) last year, almost 20,000 people are currently facing “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity, the report states.

“This means that they have nothing but bread seven days a week, if they are lucky, they have some cooking oil to dip it in,” said Anthea Webb, WFP deputy regional director for Asia.

Much of this crisis is caused by unemployment that followed the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Thousands who worked for the government or for businesses that supported their international presence in Afghanistan lost their jobs. Additionally, the Taliban’s policies limiting women's right to work also dealt a blow to  family incomes.

“Despite the amazing support, people are still unable to stand on their own feet, because the fundamentals of their economy have not improved,” Webb stated.

UN condemns violence in Sri Lanka and Ecuador. The UN high commissioner of human rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her concerns against the spike in violence in Sri Lanka and Ecuador.

Protests raging across Sri Lanka for the past two months came to a high on Monday when seven people, including a member of parliament, were killed in riots. Bachelet condemned all violence and asked the government to address the broader structural issues that caused the economic and internal crisis.

She also expressed worry about the rising frequency of prison riots and violence in Ecuador. At least 44 prisoners were killed and a dozen more were injured on Monday after fighting broke out between rivalrous gangs at a prison in the northern city of Santo Domingo.

“These incidents highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the legal and penitentiary system,” said Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the high commissioner, who encouraged the Ecuadorian government to examine the reports and roadmaps produced by the Human Rights Council to address what is being called a “protracted crisis”.

Syria donors conference to wrap up today. The Syrian crisis has left over 14 million people within the country and 12 million people in the region in need of support.

A pledging conference is being held in Brussels since Monday to gather international funding for the Syrian people. The UN made an appeal of $10bn to support refugees within the country and in the region, the biggest for a single crisis so far.

In a joint statement, the Office of Coordinated Humanitarian Affairs, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UN Development Programme called for continued generosity from the international community.

The statement said that almost 90 per cent of the Syrian people live in poverty, and 50 per cent of the children are uneducated and vulnerable to trafficking, early marriage, and child labour.

Human Rights Council to discuss Ukraine. Following the request from Ukraine, the UN human rights body  will hold a special session to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine on Thursday at 10am at the Palace of Nations, HRC spokesperson Rolando Gomez confirmed on Tuesday.

The commission of inquiry and the human rights monitoring mission on Ukraine have both documented violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, many of which may constitute war crimes. “These documentations will provide a first picture of the situation at the special session,” Matilda Bogner, head of the human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine told the press.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, 3,381 deaths have been verified by the monitoring body, however the real numbers are likely thousands more, Bogner estimated.

They have also documented ill-treatment, torture and executions by the Ukrainian armed forces against Russian troops in several instances, which will also be presented.

The UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet called through her spokesperson on the leaders of both sides to halt rights violations and attacks on civilians. the violation of rights and the attacks on civilians.