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SG; Ukraine; Middle East

SG: USG for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, announced the SG will travel to the Middle East tomorrow concerning the deteriorating situation in the region.

Ukraine: In a statement, the SG condemned the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane yesterday in Ukraine killing all 298 people aboard, including 80 children, a WHO staff member, and passengers on their way to an international AIDS conference. The SG called for an international investigation to bring those responsible to justice. In an emergency meeting of the Security Council this morning, US Ambassador Power echoed the SG’s request for an investigation and remarked that the US will continue to impose sanctions on Russia if the country does not make efforts toward de-escalation.  The Council’s meeting concluded with a press statement expressing the Members’ sympathies and condolences and calling for a “full, thorough, and independent international investigation”.

Middle East: Following the five-hour humanitarian pause yesterday, Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza. The SG expressed alarm at the escalating situation and called for an end to the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and Israeli retaliation. OCHA reported that 96, 400 people are in need of shelter resulting from the violence.

Nelson Mandela Day: Today marks Mandela Day (commemorated on July 18 in honor of Mandela’s birthday), which celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 67 years dedicated to fighting for social justice. In a statement, the SG recognized today as a call to action for everyone to address problems in their communities and he took on the 67 minute challenge by volunteering with MillionTreesNYC to tend to a tree in Ralph Bunche Park in honor of Mandela’s legacy.

Syria: Following Resolution 2165 for Syria, OCHA reported that cross-border deliveries are taking place as 10, 000 people have received food, household items, water and sanitation and nutrition supplies. Assistance is expected to last until July 20th to reach the target of 20,000 people.

Iraq:UNAMI and OHCHR reported numerous human rights violations committed by ISIL and associated armed groups. The report documents that the attacks were carried out with the intention of targeting civilians and infrastructure to systematically kill large amounts of people.

CAR: UN Humanitarian Chief Amos and EU Commissioner expressed concern over increasing levels of violence in the CAR as armed groups have targeted camps sheltering refugees. They called on all parties to end attacks on civilians and asked EU and UN member States to scale-up funding efforts for humanitarian operations.

UN-Habitat: The GA re-elected Joan Clos of Spain as the Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme.

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Security Council Meets on MH13 Disaster. What’s Next?

Security Council met today in an emergency session about the MH17 disaster.  The meeting offered a first glimpse of the potential diplomatic fallout of this crisis.

The UK and USA issued somewhat aggressive statements alleging that Russian-backed separatists were responsible for the downing of the plane. For her part,  Ambassador Power presented a great deal of mostly circumstantial evidence to suggest that only Russian-backed separatists could be responsible for this.  She called for a full independent international investigation into the crash.  The UK and other Security Council members echoed this call.

For its part, Russia placed ultimate blame on the government in Kyev, saying they set the conditions under which a tragedy like this could have occurred. That was not surprising.

Ahead of the meeting the Security Council issued a consensus press statement calling for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation” of the incident.  A key question going forward will be to what extent will investigators from the International Civil Aviation Authority and other international agencies have unfettered access to the crash site? Right now, the site is under the control of Russian-backed separatists. Will Russia or their proxies let UN investigators access the site? Will they cooperate with the investigation? Under normal circumstances, if a country violates the will of a Security Council statement, the next step would be a legally binding Security Council resolution. But that would probably be a non-starter for Moscow.

So, from the perspective of the Security Council there is a lot  riding on whether or not international investigators will be able to access the site and conduct a thorough investigation without much interference by Russia and Ukraine.



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Scores of AIDS Researchers Feared Killed on MH17

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This is a punch in the gut to the entire global health community. “About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told. Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange…Organisers of the International AIDS Conference, due to begin in Melbourne on Sunday, have not released numbers, but did confirm expected attendees were among the dead.” (SMH

Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza…Meanwhile, four more children were killed in air strikes and journalists were told to evacuate a popular hotel. Earlier yesterday, Hamas ended a six hour humanitarian pause in the fighting. “Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursdaynight, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days. The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.” (NYT

Some (Much Needed!) Humanity Affirming news of the day:  The International AIDS Conference kicks off in Australia next week. Mark speaks with Erin Hofhelder of the ONE Campaign who previews the conference, explains why new data released this week shows that we’re winning the fight against HIV/AIDS, and describes how new anti-LGBT legislation in some countries is undermining progress.( Global Dispatches Podcast


The Health Sector estimates that about 206,000 people in Darfur are unable to access health services due to the suspension of Red Cross activities and withdrawal of support to health facilities by NGOs. (OCHA

The U.N. Security Council warned it is ready to consider “appropriate measures” against warring parties in South Sudan if they do not stop the violence in the world’s youngest nation and negotiate a transitional government. (Reuters

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sought approval from parliament to borrow up to $1 billion abroad to help the armed forces tackle the security threat posed by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram. (Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo has launched its first agricultural business park, the initial step in a plan to use its vast tracts of arable land to produce food, create jobs and wean the economy off its dependence on mining. (Reuters

Burundi is finally to set up a Peace and Reconciliation Commission to examine crimes committed since 1962. But the controversies and disagreements that have dogged the mechanism since it was first mooted continue to reverberate, casting doubt on its efficacy, with the key concern being whether the commission’s purview will be selective. (IRIN

Street children in Uganda suffer from systematic abuse by the country’s police and other officials, including beatings and sex attacks, Human Rights Watch said in a report. (AP

A report on agriculture in Africa calls for increased investment for entrepreneurship in the rural food sector, and cites agriculture as the key sector for creating jobs for African youth. (VOA


Concern is growing over how the semi-autonomous government of Iraqi Kurdistan is managing its borders amid reports that vulnerable families seeking refuge are being refused entry or forced into transit camps along ethnic lines. (IRIN

Libya’s navy said it retrieved the bodies of three would-be migrants and rescued almost 100 others after their boat sank on Thursday. (AFP

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said Thursday it was investigating after finding 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in the Gaza Strip. (AP


The Philippine capital of Manila is road-testing an ambitious and sustainable scheme to ease traffic congestion and pollution problems. (Guardian

The U.S. State Department’s top human rights official accused Myanmar authorities of resorting to police state tactics after five journalists from a weekly magazine got 10 years of hard labor for a disputed story about a weapons factory. (AP

Heavy rains have killed at least 18 people in southern China and a state news agency said six more were missing Thursday after a landslide. (AP

Sri Lanka’s president has extended the terms of a commission investigating missing people and possible war crimes in the country’s 26-year civil war, bringing in foreign experts for the first time to advise on the inquiry. (Reuters

The Americas

Health officials in Puerto Rico on Thursday declared an epidemic of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya. (AP


BRICS Build New Architecture for Financial Democracy (IPS

From Syria to South Sudan, the need to be prepared has never been greater (Guardian

Can Modi clean the Ganges, India’s biggest sewage line? (AFP

A Challenging Cup of Tea (IDDS Tanzania

Ebola in Sierra Leone: battling sadness, fear and disgust on the frontline (Guardian

‘ICC should drop charges against Kenyatta,  for now’ (Daily Maverick

Invisible People (Campaign for Boring Development


A conference of international donors pledged more than $2.43 billion to help Bosnia and Serbia recover from devastating floods in May. (AP

The challenge of ensuring future food security as populations grow and diets change has its roots in soil, but the increasing degradation of the earth’s thin skin is threatening to push up food prices and increase deforestation. (Reuters

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Middle East; UNRWA; Syria

Middle East: The SG welcomed the humanitarian pause negotiated by Special Coordinator Serry to allow civilians in Gaza to begin repairs on electrical and water infrastructure. WFP used the five-hour pause to deliver emergency food assistance to Gaza. The SG hopes the pause will lead to peace and a sustainable ceasefire.

UNRWA: UNRWA made a $60 million appeal for shelter, food, health and psychosocial needs of those affected in Gaza. The Agency also discovered 20 rockets hidden in a school in Gaza and condemns the group responsible for violating international law.

Syria: OCHA, WFP, and UNICEF issued a joint statement yesterday welcoming SC Resolution 2165 to allow 2.9 million people in Syria to receive humanitarian access.

Libya: The UN and the interim government in Libya called for a cessation of violence as fighting between the two major rival groups in Tripoli continues in Libya’s international airport. The conflict came close to the UNSMIL office leading to the temporary withdrawal of international staff until conditions improve.

Afghanistan: UNAMA welcomed the beginning of the audit of the results of the presidential election run-off today that will be conducted by the Independent Election Commission under close supervision of the UN.

Africa: At the GA’s debate on investment in Africa today, the SG noted that foreign direct investment now surpasses ODA, but financing gaps exist and investment needs to be directed toward vital developmental needs.

New Envoy for African Great Lakes Region: The SG appointed Said Djinnit of Algeria as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region.

International Criminal Justice Day: Today marks International Criminal Justice Day recognizing the importance of accountability for international crimes to ensure peace, security, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The SG celebrated the 10th anniversary of the UN Relationship Agreement with the ICC and called for universal ratification of the Rome Statute which is the founding treaty of the ICC.

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Empiricism and the Ukraine Crisis

Who shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine? Given the technology required to strike a commercial airline flying at high altitude, we may know the answer soon enough.

But finding out who did this is only half the struggle.

One of the key distinguishing features of the conflict in Ukraine is that the USA and Russia have not been able to agree to a simple set of facts about the crisis. There is an empirical reality. But then there is the reality as perceived in Washington and Moscow–which may or may not overlap with the empirical reality.

In the coming hours and days, if evidence emerges that pro-Russian, separatist militants shot down this plane, Moscow will face a huge inflection point: it can either agree to the basic set of facts about who bears responsibility for the incident or it can present an alternative thesis. If it choses the former, then it may use this tragedy as a pretext to reign in separatist groups. That, in turn, could offer a pathway to de-escalation and perhaps eventually a peace agreement. If it choses the latter, we can expect further escalation of the conflict.

In the coming days pay close attention to how Moscow decides to interpret the facts on the ground. If it’s at odds with the USA, Ukraine, and/or empiricism we can assume that the conflict will get much worse.

Bonus Content. Here’s Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Tuchman Matthews offering some prescient analysis of the conflict in Ukraine

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How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

In the fight between humanity and the AIDS virus, humanity is winning.

That is the top line conclusion you can draw from the newest global data about HIV/AIDS from the United Nations. Erin Hohlfelder of the ONE Campaign is on the line to discuss this report, preview the big International AIDS Conference in Australia next week, and explain why new laws against LGBT communities in some African countries may undermine the progress we’ve made against HIV/AIDS.  Have a listen! 




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Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

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