War, Conflict and Unrest; the Year that Passed By

Wagner Group and Russian’s Takeover of Bakhmut

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created global upheaval, along with war, conflict, and unrest affecting all parts of the world in 2022 with the United Nations stressing the importance of international dialogue, and announcing plans for a new peace agenda.

GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS OF UKRAINE WAR

The Russsia- Ukraine war took on a significance far beyond its effect on both the countries. Global fuel and food prices soared and the UN trade body UNCTAD identified the war as the main contributing factor to projections of a global economic downturn, in a world still reeling from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the UN Year ender.

In the year ender, the UN said that dark memories of Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986 were revived, when the Zaporizhzhia plant in south-eastern Ukraine, the largest in Europe, was attacked by the Russian forces.

The UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) warned of potentially catastrophic consequences, expressing concern at the alarming conditions of the plant, and the shelling that took place not far from the reactors. IAEA chief Rafael Grossiin November said that fighting in the vicinity of a nuclear plant was like playing with fire.

UN GRAIN DEAL

The UN says that one of its diplomatic highlight in 2022 was the successful implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which saw exports resume from Ukrainian ports in July. This paved the way for Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets, helping to slow the rise in the price of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer across the world.

On August 1, 2022, Sierra Leone-registered ship, ‘Razoni’, set sail from the Ukraine Port of Odesa carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn. It is for the first time since Russia’s invasion on February 24 that a vessel loaded with Ukrainian grain departed from its ports on the Black Sea. The carrier destined for Tripoli in northern Lebanon, passed through a specially-cleared “safe humanitarian maritime corridor”.

The sailing of the Maize cargo container is the first under a UnitedNationsbacked agreement enabling resumption of Ukrainian farm produce exports through its Black Sea ports. This agreement known as Black Sea Grain Initiative is an agreement between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations signed in Istanbul on July 22, 2022. The initiative allows for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny. As part of the deal, a Joint Coordination Centre formed will monitor the  implementation.  It will be hosted in Istanbul and will include representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye. As part of the signature, Ukrainian vessels will guide the cargo ships into international waters of the Black Sea, avoiding mined areas. The vessels will then proceed towards the Bosphorus Strait along an agreed corridor. Ships heading to and from the Ukrainian ports will be inspected by teams organised by the Joint Coordination Centre.

AFRICA

The United Nations in the year ender said that its peacekeepers in several African countries found themselves in harm’s way, whilst carrying out their role protecting civilians from violence.

Over the course of the year, Mali’s reputation as the world’s most dangerous posting seemed to be borne out: nearly every month saw an attack that killed or wounded peacekeepers, amid reports of civilian massacres, and a deteriorating security situation, the UN said.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was riven by attacks from militant groups and inter communal violence which displaced thousands of people. Hundreds of civilians were killed throughout the year, and peacekeepers again made the ultimate sacrifice. In one attack, in July, the UN Mission’s base in the restive North Kivu region was hit during violent demonstrations, killing three peacekeepers.

In Sudan, the UN said that it was better days. The year began in political unrest, following a military coup in 2021. Protestors against the regime continued to be targeted, and the UN condemned an excessive use of force, which saw several of them killed. By December, however, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was able to hail a peace agreement between civilian and military leaders, and the UN team in Sudan announced that they would ensure a package of support during the transitional period.

In Ethiopia, which has seen fierce fighting centred on the Tigray region, efforts to defuse the conflict led to a ceasefire in March. This did not end the violence, however, or the humanitarian crisis resulting from the unrest, but a peace deal, which was finally signed in November, was described by Guterres as a “critical first step” towards ending the brutal two-year civil war.

MIDDLE EAST

Syria entered the eleventh year of brutal civil war, in which 3,07,000 civilians have died, the UN said.

The year ended with signs of military escalation, and no prospect of a peace deal, but the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, continued to meet with a host of key Syrian and international stakeholders, in pursuit of an eventual political solution to break the deadlock.

Yemen is now in the seventh year of its catastrophic conflict, which again exacted a vicious toll on its people. Hopes were raised in April, when the UN brokered a nationwide truce, the first in six years. However, the truce came to an end in October, leading to fresh 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 the stakes this high, it is critical that we do not lose this opportunity. The parties need to demonstrate the leadership, compromise and flexibility required to urgently reach an agreement”.

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

UN Middle East Envoy Tor Wennesland expressed deep concern at the sharp increase in violence against civilians on both sides which, he said, undermined a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Wennesland called on Israel to cease advancement of all settlement activities as well as the demolition of Palestinian-owned property, and to prevent possible displacement and evictions. “The deepening 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 is achievable,” he warned.

AMERICAS

The UN year ender states that Haiti was the worst. It said that nowhere in the capital, Port-au-Prince, could be deemed safe, as rival gangs fought over territory, terrorizing increasingly desperate citizens, 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 backers. She told the Security Council that even if a political solution could be found, it would not be sufficient to address the crisis.

The United Nations said that positive signs erupted from Colombia, which suffered decades of civil war. Six years on from the historic peace accord signed between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, the country was still beset by outbreaks of fighting in 2022. By October, the head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, felt confident enough to brief the Security Council that expectations were running high for progress towards the full and final implementation of a lasting peace deal.

ASIA

With respect to Asia, the focus was mainly on Afghanistan where the Taliban rulers imposed restrictions on women’s rights. The Afghan people were rocked by waves of deadly terror attacks, from blasts at schools in April, to the bombing of a mosque in August, claimed by the so-called Islamic State group, also known as Da’esh. The group also carried out attacks against the Russian and Pakistani embassies, and a hotel hosting many Chinese nationals.

The top UN official in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, announced in December that the UN is keeping dialogue open with the leaders of the Taliban, despite their differing positions. Whilst the Taliban face little to no political opposition, they are unable to satisfactorily address terrorist groups operating in the country, she reported.

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

António Guterresdeclared that a long-range test in March was in violation of Security Council resolutions, and called an October launch over Japan a “reckless act”.

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

A NEW UN PEACE AGENDA

The wider issue of peace is likely to figure more highly on the UN agenda in 2023, when the UN chief, António Guterres, delivers A New Agenda for Peace, to Member States.

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

“The challenge ahead is clear,” said Guterres “To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, with a revitalized multilateral ism that is effective, representative and inclusive”.

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