Dim hopes for progress at the UNGA
As the UN General Assembly kicks off on Monday, we're watching keenly, but not expectantly, for anything other than the usual soundbites. Our UN correspondent tells us that following the publication of a damning UN investigation into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine State last year there's hope that a strong and unified message of condemnation might help efforts to pave the way toward justice. (For why the UN might want to be careful what it wishes for, see below). Otherwise, he says, there appears to be a sense of resignation in the air in New York: on climate change, human rights, and long-running conflicts. An eleventh-hour truce did stave off an offensive on the Syrian rebels' final stronghold of Idlib, and for three million people in the northwestern province a demilitarised buffer zone agreed this week by Turkey and Russia offers some respite. Yet world leaders appear largely powerless to intervene in the longer term. Same goes for Yemen, where thousands of civilian lives are again at risk as a siege resumes (see below) on the Houthi rebel-held port of Hodeidah. The sombre mood is perhaps why there's been little fanfare ahead of the gathering from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: only vague calls for greater urgency and commitment to a rules-based global order. Multilateralism has taken a battering from Washington in the last two years, with the US withdrawing first from the Paris climate accord and then from the Iran nuclear deal. On Thursday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley previewed US President Donald Trump's completely unsurprising theme for this year: sovereignty � a favourite, coincidentally, of Russia and China. We want to continue to build a relationship with those that do share those values, said Haley. One concrete endeavour will see UN member states vote on the final draft of the new global compact on refugees. Completely non-binding and derided by some as a rich countries' deal, it is still one of the most significant international agreements on refugees in decades. Look out for more on that next week along with our picks on humanitarian trends to watch at this year's UNGA.
IRIN's Director Heba Aly is among those converging on New York. On Thursday, she chaired a discussion at the launch of a newinitiative to help refugees become more self-reliant: watch the video here and check the initiative's 10-point challenge to policymakers and donors. Next week, she'll be exploring issues as diverse (and lofty!) as How to Save Democracy and how to address fragility as a driver of extreme poverty, mass migration, and violent extremism. Both discussions will be live-streamed, so feel free to tune in.
Who's accountable in Myanmar?
Looming large at the UNGA will be the atrocities committed by Myanmar's security forces. After calling for top military commanders to be investigated for genocide, the UN-mandated rights probe this week presented its final report before the Human Rights Council. The 444-page tome presents the investigation's evidence of violations stretching from Myanmar's northern borderlands to Rakhine State in the west, where some 725,000 minority Rohingya were driven from the country last year. But investigators believe the military isn't the only party that should be held accountable: in a 10-page section on responsibility, the report devotes nearly two pages to the international community � in particular, the UN itself. The investigators say UN officials in the country failed to hold the government to account for years of rights violations building up to last year's exodus, and also sidelined people within the UN who wished to a push a more rights-focused approach. Investigators are renewing their calls for an inquiry into UN actions in Myanmar, but they say there has been shockingly little appetite for introspection within the system. Despite last year's catastrophe, there has been no internal review looking at how to improve the UN approach, and investigators say a number of UN staffers in the country didn't cooperate with the rights probe. They appeared to view it as a threat, rather than a means to address the most deep-rooted human rights challenges facing Myanmar, the report noted.
ICC examination: moving beyond deportation
Speaking of accountability, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, this week announced she would open a preliminary examination into the Rohingya purge. Even though Myanmar is not a member of the war crimes court, Bensouda had earlier convinced ICC judges that the court could still investigate anti-Rohingya violence, since part of one particular alleged crime � deportation � occurred in Bangladesh, which is a member of the court. Rights groups and Rohingya refugees themselves have argued that investigating deportation alone isn't enough to account for the scale of last year's violence. But in her announcement this week, Bensouda also said her examination would consider other crimes against humanity. Read more on Bensouda's unorthodox legal challenge here.
Aid donors face annual report card
An annual survey out this week from the Center for Global Development checks whether richer countries are making a serious contribution to the betterment of other nations. The Commitment to Development Index doesn't just look at aid, but ranks efforts in migration, trade, investment, security (including the arms trade), technology, and the environment. The Nordics come out well, Germany is ranked equal third, and, well, let's just say the United States has dropped a few places since last year.