Jacinda Ardern is a leader to look up to | Letters

Peter Haynes praises the departing prime minister’s kindness, honesty and authenticity, while Matthew Ryder finds her integrity refreshing, and Peter Wilson thinks she did the job properly for the benefit of her country

Regarding Jacinda Ardern’s resignation (Jacinda Ardern knew when to quit. Unlike some other politicians I could mention, 19 January), Gaby Hinsliff asks: “Would a man have had the self-awareness or humility to step aside?” She may be interested to learn that Ardern was catapulted into the leadership of the Labour party here when the then leader of the opposition, Andrew Little, resigned in her favour shortly before the 2017 election. Few recognised that he didn’t have what it takes to win an election.

Many of us in Aotearoa/New Zealand are grieving the loss of such a kind, honest and authentic leader, one of the greatest of our lifetimes. We are dismayed that an unrelenting campaign of hate and lies, often misogynistic, has taken her from us. She would, however, be perfect in the role of secretary general of the United Nations. Please note, world.
Peter Haynes
Auckland, New Zealand

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Sea ‘a graveyard’ as number of Rohingya fleeing Bangladesh by boat soars

UN figures show number of those attempting to escape horrendous conditions in refugee camps increased from 700 in 2021 to over 3,500 in 2022

The number of Rohingya refugees taking dangerous sea journeys in the hope of reaching Malaysia or Indonesia has surged by 360%, the UN has announced after hundreds of refugees were left stranded at the end of last year.

Rohingya in Bangladesh refugee camps have warned that human smugglers have ramped up operations and are constantly searching for people to fill boats from Myanmar and Bangladesh headed for Malaysia, where people believe they can live more freely.

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Banks and countries pledge over $9bn to rebuild Pakistan after catastrophic floods

International funders join Pakistan PM and UN secretary general in Geneva to agree recovery plan following ‘monsoon on steroids’

The international community has promised more than $9bn (£7.4bn) to help Pakistan rebuild after last summer’s catastrophic floods, described by UN secretary general António Guterres as a “monsoon on steroids.”

The pledges were made on Monday at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted by Pakistan’s prime minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and Guterres.

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Afghan aid at risk from Taliban ban on women, warns United Nations

Standoff between UN and Taliban may lead loss of billions in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan

The UN’s lead humanitarian coordinator has said UN-supplied aid cannot continue if the Taliban do not lift their ban on women working for humanitarian aid agencies in Afghanistan.

Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is due to visit Kabul shortly to discuss the impasse.

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UN tries to resolve Afghanistan aid crisis after women banned from working at NGOs

Head of humanitarian operations to fly to Kabul as programmes are ‘compromised’ by Taliban decision

Martin Griffiths, the head of UN humanitarian operations, is to fly to Kabul to try to resolve the crisis caused by the Taliban’s surprise decision to ban women working for NGO aid groups in the country.

The move came as Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in New York that aid programmes were already being compromised.

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UN suspends some Afghanistan programs after ban on female aid workers

Many humanitarian activities ‘paused’ as Taliban decision to bar women NGO workers prevents vital services across the country

The United Nations said that some “time-critical” programs in Afghanistan have temporarily stopped and warned many other activities will also likely need to be paused because of a ban by the Taliban-led administration on women aid workers.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths, the heads of UN agencies and several aid groups said in a joint statement on Wednesday that women’s “participation in aid delivery is not negotiable and must continue”, calling on authorities to reverse the decision.

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Faint hopes that Taliban will relax ban on NGO women after UN condemnation

Security council’s rare display of unity adds pressure after most aid groups in Afghanistan suspend services

Faint hopes exist that the Taliban may relax its ban on all women working for the non-governmental aid agencies in Afghanistan after the UN security council condemned the ban in a rare show of unanimity.

Almost all the large NGO aid agencies operating in Afghanistan have suspended almost all their work while talks continue to persuade the Taliban to rescind or clarify their decision. Tens of thousands of aid workers – many of them the chief breadwinners for the household – have been told to stay at home during the suspension, as the UN seeks to persuade the Taliban of the consequences for ordinary people in Afghanistan.

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Security council tells Taliban to reverse restrictions on women in Afghanistan

UN body ‘deeply alarmed’ by women and girls being kicked out of high schools, universities, NGO jobs and government positions

The UN security council has called on the Taliban to reverse policies targeting women and girls in Afghanistan, expressing alarm at the “increasing erosion” of human rights.

The hardline Islamist rulers banned women from working in non-governmental organisations on Saturday, in the latest blow to women’s rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

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UN Afghanistan head meets Taliban over ban on female aid workers

At least seven international NGOs have suspended aid, saying they cannot work without female staff

The acting head of the UN mission in Afghanistan met Taliban leaders on Monday in a bid to persuade them to withdraw their ban on all women working for aid agencies.

Ramiz Alakbarov met the Taliban’s economy minister, Din Mohammad Hanif, in Kabul, telling him that millions of Afghans need “humanitarian assistance and removing barriers is vital”.

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Francesc Vendrell obituary
Effective United Nations peace negotiator who brought about dialogue between warring parties in many international crises

Francesc Vendrell, who has died aged 82, was one of the longest serving and most successful United Nations peace negotiators of modern times. He helped to promote the disbanding of the CIA-backed “contras” in 1989 who were terrorising parts of Nicaragua in a campaign to overthrow the Sandinista government. He held secret meetings with the Cuban president, Fidel Castro, while brokering a deal between the rightwing US-supported government of El Salvador and the nationalist guerrilla movement, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which led to a ceasefire and free elections in 1992.

He played a major role in ending Indonesia’s bloody occupation of East Timor and organising a referendum for independence in 1999. For the next two years, as the UN secretary general’s envoy to Afghanistan, Vendrell launched the first contacts between the Taliban government and the Northern Alliance of regional warlords.

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‘I can’t give up on hope’: As the world’s population passes 8bn, new parents from Italy to India look to the future

In Siena, Luisa worries about social media. In Delhi, Nikita is trying to proof her house against air pollution. Here, couples who have welcomed a new child in recent months share their dreams and fears for them on an ever more crowded planet

Tuesday 15 November marks the day that the global population is projected to reach 8 billion, according to the United Nations – meaning the number of people in the world has more than tripled in the past 70 years. The impact of this is far-reaching, putting additional pressure on already stretched resources and challenging efforts to reduce poverty and inequality.

The average woman now gives birth to two children, down from five in 1950. We spoke to parents around the world who have welcomed a new child in recent months about their hopes and fears for their family.

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UN chief urges Myanmar junta to get democracy ‘back on track’

António Guterres says it’s vital a peace plan agreed with the junta, but so far not enforced, takes effect

UN chief António Guterres has urged the Myanmar junta to immediately return to democracy, saying it was the only way to stop the “unending nightmare” engulfing the country.

Myanmar has spiralled into bloody conflict since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February last year, with thousands killed.

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‘Fight of our lives’: what happened on the first day of Cop27?

From a bombastic Boris Johnson speech to an impassioned plea from the Barbados PM, here’s how first full day played out

On a jam-packed first full day, we heard from António Guterres, the UN secretary general, who dramatically proclaimed that we are on the “highway to climate hell”. We also heard an enthusiastic and bombastic speech from the former prime minister Boris Johnson – and a rather tepid and uninspiring one from the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

Climate justice and financing for loss and damage was a main theme of the day, and is likely to be so for the fortnight to come, as those from the countries most affected by climate breakdown ask for the help of carbon-spewing richer nations.

Johnson made a dramatic entrance, speaking to the New York Times and seeming to make political hay out of the fact Sunak did not originally plan on coming to Cop. He said we were failing on our commitments made at Glasgow, such as reversing deforestation, and that at the current rate we would not meet climate targets.

Damian Carrington reported on an interesting row over gas. In short, some African countries want to use fossil fuels to power development and bring electricity to the many people who lack it. But many countries oppose this, seeing the “gas bridge” as a false solution, at a time when the climate cannot afford new fossil fuel emissions.

Guterres made typically strong comments. He said: “We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”

Al Gore said we continue the “culture of death” by continuing to dig up fossil fuels, and cited vast floods in Pakistan, heatwaves and “rain bombs” in China, and a million displaced in Nigeria.

There was brief excitement that King Charles might make an appearance. While looking at the online agenda for the opening ceremony, we spotted that the king was listed as speaking. Could he be making a surprise video appearance, like that by the late queen at Cop26 last year? We asked the palace, and it said he was listed in error. A spokesperson said: “I’m afraid that information is incorrect, he will not be making an appearance or statement in any shape or form, virtual or otherwise.”

Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Mottley, said the global south needed more access to technology in order to tackle the climate crisis and have better growth. She said: “What is needed to make [green technology] is already located and extracted in the global south and sent to the north. And then we have to be at the mercy of those who want to export to us.”

The Pakistani envoy, Nabeel Munir, pushed for climate justice. “Loss and damage is not charity, it’s climate justice,” she said.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, agreed, saying that wealthier countries less affected by climate breakdown should pay up, and vowed that the Ukraine war would not stop French progress on climate targets.

Sunak chose to spend his bilateral discussions with Macron and the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, talking about boats in the Channel, and made an impassioned speech to broadcasters about tackling migration.

He then made a speech criticised as “tepid” about the climate emergency, saying acting was the “right thing to do”.

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US accuses Russia and China of protecting North Korea from UN

China and Russia, meanwhile, accuse US of inflaming tensions with large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea

The United States has accused Russia and China of providing “blanket protection” to North Korea from further UN Security Council action and said the pair had “bent over backwards” to justify Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launches.

The US, Britain, France, Albania, Ireland and Norway requested that the Security Council meet on Friday after North Korea, formally known as the DPRK, fired multiple missiles, including a possible failed intercontinental ballistic missile.

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UN warns against alarmism as world’s population reaches 8bn milestone

UNFPA head urges countries to focus on helping women, children and marginalised people most vulnerable to demographic change

The world must not engage in “population alarmism” as the number of people living on Earth nears 8 billion, a senior UN official has said.

The global population is projected to reach that milestone on 15 November, with some commentators expressing worries about the impact of the growing number on a world already struggling with huge inequality, the climate crisis, and conflict-fuelled displacement and migration.

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