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The President's Take

As Acute Conflict Risks Rise, UN General Assembly Hears Calls for Multilateral Action

After a week at the UN General Assembly meetings in New York, our president Robert Malley highlights the world's most worrying conflicts detailed in this month's CrisisWatch, and the important role that multilateral organisations play in helping resolve them. 

We just finished the opening week of the UN General Assembly, which is an opportunity to draw attention to conflicts both ongoing and at risk of flaring up further. Standing out from the week in New York were strong statements in support of multilateralism by leaders including UN Secretary-General António Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron in the face of continued attacks by top U.S. officials; a number of world leaders’ defence of – and steps to preserve – the Iran nuclear deal; a bilateral meeting between U.S. secretary of state and the North Korean foreign minister; and meetings on Libya, Myanmar, the Sahel and Venezuela among others.

For our part, Crisis Group sought to turn the spotlight on particularly acute risks, all of which this month’s CrisisWatch details. Foremost among these was Yemen, where despite the Huthis’ reckless refusal to travel to Geneva for UN-led consultations, the objective must remain a resumption of political talks and halting the Saudi-led coalition’s assault on rebel-held Hodeida that would make a disastrous humanitarian situation even worse. Another was Cameroon, where elections are due to take place this week amid widespread discontent at President Paul Biya’s rule, continued fighting against Boko Haram in the north and a worsening conflict in the Anglophone region. Cameroon’s international partners should use the days ahead of the polls to push the government and Anglophone separatists toward a ceasefire; after the vote, they should throw their weight behind an Anglophone conference organised by religious leaders which could be a first step toward a national dialogue.

We also drew attention to Venezuela’s crisis, which is becoming ever more acute and uncertain. Its neighbours, hosting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic and humanitarian deprivation, should receive the support they need to cope; targeted sanctions from Latin American countries could help nudge the government toward greater accommodation with its rivals. To Afghanistan, where preparations for a parliamentary vote due on 20 October are clouded by opposition claims of fraud and risks of a debilitating political crisis after the vote, which could hinder nascent efforts by the U.S. and others to rekindle talks with Taliban insurgents. And finally, to Israel-Palestine, where desperation and violence in Gaza, lack of hope in the West Bank, and a widespread feeling among all Palestinians that the world has ceased to care, could provoke the type of conflagration about which so many will say, after the fact – why didn’t we see it coming? And why didn’t we do anything to prevent it?