In this article, we will provide a brief rundown of major current events occurring around the world. Recent news has filled our screens with triggering depictions of atrocities and heartache. So, our goal is to communicate the important facts without the devastating images.
A *very* brief overview of the Israel/Palestine conflict:
The past two weeks have seen the outbreak of one of the most violent conflicts in recent years. On the 7th of October 2023, Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, launched a deadly attack on Israel, killing more than 1400 people, and seizing over 200 hostages.
In retaliation, the Israeli government declared war on the besieged Gaza strip, and has since killed at least 5700 Palestinians, with thousands more injured and over one million displaced.
Calls for intervention have been made to the United Nations Security Council, amounting to Brazil’s proposed resolution made to the assembly last Wednesday (18th October 2023). This resolution called for a ceasefire, to enable unhindered access for UN agents and partners to offer humanitarian aid and resources so desperately needed in the devastated Gaza strip.
The resolution received majority support, with 12 votes in favour, including permanent members China and France, while other permanent members, such as the UK and Russia, abstained from the vote. However, the resolution failed to pass due to the US’s veto on the grounds that the resolution put forth by Brazil ‘did not recognise Israel’s right to defend itself’. If adopted, the resolution would have “unequivocally rejected and condemned the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October. It would have also called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and for the protection of all medical personnel and humanitarian personnel, as well as hospitals and medical facilities, consistent with international humanitarian law.” (United Nations, 2023).
This resolution did not seem to satisfy the US, who have been accused of hypocrisy by Russia’s UN envoy, for ‘not standing in principle of the Security Council’ with regards to their mission to protect civilians from harm.
With regards to the ongoing conflict, there is currently no feasible resolution in sight. The 23rd of October saw the deadliest night of bombing so far, with at least 400 Palestinians killed according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and more than 320 “military targets” hit, as reported by the Israel military.
The heart-breaking scenes unfolding on our screens will likely continue for some time. But whilst this conflict is extremely complex in nature, I believe it is best to leave this section with a quote from the United Arab Emirates UN representative who eloquently summed up the current situation; “Although Hamas is indeed responsible for sparking this latest fire that is now engulfing the streets of the capitals around the region, make no mistake. The kindling was already there fuelled by decades of violent dehumanization.” (United Nations: Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. 2023).
In other news...
Iceland’s women’s strike
Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, joined thousands of women who took part in a strike on Tuesday, 23rd October, against unequal pay and widespread gender-based sexual violence. It is the first strike in the country of its kind since 1975 and is expected to bring the nation to a standstill. However, unlike the women’s strike in 1975, Tuesday’s event also urged non-binary people to join the movement, encouraging all to refuse paid work as well as unpaid labour, such as domestic tasks and household chores, to emphasize the importance of women's roles at home, as well as in the workplace.
Iceland is considered a global leader for gender equality, yet “in some professions Icelandic women still earn 21% less than men, and more than 40% of women have experienced gender-based sexual violence.” (The Guardian, 2023.). Strikes organiser, Freyja Steingrímsdóttir, stated “Iceland is talked about … like it’s an equality paradise, but an equality paradise should not have a 21% wage gap and 40% of women experiencing gender-based or sexual violence in their lifetime.” (The Guardian, 2023). This strike draws attention to the fact that just being comparatively ‘good’ is not good enough. Let us take this as a lesson for us all; we do not have to settle for anything less than true equality. Hats off to Iceland!
Tories’ announcement to scrap high-speed rail to Manchester.
Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak announced his plans to scrap the second phase of the high-speed rail system, the HS2, which has been under construction since 2017.
The HS2 had aimed to more efficiently connect the North to London, as part of the initiative to ‘level up the North’. However, phase 2 of construction plans, concerning the route from Birmingham to Manchester, was paused in March 2023, with concerns about spiralling costs. Other legs of the project to Leeds and Sheffield were previously cancelled in 2021.
Had the initial plan been successful, the HS2 would have helped relieve overcrowding on the UK’s outdated rail service, help increase connectivity to the major northern cities and ensure fewer lorries and flights, in line with the UK’s plan to cut carbon emissions.
Sunak announced these plans to scrap the HS2 at the Conservative party conference held in Manchester on 11 October. Sadly, poor Sunak had to attend the conference by driving 4 and a half hours from London to Manchester, because unfortunately for him, there are no other more effective and eco-friendly means of travel between the two major UK cities...
On the brighter side...
And finally, in a time when the news can make it seem like there is not much good in the world, let's leave this newsletter with some lighter stories.
The Scottish Highlands saw 19 native Scottish Wildcats reintroduced to the area over summer and recent reports have found them to be thriving in their natural habitat. The species, which was previously declared ‘functionally extinct in the wild’ due to habitat loss, is forecast to have a promising future in decades to come with the help of breeding and reintroduction programs.
Earlier this month, West Yorkshire held its ‘Make a Difference’ award ceremony in Leeds, where local heroes were recognised for their contributions to the community. Winners included Emily Land, 22, who received the ‘Bravery’ award for raising funds for The Anthony Nolan charity whilst she was battling leukemia last year, and Noushin Aslam Raja, who received the ‘Community’ award in recognition of her setting up the Moonlight Trust charity, which delivers humanitarian projects across the globe.
That is all for this week's brief rundown of current events but stay posted for more updates on domestic and international news in coming weeks.
Words: Daisy Pope, she/her
Anadolu Agency. 2023. US vetoes Brazil's UN Security Council draft resolution for humanitarian pauses in Gaza. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/us-vetoes-brazils-un-security-council-draft-resolution-for-humanitarian-pauses-in-gaza/3025211
BBC News. 2023. Make a Difference: Local heroes honoured at awards in Leeds. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-66983554
Good News Network. 2023. 19 Wildcats Set to Bring Back Scottish Highland Species – They’re Thriving in a Reintroduction Program. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/the-19-wildcats-set-to-bring-back-scottish-highland-species-are-thriving-in-reintroduction-program/
Metro. 2023. When did HS2 start, who is building it and what is the route? [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://metro.co.uk/2023/01/27/when-did-hs2-start-who-is-building-it-and-what-is-the-route-18177610/
The Guardian. 2023. Iceland’s first full-day women’s strike in 48 years aims to close pay gap. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/23/icelands-first-full-day-womens-strike-in-48-years-aims-to-close-pay-gap
The Guardian. 2023. Tory donor threatens to pull funding if Sunak scraps northern HS2 rail line. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/sep/24/tory-donor-threatens-pull-funding-sunak-scraps-northern-hs2-rail-line
United Nations, Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. 2023. Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Calling for Humanitarian Pauses in Israel-Gaza Crisis on Account of Veto by United States. [Online]. [Accessed: 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15450.doc.htm#:~:text=In%20the%20aftermath%20of%20an,access%20for%20United%20Nations%20agencies
United Nations, UN News: Global Perspective Human Stories. 2023. Israel-Palestine: Gaza death toll passes 5,000 with no ceasefire in sight. [Online]. [Accessed 24th October 2023]. Available from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/10/1142687