Happy holidays! This is SmartBrief's last publication for 2019. To close out the year, we have selected the most-read stories that have caught readers' attention and informed their workday. Hope you enjoy this special edition, and we look forward to keeping you smart in 2020!
Today's opening of the United Nations Environment Assembly began with a moment of silence to pay respects to the victims of a deadly plane crash in Ethiopia, including a number of UN staff en route to the gathering. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced his sympathies to victims' families and said he is "deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives."
The United Nations is facing its most severe budget deficit of this decade and may not be able to cover staff payrolls next month if the 64 member states with budget dues outstanding do not pay what they owe, warns UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Vacant UN posts cannot be filled until the shortfall is addressed, and Guterres says non-essential travel and some meetings have been canceled.
A United Nations agency staff member was among those killed by a militant attack on a hotel in southern Somalia Friday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack, which left 33 people dead and a further 56 wounded.
UNESCO this weekend added 14 new sites to its World Heritage list. New World Heritage sites include the ancient city of Babylon, a glacier-filled national park in Iceland, and China's migratory bird sanctuaries on the coast of the Bohai Gulf and Yellow Sea.
The people of Finland are, on average, the happiest in the world, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network's World Happiness Report, released as the UN observes the International Day of Happiness. The theme for this year is "10 Steps to Global Happiness."
Credible evidence of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement in the murder and attempted cover-up of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been uncovered and the prince's attempts to distance himself from the crime are "problematic," says Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. UN experts have heard secret tapes of the killing that reveal some of the gruesome details of Khashoggi's death.
Representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme are coordinating assistance to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh after heavy rains destroyed hundreds of shelters and caused dangerous mudslides. The agencies are appealing for international assistance, noting they've only received one-third of the UN's $920 million appeal.
The World Health Organization has published a list of the 10 most pressing global health issues it intends to tackle in the coming year. Air pollution and climate change topped the list, which also includes noncommunicable diseases, Ebola, weak health care systems and a growing hesitancy to use vaccines.
About 45 million people are at risk of hunger due to a severe drought hitting sub-Saharan Africa during the growing season, according to United Nations estimates. Crisis or emergency level food insecurity is impacting nine countries and is also threatening the wildlife in the region, which increases the risk for disease as these animals enter communities in search of food and water.
Of the 87,000 women around the world who were murdered in 2017, more than 50,000 -- or 58% -- were killed by their partners, according to a study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "The home remains the most dangerous place for women, who continue to bear the heaviest burden of lethal victimization as a result of inequality and gender stereotypes," the report says.
Officials in the US are reportedly planning to appeal to other nations at a United Nations General Assembly meeting on universal health coverage today to ban abortion and oppose UN policies that promote sexual and reproductive rights. A leaked letter from US officials urges other world leaders to "work together to achieve an outcome document ... that reflects our shared values."
Officials from the US have suggested dropping the word "gender" from the Commission on the Status of Women's outcome document and replacing it with references to women and girls. The US is also reportedly refusing to reaffirm its commitment to the Beijing Declaration, which is widely viewed as the blueprint for women's rights around the world.
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