World News in Brief: Guterres condemns terror attacks in Dagestan, call to end ‘war on drugs’, women Heads of State


In a statement issued by his Spokesperson on Monday, António Guterres conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families, the people and Government of Russia, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

Gunmen using automatic weapons reportedly opened fire inside a Christian Orthodox church and synagogue in the city of Derbent on Sunday evening, killing an Orthodox priest.

In what appeared to be coordinated attacks, terrorists also shot at traffic police who were on post in the city of Makhachkala, north of the Caspian Sea, and attacked another church nearby.

Gun battles

There were reported gun battles around the Assumption Cathedral in the city lasting for several hours. At least 15 police officers were among the dead together with four civilians.

Authorities in Dagestan said that at least six militants were also killed following the attacks, although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The assault came just three months after an ISIL terrorist group affiliate known as ISIS-K, carried out one of the deadliest terror attacks on Russia soil in recent years, at the Crocus City Hall, in Moscow, killing more than 140.

Russian authorities said they were investigating if so-called sleeper cells were involved in coordinating the attacks, and Dagestan has reportedly declared three days of mourning. 

Time to end war on drugs, Human Rights Council hears

In a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, a top independent rights expert has called for an end to the so-called war on drugs – after describing it instead as a war on people.

Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur to health, insisted that punitive approaches to drug use and drug control affected society’s most vulnerable people.

Ms. Mofokeng said that the lack of a human-rights based approach to addressing drug use has particularly harmed those facing homelessness, poverty and mental health problems, along with other marginalized individuals including sex workers, women, children, LGBT persons, Black and indigenous peoples.

The rights expert insisted that the criminalization of drug use was the single most extreme option within a raft of other regulatory options available to governments.

Meanwhile the lack of access to harm reduction services for drug users in prisons “lead to a high prevalence of HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis”, she said.

Full decriminalisation call

In support of the “full decriminalisation” of drug use, the rights expert insisted that evidence from authorities that took this approach “demonstrates that adopting less punitive policies does not result in an increase in drug use, drug-related harms or other crimes.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts are independent of any government, receive no salary for their work and serve in their individual capacity. 

Vast majority of countries yet to have a woman Head of State

In what is the biggest electoral year ever, 113 countries have still never had a woman Head of State and only 26 are led by a woman today, new figures from gender equality agency UN Women revealed on Monday

The new data comes as the world celebrated the International Day for Women in Diplomacy, recognizing the different ways women are breaking barriers and making a difference in the field of diplomacy. 

“As many countries head to the polls this year, we all must put women first, at the pinnacle of power, where and when it matters the most,” said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous.

As of 1 January 2024, women make up less than a third of Cabinet ministers in 141 countries. In seven countries, there are no women represented in Cabinets at all. Meanwhile, only 23 per cent of Ministerial positions are held by women.

Male bastion

Women are also underrepresented as Permanent Representatives to the UN. As of May 2024, women held 25 per cent of senior ambassador posts in New York, 35 per cent in Geneva, and 33.5 per cent in Vienna.

“Our work is guided by the belief that when women lead, the world is better for all people and the planet,” Ms. Bahous said. 

“Women’s equal participation in governance and leadership is key to improving lives for all,” she added.