The topics covered in this chapter are a guide to help direct your research on your State’s positions. Updates on likely topics for the Contemporary Security Council will be posted online throughout the fall. These updates will be available on the AMUN website and the AMUN Accords. The Contemporary Security Council topics below are current as of July 2021 and may not include all topics that the Council might discuss at Conference. With the ever-changing nature of international peace and security, what is important to the Council may change between now and the start of Conference.
For each topic area, Representatives should consider the following questions, which should assist them in gaining a better understanding of the issues at hand, particularly from their country’s perspective:
How did this situation begin?
Is this a new conflict or a re-ignition of a previous conflict?
How have similar situations and conflicts been peacefully resolved? What State and regional actors are involved in this conflict?
If there are non-State actors involved in a conflict, are there any States supporting them? If so, which ones?
How does this conflict indirectly affect my country? (regionally, alliances, economically, etc)
The Situation in Libya
February 2021 marked the 10-year anniversary of the uprising in Libya that toppled the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Following the outbreak of the First Libyan Civil War in 2011, the Security Council passed Resolution 1970, which required Member States to prevent the supply of weapons to Libya. The following month, the Council passed Resolution 1973, which authorized Member States to take all necessary measures to protect civilians, establish a no-fly zone and enforce an arms embargo. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) used Resolution 1973 as the legal basis for military intervention to assist the anti-Gaddafi uprising. Later that year, the Council passed Resolution 2009, which created the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), a political mission with a mandate to support the new transitional authority in establishing the rule of law. UNSMIL remains active today.
After Gaddafi’s ouster, divisions among the participants in the uprising undermined efforts to create a new national unity government. A Second Libyan Civil War broke out in 2014 between the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital city of Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Hifter, which controlled (and still controls today) Benghazi and much of eastern Libya.
Hifter launched an assault on Tripoli in April 2019, but after 15 months of fighting his forces were defeated and forced to retreat. Hifter’s campaign against Tripoli is reported to have received substantial foreign assistance in the form of weapons and mercenaries from Russia and the United Arab Emirates, though both governments deny direct involvement. The LNA’s failure to take Tripoli has been credited to intervention by Turkey, which supported the GNA with advisors, airstrikes and mercenaries. In October 2020, after a week of talks hosted by the United Nations in Geneva, the two sides agreed to an immediate ceasefire. Further talks in February 2021 resulted in the creation of a new interim government led by Abdul Hamid Dbeiba as an interim prime minister and a three-member presidential council. The new Government of National Unity (GNU) received the endorsement of the House of Representatives in March 2021. Nationwide elections are scheduled for December 2021.
Significant challenges remain despite this progress. Foreign forces, mercenaries and weapons are ever-present, threatening the peace and the establishment of a stable Libya. Both the GNA and the LNA have violated the arms embargo. Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Libya (ISIL-Libya) also continue to operate in Libya, fighting to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state. The years-long conflict has severely damaged Libya’s economy and healthcare system—the poor security situation and a lack of funding have reduced the number of functioning health facilities in the country by 50 percent since 2019. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of at least 3,000 Libyans, putting an additional strain on an already damaged healthcare system.
United Nations Documents
The Situation in the Middle East (Yemen)
After a revolution in 2011–2012 that drove longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, Yemen experienced several years of civil unrest and instability. In 2014, a civil war erupted when the Ansar Allah movement, commonly known as the Houthis, captured the capital city of Sana’a and drove the internationally-recognized government of Yemen into exile. In 2015, a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched a bombing campaign against the Houthis. The Houthis often responded to airstrikes by firing ballistic missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia. The bombing campaign has inflicted massive damage to Yemen’s infrastructure and caused substantial civilian casualties, but the civil war remains stalemated.
Saudi Arabia and its allies continue to maintain an air and sea blockade, preventing deliveries of food and fuel from entering Houthi-controlled air and sea ports. In March 2021, Saudi Arabia offered to lift the blockade on the condition that the Houthis first agree to a ceasefire monitored by the United Nations. The Houthis rejected this and demanded that Saudi Arabia lift the blockade first before agreeing to and implementing a ceasefire. Fighting continues on multiple fronts, especially in the northern Marib governorate, where many civilians had fled to escape fighting in other parts of the country.
As of December 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that 233,000 people had died in the conflict. More than half of these deaths were from indirect causes such as lack of food or medical care. Nearly half of Yemen’s population cannot get sufficient food, and that number is expected to rise as aid agencies face reduced funding. The humanitarian situation only worsened with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yemen has reported over one thousand deaths from COVID, but a lack of testing and medical infrastructure means that the actual numbers might be much higher. In March 2021, 360,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were shipped to Yemen via the COVAX initiative, and the country is currently slated to receive a total of 1.9 million vaccines through the program. Distribution of the vaccines has been hampered by the war, distrust of the vaccine and religious objections.
United Nations Documents
- United Nations, Security Council (2020). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2511.
- United Nations, Security Council (2019). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2019/6.
- United Nations, Security Council (2019). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2452.
- United Nations, Security Council (2018). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2451.
- United Nations, Security Council (2018). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2018/5.
- United Nations, Security Council (2017). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2017/7.
- United Nations, Security Council (2016). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2016/5.
- United Nations, Security Council (2015). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2015/8.
- United Nations, Security Council (2014). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2014/18.
- United Nations, Security Council (2014). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2104.
- United Nations, Security Council (2013). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2013/3.
- United Nations, Security Council (2011). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2014.
The Situation in the Middle East (Syria)
The Syrian Civil War is a multi-sided conflict that began in 2011. As part of the Arab Spring movement, Syrians began to protest against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. These pro-democracy protests were met with deadly force, sparking nationwide resistance. The Assad government received military support from international allies such as Iran and Russia.
The civil war was compounded in 2013 by the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which fought against both the Syrian government and rebel forces. ISIL seized control of several major cities in Syria, including Raqqa, which served as the capital of ISIL’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” until 2017. An international coalition led by the United States launched a campaign against ISIL beginning in 2014. The United States conducted airstrikes against ISIL and deployed American military forces to Syria to support local allies, including Kurdish militias, in the fight against the Islamic State. As of 2021, ISIL has been largely defeated in Syria.
By 2018, the Assad government succeeded in regaining control over most of the country. The major exception was northern Syria, which was controlled by rebel groups and Kurdish militias. In 2019, after American forces withdrew from northern Syria, Turkey intervened and invaded Kurdish-held territory. Turkey continues to occupy portions of northern Syria, supporting Turkish-aligned rebel groups.
While large-scale violence has subsided, the humanitarian situation across Syria remains dire. Years of warfare have created millions of refugees within Syria, neighboring countries and abroad. Today, there are 6.6 million Syrian refugees, 5.6 million of whom are housed in camps in the countries bordering Syria. Turkey houses the largest number of Syrian refugees, with 3.6 million. Only one in 10 Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries lives in a refugee camp. Most live in cities, often in extreme poverty. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified the most pressing needs for Syrian refugees as helping to cover school fees for children, providing food and cash assistance and helping refugees obtain access to healthcare and hospital treatment. To do this, the UNHCR operates through the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan.
Security Council action on Syria has been limited. While some Member States imposed unilateral sanctions against the Syrian government in response to attacks on civilians, the Security Council has failed to reach consensus on a course of action. This has severely handy capped the Council’s ability to respond to the humanitarian crises caused by the war, which now include concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in addition to a lack of food, water and medical care.
- During Relative Calm, Growing Humanitarian Suffering in Syria, A ‘Tragic Irony’ (26 May 2021). UN News.
- Gall, Carlotta (16 February 2021). In Turkey’s Safe Zone in Syria, Security and Misery Go Hand in Hand. The New York Times.
- Hubbard, Ben (6 April 2021). In a Syrian Rebel Bastion, Millions Are Trapped in Murky, Violent Limbo. The New York Times.
- Hubbard, Ben and Hwaida Saad, (23 February 2021). Having Won Syria’s War, al-Assad Is Mired in Economic Woes. The New York Times.
- ‘No Respite’ for Civilians in Syria, UN Officials Urge International Support (29 March 2021). UN News.
- UN Envoy’s Grim Assessment of Syria Peace Process. (29 January 2021). UN News.
United Nations Documents
- United Nations, Security Council (2018). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2401.
- United Nations, Security Council (2016). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2314.
- United Nations, Security Council (2016). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2268.
- United Nations, Security Council (2015). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2015/10.
- United Nations, Security Council (2013) Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2013/15.
- United Nations, Security Council (2012). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2043.
- United Nations, Security Council (2012). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2043.
- United Nations, Security Council (2012). The Situation in the Middle East. S/RES/2042.
- United Nations, Security Council (2012). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2012/10.
- United Nations, Security Council (2012). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2012/6.
- United Nations, Security Council (2011). Statement by the President of the Security Council. S/PRST/2011/6.
The Situation in the Middle East (Israel & Palestine)
Following the United Nations vote in 1947 to partition Palestine into two separate states (one Jewish, one Arab) in Resolution 181 and Israel’s subsequent declaration of independence and establishment of the Israeli State, instability, violence and unrest have plagued the Middle East. The military and humanitarian situations in the region have led to numerous civil wars and precarious humanitarian circumstances for Palestinians within the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and a global diaspora. Despite dozens of attempts between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and efforts by allies across the globe, tension between Israel and Palestine over territory and sovereignty continues to lead to outbreaks of violence and civil unrest. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict, with at least 5,000 killed since the year 2000.
The Security Council has debated and passed dozens of resolutions related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but none have led to an agreement regarding territory, sovereignty or lasting peace in the region. While there have not been any additional resolutions created by the Security Council regarding the Israel-Palestine question since 2016, there is a long history of discussion and debate on the matter.
The most recent conflict in Gaza is the worst outbreak of violence since the Israeli ground invasion in 2014. On 6 May 2021, Palestinians began to stage protests in East Jerusalem. The major inciting incident for the protests was the planned eviction of six Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. On 7 May, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police, who responded by storming the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured. On 10 May, Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel, demanding it withdraw its security forces from the Temple Mount complex and Sheikh Jarrah. When Israel did not respond to the ultimatum, Hamas began launching rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. Israel began a campaign of airstrikes against targets in Gaza. Over 11 days of hostilities, Israel carried out over 1,500 airstrikes. The United Nations estimates more than 250 Palestinians were killed, including whole families, with 66 children among the victims. Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets into Israeli territory. Many of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. 13 people were killed in Israel, including two children. The Israeli aerial campaign damaged or destroyed schools, hospitals, and water and sewer systems. On 21 May 2021, both sides agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Hamas, as well as the attacks launched against Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces. Bachelet told the Human Rights Council that the Hamas rocket attacks constituted “a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” while Israel’s airstrikes against Gaza might constitute war crimes “if found to be indiscriminate and disproportionate in their impact on civilians and civilian objects.” On 27 May, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to create a commission of inquiry to investigate possible war crimes, as well as examining “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”
The Secretary-General called on the international community to work with the United Nations to strengthen the ceasefire and provide reconstruction assistance to Gaza. He also reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to a long-term settlement to the conflict: “a two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements.” Other United Nations officials have called on Member States to ensure the provision of reliable and sufficient funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), the agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees.
United Nations Documents
Maintenance of International Peace and Security (COVID-19)
The global community continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis caused by a deadly infectious disease that continues to spread across the world. More than three million people have died from the virus, seriously damaging global, national and local economies. On 1 July 2020, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2532, which called for all parties in armed conflicts across the globe to cease hostilities for at least 90 days, to enable access to medical aid. In February 2021, the Security Council passed Resolution 2565, which repeated its call for a worldwide cessation of all armed conflicts in order to enable access to medical aid, especially COVID-19 vaccinations. It also called for increasing multilateral and international cooperation in efforts to produce and distribute vaccines.
Several vaccines have been developed to immunize people against the virus. More than 3 billion doses of vaccine have been administered across the world, but there are wide gaps between different countries’ vaccination programs. Some countries have yet to begin mass vaccinations, and low-income countries have administered far fewer doses than high-income countries. Some vaccines have been potentially linked to adverse health outcomes, causing fear and confusion and slowing global vaccination efforts.
The World Health Organization has partnered with several other international organizations to form COVAX, a global initiative working to distribute COVID-19 vaccines equitably around the world. It has distributed vaccines to over 100 countries and economies, but it faces a funding gap of two billion US dollars. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has called on Member States to close this funding gap and provide equitable access to vaccines.
Many organs of the United Nations are currently engaged in efforts to address concerns related to COVID-19. For the purposes of this simulation, Representatives should focus their efforts on how COVID-19 might impact the ongoing and future efforts by the Security Council in regard to the Maintenance of International Peace and Security.
United Nations Documents