Metro Kansas City Model United Nations (2022)

Metro Kansas City Model United Nations conference scheduled for Wednesday April 5, 2023 at Yardley Hall and Regnier Center on the JCCC campus.

It is my distinct pleasure to cordially invite you to the Metro Kansas City Model United Nations Conference (MKCMUN). MKCMUN is a complex simulation which can provide a rewarding educational experience for High and Middle school participants. By simulating the structure and operations of the United Nations, MKCMUN gives its participants the opportunity to experience the international milieu that the diplomats experience themselves. To this end, groups of students are assigned to serve as the delegations from a particular country to selected committees of the United Nations. Members of each delegation familiarize themselves with all aspects of their country – political, social, and economic. Then within the framework of the MUN they work to represent their country’s policies and attain solutions to contemporary international problems. The success or failure of their representation depends upon the delegate’s understanding. The MUN delegate must understand why his or her country follows certain policies.

The purpose of the MKCMUN is to advance knowledge and understanding of the international system and to highlight the eternal search for consensus as a necessary factor for international peace and security in today’s world. In addition, the MKCMUN provides for its participants a working knowledge of other countries and the relationships between these countries. Hopefully, the insights gained through this simulation will be applied to the very real problems confronting our world today, and in the years to come.

The Metro Kansas City Model United Nations (MKCMUN) will be a one day face to face masks are required and will be provided. Registration:

Conference Reservation

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Security Council (2022)

Introduction

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.

Bibliography

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.

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

 

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.

Bibliography

 

United Nations Documents

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.

Bibliography

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.

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

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Human Rights Council (HRC) (2022)

The Human Rights Council (HRC) serves two primary functions: it sets human rights standards and it attempts to bring non-compliant countries into compliance through persuasion, capacity building and—if necessary—highlighting human rights abuses on the world stage. The Council also deploys Special Rapporteurs to monitor human rights and study topics of interest. While the Security Council, General Assembly and HRC often address similar issues, the HRC is limited to address the human rights aspect of the problem, not broader security and development issues.

Topic 1: The human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation

Consistent access to safely-managed sanitation and hygiene facilities and a sufficient supply of safe, affordable water for drinking, cooking and cleaning are fundamental human rights and universal necessities. While access to water, sanitation and hygiene has improved in the 21st century, 29 percent of the world’s population is still without access to safely-managed drinking water services and 55 percent is without access to safely-managed sanitation services. Lack of access to these facilities also perpetuates other human rights issues, including lack of access to education, lack of safe healthcare facilities and gender inequality. Safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are also frequently targeted in conflicts, with forced displacement during armed conflict further hindering access. Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, the United Nations has set the goal of achieving universal access to clean drinking water and equitable sanitation and hygiene services by 2030.

Treating access to water and sanitation as explicit human rights is a relatively recent concept, with neither right formally recognized in either the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The final report of the 1977 United Nations Water Conference, the first international conference on water scarcity, was the first time the United Nations explicitly recognized water as an essential right, with “similar considerations” for sanitation. This shift led to the inclusion of language regarding water and sanitation in subsequent human rights documents, including the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Recognition of the importance of access to water and sanitation grew rapidly with the turn of the century. In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for international development. MDG Target 7.C set the goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. Two years later, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights formally acknowledged that the rights to water and sanitation were implicit in the ICESCR’s articles on standards of living and health. In 2010, the General Assembly explicitly recognized a human right to safe drinking water and sanitation for the first time, representing the culmination of these changes. The Human Rights Council followed suit later that year. This also coincided with the international community meeting the goals for water access set in MDG Target 7.C.

Building on these successes, the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals included SDG 6, dedicated to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, and setting eight specific targets for measuring progress, ranging from increased development assistance for water and sanitation facilities to greater integrated water resources management implementation. That same year, at the urging of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the General Assembly recognized the right to safe drinking water and the right to sanitation as separate human rights, due in large part to a consistent lack of focus on sanitation access.

In 2016, the General Assembly declared the period from 2018 to 2028 as the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development,” with the goal of increasing discussion around best practices for providing universal water resources. Numerous reports and resolutions across the United Nations system have highlighted the importance of water and sanitation access and outlined regional strategies for progressive realization of SDG 6. In their commemorative report on progress made between 2010 and 2020, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation identified three critical components of a human rights-based approach to water and sanitation: assessing the root causes that drive exclusion from access to water and sanitation, incorporating the human rights framework into policy making and ensuring that people in affected communities, particularly those in marginalized groups, remain centered and protected in all decisions.

Despite notable progress and consistent attention from the United Nations and NGOs, the international community is currently far from ensuring universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2030. While the United Nations continues to highlight the importance of sustainable development in meeting the need for water and sanitation access, large development projects often fail to utilize a human rights-based approach, leading to further harms against the communities they are ostensibly supposed to benefit. There is also significant competition for water use in the agricultural, industrial and energy sectors, creating conflict over limited water resources. Climate change also exacerbates water and sanitation issues, further straining existing resources as access and affordability remain central challenges to securing the right to water and sanitation.

Unequal attention to the right to sanitation has also been a significant challenge to achieving SDG 6, with progress on and funding for sanitation-related goals lagging far behind those for safe drinking water. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the inherent risks of lack of sanitation and hygiene access, with lack of handwashing facilities and sanitation facilities contributing to further spread of the virus. Implementing safe, accessible, affordable and culturally appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities alongside improving water access is necessary to meet the needs of all peoples and ensure the full enjoyment of their human rights.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • How can the United Nations help to ensure that implementation of new water and sanitation-related development projects and new technologies follow a human rights-based approach?
  • How can the international community ensure that the realization of the right to sanitation is met with the same level of effort as the right to safe drinking water?
  • How can the international community expand access to safe drinking water and sanitation in the face of climate change, water pollution and other threats to the water supply?
  • How can the Human Rights Council help secure the rights of marginalized groups which disproportionately suffer from a lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation?

 

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

Topic 2: Human rights and indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples face unique obstacles to the full enjoyment of their human rights due to a history of discrimination and marginalization. Indigenous peoples have experienced centuries of repeating patterns of dispossession and forced removal from ancestral landsforced assimilation and loss of cultural traditions, and lack of self-determination. These patterns have resulted in political, social and economic conditions that perpetuate other human rights abuses, including increased risk of gender-related violencehigher rates of poverty and increased criminalization. New threats to indigenous rights continue to emerge: The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected indigenous communities, who often lack full access to healthcare. Climate change also poses a significant threat to indigenous peoples, both despite and because of their close connections to their ancestral lands and history of ecological stewardship.

In 1971, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) commissioned a study on issues concerning indigenous peoples, largely due to activism by indigenous groupsThe study, published between 1981 and 1983, detailed the distinct obstacles indigenous peoples faced in achieving their human rights and within the United Nations system. From this work, ECOSOC established the Working Group on Indigenous Population (WGIP) in 1982 to continually review the conditions surrounding indigenous rights. Working from recommendations of the WGIP, the International Labor Organization (ILO) revised a 1957 convention to create the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). While C169 has been celebrated as an important step in creating dialogue and accountability between governments and indigenous peoples, the Convention’s binding nature and its emphasis on indigenous control of ancestral lands made it unpopular, with only 24 states ratifying it.

The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recommended specific steps for greater recognition of indigenous rights at the United Nations. One such recommendation was realized in 2000, with the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (IPFII). The IPFII was mandated to provide expert advice on indigenous populations, promote integration of indigenous peoples into the United Nations System and disseminate information on indigenous issues to appropriate bodies. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples was created one year later in 2001 to report on the status of indigenous rights.

Another recommendation culminated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2006 and the General Assembly in 2007. UNDRIP established a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples. It additionally elaborated on existing standards of human rights as they apply to indigenous populations’ specific circumstances. Among its provisions are the express rights to retain cultural traditions, safeguard linguistic identity, prevent forced assimilation, establish independent educational systems and seek redress for past grievances. UNDRIP’s adoption coincided with the 2007 establishment of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) to succeed the WGIP. EMRIP was tasked with conducting research on the rights of indigenous peoples and the state of specific indigenous cultures and meets annually to solicit input from indigenous leaders, non-governmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations and academics. The United Nations continued to consider UNDRIP and related issues at the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and as part of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Despite widespread acceptance by Member States, implementation of UNDRIP continues to pose a significant challenge. In 2015, the United Nations published the System Wide Action Plan on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in order to coordinate the implementation of UNDRIP and increase indigenous participation in the United Nations System. However, reviews conducted in 2020 by the Secretary-General and the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) have found the United Nations’ work to be relatively inconsistent. Indigenous leaders and the Secretary-General continue to call for “a new social contract” that restores the human rights of indigenous peoples.

In the meantime, many of the obstacles that indigenous peoples face, from climate change to the repatriation of ancestral objects, are perpetuated by the lack of inclusion of indigenous peoples in decision-making and a broader lack of self-determination. International responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have frequently omitted indigenous voices, even as indigenous communities are often among the most adversely affected. These responses have largely replicated existing processes that violate the principles of free, prior and informed consent outlined in UNDRIP as necessary for taking actions that affect indigenous peoples or their resources. The Special Rapporteur for the rights of indigenous peoples has called for a more robust system of review to ensure that Member States comply with international human rights standards for indigenous peoples, particularly for states that are unwilling to work directly with international bodies, as well as greater cooperation between the United Nations, indigenous peoples and regional institutions.

Violence against and criminalization of indigenous peoples, particularly those attempting to protect their rights and ancestral lands, is also an area of increasing human rights concern. States’ desire for economic stability during the pandemic has led to rollbacks of safeguards that protect indigenous peoples and their ancestral lands in favor of large projects that, even when labelled “sustainable,” violate their rights under UNDRIP. Indigenous individuals and groups who have attempted to protest these projects have faced increased risk of arrest and prosecution and violence from non-State actors, threatening their fundamental rights to free assembly and expression. In extreme cases, indigenous activists have been murdered due to their activism; two-thirds of the human rights defenders killed in 2020 were specifically involved in environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • How can the United Nations pursue greater self-determination for indigenous people?
  • How can the United Nations better support indigenous communities in the midst of global crises such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What should the Human Rights Council do to ensure stronger compliance with UNDRIP and other relevant human rights documents pertaining to indigenous peoples?
  • How can the United Nations ensure that indigenous voices and leadership are centered in discussions of potential action?

Bibliography 

United Nations Documents

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United Nations Environment Assembly (2022)

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) creates and coordinates UN environmental activities and policies and develops international environmental law. With universal membership, UNEA is also the primary international body when it comes to discussing environmental issues, particularly those that require collective global action. UNEA was established in 2012 as part of the “strengthening and upgrading” of the United Nations Environment Programme after the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. While the UN Member States are the only voting members, the UNEA meetings, which occur every other year, include the voices of thousands of representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society groups.

Topic 1: Innovative pathways to achieve sustainable consumption and production

Over the last few decades, millions of people around the globe have moved out of poverty and a number of countries have reached the status of middle income, but the patterns of development that have lifted them out of poverty have also resulted in damage to the environment. Meeting the increased demand for resources such as food, water and energy has strained available resources, increased pollution and worsened climate change, thus pushing the Earth toward the limits of what it can sustain. With this in mind, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has emphasized a model of sustainable consumption and production (SCP), which is a model by which pollution and natural resource use are minimized while providing an acceptable quality of life. SCP encompasses both the decisions surrounding what goods to provide a population to ensure its quality of life and the processes by which resources are extracted to manufacture those goods. Material and energy efficiency are critical, though planners must guard against a rebound effect where increased efficiency leads to an increase in consumption. As the resources that must be conserved are global in scope, it is critical that the entire supply chain of a product be considered, as well as the fate of the product once it is consumed or discarded.  With these principles in mind, the goal is to ultimately create an economic system that sees continued growth while safeguarding the environment. This model must not only support the current population, but accommodate population growth, as the global population is estimated to grow to over 9.7 billion by 2050. This increase will cause a strain on food production, water and other important resources. Without a plan in place, this strain will be passed on to the environment, with devastating effects on global health and wellbeing.

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm brought the status of the environment to the fore of the international community. This Conference proposed 26 principles and 109 action items through the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment, including human rights, ocean pollution and weapons of mass destruction. Recognizing the importance of international cooperation on these issues, the Conference established the UNEP to coordinate the United Nations’ environmental efforts. This conference was successful in laying out a structure for addressing environmental issues and establishing them as a necessary topic for international cooperation, but also revealed Cold War-related tensions about membership and conflicts between developed and developing countries about the balance between development and environmental protection.

Guided by this framework, the international community was able to come to several agreements on minimizing environmentally destructive practices, including the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985. This convention balanced the need to phase out production and use of ozone-depleting gases with the need to promote innovation regarding alternatives to these gases and international sharing of new technologies. Still, larger challenges remained as global economic growth led to a sharp increase in consumption of natural resources over the second half of the 20th century.  With the groundwork set, the Oslo Symposium of 1994 brought the international focus on how to best address production and consumption of goods, noting the necessary balance between the increased quality of life that these goods provide and the pollution and resource depletion they entail. The Symposium defined sustainable consumption in terms of the entire life cycle of a product, including its supply chain, and suggested that substitution of resource-intensive and otherwise unsustainable products with sustainable alternatives was more practical than reducing the volumes consumedAccordingly, the recommendations for action from this symposium focused on developing and promoting more sustainable products. The process for attaining sustainable consumption and production was later elaborated in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPI), adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). This solidified consumption and production as essential parts of any plan for sustainability along with poverty eradication and natural resource management. The JPI identified efficiency across the entire life cycle of a product as key for sustainability, and furthermore called for the internalization of environmental costs via the “polluter pays” principle. It also identified energy technologies as a crucial area for innovation, including both renewable energy and more efficient fossil fuel-based energy. While these changes mean that each unit of energy produced 1.5 times as much economic output in 2015 as compared to 1990, 2013 patterns of energy consumption and production were still expected to result in an increase in global land temperatures of six degrees Celsius above 1900 levels and a 70 cm increase in sea level by 2100 if continued throughout the century.

In 2012, the General Assembly passed a broad resolution entitled The Future We Want. This resolution covered topics ranging from governance to education, but the bulk of the resolution focused on sustainable development. The resolution identifies promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production as one of the three dimensions of sustainable development, along with poverty eradication and natural resource management. These previous efforts to achieve SCP have since been reinforced through their inclusion in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, promotes resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure and providing access to basic services and jobs that will help provide a better quality of life. This goal aimed to assist development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs of development, strengthen economic growth, and reduce poverty worldwide. In 2019, UNEP passed the Innovative Pathways to Achieve Sustainable Consumption and Production, which elaborates on Goal 12. This resolution promotes involvement of the private sector and re-emphasizes the need for life-cycle analysis of products, from their supply chain to their fate in waste management. UNEP complemented that resolution with several others focusing on specific aspects of production and consumption, including marine litter and microplasticssingle-use plastics pollutioninnovative methods for reducing land degradation and sustainable management of the nitrogen cycle.

UNEA did not meet in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and deferred substantive issues to 2022 in its 2021 online meeting. In that online meeting, UNEA also noted that the situation remains concerning, with the resources of 1.6 Earths required to sustainably meet current living standards. Furthermore, several resolutions from the 2019 session request the current session discuss their impact.  Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the blockage of the Suez Canal on the 23rd of March 2021 show that challenges to the international supply chain can have lasting effects. On the other hand, they provide great opportunities to build a more sustainable future. The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) noted this in the closing session of the 2021 UNEA meeting, identifying financing, sustainable infrastructure and science and technology as three areas recovery efforts should focus on. The challenges of sustainable development are multifaceted and somewhat recalcitrant, but international cooperation is key to finding solutions.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  1. What can states do to implement sustainable practices into the rebuilding process following COVID-19?
  2. How can existing infrastructure be improved to reduce resource consumption while providing an acceptable quality of life?
  3. Are there ways that partnerships can be improved to ensure sustainable practices up and down the international supply chain?

Bibliography

 

United Nations Documents

 

Topic 2: Poverty-Environment Nexus

Poverty is a very harmful and degrading experience, and many countries have therefore chosen to pursue development regardless of the cost to the natural environment. While it is often easier and cheaper in the near-term to pursue development programs that unsustainably exploit the local environment, such programs harm long-term economic stability. Air and water pollution, scarcity of resources and desertification are some of the risks associated with mismanaged environmental resources. These negative effects on the environment due to mismanagement have a severe effect on people living in poverty and can even exacerbate this poverty; rural populations in particular often depend upon the availability of surrounding natural resources to sustain themselves and are forced into poverty when resources dry up. An extreme example in recent decades has been the drying of the Aral Sea due to the diversion of its water sources for cotton cultivation. The majority of the diversion was due to a plan pursued by the Soviet Union to reduce poverty in its Central Asian republics, but these regions now suffer from pesticide-laden dust storms originating from the former sea floor. These economic impacts are exacerbated by worsened health effects from pollution and disease, especially among children and the elderly. Poverty and environmental degradation form a self-reinforcing nexus such that both must be addressed simultaneously.

The effects of global climate change have only exacerbated the threat environmental degradation poses to long term development and the need for Member States to take an active role in adopting a developmental approach that proves sustainable. While developed countries currently account for a large portion of carbon emissions, the contribution from developing countries is large and increasing. Failure to act decisively could result in an uncontrollable expansion of poverty and environmental destruction as natural disasters grow increasingly more common and powerful. These disasters drive mass migration from regions that are heavily affected, increasing resource strain on their host regions. Even developing States that would benefit in the short term from the overexploitation of their natural resources see a large potential increase in long-term poverty as a result of the disruption of global climate patterns and the subsequent effects on agriculture, labor production and health outcomes. No Member State stands to benefit from leaving the issue unaddressed.

The call to address the poverty-environment nexus was first introduced through United Nations efforts on sustainable development. Originally, development initiatives were independent of environmental initiatives, but this nexus became an area of focus for the United Nations in the 1990s, particularly because the threat of global warming became increasingly clear at that time. The 1990 Human Development Report drew clear connections between the protection of the environment and human development, demonstrating the two-way relationship between poverty and environmental degradation. Two years later, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) produced the Rio Declaration which formally called for the eradication of poverty as a necessary component of sustainable development. This was followed by the 2000 Millennium Summit’s Development Goal 7, ensuring environmental sustainability, which identified specific targets at the intersection of environmental protection and economic development, in particular prioritizing the wide adoption of sustainable development principles.

Efforts to address the nexus in the following years were hampered by insufficient coordination between environmental and poverty-related initiatives. In 2005, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP sought to remedy this situation by establishing the Poverty-Environment Initiative, which promoted mainstreaming of the connection between poverty and environmental damage. Despite this recognition of the poverty-environment nexus and individual State- and NGO-led projects concerning the nexus, many development projects continued to lack an environmental component. While UNDP funding for anti-poverty projects came from its core budget, environmental projects were funded by external funds, which were often earmarked for specific projects. The absence of an active monitoring process further discouraged focus on the nexus and reduced recognition of successfully implemented projects. Despite this, an independent review of the Poverty-Environment Initiative’s implementation from 2008–2013 rated it “highly satisfactory” in its strategic relevance, and highlighted that the Initiative was especially relevant to addressing rural poverty.

Member States have since recommitted themselves to addressing the poverty-environment nexus with the passage of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the parallel Addis Ababa Action Plan. The 2030 Agenda posed several benchmarks for assessing if global efforts are succeeding at the intersection of poverty reduction and environmental protection, such as halving the proportion of untreated wastewater by 2030 to reduce biological contamination of ecosystems and water supplies. The Addis Ababa Action Plan poses several more concrete directions for development initiatives to follow, including recognition of the importance of avoiding environmentally harmful activities, a commitment to restructure subsidies that directly increase fossil fuel consumption and devotion of infrastructure funding to the subnational levels in areas that have experienced particularly severe harm from environmental degradation and climate change.

In 2019, the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) of the United Nations Environmental Programme called for Member States to institute reforms to enhance the environmental sustainability of several sectors of their economy, particularly agriculture, forestry, energy and the extractive industry. UNEA followed up with an assessment of these reforms in 2020, which drew focus to certain successful national and subnational initiatives that have increased the sustainability of various economic sectors, such as the education of artisanal miners regarding the dangers of mercury-based gold extraction.

One of the biggest impacts of external factors on the UNEP is the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, there has been a decline in the rate of people living in poverty; however, COVID-19 risks reversing decades of progress to the eradication of poverty in all its forms. Studies done by the UNU World institute for Development Economics Research estimate that the economic impact of COVID-19 could increase global poverty, which has not happened since 1990, and that in some regions of the world the impacts could result in poverty levels returning to those of 30 years ago. Developing countries are most at risk from the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. According to the UNDP, developing countries could lose at least 220 billion USD in income because of the pandemic. There is a danger that countries that are desperate to stem reversals in their development will neglect environmental protection to allow a short-term boost to their economies. In April 2020, the United Nations issued a Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 in response to the Secretary-General’s Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity report in March 2020. The building of relief packages on the nexus of poverty and natural capital will be important in supporting countries and people in need of assistance because of COVID-19. Nature and environmental goals must occupy a central place in recovery strategies and in development policy in order to create a more sustainable future.

Questions to Consider from Your Government’s Perspective:

  1. How can the international community take the environment-poverty nexus into account while planning recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. How can UNEA ensure proper coordination between development and environmental initiatives in the future?
  3. In what ways can the international community promote development models that prioritize reducing net carbon emissions?

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

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General Assembly Third Committee (2022)

The General Assembly Third Committee focuses its discussions on social, humanitarian and cultural concerns that arise in the General Assembly, although its work often overlaps with that of other United Nations organs, including the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies. Human rights, education and cultural preservation are typical issues for the Third Committee. Notably, the Third Committee would not discuss the legal implications of human rights matters, as those are discussed by the Sixth Committee, nor would it call for special studies or deploy monitors, as those tasks are handled by the Human Rights Council. The Third Committee also adheres to the purview guidelines of the General Assembly as a whole.

Topic 1: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continue to fuel tensions both within and between States. Recent events have demonstrated persistent acts of violence informed by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance—including racially-charged police brutality in the United States—heightened xenophobia in South Africa and mistreatment of refugees internationally. Racism and intolerance also affect access to fundamental human rights, for example by perpetuating barriers and inequalities in healthcare, including physical segregation, disproportionate resource allocation and limited cultural competency and tolerance from healthcare providers. These issues have come to the fore in light of the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on groups already marginalized due to race or ethnicity.

Founded in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United Nations has a long history of stated opposition to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The 1945 United Nations Charter and 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights assert that the fundamental rights contained within both documents apply to all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity or origin. However, continued discrimination, particularly the West German “swastika epidemic” of 1959 and apartheid in South Africa, led the General Assembly to augment these documents by adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1963. The Declaration elaborated on the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights while urging the United Nations and Member States to revise institutional structures that perpetuate racism and racial discrimination and highlighting the offense to the dignity of persons that results from racism and racial discrimination. Work done on the Declaration also led to the creation of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The ICERD codified many of the statements in the Declaration while also creating the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and a formal system for submitting complaints. While ICERD was a major step forward in international human rights, States Parties have also entered a significant number of reservations and objections to the Convention, particularly around articles involving hate speech and handling of complaints, limiting its applicability and creating conflicting interpretations of the text. Continued recognition of issues pertaining to racism and intolerance led to the creation of three Decades to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination between 1973 and 2003 as well as the 1978 and 1983 World Conferences Against Racism.

In 1993, the Commission on Human Rights created the position of Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, tasked with monitoring and reporting on the efforts of Member States to address the concerns of victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance appealing to and communicating with States about human rights violations. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action further emphasized the commitments of the international community in eliminating apartheid and for Member States to develop effective policies to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In 2001, the third World Conference Against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa, resulting in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Durban Declaration noted the continued failure to create universal respect for diversity and provided comprehensive international and national frameworks to guide the elimination of racism, with particular focus on persons of African descent, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees. Although the Declaration marked a step forward in addressing racism and intolerance, the conference itself was fraught with controversies, including disagreement over reparationsaccusations of antisemitism against multiple states and NGOs and the withdrawal of the United States and Israel. The Durban Declaration was revisited in 2009 and 2011, with a review meeting planned for 2021, albeit without the support of many Western nations.

Although the United Nations recognizes the need for establishing improved, coordinated and coherent implementation of programs that tackle racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, significant challenges remain. Many of the topics discussed within the context of these issues, including the relationship between racism and police violence and discrimination against migrants, remain highly controversial. Concern also exists that Member States have used the controversial nature of these topics to promote political agendas at the expense of grappling with the issues themselves. Organizers of the 2001 Durban conference, including diplomats and the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, have noted that many states appeared to enter the process with destabilizing goals and were unwilling to engage in the consensus-building seen at prior human rights conferences. These practices have continued beyond the 2001 conference into subsequent review conferences and into the General Assembly’s discussion of other racism-related topics, including annual resolutions regarding the threat of Nazism, which have been accused of being put forward to promote politically-motivated disinformation campaigns and limit freedom of expression. However, this treatment of the topic and its foundational documents comes at a cost for marginalized groups that continue to suffer from racism and intolerance.

A further area of contention is the subject of reparations for those affected by centuries of racism and colonialism, particularly people of African descent. ICERD notes that special measures to advance equity and secure protections for adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals are required as a reconciliation strategy, while the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and racial intolerance noted in 2020 that reparations necessitate moral, economic, political and legal obligations in the pursuit of justice for victims of discrimination and intolerance and that existing mechanisms for reparations have followed patterns of exclusion produced by racial and ethnic inequality within countries. However, the Special Rapporteur also noted significant political and legal opposition to reparations, with former colonizing and slaveholding states arguing that current international law should not be applied to them retroactively.

In the meantime, hate speech, hostility and violence remain significant concerns for the United Nations. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the harmful effects of racism and xenophobia, with race and ethnicity affecting risk of transmission, access to healthcare and access to vaccination. The pandemic has also resulted in a significant rise in racist and discriminatory attacksparticularly against those of Asian descent. This has followed other trends, including an increase in antisemitic attacks and the rise of social media as a means of distributing racist content and ideology. Despite progress in awareness-building, victims struggle to obtain justice and compensation for imposed strife. The continuation of discrimination and a lack of concrete action by the international community jeopardizes the capacity for inclusive and equitable communities.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • What steps can the international community take to protect victims of discrimination and persecution based on racial, ethnic and national origin?
  • What positive actions, such as reparations, should Member States take to support victims or descendants of victims of historical prejudice?
  • How can Member States ensure access to economic, social and political opportunities and recourses for victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance?
  • How can Member States uphold international commitments to best practices for preventing, combating and eliminating adapting manifestations of eradicating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance?

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

Topic 2: Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa

The forced movement of people in sub-Saharan Africa remains widespread. The Secretary-General observed that by the end of 2019, the number of dislocated persons in sub-Saharan Africa reached 33.4 million, up from 26.4 million in 2018. Displacement in sub-Saharan Africa is greater than in any other region of the world. This figure included 6.3 million refugees—people who are outside of their country of origin and unable to return due to threats to their safety—18.5 million internally displaced persons—individuals who have been forced to flee their home to avoid the effects of armed conflict but have not crossed a State border—530 thousand asylum seekers and 975 thousand stateless persons. This increase is attributed to myriad factors, including armed conflict, human trafficking, an economic recession and environmental deterioration. More than four million children in Africa are refugees and more than seven million are IDPs. The United Nations affirmed the increased risk and vulnerability to physical and psychological injury, exploitation and death of children in forced displacement.

In 1951, the United Nations General Assembly convened a Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons to deliberate, draft and sign what would become the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention defined the term “refugee,” outlined their rights to employment, welfare, housing and naturalization, and established the legal obligation of States to protect them. Originally, this Convention was limited to protecting only European refugees displaced as a result and in the aftermath of World War II. In 1967, Member States began to sign the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which broadened the applicability of the 1951 Convention by removing these geographical limitations. This paved the way for the Organization of African Unity (OAU), formed in 1963 and a precursor to the African Union, to promote and protect the rights of refugees, returnees and displaced persons specifically in sub-Saharan Africa with the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention. The OAU Refugee Convention complemented the 1951 Convention and represented the collective undertaking by the Member States of the OAU to assist and protect refugees amid an era of decolonization and in accordance with their respective national legislations. Although ratified by 46 of the 55 African Union Member States, the full implementation of the OAU Refugee Convention remains a challenge. The failure of OAU Member States to implement systematic monitoring mechanisms, legislation and other measures has contributed to long standing barriers affecting asylum processes, restrictions on movements, xenophobia and maltreatment of refugee populations in parts of the continent.

The turmoil of civil wars throughout the 1980s and 1990s created a surge of refugees and IDPs in Africa, and although efforts to help these populations have been ongoing, this increased the need for support from the international community. The United Nations arranged Operation Lifeline Sudan to aid displaced persons in 1989 and 1990, and the Security Council authorized the use of force in Somalia and Rwanda to facilitate delivery of relief for all those affected by civil wars. In 1992, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on assistance to refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons in Africa, requesting that additional resources be dedicated to refugee programs and calling on the Secretary-General and UNHCR to continue their support of these persons.

While the 1992 General Assembly resolution addressed IDPs alongside refugees, there has not always been equal support for all of these groups. The Secretary-General sought to elevate the plight of IDPs by appointing the first Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons in 1992, but not much was done specifically to help IDPs for years. By 1996, 14 of Africa’s 53 countries would be involved in civil wars, causing strife and displacement throughout the region. In 1995, the Secretary-General of the OAU raised concern about the inconsistency in treatment among these different groups. This initiated a conversation about ensuring that those displaced internally within a State were receiving similar support to those that have become refugees in another State. While not legally binding, in 1998, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons submitted the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to the United Nations as a framework for ensuring that IDPs are receiving the same assistance as other displaced persons.

Concerns about internally displaced persons continued to erupt throughout the 2000s, even as the number of refugees declined year after year. Between 2000 and 2008 the number of refugees in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 3.4 million to 2.1 million. Meanwhile, two million people were newly displaced within States in 2008, bringing the total of internally displaced persons on the continent to 11.6 million. To address the challenge, the African Union, in collaboration with the UNHCR and other international organizations, established the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa in 2009. Also known as the Kampala Convention, this framework operationalized the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and turned to addressing immediate issues and root causes affecting internal displacement, including intrastate conflict and gender-based violence. As of June 2020, the Convention has been ratified by 31 of the 55 States of the African Union, with many others expressing interest in doing so, showing the wide-ranging support throughout the continent. Some reasons why some States have not yet ratified the Convention include an overwhelming number of other priorities, IDPs not being numerous in the country and a lack of appreciation for the value of ratification.

The Kampala Agreement and its subsequent implementation failed to abate the continuously growing number of IDPs in sub-Saharan Africa, which has surged since 2015 due to a mix of near-term and long-term factors. In recent years, Africa has hosted a third of the world’s conflicts and, consequently, a third of the world’s displaced persons. Thirteen African States, all of which are enduring internal conflict—caused in part by instability or corruption—rather than interstate conflict, account for nearly 90 percent of the 25 million people displaced on the continent. Looking forward, growing populations across the continent will continue to intensify the pressure on the limited resources of States, and environmental pressures exacerbated by climate change will amplify population dislocation. The World Bank projects that in the absence of large-scale action to reverse and adapt to climate change, more than 85 million sub-Saharan Africans could be forced to leave their homes by 2050. In their most recent report to the General Assembly on this topic, the Secretary-General called upon Member States, development partners and financial institutions to support inclusive approaches that resolve conflict and promote durable solutions. To this end, in 2020 the UNHCR launched a 186 million USD appeal to the international community to provide lifesaving protection and assistance to the Sahel region of Africa. Although assistance like this could alleviate some of the pressure facing displaced persons, the Secretary-General notes that long-term, adequate and predictable funding will be critical to fully address the challenges facing refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • What implementation strategies can Member States adopt to expand existing protections and support for refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa?
  • How can the international community strengthen regional mechanisms to preemptively identify and support persons vulnerable to displacement?
  • What steps can Member States take today to prepare for future causes of displacement, such as growing populations and climate change?

Bibliography

United Nations Documents

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General Assembly First Committee (2022)

The General Assembly First Committee addresses the disarmament of conventional weapons, weapons of mass destruction and related international security questions. The First Committee makes recommendations on the regulation of these weapons as they relate to international peace and security. The First Committee does not consider legal issues surrounding weapons possession nor does it address complex peace and security issues addressed by the Security Council. The First Committee also adheres to the purview guidelines of the General Assembly as a whole.

Topic 1: Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security

Governments, businesses and the general public around the globe increasingly rely on information and communication technologies (ICTs) in almost every aspect of life and work. From their role in providing government services and communicating public safety information, to enabling digital commerce and keeping friends and families connected worldwide amid a global pandemic, ICTs will continue to be a constant fixture of 21st century society. Governments have also used ICTs as instruments in maintaining international peace and security, yet these same tools can be used maliciously by State and non-State actors, presenting a bevy of risks. High-profile cyber attacks, such as the targeting of Iranian and Indian nuclear power plants, as well as an abundance of foreign electoral interventions in recent memory, illustrate the international cybersecurity implications of ICTs. The early months of the coronavirus pandemic unleashed a wave of cyber attacks targeting healthcare organizations and medical research facilities for informational and financial gain. As malicious actors work to hack States’ digital infrastructure to gain access to high-level information and state secrets, States have progressively joined the discussion around the need for an international framework for advancing peace and security in cyberspace.

The United Nations first addressed information security in 1998, when the Russian Federation added the topic to the agenda of the First Committee. In addition to recognizing the importance of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, Resolution 53/70 called for States to submit reports articulating their stances on the issues of information security to the Secretary-General, initiating an iterative process that has become a key confidence-building measure for understanding where States stand on this ever-evolving subject. Subsequent resolutions on this topic recurred in the First Committee year after year with minimal changes until 2004, when Resolution 58/32 authorized the first Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)—experts from 15 States, appointed by the Secretary-General yet working in their personal capacities—to consider existing and potential threats in the sphere of information security, potential measures for cooperation, and international information security issues. Experts—on behalf of their States—brought different perspectives and priorities to the GGE, with Russia, China, Brazil and Belarus promoting the right of States to ensure their own information security and the adoption of a new international legal regime, and the United States and European countries rejecting calls for cyber disarmament. These fundamental differences resulted in the failure of the first GGE to adopt a consensus report, an outcome that stifled progress on this topic until different circumstances permeated the political and security environment as a new GGE convened in 2009.

Cyber-related national security incidents instigated by Russia against Estonia in 2007 and Georgia and Lithuania in 2008 tempered the contentious political climate as participating experts from both West and East brought compatible priorities to the table as the second GGE convened between 2009 and 2010. Finding common ground on some aspects of this topic, the second GGE produced a consensus report, which the General Assembly adopted without a vote, demonstrating the body’s support for the process. The report’s contents mostly amounted to early cyber confidence-building measures, but experts recognized the gravity of threats posed in the sphere of information security, agreed to continue discussing norms pertaining to State use of ICTs, and noted a need to explore measures to reduce collective security risks and protect national and international infrastructure from cyber attacks. The subject of international law’s application in cyberspace has proven to be a stumbling block in negotiations, given that most of the existing body of international law lacks specialized rules for regulating cyberspace. The United States and several Western countries have argued for international law’s applicability in cyberspace, while Russia and China have called for a new international cyber convention. The third GGE in 2013 addressed the longstanding open question by bringing the experts together in agreement that the existing framework of international law—in particular the United Nations Charter—is applicable to cyberspace, and that future forums could discuss how it does so with greater granularity. The consensus report produced by the fourth GGE, now expanded to 20 experts, included for the first time a separate section listing 11 voluntary norms of responsible State behavior in their cyber activities. These include norms that States should cooperate in developing and applying measures to increase stability and security in the use of ICTs, States should consider how best to cooperate in exchanging information and assisting each other to address terrorist and criminal uses of ICTs, and States should take appropriate measures to protect their critical infrastructure from ICT attacks in pursuit of creating a global culture of cybersecurity.

The second, third and fourth GGEs established the foundation for today’s discussions on State behavior in cyberspace, but gridlock and backsliding characterized the fifth GGE that met between 2016 and 2017. Some States appeared to change their positions on the applicability of international law in cyberspace. The applicability of international humanitarian law and the question of whether States could respond to cyber attacks using non-cyber means created friction points that prevented consensus. One attributed cause for this dysfunction is the nature of the GGEs’ closed proceedings and their limited participation list involving only 25 Member States at this point, which failed to create a global environment that encouraged widespread, transparent implementation of the consensus reports’ voluntary norms and principles. Separately, the complex geopolitical environment of 2016 and 2017 made negotiations on this delicate subject more difficult to broach among the great power participants. In 2018, debate arose in the General Assembly First Committee over the next iteration of working groups, with Western interests backing a sixth GGE in Resolution 73/266, while the Russian Federation proposed a novel Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) in Resolution 73/27. In contrast to the GGEs of years past, the OEWG would be open to any and all interested United Nations Member States. Although this might address some of the perceived issues with the GGE’s limited membership, some watchdog groups noted that the resolution establishing the OEWG omitted references to the past GGEs’ consensus reports on the applicability of existing international law in cyberspace. Ultimately, the General Assembly adopted both resolutions, with a majority of Member States voting in favor of both.

Although pessimism filled the air as the two working groups set out to fulfill their mandates, both the sixth GGE and the OEWG submitted final consensus reports in 2021 that now await adoption in the General Assembly First Committee, marking important milestones and highlighting existing gaps in State capacity. Rather than acting as two groups with competing mandates, each carved out unique roles for themselves. The sixth GGE—comprised of 25 Member States—created an ecosystem where a fewer number of States could deliberate some of the more complicated and politically contentious aspects of this topic, while the OEWG—open to all interested Member States—served as a forum to build capacity and diffuse technical knowledge among the States who were not as involved with the previous GGEs. These dynamics came to pass as the bodies grappled with the quarrelsome topic of international law’s application to State behavior in cyberspace. The GGE actively engaged in sophisticated discussions concerning international law, including the role of international humanitarian law, State sovereignty, due diligence and State countermeasures. In contrast, the OEWG only commented on the applicability of international law in cyberspace at a high level—reaffirming the third and fourth GGE reports—and urged further capacity building on the subject. The vast majority of States did not issue a position concerning international law, potentially out of political considerations or due to a lack of legal capacity to understand and contribute to the topic. With the adoption of Resolution 75/240 in January 2021, deciding to convene a second OEWG from 2021–2025, questions abound of how the OEWG can continue to build capacity among and broaden the conversation to more Member States.

The ability of the sixth GGE to produce a consensus report that built upon past reports, when the fifth GGE failed, marks a step toward the implementation of norms and principles concerning State behavior in cyberspace. Absent from the report, however, is any mention of accountability in the context of State behavior, a difficult subject that could limit implementation unless the international community reaches consensus around ways to follow through on and enforce their commitments. So far, 47 Member States have called for the creation of a Programme of Action for advancing responsible State behavior in cyberspace, an action-oriented international framework and political commitment to address challenges related to the use of ICTs in the context of cybersecurity that States and other stakeholders face. Both of the recent reports from the GGE and OEWG recommended that the topic of a potential Programme of Action be added to the agenda of the second OEWG in order to ensure that the interests and concerns of all Member States are taken into account through equal State participation. As discussions trend toward establishing some form of Programme of Action, a natural point of reference will be the 2001 Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, also established under the auspices of the General Assembly First Committee. A cyber Programme of Action could be an effective bridge between calls for a legally binding treaty and the current voluntary normative framework established through the two working groups. Applying lessons from the 2001 Programme of Action could inform a new Programme of Action concerning cyberspace. Some civil society organizations are already encouraging the United Nations to be ambitious, focus on action and accountability, and ensure all stakeholders are engaged throughout all phases of negotiation and implementation in order to secure responsible State behavior in the context of international peace and security.

 

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • How should the enforcement of international law be changed to effectively regulate State behavior in cyberspace and preserve international peace and security?
  • How can the United Nations and the international community help build capacity and knowledge among Member States concerning the role of ICTs in the context of international security?
  • What measures should Member States include in a new Programme of Action to ensure States remain accountable to their commitments to responsible behavior in cyberspace?
  • What lessons from the 2001 Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons can be applied to a new Programme of Action on cyberspace? What concerns and recommendations will civil society organizations offer?

Bibliography

United Nations Documents:

Topic 2: Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control

With the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979, the United Nations recognized the importance of complete disarmament in achieving full equality between men and women. Since then, the international community has increasingly examined the unique, nuanced and diverse ways in which armed conflict disproportionately affects women, and often in gender-specific ways. In 2019, 96 percent of conflict-related sexual violence targeted women and girls. Explosive weapons also often target marketplaces, the second highest location for civilian casualties, which disproportionately affects women, who are often responsible for buying food and household necessities at markets. Despite carrying many of the burdens of the consequences of conflict, women tend to be underrepresented in decisions that are made regarding disarmament, with only three out of every 10 peace agreements between 1992 and 2019 including any women in their negotiation or signing. Ensuring the equitable representation of women’s voices on the issues of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control is necessary to promote collective security and stability for all Member States, as research has shown that peace talks which meaningfully involve women yield a greater likelihood of lasting peace.

In 2000, the Security Council passed a resolution encouraging Member States to include the perspective of women in all fields of operations, including in peace negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction and disarmament. Subsequently, the Office of Disarmament Affairs adopted a Gender Action Plan in 2003 to explore the connection between disarmament and gender equality, incorporate gender into its ongoing work, and advocate for including gender perspectives and advocates in disarmament discussions. Progress in implementing this plan was slow and uneven; by 2004 the Secretary-General noted that women’s participation in developing policies and guidelines had increased, while substantial gaps remained in directly including women in conflict resolution processes. The ad hoc nature of voluntary financial contributions for initiatives focused on increasing attention to gender perspectives, protecting the human rights of women and promoting women’s participation in the arms control space have contributed to slow progress in the resolution’s implementation. In 2006, the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects convened and established concrete recommendations for gender mainstreaming and including women in the implementation of the original 2001 United Nations Programme of Action (PoA), a foundational policy document in arms control. While the original PoA provided detailed policy recommendations, it did not discuss how the illicit small arms trade affects women or what their role is in addressing disarmament. The report created a set of guidelines focused on four areas: women’s relevance in combating the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons; planning and implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; national and regional foci; and civil society and public awareness initiatives. These guidelines were reviewed again in 2010 and 2016 and have served as references for efforts moving forward.

The General Assembly passed a resolution in 2010 focused solely on women’s role in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, the first of its kind, and adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in 2013, now the primary international agreement regulating the legal movement and transfer of arms. Articles Six and Seven of the ATT call on States to assess the risk of arms being used to commit violence against women and children and deny any arms transfer if there is an overriding risk that the arms may be used to commit or faciliate gender-based violence, finally formalizing the need to address gender in armed conflict. While the ATT marks a step toward progress in the women and arms control space, a lack of accountability mechanisms for States that violate the treaty, as well as the failure of many States to provide their assessed financial contributions for implementation efforts, may be limiting the agreement’s potential to address gender-based violence.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the United Nations continued its efforts to address women’s participation in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, notably through Goal 5 on gender equality and eliminating gender-based violence and Goal 16 on reducing illicit arms trafficking. In 2018, the Secretary-General reported that some progress had been achieved among Member States in increasing female representation within their disarmament efforts. The United Nations has seen increased funding to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. Many countries have reported increased numbers of women in government and armed forces positions. Women increasingly participate in peace negotiations. The Office of Disarmament Affairs also implemented the Women Scholarship for Peace initiative to train young female professionals on peace, disarmament and non-proliferation, leading to 170 early career female professionals from the global South receiving scholarships in the program’s first year. Despite this progress, as of 2019, women still only account for 32 percent of the participants at disarmament meetings, and account for 24 percent of delegation heads in the General Assembly First Committee, the Conference on Disarmament and the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meetings.

One outstanding issue is the lack of access and resources allocated to address the specific challenges facing women. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs provide support in many forms—including services, cash incentives, healthcare, training, travel remittance, small business grants or housing support—to halt conflict and reintegrate people and groups involved in armed conflict into society at large, contributing toward peace, security and disarmament. One barrier is that women do not register for DDR programs at a high level. Prevailing gender norms in some countries may prevent women from declaring themselves as members of an armed force out of fear for social sigma. Some DDR programs also fail to sufficiently address the gender-specific needs of either women and girls or men and boys, and how gender-specific needs fluctuate as gender norms change. Inhibiting access for women and girls to DDR support packages makes it less likely that they will make it to the negotiation table, and diminishes the likelihood that the economic and physical needs of women affected by armed conflict will be acknowledged, hindering the success of disarmament efforts.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective:

  • What steps can the international community take to further implement the Arms Trade Treaty and reduce the risk of arms being used to perpetuate violence against women?
  • How can the United Nations and Member States increase women’s participation, at all levels, in the field of disarmament?
  • How can Member States improve women’s access to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs? How can DDR programs be more responsive to the gender-specific needs of women?

Bibliography

United Nations Documents:

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Metro Kansas City Model United Nations Conference 2022

Metro Kansas City Model United Nations conference scheduled for Wednesday April 6, 2022 at Yardley Hall and Regnier Center on the JCCC campus.

It is my distinct pleasure to cordially invite you to the Metro Kansas City Model United Nations Conference (MKCMUN). MKCMUN is a complex simulation which can provide a rewarding educational experience for High and Middle school participants. By simulating the structure and operations of the United Nations, MKCMUN gives its participants the opportunity to experience the international milieu that the diplomats experience themselves. To this end, groups of students are assigned to serve as the delegations from a particular country to selected committees of the United Nations. Members of each delegation familiarize themselves with all aspects of their country – political, social, and economic. Then within the framework of the MUN they work to represent their country’s policies and attain solutions to contemporary international problems. The success or failure of their representation depends upon the delegate’s understanding. The MUN delegate must understand why his or her country follows certain policies.

The purpose of the MKCMUN is to advance knowledge and understanding of the international system and to highlight the eternal search for consensus as a necessary factor for international peace and security in today’s world. In addition, the MKCMUN provides for its participants a working knowledge of other countries and the relationships between these countries. Hopefully, the insights gained through this simulation will be applied to the very real problems confronting our world today, and in the years to come.

The Metro Kansas City Model United Nations (MKCMUN) will be a one day online zoom. Registration

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Welcome to the Metro Kansas City Model United Nations Conference

The Metro Kansas City Model United Nations (MKCMUN) conference offers students and faculty a unique, challenging, and life-changing experience. Our simulation is designed to help students gain a practical understanding of pressing international issues from a perspective outside of the classroom, and thus broaden their awareness of international politics. In representing another nation’s delegation to the United Nations, students further realize the difficulties and complexities of international relations and policy negotiations.

Our Conference has three goals:

  • to promote interest and understanding of the nations of the world;
  • to help students gain a broader perspective of global issues and the role of the United Nations in world politics; and
  • to encourage investigation into the field of international studies.

We are proud to offer an affordable Model UN conference that provides thoroughly researched background materials, well-trained and welcoming staff prepared to facilitate the will of our delegates, and a unique simulation involving committee sessions, plenary sessions, and yearly events for each simulated organ of the UN. We prioritize providing simulations that will challenge both new and experienced delegates year after year.

We have come a long way since our first conference: we have witnessed advancements in technology and information accessibility and have become familiar with the need for hands-on learning that our delegates have shown us over the years. Whether our evolution comes through streamlining our online registration process, becoming more sustainable in our practices, uploading our resolutions in real-time for delegates to see online before voting procedure, or adding new “event simulations” to our plenary sessions, our conference will continue to grow. We welcome you to attend and grow with us.

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