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Security Council

Please note that Security Council has an open agenda. Position papers should focus on two topics that are the most concern for your country.

United Nations Security Council


Representatives to the Security Council should note that the agenda provided is only provisional. The Security Council may discuss any international peace and security issue brought before it. For this reason, Representatives must have a broad base of knowledge on current events in the international community. Also, the overviews provided below are only current through the publication of this handbook. Some of the topics listed below may change significantly before the Conference, and Representatives should be familiar with the up-to-date situations. Periodicals are one of the best recommended sources available for day-to-day updates. These include among others: New York Times,UN Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, The Economist and Keesing’s Record of World Events. Also, the UN Foundation’s on-line daily newsletter, the UN Wire, is an excellent resource for timely information. Whenever possible, we also recommend that Representatives familiarize themselves with the most recent report(s) published by the Secretary-General on each situation. These can be found on the UN home page under the Security Council documents section. Please note that the bibliographies for these topics focus primarily on UN sources, as news sources will by definition be dated by the time of the Conference. Representatives may nonetheless wish to consult earlier news sources for general background on the various situations.

Initial background research is provided below for each region, with one or two topics receiving more in-depth analysis. Other topics are also listed with brief synopses. Security Council representatives are neither limited to the main topics discussed or any of the topics listed. Should world events move in a different direction from the topics provided in this handbook, the Security Council is welcome to discuss any peace and security matter which it desires.

Please note that resolutions should be written on the sub-topics of each regional area: i.e., resolutions would not be written about “the Middle East,” but rather about “The Situation in Iraq” or similar sub-topics within the region.


Security Council

Information in this section based on recommended reading found at:

The Security Aspects of the United Nations Charter. United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UN Charter, constituted in San Francisco in 1945, performs three principal functions:

it establishes the UN’s main structures and how they work together;
it lays down the guiding principles which form a legal and moral basis for the Organization’s actions;
and it outlines behavioral norms between states.

Article 24(1) of the Charter provides the Security Council with the ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’ [see Security Council Briefing]. Moreover, Article 2(4) of the Charter asserts that all Members of the UN ‘shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’.

Thus, military aggression against individual countries by UN Member States is effectively forbidden, without the authorization of the Security Council, except in cases of self-defense.

Chapters VI and VII

The sections of the Charter most relevant to the UN’s security function are Chapters VI and VII.

Chapter VI

Chapter VI provides the Security Council with the authority to try to uphold the peaceful resolution of disputes. According to Article 33 (1), the means to realize this objective include: ‘negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement, [and] resort to regional agencies or arrangements’.

Chapter VII

Chapter VII provides for the use of coercive force to counter threats and breaches of international peace and security, as well as acts of aggression, in the form of administering economic and/or military sanctions or authorizing collective military action.

Article 51

Article 51 of the Charter allows for individual or collective self-defense, without the prior consent of the Security Council, until the Council has taken the necessary steps to ensure the maintenance of world peace. Measures taken by Member States under Article 51 must be reported immediately to the Council.

Article 51 has regularly and controversially been cited by states to justify security action in pursuit of primarily national interests without having to refer to the Security Council. For instance, in 1998, the United States quoted Article 51 in reference to its bombing of a chemical plant in Khartoum which it suspected of being involved in terrorist activities against America.

Problems Inherent in the Charter

Contradictions in the Charter have hampered the UN’s ability to realize its security objectives.

The Proliferation of Internal Conflicts

The creators of the UN assumed that states were generally internally stable and would operate primarily through their governments, and so armed conflicts would occur between opposing national armies. In fact, however, the post-World War II era has witnessed an increasing proliferation of internal conflicts, often involving large numbers of non-sate actors. Indeed, of the 27 major armed conflicts in 1999, only two took place between states1. As a result, many of the conflicts after World War II could not be classified as the illegal invasion of one state by another, and so threatened to fall outside the UN’s jurisdiction.

Sovereignty vs. Human Rights

Perhaps the greatest contradiction in the UN Charter is that between supporting individual human rights and the right to state sovereignty and non-interference. Social, economic and human rights issues are emphasized in Articles 55-6, under whose terms all Member States pledge to take joint and separate action to promote (amongst other things): ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all’. However, these ideals can conflict the terms of Article 2(7), which restricts the UN from intervening: ‘in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state’.

The increasing trend towards internal conflict has emphasized this contrast, particularly as international intervention is often undertaken in support of a humanitarian mandate. The contrast was evident in the opposition of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo in March 1999 on the grounds that Kosovo was part of Yugoslav sovereign territory.

Regional Action

The NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia also highlighted problems relating to security action undertaken by regional groups. In particular, concern centered around the fact that the Security Council had not given explicit authorization for NATO’s actions. While Article 52(1) of Chapter VIII of the Charter allows action by regional bodies as long as it is consistent with the UN’s principles, Article 53 (1) declares that ‘no enforcement action shall be taken’ by regional bodies ‘without the authorization of the Security Council’.

Unlike many other simulations, Security Council members are able to make declarative statements and operational decisions that will change the course of the simulation. It will be the job of Council Representatives to actively involve their country’s national policies and national capabilities in solutions to the problems throughout the simulation. While AMUN Simulation Staff will frequently consult with Council members, Representatives are welcome and encouraged to make whatever declarative statements—including real or implied threats and deals—that do not carry operational implications outside of the UN. Representatives must, however, always consult with the Simulation Staff before making ANY operational decisions.

Operational decisions would include announcements of the movements or actions of military forces, as well as any other actions that would have an effect outside of the UN. In these cases, the Simulation Staff would be equated with the actual “home office” of the involved Member States(s).

Note to Delegates: 

The topics covered here are a guide to help direct your research on your State’s position. Due to the nature of this year’s virtual conference the Secretariat will limit topics for our Security Council simulations. The topics presented in this briefing are the topics that the Simulation Directors have decided are the most pressing to maintaining international peace and security

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 conflict 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?
  • Who does this conflict indirectly affect my country? (regionally, alliances, economically, etc)

Maintenance of International Peace and Security (COVID-19) 

The global community has been shaken in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic, a health situation caused by a deadly infectious disease, has spread the world over. As of May 2020, there have been at least 17 million reported cases and 600,000 deaths worldwide– doubling between May and July.

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, along with other United Nations leaders and bodies, have been keeping the Council appraised of the COVID-19 virus and its effects on peace, security, and health across the globe. Between April and June 2020 the Council considered, but ultimately did not act on, two possible resolutions on the subject: one related to ceasing worldwide hostilities in the face of the unprecedented health crisis, and one related to abandoning trade wars and unilateral sanctions.

Following months of illness, death, and the further exacerbation of humanitarian crises across the globe, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2532 on 1 July 2020. This resolution calls for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations, on its agenda”, calling on all parties in armed conflict across the globe to engage in a “humanitarian pause” for a minimum of 90 days to enable access to medical and other humanitarian aid. Many organs of the United Nations are currently engaged with efforts to address concerns related to COVID-19. No one entity bears the total responsibility for the crisis and inter-agency along with international cooperation is essential for understanding and progress on this issue. For the purposes of this simulation, Representatives should focus their efforts on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security within the global experience of COVID-19 and how COVID -9 may impact other ongoing and future efforts by the Security Council.



UN Document

The Situation in the Middle East 

The Security Council has been engaged with the work of maintaining peace and security within the Middle East since the United Nations was established. While there are a number of issues within the Middle East that present clear domestic and international threats, the Council has been focusing its recent efforts on the situations in Syria, Yemen, and Israel and Palestine due to rapidly escalating security concerns and worsening humanitarian crises in all three places.

The Israeli and Palestinian Questions 

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 discourse on the matter and previous resolutions on the matter. On June 24, 2020, Secretary-General Antoni Gutierres urged Israel to cease plans to annex areas of the West Bank territory.

The United Nations and the Security Council remain abreast of the Israeli and Palestinian Questions. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has sent letters to the members of the Security Council regarding the Israeli Annexation Plan, in reference to their resolution from 10 June 2020On July 14, 2020, the EU Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has requested European Union Member States to act against the Israeli action to annex Palestinian territory and return to a peaceful two state solution approach, though Hungary has notably been closely in support of the Israeli state.


Civil war began in the Syrian Arab Republic in March 2011 when government security forces began using deadly force on pro-democracy protests emboldened by the Arab Spring movement. Nationwide resistance against President Bashar al-Assad, his regime and the nation’s military forces sprang up in response. Violence between anti-regime groups and the Syrian Armed Forces, along with international military allies assisting the Assad government, raged for years before beginning to slow in 2018.

Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War, there have been at least 300 instances of chemical warfare employed by both the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition, claiming thousands of lives and causing countless injuries. Dozens of peace talks and numerous attempts at ceasefire agreements did little to stem the violence until the Syrian Regime—with the help of allied military forces—recaptured the majority of the country in 2018. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has estimated that the war has claimed at least 500,000 lives, left more than 6 million Syrians internally displaced and forced at least 5.5 million Syrian refugees out of the country. While most large-scale fighting in Syria has ebbed, at least 400 civilians have already been killed thus far in 2020, and the humanitarian crisis within the country and for Syrian refugees around the Middle East and Europe remains dire.

Further complicating the security situation in Syria, forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began swelling into the country during the conflict in 2013, fighting with rebels, Syrian military forces, and other extremist groups operating in the region. ISIL controlled several major cities, including Raqqa, which served as the ISIL de facto capital in the region until 2017. The United States and its coalition partners—mainly the United Kingdom, France, Jordan and Turkey—conducted air and missile strikes on ISIL and some rebel targets in Syria beginning in 2014, and against Syrian government targets since early 2017. In 2015, Russia also joined in providing aerial support against ISIL, with full support from the Assad regime. Following several years of air strikes, United States President Donald Trump ordered the abrupt withdrawal of United States troops from Syria in late 2019, giving way for Turkish troops to swiftly launch attacks against Kurdish forces, long time United States allies, operating in Northern Syria. As of 2020, ISIL activity is all but eradicated within Syria; however, as of May 2020, both Russia and Turkey still maintain a significant military presence within Syria.

To date, action in the Security Council has been limited. In early 2012, the Council passed Resolution 2042, establishing an observer force to ensure compliance with a tentative ceasefire agreement and Resolution 2043, establishing the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria, (UNSMIS). However, due to escalating violence and lack of cooperation with the Syrian regime, the UNSMIS mandate was not renewed after the original 90 day period, and all personnel were pulled from the region. Other efforts to stymie violence in the country have had little effect on the actions of either rebel or government forces, though several Member States have adopted unilateral sanctions against Syria outside of the Council in retaliation for government attacks on civilians. Since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, Russia (often supported by fellow permanent five member, China) has used its veto power numerous times to block resolutions taking humanitarian, investigative or other action in Syria. While much of the violence in the region has stagnated, Russia’s veto has severely handicapped the Council’s ability to respond to the devastating humanitarian fallout of the war, along with mounting concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The United Nations and the Security Council continue to monitor the situation in Syria as closely as possible, despite little cooperation from the Syrian regime. A tentative truce reached in March 2020 between Russia, Turkey and the Syrian Armed Forces have led many refugees to begin returning to what remains—if anything—of their homes, despite continued incidents of violence. The looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a nation whose infrastructure has been decimated by war, with hundreds of medical facilities destroyed and aid often refused or misappropriated. COVID-19 lockdowns within Syria and in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have further exacerbated the dire economic and humanitarian needs for Syrians affected by the past decade of fighting and subsequent fallout. United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Peterson, on 29 April 2020 called for “a nationwide ceasefire and an all-out effort to ensure that Syrians across the country will have access to the equipment and resources needed to combat and treat COVID-19”.



The situation in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, has been unstable since 2011. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Yemeni Revolution resulted in widespread violence between citizen militias and the Armed Forces of Yemen. The country has been in a constant state of civil war in the intervening years. In addition to civil unrest and violence, Yemen experienced the world’s largest cholera outbreak in 2016, killing thousands and overloading an already threadbare medical infrastructure.

Currently, Yemen continues to be plagued with political instability, violence and rampant humanitarian crises. At least 100,000 Yemeni citizens have died since the country’s 2011 descent into war, and the United Nations reports that at least 8.4 million people are on the brink of starvation and 22.2 million are in need of dire humanitarian assistance within the poverty-stricken county.

In December 2018, negotiators from all sides met in Stockholm, Sweden to work out a ceasefire under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths. These negotiations resulted in a ceasefire; now known as the Hodeidah Agreement or the Stockholm Agreement. As part of the agreement, the Council passed Resolutions 2451 and 2452, creating the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNHMA) and the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) to oversee implementation of the agreement and withdrawal of forces from both sides from certain port cities. As detailed in Resolution 2511, the previously established economic sanctions, asset freeze, and a travel ban on Yemen remain in effect until at least early 2021.

Concern over the situation in Yemen has only increased with the continued global spread of the deadly virus COVID-19. In March 2020, Secretary General António Guterres urged warring parties across the globe to engage in a worldwide ceasefire, as the people of the world deal with the unprecedented global pandemic. Martin Griffiths has also expressed grave concern regarding the spread of the virus as fighting appears to be increasing in the region, stating “At a time when the world is struggling to fight a pandemic, the focus of the parties must shift away from fighting one another to ensuring that the population will not face even graver risks.” The health system in Yemen has all but collapsed in the wake of the ongoing civil war, with few resources to meet the population’s basic health needs much less a deadly, infectious virus. Yemeni health officials report that as of May 2020, hundreds are dying each week as a result of the virus.


UN Documents

The Situation in Libya 

Since Muammar Gaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya has had no stable leadership, and multiple military groups and political factions are competing for control. Some key leaders vying for control include Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads Libya’s internally-recognized Government of National Accord, operating out of Tripoli; Aguila Saleh Issa, speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, governing out of Tobruk; and Field Marshall Khalifa Kaftar, commander of the Libyan National Army. Instability within the country following the outbreak of the Second Libyan Civil War drew the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to the region in 2014, and while their numbers have dwindled considerably, ISIL still retains a hold on much of the country’s interior. The ongoing conflict between the current leadership of the Government of National Accord and the Libyan House of Representatives, supported by Commander Kaftar and the Libyan National Army still rages today despite the 2015 Skhirat Agreement in which all factions agreed to unite under the Government of National Accord. Furthermore, a January 2020 United Nations-sponsored three-point peace plan established at the Berlin Conference and February 2020 demands for a nationwide ceasefire continue to be broken.

Following the outbreak of the First Libyan Civil War in 2011, the Security Council passed Resolution 1973 condemning acts of violence by Libyan authorities against civilians and demanding an immediate ceasefire, establishing a no-fly zone, and establishing the legal basis for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military intervention within Libya. Later that year, the Council passed Resolution 2009, establishing the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which is a political mission still active as of August 2020. Resolution 2016 lifted many international sanctions following Colonel Gaddafi’s death.

While the Second Libyan Civil War has been raging since 2014, other than reauthorizing the UNSMIL mandate annually and reexamining existing arms embargoes, the Security Council took little new action on the situation in Libya until early this year. Citing the deteriorating military and humanitarian crisis in the nation, the Council passed Resolution 2509 on 11 February 2020, which calls for harsher enforcement of the Libya arms embargo and a nationwide ceasefire within the country. On 12 February 2020, the Council passed Resolution 2510, endorsing the Berlin Conference peace talks and tentative 55-point peace plan.

The political, military and humanitarian crises in Libya have all been exacerbated by the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) warns that the ongoing violence has already severely impacted the country’s limited health care system. UNSMIL leader Stephanie Turco Williams has stated that “the virus risk[s] overwhelming an already ‘decimated’ health system.”


UN Documents


The Situation in Kashmir 

The right of rule over the region of Kashmir has been a point of contention for decades between the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and those native to Kashmir and Jammu. The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 resulted in the first Indo-Pakistani war over the region, with a ceasefire established in 1949. Following a period of relative peace, the second Indo-Pakistani War erupted in 1965, and rapidly increased violence across the region for 17 days, killing thousands before a Security Council-mandated ceasefire agreement was implemented and military personnel were ordered to withdraw from the area. Despite some armed skirmishes and a rise in Kashmiri resistance to Indian rule, the region remained in a state of tense stability until violent incidents between India-aligned Hindus and Pakistani-aligned Muslims began to mount in 2015 following increased Indian political influence in the region. This violence has continued to escalate in the area, and along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, since India revoked Kashmir’s status as a semi-autonomous region under the Indian Constitution on 5 August, 2019.

The United Nations and the Security Council have been involved in the Kashmir dispute since its inception. Security Council Resolution 39 established a three-party commission — an Indian ally, a Pakistani ally, and a neutral third party to advise on a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The United Nations remained involved in the region up to and especially following the outbreak of the second Indo-Pakistani War in 1965, resulting in the Council demanding a ceasefire in Resolution 211, and requiring the withdrawal of both Indian and Pakistani troops in Resolution 215. The Kashmir issue has been brought before the Council many times over the years. Following India’s revocation of the region’s status in August 2019, the Council has received numerous updates from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations regarding mounting tension and violence in the region. In March 2020, Secretary-General António Guterres urged warring parties across the globe to engage in a worldwide ceasefire, as the people of the world deal with the unprecedented global pandemic from the COVID-19 virus; on 2 May 2020, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson said this ceasefire should pertain to Kashmir and violence currently breaking out along the Line of Control within the region.

Despite mounting pressure from the United Nations and the international community to maintain peace within the region, violence continues to break out along the Line of Control, with at least 70 already killed in 2020. Tensions have been further exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in curfews, lockdowns and blockades, which are trapping civilians in areas with rampant militant activity.


UN Documents