Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC)
The ban on lethal autonomous weapons
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, have already been vastly utilized in warfare, changing the dynamics of it. However, drones were essentially still man-operated. With the significant improvements of artificial intelligence over the last years, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), also called ' killer robots' in popular language, are soon to enter modern warfare. Some scientists and popular figures have already called for a pre-emptive ban on LAWS due to various morality issues accompanied by artificial intelligence’s (AI) involvement on the battleground with no human control. The UN should react to these future challenges and prevent possible abuses of LAWS while at the same not discouraging the improvements associated with AI as such.
The militarization of the Artic
The Arctic region’s legal status has been widely disputed over the last several decades with states such as Russia, Canada, and Denmark, all within the Polar circle, claiming territorial sovereignty over parts of the Arctic. The geostrategic importance of the Arctic relates to its potential as a trade route as well as the sizable amounts of undiscovered oil and gas in the region. As a result of the increasing competition for the dominance over the region, Russia, Canada and Denmark began engaging in more aggressive tactics to establish influence in the Arctic by illegitimately stepping up their military presence in the region. How can the United Nations prevent further escalation and provide a diplomatic solution for the region’s division that is sustainable and respectable for each state?
The role of private military and security companies in reducing armed conflict
Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) have proliferated since the end of the Cold War. While previous scandals, e.g. those involving Executive Outcomes or Blackwater, still haunt the industry, many countries (the most renowned example being the United States) nonetheless contract large part of their military power. Even the UN themselves have increasingly come to rely on private forces in their peacekeeping operations. Additionally, the PMSC industry itself has tried to disassociate from various bad connotations (for example, by adopting voluntary codes of conduct). Shifting the focus from the traditional skepticism regarding the PMSCs, it is important to consider the possible ways in which legitimate PMSCs can contribute in diminishing international conflict and ensuring peace and security.
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Ensuring access to clean water resources in rural communities
Ensuring universal access to clean water resources is vital in tackling many of the problems the world faces today, such as famine, poverty, draught and political instability. In response to Sustainable Development Goal 6 (“Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”), countries have already taken measures to improve the situation. Nonetheless, many people continue to live under conditions of water stress and the problems are bound to become even more urgent due to climate change. Water scarcity is especially pertinent in rural communities that are too often marked by lower socio-economic development, and thus, are more likely to suffer from a lack of basic drinking water, worse sanitary conditions, and are heavily reliant on agriculture. ECOSOC should take into consideration the special condition of rural communities when working to ensure access to water.
The role of gender in post-conflict peace building: A case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Though the call for gender equality in post-conflict peace building reaches as far back as the Beijing Platform for action of 1995, the importance of gender equality in peace building operations continues to be neglected in various countries across the world. After a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed observed, “the international community needs to better understand the role of women in development and peace building alongside the gender dimensions of conflict if our responses are to be effective.” The DRC, particularly, is marked by low levels of women’s political participation and is experiencing conflicts marked by extremely high levels of sexual- and gender-based violence. The deputy chief further contended that investing in women and girls must be central to global efforts toward sustainable peace and development the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is time that the international community finally and fully embraces the principles on gender equality set out so many years ago; specifically, in the situation of post-conflict peace building in the DRC. These peace building efforts should focus on dismantling the DRC’s existing paternalistic structures that limit women’s emancipation. ECOSOC can play a fundamental role by offering structural measures, such as careful stimulation of women participation. How can women be of help in ensuring peace?
The development of viable economies in refugee camps.
According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, there are now more refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) than at any point since World War II. Whereas refugee camps were intended to serve as temporary shelters for those running from distress, some of them have evolved into city-like structures with thousands of people. For example, the largest refugee camps in Kenya now count more than 100,000 residents. Whether in such a large or in a smaller camp, the situation for the residents is oftentimes grave. Residents are lacking employment, education and housing opportunities, malnutrition and illnesses plague many of the settlements, and black markets thrive. How can viable economies be built in the many refugee camps spread throughout the world so that the situation does not undermine their residents’ dignity and empowers (temporarily) displaced children and adults alike?
Security Council (SC)
International approach to the sharing of information with regards to counter-terrorism action
According to the Global Terrorism Index, the year 2016 registered a surge in terrorism in the OECD countries of 650% compared to 2015 and it was the deadliest year since 2001 with regard to terrorist attacks. At the same time, however, global terrorism has fallen by 10% overall. Ironically though, 72% of all terrorism related deaths can be traced back to only five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan. These numbers show that while there has been a steep increase in terrorist attacks in OECD countries, the majority of the victims of terrorism nonetheless come from non-OECD countries. This global trend was commented on by Steve Killelea, the Executive Chairman of the Institute of Economics and Peace, as follows, “While on the one hand the reduction in deaths is positive, the continued intensification of terrorism in some countries and its spread to new ones is a cause for serious concern and underscores the fluid nature of modern terrorist activity”. This fluid nature of modern terrorism is what needs to be addressed by the international community.
The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy already in existence consists of a resolution and an annexed Plan of Action composed of 4 pillars:
In order to attain the goal, set out by these four pillars, communication between the different nations trying to combat terrorism is crucial. Only if the states cooperate with each other, can the fight against terror be maximally efficient. Yet at the same time considerations of privacy as well as feeding information that could be misused by hostile states comes into play. And what about the states that allegedly engage in “state-sponsored-terrorism”?
Responsibility to Protect in the Philippines
In June 2016 Rodrigo Duterte became the 16th president of the Philippines. Since his administration the country has been confronted with his strict rule against drugs - quickly after assuming office, he declared an all-out war against drugs, their users, dealers and producers. Media are talking of ‘death squads’ that operate solely to track and kill anyone who has any relations in the production and use of narcotics. Duterte’s tactics have been severely criticized by several scholars and politicians (for example Obama and Trudeau) but he has shown no intentions of stopping his ‘war’ on drugs. Nevertheless, Duterte remains very popular among the Filipino society, and they praise his policies.
While the government of the Philippines has sovereign authority to maintain law and order within its borders, including punishing those who deal in illegal drugs and commit acts of terrorism, it is obligated to do so with respect to International Human Rights Law. Filipinos are at a growing risk of extrajudicial killings that may amount to crimes against humanity. By openly calling upon armed vigilantes to join his ‘war on drugs,’ President Duterte has actively promoted an atmosphere of impunity for murder. The government of the Philippines is failing to uphold its Responsibility to Protect all Filipinos from crimes against humanity, including those accused of drug offenses. Is it the responsibility of the United Nations to interfere? How should the United Nations interfere, or if not, why not?
Build-up of the military tension in Eastern Europe (with a focus on Romania)
Over the years tensions in East-Europe have been on the rise again. Last year, Britain has send fighter jets to Romania. The United States are dispatching troops, tanks and artillery to Poland. Germany, Canada and other NATO countries also pledged forces. Such moves have been the result of an increase of Russian troops at its borders with Europe.
Tensions in East-Europe have been rising over the past couple of years. Among the countries in the region is Romania, where fear of possible military action from Russia has also grown. Both sides have been increasing their armies at the borders and have asked allies for further support. A standoff is in place and is showing similarities to the arms race that happened during the Cold War. Since May 2016, the United States have installed a proclaimed ‘missile-interceptor’ unit that will be fully operational in 2018. While the unit should improve the security of Romania and Europe, Putin describes it as a part of United States’ nuclear strategic potential brought onto a periphery. Together with the implementation of sanctions imposed by the EU, the relation between Russia and Romania deteriorates. At the same time, yearly military exercises are taking place in Romania, where several regional countries engage in trainings to counter the possibility of a foreign invasion. Can such factors be seen as possible features for a new Cold War? How should the United Nations handle this situation and try to dismantle the effect of deterrence with the arms race at hand?
Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
The eradication of bonded labor
Debt bondage remains one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in all regions of the world despite being banned in international law and most domestic jurisdictions. Bondage often begins when a worker takes a loan or salary advance from his or her employer to pay for a large expense, e.g. a religious ceremony, a wedding, a medical bill or covers presumed employer’s costs of finding a job in a distant area. Subsequently, the debtor, and frequently other family members, is obliged to work for the employer or contractor for reduced wages until the debt is repaid. Additional loans are taken out to meet essential needs and the debt mounts, creating a perpetual cycle of indebtedness and exploitation.
Bonded labor is the main form of forced labor, affecting mainly the South Asian countries of India, Nepal and Pakistan. Poor people find it impossible to repay the loan or salary advantage for a combination of reasons, including high interest rates, low pay, and over-inflated prices for agricultural or other essential production inputs provided by the landlord or employer. Illiteracy compounds the problem, as debtors are unable to keep or verify records of the loan payments they have made, and in most cases no written contract exists in the first place. Violence and threats of violence can be used to enforce the bond as well as more subtle strategies, such as exclusion from future employment. In the worst of cases, children can be bonded independently of their families or inherit their parents' debts.
Effective provision of humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict
Although denial of humanitarian access is condemned in the UN, some Member States nonetheless willingly disobey the international norms (e.g. Syria, Myanmar). Doing so, however, is oftentimes nothing but a violation of civilian protection principles as laid down by General Assembly Resolution 46/182, allowing the lives and security of the people affected to be determined by the arbitrariness of war. The resolution sets out a two-sided approach, which focuses both on the humanitarian actors’ access to those in need as well as the affected populations’ access to assistance and services.
But even in cases of non-denial, the delivery of much needed aid and support to people in areas of conflict runs into much difficulties. In the 2010 Report on the Protection of Civilians, the Secretary General pinpointed to three concrete problem areas, which encroach the effective provision of humanitarian access:
With humanitarian access often being the only form of protection civilians enjoy under severe conditions of war, how can it be guaranteed to be delivered effectively and on time?
Securing universal legal identity.
Legal identity is not only a human right, but also forms the basis for the exercise of other rights. Currently, unregistered lives pass unrecognized by the state and the rights of such persons are not legally protected. Registering individuals would not only directly benefit the persons at stake, but also the States and various development programs as they could be planned more efficiently when considering more precise population numbers. Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 already puts an emphasis on the birth registrations as a means of ensuring legal identity (“by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”). What (else) can be done to ensure the right to a legal identity and effectively implement it?
International Court of Justice (ICJ)
The Use of Force
Operation Phoenix (Ecuador v. Colombia)
On March 1, 2008, the Colombian military executed Operation Phoenix, a combined arms attack on a Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) terrorist' base located on Ecuadorian territory. A Colombian aircraft targeted the FARC base from a distance and fired upon the camp while remaining in Colombian air space. Following the airstrike, Colombian troops crossed the border and entered the FARC base to verify that the targets had been eliminated. This event drew quick condemnation from the international community, claiming that Colombia violated Ecuador’s territorial sovereignty and the prohibition of the use of force.
This case is particularly interesting since it is about an actual historical event, which has not yet been litigated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Furthermore, it is not as clear cut as it might seem at first. There are multiple legal principles that play into the analysis of the contended case. On the one hand, based on the principle of territorial integrity, it can be argued that Columbia violated Ecuador’s right to territorial sovereignty. On the other hand, Columbia can invoke the legal principles of self-defense and responsibility of sovereignty to justify its actions. Hence, this case can be argued both ways and ultimately comes down to the way in which the above-mentioned principles of international law are presented by the lawyers. Whichever side makes more coherent and convincing arguments can win the case. The judgement will hinge less on the establishment of facts, i.e. did Colombia do it, but rather focus on the interpretation of international legal principles.