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Introduction Introduction

The Contemporary Security Council topics below are current as of July 2018 and are not all-inclusive of what the Council might discuss at Conference. With the ever-changing nature of international peace and security, these four topics are a guide to help direct your research for your State’s position.

For each topic area, Representatives should consider the following questions. These questions should assist Representatives in gaining a better understanding of the issues at hand, particularly from your 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?

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The Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (until 1997, known as Zaire) has a long history of political instability, especially in the east. The power of the central government has ebbed and flowed, and, for much of the country’s history, local militias and rebel groups have controlled most areas outside the capital, Kinshasa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is also home to vast mineral wealth including zinc, tin, diamonds, cobalt and gold. Much of the Congolese government’s tax revenue comes from the mining of these resources, but conflict over this wealth funds much of the ongoing fighting and instability, as local militias fight to maintain control of the mines and the workers who operate them and smuggle illicitly produced “conflict minerals” out of the country.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has also been shaped by external conflicts in neighboring states which have crossed their borders. The Second Congo War (1998-2003) was the bloodiest conflict since World War II, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 5.4 million people. It began in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when over two million Rwandans—namely the perpetrators of the genocide—fled to eastern Congo to live as refugees. When these refugees began attacking Rwanda, Rwandan forces invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo multiple times. Local warlords and militias took advantage of the chaos to plunder villages, commit rape on a massive scale and seize diamond and mineral mines. Troops from many of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s neighbors took part in the fighting, in aid of the Congolese government.

The conflict formally ended in July 2003, when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power under the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement between the Congolese government and several of the most powerful rebel and opposition groups, including indigenous rebel factions such as the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo and the Congolese Rally for Democracy. However, most of these rebel groups never fulfilled the terms of the agreement, fearing centralization of power.

In 2000, the Security Council established the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to monitor a cease-fire agreement. In July 2010, MONUC was superseded by the United Nations Organization and Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). At over 18,000 peacekeepers, MONUSCO is currently the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world and likely the most experienced in combat. A joint offensive between MONUSCO and Congolese forces defeated a rebel group known as M23 in late 2012, after the Security Council changed MONUSCO’s mandate to include protecting civilians and monitoring human rights abuses.

President Joseph Kabila, who took power in 2001 when his father Laurent Kabila was assassinated, is now in the seventh year of a five-year term that began in 2011. According to Congolese law, President Kabila was required to hold an election in 2016 and is barred from running again. He did not hold the election as scheduled. On 31 December 2016, the national government and most prominent opposition parties signed the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement in Kinshasa. The agreement called for “peaceful, credible, inclusive and timely elections” no later than December 2017 and a peaceful transition of power. President Kabila has delayed or refused to implement much of the agreement. No elections took place in 2017.

In January 2018, mass protests erupted against Kabila’s failure to step down, mostly at Catholic churches in Kinshasa and other major cities. Kabila used the Congolese police, which he controls, to crack down on the protests. These crackdowns used beatings, teargas and, in some cases, live ammunition, to kill and intimidate protestors. Hundreds of arrests were made. President Kabila’s government has again promised to hold fair elections—this time in December of 2018.

Even outside of the protest crackdowns, the humanitarian situation degraded significantly in 2017. Over two million Congolese were forced to flee their homes, mostly in rural areas, where over 70 rebel groups fight each other and attack civilians. The number of internally displaced people now sits at 4.3 million.

On 27 March 2018, the Security Council renewed MONUSCO’s mandate, reaffirming the Council’s “strong support” for the Comprehensive and Inclusive Political Agreement. In renewing the mandate, the Council focused on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country, with 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and 4.49 million internally displaced persons, and examined MONUSCO’s ongoing role in supporting the election process.

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The Situation in the Middle East The Situation in the Middle East

The situation in the Middle East is multifaceted and spans interests around the region. Due to pressing threats to international peace and security, the Security Council’s primary concerns in the region include but are not limited to the Syrian civil war and the humanitarian and security concerns in the states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. While efforts to address these concerns share a number of geopolitical priorities, each situation also has individual priorities and needs.

The Syrian Civil War The Syrian Civil War

Unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic has sparked political upheaval and violence since the Arab Spring movement in 2011. The Arab Spring spawned local movements calling for a series of reforms, such as social and democratic reform, investigation of violence perpetrated by police and military forces, and the release of political prisoners. Following Arab Spring-affiliated protests, President Bashar al-Assad, who also serves as commander-in-chief of the Syrian Armed Forces, ordered a severe crackdown on all protesters and suspected dissidents. A series of state-sanctioned military strikes against rebel militants and civilians alike followed. The Assad regime made some minor conciliatory gestures in the spring of 2011, but pressure on the Assad regime intensified and violence spread. Syrian government forces continue to battle rebel groups across Syria, even employing banned chemical weapons against military and civilian targets in April 2018 and July 2018. Violence and political upheaval continues to run rampant in Syria, which has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern times. Since the violence began, approximately 400,000 Syrians have been killed, at least 6 million have been internally displaced, more than 5 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries, and over 13 million are in need of humanitarian aid.

In 2012, President Assad agreed to a peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan (the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria). This agreement was reached with the assistance and input of the international diplomatic community, but it ultimately failed to gain the support of other Syrian anti-regime factions. In April 2012, the Security Council passed Resolution 2043 forming the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) to monitor cessation of violence. Syria did not cooperate with the mission, and the mandate expired on 19 August 2012.

Further complicating the issues of governance is the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). From 2013 to 2017, Syria served as a stronghold for ISIL. ISIL controlled several major cities, including Raqqa, which served as their de facto capital in the country. The United States has been providing intermittent airstrikes in the area against ISIL, Kurd, and other rebel groups since 2014. In 2015, Russia also joined in providing aerial support. United States and Russian airstrikes, while helpful in decimating ISIL-held targets, have also killed and injured thousands of Syrian citizens. With few foreign aid programs allowed permission to intervene in the Syrian humanitarian crisis, the rest of the international community has primarily consisted of unilateral actions by individual countries in the forms of monetary aid for displaced peoples and counter-cyber-terrorism efforts to limit ISIL’s recruitment efforts.

To date, action in the Security Council has been limited. In February 2017, Russia and China vetoes killed sanctions against Syria for human rights violations and use of chemical weapons. In April 2018, the Security Council failed again to adopt three resolutions on chemical weapons use by the Assad regime due to Russian veto. This vote marks the 12th time Russia has used its veto to block the Security Council from taking action (humanitarian, investigative or otherwise) in Syria. In a statement to the Security Council in April 2018, Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu expressed support for Russian military intervention in Syria, and encouraged the Council to focus on humanitarian aid rather than punitive measures against the Syrian regime. Outside of the Security Council, many states have taken action in response to the rising death tolls and humanitarian crisis: Turkey has accepted and is housing millions of refugees; the Russian Federation has provided financial and military aid to the Assad regime; and France, the United Kingdom, and the United States carried out a wave of punitive airstrikes against Syrian regime targets following chemical attacks against civilians in April 2018. The number of deaths and displaced peoples in this crisis continues to rise, but political concerns as well as the conditions on the ground have prevented humanitarian aid and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from successfully operating in Syria.

Iraq Iraq

The Republic of Iraq has experienced severe instability since the 2003 invasion by a United States-led coalition and subsequent fall of the Saddam Hussein government. Political instability, economic conditions and international sanctions, civil unrest, and willful sabotage by militant groups have hindered efforts to rebuild in the last two decades. As of June 2018, Iraq has almost 9 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, at least 2 million internally displaced peoples, and over 3 million categorized as being in food crisis.

In 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) emerged as a major force and seized large amounts of territory in Iraq. Between 2014 and 2017, Iran and the United States both contributed significant amounts of military effort (arms, military personnel, etc.) to dismantle ISIL-held territories in Iraq. ISIL was largely forced out of Iraq by a coalition of government and Kurd forces in late 2017. While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi publicly declared victory over ISIL in late 2017, ISIL still operates in Iraq, primarily through the use of small-scale terror attacks and individualized strikes. In September 2017, the Security Council passed resolution Resolution 2379, establishing an investigative team with a mandate to collect, store, and preserve evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has been operating in Iraq since 2003; it was recently renewed until May 2019. In 2003, the Security Council also implemented an arms embargo and several asset freezes with Resolution 1483; as of June 2018, these measures are still in effect. As of late, the Council has been primarily concerned with maintaining territories reclaimed from ISIL groups and gathering evidence of crimes committed by the group.

Yemen Yemen

The situation on Yemen had been deteriorating since the Arab Spring movement in 2011 and the onset of civil war in 2014. In response to protests during the Arab Spring, state-sanctioned violence against civilians escalated to the point that hundreds were killed and thousands were injured in a few short months. In October 2011, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2014, calling on President Ali Abdullah Salih to step down from his position and for all parties to cease fighting. President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the formers president’s second in command, assumed power in early 2012 when former President Salih agreed to vacate his office. However, President Hadi’s term was plagued with instability, political upheaval and violence. Hadi’s government was overthrown by Houthi rebels (Shia political insurgents) in 2014, and parliament was dissolved. President Hadi was moved out of the country in 2015, and, as of July 2018, he is living in exile in Saudi Arabia. Since the Houthi coup in 2014, Yemen has been plagued by constant violence and humanitarian crisis. The instability in Yemen has encouraged many militant groups such as Al Qaeda, Al Dahle and ISIL to gather and operate in the region.

Indiscriminate artillery attacks by a coalition of nine African and Middle Eastern countries (led by Saudi Arabia) against Houthi rebels and other militant groups to regain control of the country on behalf of President Hadi and his government continue to kill civilians and further destabilize the country. Currently, over 22 million Yemeni citizens are categorized as in need of aid, with more than 17 million in food crisis and over 2 million internally displaced.
In February 2014, the Security Council passed Resolution 2140, establishing sanctions against Yemen in response to the rampant violence and egregious human rights violations. In February 2015, The Security Council passed Resolution 2201, deploring the Houthi action to dissolve parliament and imploring all armed actors in Yemen to impose a cease-fire and arms embargo. As of February 2018, the asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban associated with the 2014 sanctions have been renewed until 2019.

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The Situation in Myanmar The Situation in Myanmar

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has long been plagued by warfare and violence. A successful military coup in 1962 created a military dictatorship that led to decades of human rights violations and endless civil war. The egregious actions of the government prompted outrage and condemnation from the international community, resulting in sanctions and Myanmar’s international isolation. By 2003 the resulting economic impact and political pressure led the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the country’s military regime, to propose a seven step roadmap to democracy to begin transitioning the country into a democracy, run by elected officials. In 2010, the state held democratic elections; many former SPDC officials landed in Parliament, granting them de facto control over the country. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed concerns about the fairness of the 2010 election, stating that it lacked credibility. He also expressed frustration that Myanmar would not speak to nor accept assistance from the international community. In 2011, the military relinquished control to a newly established (and, many argue, still SPDC-run) civilian government, leaving the government in transition for several years as the country instituted a parliament and other nominally democratic bodies.

As Myanmar transitions to civilian rule, regional and intra-national tensions linger. The state held free elections again in 2015, but parliament was filled with candidates from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Despite ongoing democratization, civil unrest and violence continue to ravage the country. Armed militant groups continue to engage in violent clashes with each other and the state military. Disagreements arise frequently between the elected civilian government and the military leadership. Widespread ethnic, religious and political tensions threaten the lives of citizens daily.

In August 2017, militants known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked army and police outposts near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, prompting a severe response by Myanmar’s military forces. The ongoing military response has killed thousands of Rohingya people (a small Muslim minority), resulted in widespread sexual violence and destroyed civilian homes. More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled from Rakhine state into Bangladesh. Myanmar’s political and military leaders claim that they have pursued armed militants and not targeted civilians. They also deny claims of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has stated they would be willing to take back all refugees, should they volunteer to return.

The international community has largely condemned the actions of the government of Myanmar for its actions against the Rohingya people. A significant amount of this criticism has come from states with a Muslim majority, who view the attack on the Rohingya people as an attack on the international Muslim community. The government of Myanmar has expressed eagerness to repatriate the Rohingya people but has cited bureaucratic delays to the process. Myanmar’s leadership has also claimed the government of Bangladesh has exaggerated the number of refugees, and blamed false news for the international outcry regarding the Rohingya people.

In September 2017, Secretary-General Guterres briefed the Security Council on the situation, stating “The situation has spiraled into the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.” In November 2017, the Security Council called upon the Myanmar state to end its use of excessive military force and intercommunal violence against the Rohingya people. In their Presidential Statement, the Council also urged the immediate implementation of mechanisms to return the Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine state in Myanmar, along with cooperation for the transport and allocation of humanitarian aid to those displaced. As recently as February 2018, the United Kingdom addressed the Security Council accusing Myanmar security forces of perpetrating ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people. In May 2018, Security Council Members traveled to Bangladesh and Myanmar, reporting back instances of mass rape, attacks on children and civilians, and an immediate need for an influx of humanitarian aid for displaced peoples. In June 2018, Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland was appointed Special Envoy on Myanmar.

As of January 2018, Bangladesh has nearly one million Rohingya refugees in and around camps within their borders. While the influx of new Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh has slowed considerably, repatriation of existing refugees is proving a considerable challenge considering the continued ethnic hostilities and the destruction of hundreds of civilian villages, leaving nowhere for refugees to return. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has taken up a prosecution request regarding what it is calling the “deportation of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya to Bangladesh,” along with other human rights violations; the ICC is giving Myanmar until 27 July to respond.

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Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Korean War began in 1950 when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. Hostilities officially ceased on 27 July 1953, when the parties signed an armistice that created the demilitarized zone at the 38th Parallel. A peace treaty has never been signed, and the two countries remain officially at war. Hostile posturing continued after the armistice, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea engaging in a massive military build-up, while the Republic of Korea continued its own and joint military exercises with its major ally, the United States.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program began with the construction of the country’s first nuclear power reactor in 1963. At the time, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not have the capabilities to build the reactor and received help from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Construction of the reactor and the Soviet assistance were seen as highly suspect in the international community. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had originally sought help from the Soviets to develop nuclear weapons; this request was denied, but some in the international community saw their cooperation on the nuclear power reactor as a way for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to surreptitiously provide support in developing nuclear weapons. An additional reactor was constructed in 1979. In the 1980s, clandestine work on uranium enrichment and explosives testing continued. In 1994, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea concluded the Agreed Framework with the United States. Under this agreement, the United States agreed to assist with the supply of two light-water nuclear reactors to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in exchange for disarmament.

In 2002, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea admitted to the world that it was actively developing nuclear weapons. This program was in direct violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which it had ratified in 1985. The Agreed Framework was officially abandoned following the announcement, and in 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea officially announced its withdrawal from the NPT. The desire to mitigate the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region led to the Six Party Talks, which began in 2003 and included the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, the Russian Federation and the United States of America. The Six Party Talks, which continued intermittently until 2012, resulted in little agreement but some formal economic assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in exchange for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology and an agreement to shut down the nuclear reactor that had been producing plutonium for the weapons experiments. The IAEA confirmed in 2007 that the Yongbyon reactor had indeed been shut down and sealed. During the negotiations, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea repeatedly sought humanitarian assistance such as food and fuel. Most of its citizens were and are desperately poor and frequently on the brink of starvation, while the Kim regime and other top military brass import luxury goods for their own use.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has also faced international backlash over its ballistic missile development program, as many in the world fear they will develop the capabilities to launch nuclear missiles to long range targets like the United States of America. In July 2006, they launched several test missiles, violating a previous moratorium on testing long-range missiles. In response, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1695, which condemned the launches and demanded that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program. Following Resolution 1695, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea began a series of test missile launches, nuclear weapons tests, uranium enrichment programs and weapon trials. These actions were met with increasingly severe condemnations by the United Nations Security Council and the larger international community. The Security Council adopted Resolutions 1718 in 2006 and 1874 in 2009 in an attempt to resume the Six Party Talks, strengthen the sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and have the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea retract its withdrawal from the formerly ratified Treaty on the NPT.

On 17 December 2011, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-il, suffered a fatal heart attack. His son, Kim Jong-un, formally took power in April 2012. Missile launches and nuclear tests continued under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, and, in October 2012, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced that it had a intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland of the United States. This disclosure came two days after the Republic of Korea unveiled a missile deal with the United States. The Security Council continued to condemn the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ballistic missile program and urge compliance with Security Council resolutions.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Director General Yukiya Amano, has expressed deep concern over Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear program, and Member States within the Security Council are persistent with statements critical of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s “highly destabilizing behaviour.”

On 30 November 2016, after numerous nuclear tests of increasing strength, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2321, which imposed the “toughest and most comprehensive sanctions regime ever” against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, according to then-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Since then, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted more tests, and state officials within the region have warned of the possibility of a “regional arms race.” Between February and April 2017, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted over half a dozen ballistic missile tests, with one test landing within 300 kilometers of Japan. During this time period, the United States, under President Donald Trump, implemented a policy of “maximum pressure,” seeking the toughest sanctions possible at the United Nations while continuing military exercises with the Republic of Korea.

The People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s largest and most powerful ally, has repeatedly used the threat of its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to weaken resolutions that would take action against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while at the same time increasing economic pressure by reducing or eliminating imports of coal, iron, and other goods from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. However, the United States has alleged that Chinese cargo ships violated the sanctions by taking on coal from the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea in September of 2017. The Russian Federation has also been accused of violating the sanctions despite its eventual, reluctant support for United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions and bans on oil and fuel exports.

Nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests continued throughout 2017, with the most recent in December 2017. In response to a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach the United States, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2397 in December of 2017, which imposed even stricter sanctions on fuel imports to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Critics noted that many decades of varying degrees of sanctions have failed to cause the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its nuclear program.

The diplomatic situation on the Korean peninsula improved through mid-2018. On 27 April 2018, Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in and Supreme Leader Kim held a summit at the demilitarized zone. Kim stepped over the dividing line, becoming the first leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to set foot in the Republic of Korea since 1953. Only days before the meeting, Kim announced that the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri had been closed, and that the regime would cease testing long-range missiles. However, these actions have yet to be verified by any independent observers.

United States President Donald Trump agreed to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, and a summit was held in Singapore on 12 June 2018. The summit resulted in a broad, general agreement to take steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, although it remains unclear what exactly that would entail. Diplomats from the two countries are currently meeting to discuss the issue, although tensions remain high and little specifics have emerged.

Matters complicating the security situation on the Korean peninsula include alleged foreign assassinations by the Kim regime, including Kim Jong-Un’s brother, and ongoing hacking attempts by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state actors. The internal machinations of the Kim regime are opaque to outside observers, and it is unclear who might succeed Kim Jong-Un or what remnants of his father Kim Jong-Il’s loyalists may be plotting against him.

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