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General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)

Purview Purview

While the Third Committee’s work often overlaps with other United Nations organs, the Third Committee focuses its discussions on social, humanitarian and cultural concerns that arise in the General Assembly. Human rights, education and cultural preservation are typical issues for the Third Committee. The Third Committee would not discuss the legal implications of human rights matters as those are discussed by the Sixth Committee. The Committee also does not call for special studies or deploy monitors; those tasks are handled by the Human Rights Council.For more information concerning the purview of the United Nations General Assembly as a whole, see the introduction to the General Assembly Plenary.


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International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem International cooperation to address and counter the world drug problem

Despite the work that has been done by the international community, drugs continue to contribute to major problems around the globe, including criminal activity, the spread of infectious diseases and substance abuse. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2017, nearly 200,000 premature deaths occurred due to illicit drug use globally in 2017. This does not, however, include the deaths caused by crime and disease that stem from the drug trade. International efforts continue to seek strategies that will ultimately eliminate the problems of illicit drugs.

The United Nations efforts to address the international drug problem stem from three documents. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which was passed in 1961 to limit drug use to scientific and medical purposes, calls upon the international community to coordinate efforts in addressing illicit drug trafficking. The Single Convention was later amended in 1971 by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances to address an expanded spectrum of drugs and created a system of controls over synthetic drugs based on their abuse potential and therapeutic value. These two documents codify international control measures to ensure access to narcotics for medical and research purposes, and prevent their transfer into illicit channels. These Conventions also contain provisions to address drug trafficking and abuse. The third document, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, provides additional legal mechanisms for enforcing the 1961 and the 1971 Conventions. This Convention turns the attention of international efforts to organized crime and how it influences the production and distribution of drugs. Together these three Conventions lay the foundation for the United Nations actions to address the drug problem around the globe. They are complementary and support one another. They also provide direction for the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The three Conventions outline the United Nations stance on the drug issue, but there was work needed yet to outline specific strategies to address the problem. In 1998 the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem  was held to consider enhanced action on the issue. In its Political Declaration, the General Assembly reaffirmed the goal for the 1990 United Nations International Drug Control Programme to develop strategies to eliminate or significantly reduce the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by 2008. To address this goal, the General Assembly called for efforts to be brought to the regional level. By doing so, the United Nations can better coordinate with States and provide them with resources targeted to their particular situations. This strategy would also allow for States and the United Nations to target precursor materials and prevent their diversion into illicit channels.

After the 1998 session, progress had been made to meet the goals laid out by the Political Declaration. The efforts had limited the trade of opium and coca. These successes included the reduction of opium cultivation in Southeast Asia and coca cultivation in South America. However, cocaine, heroin, cannabis continued to prove difficult. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session reconvened in 2008 and passed Political Declaration on Global Drug Control. This Declaration calls upon Member States to recognize their shared responsibility for addressing the world drug problem, and for a balanced approach that recognizes human rights. This session also approved measures to control precursor chemicals, address money laundering and replace illicit drug cultivation for alternative development.

Current efforts to address the world drug problem were outlined at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session. During this session, Member States recognized that previous efforts failed to focus on public health. They saw an opportunity to rebalance international drug policies, while addressing human rights and access to resources for the prevention, treatment and care of drug dependency. United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization, UNODC, the United Nations Development Program, have turned to this human rights and public health approach to address the world drug problem. However, the international community lacks consensus on this approach, as some States feel that it does not address the supply of drugs or punish those who partake in the drug trade. Additionally, some States do not agree with the classification of some drugs as ilicit; for example some States feel that marijuana has been misclassified and are legalizing it in their own laws. At the conclusion of the 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 2018, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said, “in order to combat the world drug problem, there needs to be a consensus from the international community.” Without consensus, strategies to tackle the world drug problem will continue to fall short.

Going forward, the United Nations has several considerations to make in order to be more successful in tackling the world drug problem. To be effective, Member States and the international community will need to coordinate efforts with the United Nations to best utilize the resources and tools available. Reporting and assessments are very important tools in this process, as they provide the basis to learn what programs are successful and which need to be changed. A lot of work has been done, but by improving assessment and coordinating resources, the international community can better tackle the world drug problem.

The ever-changing landscape of the world drug problem continues to create new challenges for the international community. Though synthetic drugs have been an issue for a number of years, rapidly changing formulas have made them more difficult to detect and regulate. These drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoids or “synthetic marijuana,” are more deadly than their natural counterparts and have become a major public health risk. Another changing problem is the production of opium poppy and other drugs to fund terrorism and organized crime. Unrest in the Middle East, for example, has allowed terrorist groups to take over and increase opium production. The link between drug production and terrorism has made it difficult to address the world drug problem in many regions. Finally, the flow of drugs across international borders makes addressing the world drug problem difficult. As avenues are closed, organizations find new means to move drugs across borders. Coordination of international and state efforts to address the flow of drugs continues to be of the utmost importance.

Questions to Consider: Questions to Consider:

  • How has the creation and distribution of synthetic drugs affected international efforts to address the world drug problem?
  • Have past efforts to address the flow of drugs around the globe been successful? Are new strategies needed to prevent the transfer of drugs across borders?
  • What can be done to address how drugs are used to fund other illicit activities including terrorism and organized crime?
  • Are current assessment and tracking measures adequate for addressing this issue? How can they be improved?

Bibliography Bibliography

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Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights

Globalization is a process of greater economic integration with social, political, environmental, cultural and legal dimensions, which have an impact on the enjoyment of all human rights. Beginning in the 1400s, advancements like sailing, the internal combustion engine, the Industrial Revolution and the internet have spurred greater globalization. The rise of free trade policies in the 19th and 20th centuries was also a significant contributor to globalization. Early economic globalization culminated in the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and ultimately the World Trade Organization, which enshrined principles of free trade and globalization. These international efforts focused on reducing tariffs, stabilizing global trade and ultimately expanding global trade.

During the 20th and the 21st centuries, globalization has had both positive and negative effects. While globalization has been a major contributor to economic development around the world, the interdependence it creates has also allowed for national issues to have broad global implications, like the 2008 recession. The creation of global markets has driven down the price of many products, but it also ensures that local production issues can lead to global price spikes. The negative effects of globalization are often felt keenly in developing economies. These markets may have difficulty competing with the prices of imported goods, and state-subsidized production can make this problem worse. The presence of a global market can also encourage localities to create permissive labor environments in an effort to attract manufacturing and other jobs. This can also cause countries to ignore problems such as sweatshops, low wages and child labor in order to keep foreign investment. Finally, globalization can lead to economic trading and integration that encourages cultural mixing, integration and, in some cases, conflict.

The discussion on globalization and human rights stemmed from growing concern in the 1980s that governments were restricting human rights (particularly economic rights) to create a business-friendly environment that would spur economic development. In 1986, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development, which asserted that Member States have a duty to improve the economic and social capacity of those within their borders but that such developments should not come at the expense of human rights. Globalization created larger challenges for ensuring the protection of human rights while implementing development efforts. In late 1999, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution explicitly on the topic and called for a full report and analysis from the Secretary-General on the relationship between globalization and human rights. The General Assembly made a similar request of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2002.

Early General Assembly reports focused on areas: the impact on agricultural trade and economic disparities and the rise of racism and discrimination in light of globalization and massive technological development. Responses to the issue were mixed. Where some Member States argued that this issue required more attention, others believed that proposed actions would stifle economic growth. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had one of the most substantive responses. They concluded that globalization was generally marked by economic growth, but also the spread of liberalism. This cultural shift has the potential to destabilize areas and cause declines in human rights including safe work environment and access to healthcare, clean water and food. The growth itself may necessitate systemic changes that Member States are unprepared for or cannot cope with. This may lead to regional increases in poverty.

The international community has felt many of globalization’s potential for destabilization. In 2008, the international community officially declared an economic recession. The 2008 recession exacerbated many of the disparities caused by globalization.The recession led to major economic setbacks and directly impacted Member States’ ability and willingness to fulfill their human rights obligations, including freedom of movement, education and health goals. As the instability persisted, many countries began to see major shifts in rhetoric away from globalization and toward nationalistic or protectionist policies. These policies tend to be isolationist, leading States to focus their policies and investments on benefits at home, often to the detriment of the international system. They also create problems for traditional and political rights, as restrictions are placed on dissenting views.

In the past four years, the Third Committee has significantly increased both its disapproval of xenophobic actions and its calls for further reevaluation of the state of human rights and the impact of globalization. Its debate has centered around reducing the gap between the rich and how to ensure that Member States can provide stable, accountable social safety nets for all. Because globalization can disrupt parts of the local economy, social safety nets are a vital tool for States to provide stability and predictability for their populations. These recommendations are controversial, however, because many developing Member States lack the monetary resources to provide social safety programs or lack the stability to implement them. The Human Rights Council also has debated the idea of creating an instrument that would track the impact of globalization on human rights and Member States’ mitigation efforts to those negative impacts. This has been a highly controversial suggestion, and Member States have been hesitant to embrace it, largely due to the difficulties in improving some areas of human rights, reluctance to create further mechanisms to which they are held accountable and fear of treating all cases with the same approach.

Looking ahead, the United Nations must meet a few challenges when addressing how globalization has affected human rights. In terms of civil and political rights, globalization has challenged many rights, such as freedom of speech and open elections. As States move to favor nationalistic rhetoric, civil and political rights are stifled to restrict dissenting views. Economic and social rights have also been affected, where social welfare systems and cultural institutions struggle to serve citizens. The international community must find a balance where globalization can continue to foster growth, but the rights of individuals are protected and the resources needed to protect them are in place.

Questions to consider from your country’s perspective moving forward: Questions to consider from your country’s perspective moving forward:

  • How are the trends caused by globalization affecting civil and political rights? Where are the effects most obvious? How can States and the the international community address those impacts?
  • What specific impact is globalization having on economic, social and cultural rights? What resources are needed to better protect those rights? How can the United Nations incentivise change? Are enforcement mechanisms necessary and, if so, what should they look like?
  • Has modern globalization increased the prevalence of racism? If yes, how can this be addressed?

Bibliography Bibliography

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