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The Issues at AMUN handbook is published to assist representatives in preparing for the American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference. This handbook provides representatives with a substantive overview of the simulations and topics for the Conference. It is intended as a starting point for students’ research on their Member States and the topics under consideration. Its sister handbook, Rules and Procedures, provides an overview of the committee rules and conference logistics with which representatives need to familiarize themselves.

Chapter One: The United Nations provides essential background information to give all representatives a common orientation to the history of the United Nations. This section begins with the origins of the United Nations and covers some important points about its organization and mission. The chapter concludes by highlighting some of the challenges confronting the United Nations today.

Chapter Two: Conference Preparation & Position Papers outlines the recommended process for preparing for the AMUN Conference. Following these steps will place representatives well on their way to acquiring all the content knowledge necessary to be successful at AMUN. Representatives will also find general information about topic purview and position papers.

The remaining chapters contain brief overviews of the topics to be discussed in the various simulations at AMUN. These are intended as a guide and basis for representatives’ further research. In keeping with this goal, each overview includes a bibliography to guide representatives to appropriate sources of additional information. Additionally, at the beginning of each committee’s topic briefs, there is an explanation of the purview of the simulation—that is, what the body can and cannot do. The simulation purview provides context and limits for the goals and actions contained in a body’s reports and resolutions.

The background guides for simulations of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the optional-participation Special Committee contain five key sections: general background on the topic, past UN actions on the topic, current UN action on the topic, future UN actions on the topic and questions to consider. In many cases, the overviews of a complex topic will identify a few limited aspects as the foundation for discussions in the simulation. For example, the general issue of the environment has dozens of subsidiary issues, while the overview may direct representatives to concentrate their research on ozone depletion and limiting the destruction of the rainforests, only two discrete issues. This format allows representatives to go into greater detail in their preparations without needing to research all aspects of a multifaceted main issue and facilitates debate by ensuring all representatives are approaching the same issues.

The background guide for the Contemporary Security Council is somewhat less directive than those for General Assembly and Economic and Social Council simulations. As the Security Council operates with an open agenda and a contemporary timeline, the background guides are intended to introduce some likely topics for consideration by the Contemporary Security Council and to give representatives a starting point for their research. The Contemporary Security Council simulation directors may add to these topic guides throughout the year.

The background guides for the Historical Security Councils and the Historical Commission of Inquiry offer more directive content than the Contemporary Security Council guides. While the Historical Security Councils use an open agenda, the background guide attempts to give representatives a taste of the state of the world as of the simulation start date, which is specified in each guide. These guides also point to the major international issues that were under consideration by the real-life Security Council at the time of each simulation’s start date. The Historical Commission of Inquiry has two defined topics, and the background guide for the Commission is intended to lay out a historical and analytical framework for the experts who will serve on the commission.

The background guides for the International Court of Justice give a basic overview of the three separate cases that will be simulated during the 2018 conference. The guides include a brief overview of important facts for each case, as well as a basic outline of each country’s arguments and most salient points. Finally, the guides both suggest further areas for representatives to research and provide sources to help with that further research.

AMUN’s philosophy in providing these topic overviews is to give participants direction in their research but to leave the difficult work of preparation to them. These overviews are not intended to be the sole source of representatives’ research on the topics prior to the conference.

Introduction to the United Nations

Representatives participating in the American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference should be familiar with the history of the United Nations and with the changing role the organization plays in international affairs. This section provides a brief introduction to the United Nations system and some of the issues it faces today.

History of the United Nations

Origins of the United Nations

The United Nations came into existence on 24 October 1945. On that day, the United Nations Charter became operative, following ratification by the 51 original Members. The concept of all States uniting to settle disputes peacefully was born of the desire to avoid repeating the horrors of the First and Second World Wars. The United Nations developed as a successor to the League of Nations, which represented the first modern attempt by the countries of the world to achieve this unity.

United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term “United Nations” in 1942, when 47 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations in support of the Atlantic Charter. In 1944, representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China prepared the first blueprint of the United Nations at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. The final details for the United Nations were established at the Yalta Conference in 1945. On 26 June 1945, 51 States signed the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco.

Purpose of the United Nations

The primary purposes for which the United Nations was founded are detailed in Chapter I, Article 1, of the Charter:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
  3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
  4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

Structure of the United Nations

The United Nations has six primary organs. Understanding what each of these bodies does and how it interacts with other United Nations bodies, agencies and affiliated organizations is a critical part of Model United Nations preparation.

The General Assembly (GA)

The General Assembly is the central deliberative organ of the United Nations. The General Assembly has been described as the nearest thing to a “parliament of mankind.” All Member States are Members of the General Assembly, and each Member has one vote. The General Assembly makes recommendations on international issues, oversees all other United Nations bodies that report to the General Assembly, approves the United Nations budget and apportions United Nations funds. On the recommendation of the Security Council, the General Assembly elects the Secretary-General and holds the authority to admit and expel Member States. Voting in the General Assembly is ordinarily by simple majority, but most of the body’s work is adopted by consensus.

The Security Council (SC)

The Security Council’s primary responsibility is maintaining international peace and security. It has the power to employ United Nations peacekeepers and direct action against threats to the peace. Fifteen Members sit on the Security Council, including five Permanent Members (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States) and 10 at-large Member States, which the General Assembly elects for rotating two-year terms. A majority in the Security Council consists of nine Members voting “yes”; however, a “no” vote by any of the Permanent Members has the effect of vetoing or blocking actions.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

The Economic and Social Council is the primary body dealing with the economic, social, humanitarian and cultural work of the United Nations system. It also has a mandate to coordinate the activities of United Nations technical and specialized agencies and programs. The Economic and Social Council oversees five regional economic commissions and nine functional, or subject-matter, commissions. The Economic and Social Council is composed of 54 Member States elected by the General Assembly for three-year renewable terms.

The Trusteeship Council (TC)

In 1945 there were 11 Trust Territories, which were regions without their own governments. These 11 regions were placed under the Trusteeship Council, which helped them prepare for and achieve independence. With the admission of Palau as a United Nations Member State in 1994, the Trusteeship Council has now completed its original mandate. Today, the Trusteeship Council is inactive but is formally composed of the Permanent Members of the Security Council.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ)

The International Court of Justice, or World Court, is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations and decides international legal disputes. All United Nations Member States are able to bring matters before the International Court of Justice; however, States must agree to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice before it can decide a dispute involving that State. Fifteen judges serving nine-year terms sit on the Court.


The Secretariat is composed of the Secretary-General and the United Nations staff. Approximately 44,000 people are employed as the staff of the United Nations, only 5,000 of whom work at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The vast majority work for various subsidiaries of the United Nations. The Secretary-General serves a five-year renewable term.

In addition to the six main bodies, the United Nations system includes a number of autonomous technical and specialized agencies and programs. Examples include the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). While most of these agencies and programs have independent governance structures, the Economic and Social Council coordinates their activities.

How the United Nations Seeks to Achieve Its Purpose

Since 1945, the United Nations has established itself as a forum for discussing international disputes. The United Nations seeks, through both its principal organs and various subsidiary bodies, to settle disputes through peaceful means without resorting to the threat or use of force. Through their participation in the various bodies of the United Nations, Member States recognize and legitimize the established machinery of the United Nations and its relevance to solving international problems. It should be understood that the United Nations is not a world government, nor does it legislate. Rather, the actions of the United Nations, in the form of resolutions passed by its bodies, have a strong moral persuasive effect. Member States frequently find it in their own best interests to follow United Nations recommendations.

Bloc Politics at the United Nations

Historically, Member States with mutual interests have used a system of bloc politics to organize their efforts within the United Nations. These blocs tend to be made up of Member States with similar political, historical or cultural backgrounds and are often, but not exclusively, formed on a geographical basis. By organizing themselves with other Member States that hold similar interests, bloc members hope to increase their influence above the level that they would have as a single Member State in the General Assembly.

Regional groups were formally established at the United Nations in 1957 with an endorsement by the General Assembly. As the number of Member States increased, the groups were realigned to form today’s five groups: Latin America and the Caribbean group (GRULAC), the Asia-Pacific group, the Africa group, the Eastern European group and the Western Europe and Others group (WEOG). These regional groups are still used today to manage the elections to various United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, and to determine who will serve as Vice Presidents of the General Assembly. Other smaller regional blocs with more specific affinities and interests, such as the Nordic countries or the JUSCANZ group (Japan, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) are also important, but they lack the formal recognition granted to the five regional groups.

Regional groups are not the only blocs active at the United Nations. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), formed in 1967 as a group seeking a middle course between the Western and Eastern blocs of the Cold War, rapidly became an active body for the coordination of action at the United Nations for developing countries. While its importance has diminished since the end of the Cold War, it is still active on numerous issues at the United Nations. The Group of 77 (G-77) was founded in 1964 as a coordinating body to protect the economic interests of small and developing countries. With 134 members, the G-77 is the largest United Nations bloc, though coordination among members is fairly loose.

Blocs often attempt to form a consensus among members, allowing them to act as a cohesive group. The effectiveness of any given bloc in exerting its positions in the General Assembly depends upon the bloc’s ability to form a consensus among its own members and to get its members to vote accordingly. These acts of compromise form the basis of United Nations politics and often occur within the various caucusing groups. They also form the starting points for debate in the larger United Nations body.

Bloc politics have changed considerably over time. Some blocs are still coherent, like the Nordic countries, while others, like the Western European and Others Group, lack continuing cohesion. In general, their viability as a political tool is diminishing, and blocs are falling out of use as a predictable measure of votes. Often, blocs get together to draft resolutions which will begin the discussion in the larger body, but ultimately, each Member State will usually vote in its own interest, regardless of bloc memberships. States may be part of multiple blocs with diverging or competing interests, which further complicates the issue.

Today, the most common blocs are small, temporary negotiating groups that gather around one issue to try to overcome stalemate in the larger membership bodies. Additionally, developing countries often bind together to maximize their power, especially given their relative lack of economic power. Some blocs have their own secretariat staff whose job is to draft proposals and find solutions that the larger body is unable to find. Some of the more well-funded and organized blocs have a formally recognized role as permanent observers with permanent observer missions at the United Nations headquarters. Examples include the African Union, the Caribbean Community, the European Union, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. These blocs are powerful examples of Member States coming together to advance goals that may be independent of the regions they represent.

At AMUN, blocs are not be treated as official bodies. Representatives are encouraged to caucus in their bloc groups only when appropriate. Representatives should be aware that the State they represent may no longer actively participate in bloc politics or may vote outside of its traditional bloc based on the circumstances. Above all, remember that you represent your State and your State’s interests, regardless of your participation in a bloc while caucusing and drafting.

The Purview of Each Simulation

Each background guide contains a brief overview of that simulation’s purview, which provides a general outline of the types of discussions each simulation might have on the topics in question. Purview is an extremely important, though often informally understood, concept in the United Nations system, where a variety of different committees, councils and commissions may discuss different aspects of an international problem. Not stepping on another body’s toes or into its territory is a matter of diplomatic courtesy, respect and an acknowledgement of specific expertise. Representatives should research their topics carefully, so their deliberations can focus on the piece of the problem considered within their simulation’s purview.

Purview is usually best understood through an extended example. To illustrate the concept, this paragraph explores the issue of development and how it might be approached in a variety of committees, councils, and commissions. The General Assembly First Committee might discuss the relationship between disarmament and development. At the same time, the General Assembly Second Committee may discuss a variety of financing initiatives to assist Least Developed Countries. Similarly, the General Assembly Third Committee might discuss the social and humanitarian considerations that stem from a lack of development, including gender issues, economic concerns or the impact on underrepresented populations such as the elderly or disabled. And the General Assembly Fourth Committee may discuss the development issues of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The General Assembly Concurrent Plenary might discuss the problem in its entirety or address issues that cut across the mandates of the committees. By contrast, the Economic and Social Council would focus on how the United Nations specialized and technical agencies work with Member States to support economic and social development. The Security Council would address the interlinkages between peace, security and development.

Clearly, different aspects of a single problem are regularly discussed in different bodies. More importantly, at the United Nations, delegations are typically careful to only discuss those aspects relevant to their own committees, councils and commissions, leaving other aspects to others in their delegation to address in the appropriate forum.

Research and Preparation

A holistic approach to research and preparation

AMUN recommends a systematic, holistic approach to research related to Conference preparation, broken into seven areas. Ensuring representatives are well versed in each of these areas will allow for the fullest participation in the Conference and will maximize the educational benefit of the experience. This approach is recommended for students participating in traditional Model UN simulations such as the General Assembly, Security Council or Historical Security Councils. Representatives participating in specialized simulations, such as the International Court of Justice, the International Press Delegation or the Historical Commission of Inquiry may have different preparatory requirements.

The United Nations system

Representatives must understand the basics of the organization which they are simulating—the United Nations. Well-prepared representatives not only know the basic structure of the United Nations but also have a good understanding of how their committee fits into the organization and how it accomplishes its work. Representatives who understand what their committee can or cannot do within the United Nations system can make better recommendations based on a clear knowledge of what they can reasonably act on and what issues are beyond the purview of the body they are simulating. This basic delineation of responsibilities is called purview, and this handbook includes a brief description of each committee’s purview.

The history and current affairs of the represented State

This is the first key to understanding what actions a State may prefer on specific issues. Research should include basic statistical data and general information such as population, demographics, government type, natural resources and trade data. Students should become familiar with the country’s traditional allies and adversaries. A country’s history can be crucial to understanding its contemporary actions, including the question of whether that country was previously colonized or was a colonial power, when the country gained statehood and what means were used in gaining independence (e.g., civil war, violent struggle, peaceful protests, state dissolution).

The represented State’s viewpoints on the issues to be discussed at the Conference

This is the central point of most Model UN preparation: focused research on the issues being discussed in each committee and on the Member State’s position on those issues. Research can come from a variety of sources, beginning with United Nations documents and information and moving to other articles, periodicals, books and internet resources. United Nations resolutions and reports on the issues under discussion are especially helpful because they provide a quick reference to what has already been accomplished by the United Nations and what still needs to be done. These documents frequently provide voting information, which allows representatives to quickly determine their country’s past positions on issues. A number of relevant sources are provided in the bibliography section of each topic brief in this handbook. Contacting the delegation’s permanent mission to the United Nations can also be helpful, but the level of assistance provided varies with each country’s policies and available resources.

It will be very easy for some States to find specific information to determine a position on most or all topics, while for others this information will be difficult to come by or simply not available. When clear-cut information is not available, representatives should make the best possible inferences about what their country’s policy would be given the facts available. Representatives can form these inferences based on the country’s background, its historical voting record, the positions of its traditional allies or regional group, among other factors. Regardless of the facts available, knowing exactly what a country would do in a given situation is often not possible. Representatives should strive to know as much as they can about their country and its stance on each topic and to educate themselves enough to make reasonable policy assumptions on issues that are not totally clear.

The relationship between the current world situation and the represented State

This is a subset of the previous two areas of research, but it is important enough to be mentioned in its own right. The world situation is dynamic, as are the States that make up the international system, and states’ positions on some issues may hinge on their particular situation or perspective. For example, it may seem obvious that there are differences between the policies of a regional great power and a state with very little military might, but it is also worth considering the extent to which States are engaged militarily beyond their own borders. States with different development profiles—for example, rich, industrialized countries v. poor, developing countries—may have vastly different concerns and policy positions. A country that is currently in the midst of civil war or a country under United Nations sanctions may have unique positions on some issues. Knowing where the State a student represents fits in the current world geopolitical context, as a complement to his or her country-specific research, can answer many questions that may arise during the simulation.

The perspectives of other States on the issues on the Conference agenda

This is one of the more difficult areas of preparation. While it is reasonable to expect that a representative will know who his or her general allies and adversaries are on a given issue, it is very difficult to have detailed information about the policies of each country in the simulation. Limitations in preparation time necessarily require that representatives focus primarily on the policies of their own country, often learning about others through references in their own research. This is an area where complete knowledge will serve participants well, but it is much more likely that each Representative will be learning the formal policies of the other countries in the Committee when they give speeches from the floor and confer behind the scenes in caucus sessions. In roleplaying, flexibility is key: representatives must aggregate and assimilate new information they gain at the Conference with their pre-Conference research to reach consensus and compromise on complex issues.

AMUN rules of procedure

While substantive discussions of the issues form the basis of any good simulation of the United Nations, the rules of procedure are used to facilitate the substantive debate which occurs. In general, these rules are intended to provide an even playing field, allowing each State to accomplish its individual policy goals while also maximizing opportunities for the group to reach agreement, or even consensus, on the issues. Several levels of preparation are possible on the rules. For new Model United Nations participants, we recommend that each person have a working knowledge of the principal motions which can be made during the simulation, encapsulated on the Rules Short Forms in the Rules & Procedures handbook. The dais staff of each Committee will assist representatives in using these rules and will work to create an even playing field for all representatives. For experienced representatives, who have not attended AMUN in the past, we suggest reading AMUN’s rules in depth, to note differences from other conferences they have attended. AMUN veterans should re-read the rules as a refresher. Most Model United Nations conferences use different rules of procedure, and in some cases the contrasts are significant. In order to best facilitate everyone’s experience, it is incumbent on every participant to learn and use the rules established for this conference.

Practicing using the AMUN rules of procedure in a mock session is one of the best ways to prepare for this aspect of the conference. AMUN provides the Model UN in a Box simulation guide to all registered schools, which can assist faculty advisors or club leaders in running practice simulations. Please email the AMUN Executive Office if you have any questions about the AMUN Rules of Procedure.

Resolution and report writing

At AMUN, the main substantive work of the body in written documents, namely resolutions and reports. These documents are the work of all the representatives in the body. There are several ways to become familiar with the resolution and report writing process. To begin we suggest reading Chapter 6 of the Rules & Procedures handbook for guidelines about crafting resolutions and reports. Chapter 6 also includes a sample resolution as well as a sample report table of contents, which can be used as a guide when drafting these documents. Resolutions and reports at the United Nations often have a distinct tone and style, and representatives can familiarize themselves with these conventions by reading and analyzing the language and content of many resolutions or reports. Representatives can practice writing resolutions and clauses of resolutions, so they become familiar with the genre and are ready to translate their ideas into clear statements at the conference. Representatives should also familiarize themselves with the purview of each body, developing a good understanding of what their committee can and cannot do and how it fits into the larger United Nations system. More information about purview is included in the Issues at AMUN handbook at the start of each simulation’s background briefs. As always each room has dais staff available to help with questions regarding documents and purview. Remember while writing resolutions and reports ahead of time can be a great way to practice, the best documents are crafted by the body as a whole.

Preparing as a Group

All of these areas of preparation will require research and practice, and we recommend team preparation whenever possible, as delegations should represent their State’s positions consistently across simulations, and many of the preparatory categories cross committee boundaries. Representatives can work together by assigning various topics to individuals for research and then come back together as a group to hear each others’ reports and to discuss the implications for representing the country. Research about the United Nations system and the basic information about a country—its background, history, statistical data, contemporary situation, etc.—is easily accomplished by a collaborative effort. Research about specific committees and topics will be more individualized. Still, other team members on the delegation may benefit from having a briefing on each topic. These briefings can give the entire delegation a broader picture of the country’s policies and positions. Formal briefings—both about general information and topic-specific findings—also allow representatives to practice public speaking, answering questions, consolidating information, and presenting information persuasively.

Note, when representatives are working in pairs on a single committee, AMUN recommends against having one person become the expert in each topic. In simulations, the coverage of topics may be uneven and unpredictable, and teams function most effectively when both partners are share expertise.

Conducting Research

General Sources of Information

AMUN recommends the following general sources of information to use when researching a country and the issues for the Conference. Many of these sources are available on the internet, either publicly or through subscriptions held by school libraries.

United Nations Sources

Most United Nations resolutions, documents, speeches and other resources can be accessed through the internet. Most United Nations agencies have a significant presence online, and there are also a number of databases with relevant information on various regions around the world.

The main United Nations website provides current information and continuous updates on the work of the United Nations, especially in the General Assembly, Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. The website also includes historical information about these bodies, reports from the Secretary-General, and a host of other useful documents. The United Nations website is updated frequently and the navigation sometimes changes, but it remains a useful starting point for research.

Most United Nations Members now have websites for their permanent missions in New York and Geneva. When a website is available, it often includes details on the State’s policy and may include the text of speeches given by representatives at the United Nations.

The United Nations also provides public access to its Official Document System (ODS), which includes nearly all documents published by the United Nations, including many that are not available from the United Nations main website. Please note that the search engine available on ODS is not always easy to use. It is easiest to find files if you know the United Nations document number. Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top right of the document. Symbols include both letters and numbers, some of which have meanings while others do not. The bibliography section of each topic brief in this handbook contains references to several United Nations documents and can act as a starting place for your preparations. Using an internet search engine to find United Nations documents using this document number is also often successful.

UNBISNET is another important resource from the United Nations. You can find official document numbers here, as well as voting records for the General Assembly and Security Council and country speeches. You may want to use the UNBISNET search engine to find your document number or documents that you do not have a document number for.

AMUN Materials

Most Model UN research is accomplished online, and there are a vast number of sources at representatives’ disposal. AMUN’s website offers a good starting point for your research, as it includes links to many United Nations-related sites. This website is updated with United Nations links as they become available and includes a great deal of background information to assist in your preparations for Conference. AMUN also publishes updates, UN-related content, and tips for preparation throughout the year on the conference blog, The AMUN Accords.

AMUN also provides each registered school with a complimentary copy of Model UN in a Box, which is a simulation guide meant for faculty advisors and student club leaders and will assist with in-depth conference preparation. In addition to significant background on teaching Model UN and Model UN research, it also includes a number of hands-on and practical exercises to help students prepare for resolution-writing, caucusing, speaking and consensus building. The guide also includes three simulations for practice sessions. These simulations include everything you need to run a simulation, including topic briefs, country background guides, placards and facilitator notes.

Position Papers

Why Draft a Position Paper?

Well-crafted position papers serve several functions for Model UN participants. Position papers are useful for a delegation’s internal preparation, for signaling a country’s public position on a topic and for gaining insight into other delegations’ positions before the Conference. AMUN strongly encourages all delegations to outline their country’s basic public policy on each issue to be discussed. This public statement is crucial for pre-Conference preparations and is the most important thing delegations can provide to each other in advance. AMUN therefore collects public position papers (submission details follow) and makes them publicly available to all delegations before the Conference. AMUN requests that all delegations submit public position papers and strongly suggests that each delegation prepare internal position papers that more clearly and completely define their country’s perspective and strategy on the topics under discussion.

Internal Position Papers

An internal position paper is primarily a preparatory tool for your individual preparation and for the delegation as a whole. While internal position papers are not required, AMUN believes these to be an excellent exercise for consolidating and communicating your country’s positions on various issues. Internal position papers, often called white papers, are a broad-based statement of a country’s policies on a specific issue. An internal position paper might include a country’s public position on an issue, knowledge of any behind-the-scenes or back-channel diplomatic efforts and agreements (e.g., a deal made informally with a close ally or partner), information about the position of allies and adversaries on each topic, the country’s negotiating position and strategy, a statement of the country’s objectives and a bottom-line negotiating position (e.g., what things the delegation will demand or concede in the course of negotiations or what language must be included—or must not be included—in a draft resolution or report).

Internal position papers force representatives to think about the full complexity of the issues they are confronting from their delegation’s perspective. Also, by asking representatives to put their ideas in writing, an internal position paper can force each representative to condense a large amount of research and ideas into a concise, more comprehensible argument. Internal position papers do not need to be more than one or two pages long and can take any form that seems appropriate. AMUN recommends that delegations share all internal position papers with the entire team, thus providing a well-rounded view of the country’s positions on all topics at the Conference.

Public Position Papers

Public position papers offer public statements on a State’s position on a particular agenda item. At AMUN, delegations write a position paper for each topic on the Conference agenda. When they are published, the papers can be sorted by either country or topic, to aid in final preparations for the Conference. Each paper should include a brief statement about the State’s position on the topic and on its opinions about recent United Nations action on the topic. It should also include some indication as to the State’s public position about how the United Nations should respond moving forward, especially noting proposals that a delegation has (or intends to have) sponsored, supported or not supported and why. Public papers do not need to go into detail about the delegation’s negotiating positions or other behind-the-scenes issues, but should be seen as something that a diplomat might say in a public speech on the topic.

While a delegation can include anything it deems relevant in its public position papers, AMUN recommends including some key elements in each one. First, each position paper should specifically state the one or two key points that the country believes are the most important on each topic. This exercise will help the delegation to prioritize and to find like-minded countries when it is time to caucus and negotiate. The paper should then offer specific details about why these topics are important and what the country proposes should be done by the United Nations or individual States to improve the situation.

Depending on the agenda item, the available information, and the country’s situation, there are a number of other elements that may be included in a public position paper. Representatives should consider incorporating some or all of these elements in their position papers:

  • References to past United Nations resolutions and international treaties, providing the specific number or name of the document and the year it passed
  • References to the United Nations Charter, as appropriate for the topic
  • Past statements by the Secretary-General, a senior United Nations Secretariat member or by a Representative of a United Nations agency on the topic
  • Reference to the work the United Nations has already done on the topic, whether by specialized agencies, regional bodies or working with non-governmental organizations
  • Past statements relevant to the topic by government representatives
  • Specific suggestions of actions that the representatives’ State will support in solving the issue in question

Finally, public position papers generally do not need to contain extensive background on a particular country or internal factors related to the topic; the public position paper is about how the state positions itself within the international debate on the issue, rather than its internal dynamics. Thus public position papers should generally not talk about the problems facing a specific country but rather the problems facing the international community. If a country is a clear example of a successful United Nations program in action, or if the country is a member of an affected group, representatives may want to include a brief reference to that in their paper; otherwise, there is usually no need to mention specifics about the country in a position paper.

Submission of Position Papers

AMUN requests each delegation submit position papers to the conference, covering each committee on which it is seated, no later than 25 October. These papers should be no more than one-half page on each topic covered in the committee. All delegations should submit a paper covering the Concurrent General Assembly Plenary and each of the four General Assembly Committees, including both topics for each committee. Delegations represented on the World Health Organization Executive Board (WHO) should also include the two topics of discussion for the Council. Delegations represented on the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) should also include the two topics of discussion for the commission. Delegations represented on the Committee for Development Policy Expert Group (CDPEG)  should also include the two topics of discussion for the commission. Delegations represented on the Security Council or Historical Security Councils should choose up to three topics they think are the most important for their respective Council to discuss and include these in their position paper. Delegations seated on the Commission of Inquiry should also include the two topics of discussion for the Commission. If a delegation chooses to place a representative on the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), a section for that committee should also be included.

One comprehensive position paper should be submitted online for each delegation, combining all of papers for the committees on which that delegation is seated. A sample position paper, along with full submission instructions, is available at AMUN’s website.

The AMUN Secretariat will not judge the position papers other than to check for completeness and general germaneness. Position papers will be collected and organized by the AMUN Secretariat and posted on the AMUN website prior to conference. As public documents, position papers must conform to the standards laid out in AMUN’s policy on plagiarism (see below).

All position papers must be submitted via AMUN’s online web form. Additional submission information will be sent in the fall to all registered schools. AMUN reserves the right to reject any position paper that fails to address one of the topics as stated in the Issues at AMUN handbook, does not comport to basic standards of diplomatic courtesy or is determined to violate the policy on plagiarism.

Any school with a late fall start date (as may be common for schools on quarter or trimester systems) may request a one week extension to the official due dates listed above by emailing the AMUN Executive Office before 25 October.

Position Paper Awards

AMUN will provide a Position Paper Award for each delegation that submits an approved, complete position paper, including sections for each topic in all assigned simulations, by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on 25 October. Note that this must include sections for the Concurrent General Assembly Plenary, all GA Committees, and any other simulation on which the delegation has a representative seated. Submission of a position paper for the Special Committee (our optional participation simulation) is not required for a Position Paper Award. If a school is representing multiple countries, each delegation will be considered separately for Position Paper Award.

For answers to any questions about writing or submitting position papers or about Position Paper Awards, please email the AMUN Executive Office.

Security Council


Cote d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
Russian Federation
United Kingdom
United States of America


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?

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.


UN Documents

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

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.


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.


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.


UN Documents

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.


UN Documents

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.


UN Documents

Historical Security Council 1948


Syrian Arab Republic
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
United Kingdom
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
United States of America


The 2018 American Model United Nations Historical Security Council (HSC) will simulate world events beginning on 1 January 1948. In 1948, Trygve Lie was the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Harry S. Truman the United States President and Josef Stalin the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Republic of China was officially represented at the United Nations, and the Kuomintang-led Republic of China still had a presence in mainland China.

The key international security concerns at this time revolve around situations in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The end of World War II caused concerns about international peace, heightened conflict between the Eastern and Western political blocs, political overreaching in the administration of post-war Germany, and the post-war military and economic strain of colonial powers to administer their territories, where resistance to colonial authority has been building. There is increased violence between Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine after the General Assembly passed the Partition Resolution in November 1947. Heightened aggression between Pakistan and India over the area of Jammu and Kashmir has also seen increased attention at the United Nations.

The brief synopses presented here offer merely introductory coverage of prominent international issues that can direct representatives’ continued research and preparation. 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?

The Situation in Palestine

With the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain became the administrative mandatory of Palestine under the League of Nations in 1923. Under the Palestine Mandate, Great Britain administered both Arab and Jewish territories and populations. Both groups had significant expectations. The Palestinians expected the future establishment of Palestinian state and a judicial system that guaranteed Palestinians their rights. The Jewish people in Palestine expected the British to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, in accordance with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Arab nations viewed the idea of a Jewish State, among other issues, as a betrayal of the Palestine Mandate, and massive Jewish-Arab violence broke out and intensified during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. The 1937 Peel Commission, a British Royal Commission of Inquiry tasked with determining the causes of unrest in the Palestine Mandate, released a report recommending partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Great Britain retaining control over Jerusalem and Bethlehem. However, World War II broke out before this could be accomplished.

On 28 April 1947, Great Britain asked the United Nations to convene a Special Session of the General Assembly to discuss the question of the future government of Palestine and proposed the formation of a special committee to help address the issue. The General Assembly met and agreed that a special committee was needed. The United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) was established through Resolution 106 (S-1) on 15 May 1947. Representatives from UNSCOP went to Palestine to assess the situation and delivered their report to the General Assembly on 3 September 1947. This report recommended partitioning Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Motivated by post-war exhaustion, on 26 September 1947, the British announced their intention to withdraw from Palestine and have all British troops out of Palestine by 1 August 1948, regardless of whether or not a decision had been made by the General Assembly on Palestinian governance.  The General Assembly passed Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947, adopting the UNSCOP Partition Plan. The Resolution and Partition Plan were accepted by the Jewish community but rejected by the Arab nations who did not want to share their homeland. Protests and fighting have broken out as a result of the political upheaval. As a result of the increased violence, the British announced that they will end their mandate on 15 May 1948. The United Nations Security Council is faced with mounting conflict, tension and a potential humanitarian crisis.


  • Morris, Benny (2008). 1948 The First Arab-Israeli War. Yale University Press.

UN Documents

The Situation in Greece

Greece gained independence in 1923 after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the First World War and the end of Greco-Turkish War. Given its strategic location and the recent political upheavals of these wars, various political and military factions have vied to control Greece. In 1944, several Greek political parties and resistance groups signed the Plaka Agreement calling for parties to cease fighting. But by 1946, civil war erupted between the Royalist Army; National Liberation Front (EAM) and its military branch known as the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS); the Communist Party of Greece (KKE); and the Provisional Democratic Government (DSE). The United States pledged its support for the Greek Royalist government while the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Albania supported some of the communist groups inside Greece, with Albania and Yugoslavia harboring some separatists groups within their borders. As a result of the fighting and possible cross-border incursions from the separatists groups in Albania and Yugoslavia, the Security Council passed resolution 15 on 19 December 1946, which sent a Commission of Investigation consisting of representatives from members of the Security Council to investigate alleged border violations along the northern borders of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The Security Council should assess what actions from the United Nations, if any, are appropriate.


  • Woodhouse, C.M. (2003). The Struggle for Greece 1941-1949. Ivan R. Dee.
  • Meisler, Stanley (1995). United Nations: The First Fifty Years. The Atlantic Monthly Press.
  • O’Ballance, Edgar (1966). The Greek Civil War:1944-1949. Fredrick A. Praeger Publishers.
United Nations Documents

The Situation in Berlin

After World War II, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union signed the Potsdam Agreement, which divided Germany into four temporary occupation zones that would function as one economic unit. These zones were located roughly around the current locations of the Allied and Soviet armies and split Germany among the two global blocs. It also divided Berlin into four sectors: French, British, American and Soviet. Located 100 miles into the Soviet Sector, Berlin became the seat of the Allied Control Council, which was to govern Germany until the conclusion of a peace settlement. The Allied Control Council consisted of a commander for each sector, who exercised supreme control in his respective sector, but matters that concerned Germany as a whole could only be decided by agreement of all four members. German trade and civilian industries were severely limited to restrict potential military development. Berlin quickly became the focal point of the British, United States, French and Soviet efforts to re-align Europe to their respective visions. By controlling access to Soviet-controlled areas of Berlin, the the Soviets want to expand their control over Berlin and establish a larger Communist domain. Additionally, the USSR is diverting German industrial and natural resources as reparations for WWII. On the other hand, France wants strict limitations to severely impede rebuilding Germany’s infrastructure, economy and industry as punishment for its actions in WWII. In November 1947, the Control Council met in London to create a treaty laying out the post-War structure Germany would take; they failed to agree. However, prior to the London Conference, Soviets grew concerned with an unspoken threat of Germany’s division and inclusion of West Berlin in the Western Bloc by the United States and the United Kingdom. As the Council continues to keep informed of the situation, it should consider whether the situation is improving or deteriorating and whether the Council should become involved.


  • Davidson, W. Phillip (1958). The Berlin Blockade: A Study in Cold War Politics. Princeton University Press.
  • Parrish, Thomas (1998). Berlin in the Balance: The Blockade, The Airlift, The First Major Battle of the Cold War. Addison-Wesley.
  • Naimark, Norman (1997). The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949. Belknap Press.
  • Jack, Raymond (1947). U.S. Aides Criticize Paris on Germany: Declare War Fears of French Mask Attempt to Become European Economic Hub. New York Times. 17 August.

The Situation in Kashmir

Following World War I, the British government passed the Government of India Act. This Act gave the Princely States greater local and regional power, while the British took responsibility for central administration. The Princely States were not directly governed by the British Raj. Rather, in many areas of India, the local Hindu or Muslim prince signed treaties with the British. Under the terms of the treaties the British would take control of the foreign and military affairs of the state, but the prince would retain control over domestic affairs. The British hoped the princes would view the Indian nationalist and independence movements as a threat and take steps to reduce their influence. However, nationalist and pro-independence movements, such as the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, saw their influence and power grow during the interwar period. Following World War II, the British government, facing a devastated homefront, large debts, and economic conditions that called for austerity; realized the renewed Indian independence movement was a threat to continued control of India and decided to grant India independence within the Commonwealth.

Elections for an interim government in the summer of 1946 led to riots in northern India after Muslim-aligned parties failed to secure a majority of the seats. The British government made two announcements regarding the status of India on 13 February 1947. The first was that the British Raj was to be partitioned into two states—India and Pakistan. The second was that Britain would leave India by June 1948. In the overnight hours of 14 and 15 August 1948, Britain partitioned the British Raj into the separate states of Pakistan and India, allowing the Princely States to individually choose whether to join India, Pakistan or themselves be partitioned.

The Princely State of Punjab was partitioned along religious lines. After the partition, Muslims attempted to migrate to the Pakistani side of the partition,  Hindus to the Indian side. The mass migration was accompanied by widespread violence and massacres on both sides. Hundreds of thousands are believed to have died. Thousands of refugees fled to the neighboring Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (“Kashmir”). Due to the violence and upheaval, Kashmir postponed a decision on whether to join India, Pakistan or accept partition. Pakistan announced its intention to have the United Nations address the issue of violence in Kashmir, but did not get enough support in the General Assembly to do so.

As a result of the influx of Hindu and Muslim refugees, along with the postponement of the decision of which state to join, Kashmir experienced widespread violence and rioting from all involved parties. The Prince of Kashmir requested assistance from the Indian government to keep order. The Indian government agreed to provide assistance if Kashmir agreed to the Instrument of Accession. In exchange for Indian assistance in quelling violence, the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir would become part of India. The Prince of Kashmir agreed, and the Instrument was signed on 26 October 1947. Pakistan, however, rejected the Instrument, considering it to have been forced upon Kashmir by India. Both countries sent troops into Kashmir while simultaneously claiming the other country sent in troops first.

On 2 November 1947 India announced it would hold a referendum in Kashmir, under the auspices of the United Nations, once order was established. Pakistan rejected the Indian position, claiming the establishment of order was a cover to drive Muslims out of Kashmir to create a Hindu majority in the referendum. Despite the presence of Indian and Pakistani forces, violence continued between Hindu and Muslim civilians, alongside reports of violence involving Indian and Pakistani aligned militant groups. A meeting between India and Pakistan in early December left the status of Kashmir unresolved. India insisted on its earlier position of turning the issue over to the United Nations once order was established. Pakistan insisted that both the referendum and the violence be turned over to the United Nations. As of 20 December, India is preparing to send military forces into Kashmir to remove Pakistani forces. The Council should consider the impact this conflict is having on the international community, the citizens and what options the Security Council has for involvement.


The Situation in Asia

The Dutch East Indies were occupied by Japanese forces during World War II. During the war, the Japanese government permitted limited expressions of Indonesian nationalism and developed plans to grant independence to Indonesia. The Japanese Prime Minister informed Parliament of those plans on 7 September 1944, with a constitutional congress to plan for an independent Indonesia formed in May 1945. Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, however, the Dutch government announced its intention to reclaim possession of Indonesia. But on 17 August 1945, with the assent of the Japanese government, Indonesian nationalists announced Indonesian independence.

British troops arrived in Indonesia in September 1945 to disarm surrendering Japanese forces, repatriate them and begin the process of transferring control of the Dutch East Indies back to the Dutch. Sporadic violence occurred between the British forces and the nascent Indonesian government and escalated when Dutch forces returned. Throughout 1946, the British and American governments lobbied the Dutch government to agree to the Linggadjati Agreement with the Indonesian Republic. The agreement conceded autonomy to the Indonesian republic in parts of Indonesia, and both parties agreed to work together toward an Indonesian-Dutch federation by 1949. During negotiations British troops were withdrawn and both parties signed the agreement on 25 March 1947.

Despite signing the agreement, Indonesian and Dutch negotiations broke down and on 21 July 1947 the Dutch launched Operation Product (referred to by the Dutch as a “police action”) in which the Dutch armed forces took control of key ports, cities and oil fields. The Indonesian forces abandoned the cities and began a guerrilla campaign against the Dutch forces. In response to Operation Product, Australia and India brought the issue of the Dutch “police action” before the United Nations Security Council on 30 July 1947. On 1 August 1947, the Security Council passed Resolution 27, which called for a cease-fire and urged both parties to resume negotiations. On August 25 1947, Resolution 30 was passed, which encouraged the parties to preserve the cease-fire and called for a Commission of Observers to report on the progress of the cease-fire. Resolution 31 permitted Indonesia and the Netherlands to each select a representative for the Committee of Good Offices, with one joint representative. The Dutch chose Belgium as their representative with Indonesia selecting Australia. The United States was selected as the joint representative.

Sporadic conflict between Dutch forces and Indonesian guerrillas continued despite the cease-fire. The Security Council attempted to remind the parties of their obligations to support a cease-fire with Resolution 32, passed 26 August 1947. In October, the Secretary-General convened the Committee of Good Offices at the request of the Security Council to report on the situation in Indonesia. The Committee reported that neither side was working in good faith toward maintaining the cease-fire and that both sides engaged in violations of the cease-fire. In response, the Security Council passed Resolution 36, which expanded the role of the Committee of Good Offices to assist the Dutch and Indonesians in implementing the cease-fire and to observe Resolution 27. Furthermore, both parties were to restrict military forces to areas the parties controlled as of 4 August 1947. Despite the actions of the Security Council, violence continued as Indonesian guerillas launched machine gun and mortar attacks on Dutch patrols and Dutch “police actions” were increasingly accompanied by airplanes.

Under mounting international pressure, Indonesia and the Netherlands agreed on 8 December 1947 to negotiate aboard the USS Renville. The Dutch proposed the creation of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia (RUSI) without the involvement of the current government of Indonesia. Indonesia expressed concerns about the continued Dutch military presence and “police actions” along with the accompanying economic turmoil. On 25 December 1947, the United States proposed a plan where the Dutch would return to the areas they controlled prior to the July “police action” while the Indonesian government would regain control of the civilian administration. The Indonesian government accepted the proposal, but as of 1 January 1948 the Netherlands has yet to respond. The Council should consider what actions, if any, are appropriate for the Council, the parties and/or the international community to take.


  • House, Jonathan M. (2012). A Military History of the Cold War, 1944-1962, University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Indonesia Reports Assault on Town (1947). New York Times. 31 August.
  • Java Negotiations Opened Amicably (1947). New York Times. 8 December.
  • Kratoska, Paul H. (2001). South East Asia, Colonial History: Independence through Revolutionary War, Routledge.
  • Rosenthal, A.M. (1947). Progress On Java Reported to U.N. New York Times. 6 December.
  • van Panhuys, H. F. (1980). International Law in the Netherlands: Vol III, T.M.C. Asser Institute.
United Nations Documents

Historical Security Council of 1993


Cape Verde
New Zealand
Russian Federation
United Kingdom
United States of America


The Historical Security Council (HSC) of 1993 will simulate the events of the world beginning on 23 May 1993. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Historically, the key international security concerns at the time revolved around the situations in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda, ongoing peacekeeping operations in Africa and the Middle East, and disputes over unpaid dues to fund those operations. However, the Council may discuss any issue involving international peace and security. Representatives should have a broad knowledge of the world and world events as they stood on 23 May 1993. The Security Council can, at its discretion, involve other States or parties to the dispute on a particular topic. Possible parties to the dispute may include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Rwanda and Somalia.

The brief synopsis presented here offers merely introductory coverage of prominent international issues that can direct representatives’ continued research and preparation.

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 reignition 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?

The Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, formed from territories of the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, was invaded by German, Italian and Hungarian forces on 6 April 1941, driving its monarch King Peter II into exile. Thousands of Yugoslavian Jews, Serbs and Romas were sent to death camps. During the occupation, Josip Broz Tito led his resistance group, the Partisans, across Yugoslavia, successfully gaining territory back from opposition forces throughout World War II.

In 1945, an election was held to determine the future government of Yugoslavia: communist or monarchal. Seen as Yugoslavia’s liberator during the occupation, Tito won with overwhelming support and became its first Prime Minister. He restructured the state into the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tito enjoyed widespread, popular support as Prime Minister, President, and finally as President for Life. Breaking from Stalin in 1948, Tito positioned Yugoslavia between the Eastern and Western blocs, becoming the first Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961 and enjoying outsized international prominence as the East and West’s go-between.

However, as economic disparity increased between the republics beginning in the late 1970s, which continued after the death of President Tito in 1980. As the Cold War came to an end the Socialist Federal Republic faced a wave of nationalistic movements and began to disintegrate into its component republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

In the late 1980’s, Slobodan Milošević rose to power as the leader of the Serbian nationalist movement, becoming Serbia’s President of the Presidency on 9 May 1989. Milošević expanded his influence across Yugoslavia and, by January 1990, he effectively controlled the government of Montenegro, as well as the Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina (all with significant Serbian populations), giving President Milošević four of the eight votes in the collective head-of-state of Yugoslavia. President Milošević advocated for a unified Yugoslav state; all other republics sought independence.

By 1992, only Serbia and Montenegro had not declared independence. Republics declaring independence clashed with the Yugoslav’s People’s Army (at this point, President Milošević’s forces) as well as with Serbian factions within their own borders. International bodies attempted to create conditions favorable to a peaceful dissolution of Yugoslavia. The European Communities pressured Croatia and Slovenia to suspend independence claims for three months after their declarations of independence on 25 June 1991. On 25 September 1991, the Security Council implemented a “general and complete embargo” on arms deliveries across Yugoslavia in an attempt to quell the increasing violence. Despite these actions, civilian casualties and the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) rose at an alarming rate, primarily within Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Security Council established the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) on 21 February 1992. UNPROFOR’s initial mandate was to monitor the ceasefire in Croatia and provide humanitarian aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It included military, police and civilian components deployed in three United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs) to secure humanitarian aid: Eastern Slovenia, Krajina and Western Slavonia, with military observers deployed in certain parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 29 February 1992, the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed a referendum for independence. At the time, Bosnia and Herzegovina was inhabited by 44 percent Muslim Bosniaks, 33 percent Eastern Orthodox Serbs and 17 percent Catholic Croats. Political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum and rejected the results, and began mobilizing to secure territory within Bosnia.

On 6 April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina received international recognition as an independent state. That day, Bosnian Serb forces began shelling Sarajevo, and within the month, all of Bosnia was engulfed in war. Alliances within the conflict are complex and dynamic. Currently, the primary belligerents are the forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the irregular forces of Herzeg-Bosnia (supported by Croatia), and the irregular forces of Republika Srpska (supported by Serbia). Both Herzeg-Bosnia and Republika Srpska have additional elements of foreign volunteer forces, and the regular forces of Croatia and Serbia (the Yugoslav People’s Army) continue to be active in Bosnia. At the beginning of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina were allied with Herzeg-Bosnia, however tensions have increased such that all three forces are openly fighting each other within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Reports of mass killings, ethnic cleansing and other violations of international humanitarian law by Croatian and Serbian forces have been widespread and credible. On 22 February 1993, the Security Council determined that an international tribunal is necessary to prosecute those responsible. The Security Council is waiting for the Secretary-General to report on options to establish a tribunal. On 20 March 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina filed an Application with the International Court of Justice instituting proceedings against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in respect to alleged violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Security Council has expanded UNPROFOR’s mandate three times in 1992 and 1993, first to provide aid to Sarajevo, then to escort aid throughout Bosnia, and finally to protect Sarajevo as a “safe area” free “from armed attack or any other hostile act.” The conflict has forced out thousands of refugees from territory under Serbian control. Violence against non-Serbs, particularly Bosnian Muslims, has surged. On 22 January 1993, the Croatian Army launched an offensive in a number of UNPROFOR’s “pink zones;” areas adjacent to and surrounding UNPAs. Three days later, the Council adopted resolution 802 (1993) which demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities against UN personnel and UNPROFOR-controlled areas.

In an attempt to negotiate peace between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, the United Nations and European Economic Community (EEC) sent UN Special Envoy David Owen and ECC Representative Cyrus Vance to Bosnia. The Vance-Owen Peace Plan involves the division of Bosnia into ten semi-autonomous regions. The plan remains highly controversial, with the United States as the primary opponent, and was rejected by referendum on 16 May. With no formal peace plan agreed upon between the parties, the Council continues to strengthen the mandate of UNPROFOR and violations against humanitarian law continue otherwise unabated.


UN Documents

  • United Nations, Security Council (1993). Bosnia. 6 May. S/RES/824.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Bosnia. 30 May. S/RES/757.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Bosnia. 15 May. S/RES/752.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Bosnia. 21 February. S/RES/743.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Bosnia. 8 January. S/RES/727.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1991). Bosnia. 24 November. S/23239.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1991). Bosnia. 24 November. S/RES/713.

The Situation in Somalia

Though ethnically and religiously homogeneous, Somalia’s population has a strong division between ancestral clans. Political power was distributed amongst clans under British and Italian colonial rule to reinforce divisions, and continued under the dictatorship of President Mohamed Siad Barre after his bloodless coup in 1969. By the late 1970’s, military power was also distributed along clan lines, again used to stoke inter-clan competition and conflict to ensure Barre’s overall control. Following Somalia’s defeat in the Ogaden War with Ethiopia in 1978, discontent began to spread amongst clan leaders. Barre responded to a failed coup attempt later that year with reprisal killings of 2,000 civilians.

The Somali government became increasingly oppressive through the 1980’s. The Isaaq clan in particular was targeted by the government as a scapegoat for general unrest. Between May 1988 and January 1990, an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people were killed, with roughly 80% estimated to be civilians, and 500,000 people were displaced due to the genocide. The campaign was expensive both in munitions and in international support, with significant pressure leading to the United States reducing its arming of the Somali government.

A number of clan-based militias rose to power and consolidated regional control throughout Somalia. Militias like the United Somali Congress (USC) and Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) began to attack Somali armed forces directly. At the end of 1990, the USC launched an offensive on Mogadishu, and on 27 January 1991, Barre fled the capital city of Mogadishu, leaving no clear political authority of Somalia.

President Ali Mahdi Muhammad is currently the nominal President of the Interim Government of Somalia, but his hold on power is limited to international recognition and Mogadishu. The central government is essentially nonfunctional. General Mohammed Farah Aidid, who helped oust Barre in the 1991 revolution, commands the armed factions of the USC and directly vies with a dozen other, smaller armed factions throughout Somalia.

The civil war has destroyed much of Somalia’s agriculture. Between 1991 and 1992, over three hundred thousand Somalis died of starvation. Compounding the issue, up to 80 percent of international food aid is being stolen by armed gangs to secure the loyalty of clan leaders or to be exchanged regionally for weapons. In July 1992, President Muhammad and General Aidid signed a ceasefire in Mogadishu, and the United Nations deployed 50 peacekeepers to observe of the ceasefire and to provide security for United Nations personnel and humanitarian aid. In August 1992, Operation Provide Relief began to provide humanitarian relief for the people of Somalia. However, as with earlier humanitarian efforts, relief flights into Somalia were often looted as soon as they landed. Relief workers reported sophisticated commercial operations funneling stolen food into the black market. On 27 November 1992, the Secretary-General, in his letter to the President of the Security Council, reported rapidly deteriorating support across all factions within Somalia for any efforts to secure humanitarian aid. He outlined a cycle of “extortion and blackmail” that must be broken to permit the distribution of relief supplies.

The United States offered to provide the majority of 37,000 troops to establish the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) to secure relief efforts in southern Somalia. The Security Council accepted the offer and authorized UNITAF to use “all necessary means” to ensure the protection of relief efforts. While the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) sought to negotiate a political end to the conflict, UNITAF was a United States-led, United Nations-sanctioned force tasked solely with the immediate security concerns of Somalia, intended to be a temporary use of force to establish a security zone first in Mogadishu and then throughout the surrounding regions of southern Somalia.

By March 1993, UNITAF had secured an expanded security zone around Mogadishu, but had not yet established a security zone and trade routes throughout southern Somalia. Despite this the United States signalled a drawdown of its commitment to UNITAF. On 26 March, the Security Council established UNOSOM II, with a mandate to seek a political end to the conflict and to rebuild the nation. The Security Council granted UNOSOM II enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter though across the entire country.

UNITAF was dissolved on 4 May, and UNOSOM II formally took over relief and nation building efforts in Somalia with a force of 22,000 United Nations peacekeepers.


UN Documents

  • United Nations, Security Council (1993). Somalia. 6 June. S/RES/837.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1993). Somalia. 26 March. S/RES/814.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Somalia. 3 December. S/RES/794.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Somalia. 24 April. S/RES/751.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Somalia. 17 March. S/RES/746.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). Somalia. 23 January. S/RES/733.

The Situation in Rwanda

After Belgium accepted a League of Nations mandate to govern Rwanda in 1916, it created identification cards that classified people according to ethnicity. The Belgians gave the Tutsis, an ethnic minority, the majority of political power in the mandate, as well as greater educational and occupational opportunities than the Hutu, the ethnic majority. Over time, Hutu resentment toward the Tutsis escalated and resulted in a series of riots in 1959, which caused the death of over 20,000 Tutsis and pushed refugees across the border into Uganda. Three years later, when Belgium granted Rwanda independence, the new government was dominated by the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement, which promulgated policies of ethnic supremacy.

In 1987, the Tutsis who had fled to Uganda as a result of the 1959 riots established the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and an armed segment called the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) . Three years later, on 1 October 1990, the RPA invaded northern Rwanda. This initial invasion proved unsuccessful, but after retreating and taking time to regroup, the RPA began a more successful insurgency campaign. On 28 March 1991, a ceasefire was signed in Zaire between the RPF and the Rwandan government. Unfortunately, the ceasefire was broken almost immediately.

The war continued, despite several rounds of negotiations. On 16 April 1992, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana authorized opposition parties to join the Rwandan government, creating a coalition government. Three months later, on 12 July 1992, an additional ceasefire agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania. The ceasefire agreement formally went into effect on 1 August, and the parties rejoined on 10 January 1993 to reach a power-sharing agreement based on the creation of a transitional government.

This ceasefire was violated by an RPF offensive on 8 February. By this time, the number of internally displaced persons had reached nearly one million. The parties agreed to reinstate the ceasefire on 9 March, and the Council adopted resolution 812 on 12 March, which dispatched an observer mission to the Uganda-Rwanda border. Peace talks resumed in Arusha on 16 March. Recently, the Permanent Representative of Uganda reaffirmed that his Government is prepared to accept the stationing of a United Nations observer mission on the Ugandan side of the border. An interim report of the Secretary-General on Rwanda dated 20 May 1993 states that the current round of negotiations between parties covers military issues, refugees and displaced persons, along with outstanding political matters such as the amendment of the constitution.


UN Documents

The Situation in Haiti

Following years of increasing discontent and pressure from Pope John Paul II and the United States, Jean-Claude Duvalier peacefully departed Haiti on 7 February 1986 after 15 years as President for Life, ending his dynastic regime. Four years of coup d’etats and elections marred by violence and accusations of fraud followed, and in 1990 the provisional government of Haiti requested the United Nations to observe its elections. The General Assembly established the United Nations Observer Group for the Verification of the Elections in Haiti (ONUVEH) on 10 October 1990. Haiti held general elections in December 1990, which were seen as fair and successful both by ONUVEH and Haiti. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide assumed office on 7 February 1991.

On 29 September 1991 Lieutenant-General Raoul Cédras led a coup d’état, deposing President Aristide. Reaction to the coup was violent, and Haiti plunged into disorder and violence. Civil unrest resulted in the massive displacement of an estimated 300,000 Haitians, sending tens of thousands of refugees to neighboring countries.

On 30 September 1991, the Permanent Representative of Haiti sent a letter to the President of the Security Council requesting an immediate meeting to “consider the situation in Haiti and its consequences for regional stability.” At its 3011th meeting, on 3 October 1991, the President of the Security Council stated that the events in Haiti “represented a violent usurpation of legitimate democratic authority and power” and “deserved to be strongly condemned.” All speakers participating in the meeting echoed the sentiments of the President.

On 15 March 1993, the General Assembly adopted resolution 47/143 which called for the restoration of President Aristide, the full application of the National Constitution and the full observance of human rights. It also requested the Secretary-General to take the “necessary measures” in order to assist the Organization of American States (OAS) in solving the Haiti crisis. In February 1993, the OAS, with approval from President Aristide, established the International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) to verify respect for human rights as laid down in the Haitian Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Efforts to resolve the Haitian political crisis have centered around three issues: the return of President Aristide, the appointment of a Prime Minister to head a Government of national concord and the resolution of the question of amnesty. The Secretary-General’s special envoy to Haiti, Dante Caputo, has facilitated negotiations between Cédras’ government and Aristide, but negotiations are stalled.

MICIVIH observers began deployment to Haiti in March 1993. In his 24 March 1993 report to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General recommended the establishment of the United Nations component of MICIVIH. The General Assembly authorized United Nations participation with the OAS in MICIVIH on 20 April, reiterating the need to have the Aristide government restored to power and continuing dialogue with Caputo.

To date, the Security Council has not acted to address the current political and growing humanitarian crisis in Haiti. President Aristide remains in exile in the United States.


UN Documents

The Situation in the Middle East

There are currently four ongoing United Nations operations in the region, representing an array of peacekeeping and observer mandates and functions.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established in March 1978 after Israel occupied significant territory in the South Lebanon conflict. UNIFIL is tasked with “confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.” Israel has long since withdrawn from its positions held during the invasion that prompted UNIFIL’s creation, but fighting continues between Israeli forces, local Lebanese militias, and Hezbollah, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Five thousand peacekeepers are currently deployed in Lebanon. In January 1993, S/RES/803 extended UNIFIL’s mandate to 31 July 1993.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was established on 21 May 1974 to implement the ceasefire that ended the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria. UNDOF continues to monitor the ceasefire and maintain the buffer zone between the States with 900 peacekeepers. UNDOF’s mandate has been extended every six months since its inception. Its mandate currently extends to 31 May 1993, via S/RES/790.

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, established 29 May 1948 to observe a four week Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. It has since become its own subsidiary body of the Security Council, and now provides support to other peacekeeping efforts in the region. It is particularly adept at rapidly deploying observers to developing crises in the region, providing a core of observers around which more lasting peacekeeping operations are built. UNTSO currently provides military observer support to both UNIFIL and UNDOF.

United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) was established on 9 April 1991 to observe the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between Iraq and Kuwait following of the Gulf War. Its mandate was most recently modified in February 1993 by S/RES/806 which militarized the observer mission, in response to repeated incursions into the DMZ by Iraq in January 1993. In addition to supplementing UNIKOM’s 300 observers with 900 armed peacekeepers, the Security Council granted UNIKOM the power to actively prevent violations in the DMZ. Under S/RES/689, UNIKOM’s mandate must be reviewed every six months, but the mandate will automatically extend without a resolution from the Security Council. The next review is scheduled to take place in April 1993.

UN Documents

  • United Nations, Security Council (1993). The Middle East. 5 February. S/RES/806.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1993). The Middle East. 28 January. S/RES/803.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). The Middle East. 25 November. S/RES/790.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). The Middle East. 26 August. S/RES/773.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). The Middle East. 30 July. S/RES/768.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). The Middle East. 29 May. S/RES/756.
  • United Nations, Security Council (1992). The Middle East. 9 April. S/RES/689.

United Nations Peacekeeping Budget

Peacekeeping costs for 1993 are expected to rise by more than a third to $3.7 billion. The failure of Member States to pay their share of peacekeeping costs is a major problem. By the end of April, unpaid peacekeeping dues totalled $1.5 billion. These unpaid dues cast serious doubts about the United Nations’ ability to finance future peacekeeping operations

The current United Nations mission in Somalia, UNOSOM II, is expected to cost $1.2 billion a year. If the Serbs in Bosnia can be persuaded to accept an international peace plan, the United Nations plans to deploy some 70,000 troops to the area, which could cost an additional $2 billion a year.


UN Documents

Historical Commission of Inquiry of 2005

The Historical Commission of Inquiry (COI) simulates two historical commissions, each established by the United Nations Security Council to provide in-depth reporting on the facts and developments of a particular dispute. The Commissions’ mandates may also empower them to serve as mediators in negotiations between the parties to the dispute. At the United Nations, each Commission is unique in membership and purpose. At AMUN, however, two disputes that have been the subject of past Commissions will be scrutinized by the same body of experts. These experts will include representatives from states which were seated on the historical Commissions–in this case Egypt, South Africa, India, and Fiji–and representatives from states which applied for placement on the AMUN Commission.

Members of the United Nations can formally raise disputes to the Security Council through Article 35 of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council investigates those disputes through Article 34 of the Charter, historically by forming Commissions of Inquiry. The objectives of a Commission of Inquiry are to investigate the facts and allegations of a dispute, keep the Security Council informed of its findings and developments, and to tender a final report on the facts of the dispute at the conclusion of each investigation. That final report may also include recommendations for the Security Council.

At AMUN, the Commission of Inquiry is a historical simulation. History is considered to track with true events until the start date for the simulation. Events occuring after that date are subject to change through the actions of the experts and by direction of the simulation staff. This brief provides an introduction to the issues before the Commission as of the start date of the simulation. The start date for this year’s Commission is 25 October 2004.

International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur

Concerned by the growing influence of the Ottoman Empire in northern Africa throughout World War I, the British invaded and annexed the region of Darfur into Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1916. British administration divided the area into two regions, a predominantly Arabic-speaking, Muslim region in the north, and a Christian, non-Arabic South. The majority of financial development and influence centered in and around Khartoum in the North. Peripheral regions, such as Darfur, experienced economic and political deterioration. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, adverse climate conditions impacted the region’s agrarian economy and subsequently led to famine, which further highlighted the tensions between African farmers and the urban Arab elite.

Regional conflicts in northern Africa contributed to the tumultuous environment. Sudan achieved political independence from Britain in 1956 but was plagued by the violence and instability of proxy wars with neighboring Chad and Libya. With the onset of the first Sudanese Civil war between the North and South in 1955, many Darfurians living on the border of these countries developed identities aligned with the ideology of Arab supremacy promoted by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, further fragmenting the division between Arab and African groups within the Sudan.

Throughout the remainder of the twentieth century, social and political polarization gave way to physical action. Shortly after Sudanese independence, the Umma Party, led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, assumed political influence within the country. Continued neglect of outlier regions by the Umma led to the formation of various regional opposition groups. In 1968, the first significant efforts to separate “Arabs” from “Africans” in the region began. One prominent opposition group, the Darfur Development Front, capitalized on this ethnic division and began blaming the Arabs for the marginalization of the river-side provinces, in order to gain support from numerous African tribes within the electorate. This tension reached a head in late 2003, when non-Arab rebel groups began to mobilize significantly militarized operations against the Sudanese state in North Darfur and along the Chadian border.
Growing tension between Chad, Libya and Sudan turned Darfur into a militarily advantageous region where numerous groups sought strategic influence and further drove Darfurian tribes to identify as “pro-Arab” or “pro-African.” Al-Gaddafi declared Darfur to be of “Arab” nature, and Libya began to support Arab supremacist militants fighting to form an ethnically and culturally Arab state. Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry subsequently began to bolster the government of Chad in an attempt to stabilize Sudan’s position of power within northern Africa. In response, Al-Gaddafi sent troops into Sudan to directly assault the capital city of Khartoum, resulting in three days of vicious fighting. After the Libyan forces were defeated, Nimeiry aligned Sudan with the anti-Libyan Hissene Habre, giving sanctuary to Chad’s armed forces.

The discovery of oil in the Melut Basin of southern Sudan in 2003, combined with spreading desertification of arable land and neglect of African groups by Nimeiry’s government, led to deteriorating conditions in rural Darfur as citizens continued to be displaced as oil endeavors developed. Ethnic tensions continued to build as African-identifying farmers in Darfur believed their suffering came at the hands of an Arab elite in Khartoum, while semi-nomadic Arab populations felt that resources were hoarded by agrarian Africans. As Islamist Omar al-Bashir gained influence and overthrew Nimeiry in 1989, the country’s political system further stressed the divide between ruling Arabs and non-Arab tribes. In 1999, African nomadic groups began to attack Arab tribes throughout Darfur, fueled by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army, a rebel group formed in opposition to growing Arab and Islamic control. In response, state-sponsored Arab militias began to raid rural villages, reinforcing the ethnic lines between the Sudanese state and the rebel groups.

Opposition to the Sudanese state continue to gain power into the 21st century, forming the major players central to the current conflict. By 2003, rebel movements had coalesced into two major organizations, the SPLM/A and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Both groups accused the Sudanese government of systematic oppression of African groups, and, with an attack on the Sudanese military base at al-Fashir in early 2003, significantly escalated the intensity of the rebel operations. While launching its own military operations and airstrikes against the rebel groups, the Sudanese government began to reinforce the Janjaweed, a large force of mounted Arab militiamen, with weapons, finances and additional resources. As reports of pillage and rape at the hands of the Janjaweed and Sudanese military spread, along with claims of rebel attacks on state-run hospitals and humanitarian convoys, the United Nations began its initial inquiries into the crisis.

With the adoption of resolution 1556 in July of 2004, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on all non-governmental entities and individuals operating in Darfur, including the Janjaweed. At this time, Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as Juan Mendez, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, were also dispatched to Darfur to assess the situation. Based upon United Nations estimates of widespread civilian displacement along with the destruction of rural villages, the Security Council passed Resolution 1564 later in 2004, establishing the formation of an international Commission of Inquiry that would investigate the possibility of war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide committed by the various militarized groups involved in the conflict. While the Sudanese government has agreed to comply with the Commission, these interventions by the international community have not eased tensions in the region. If the international community concludes that Sudan has committed genocide against its African citizens, economic sanctions and additional peacekeeping operations may further destabilize al-Bashir’s internal regime, as well as Sudan’s regional influence amongst neighboring Chad and Libya. The manifesto of the SPLM/A and JEM seeking greater political and economic influence for rural regions such as Darfur may be jeopardized if international scrutiny determines that the Sudanese government is responding to rebel attacks with appropriate military action. For the militarized groups involved in the conflict, the scope of influence that each faction will hold in the future shaping of the Sudan will depend greatly on the international perception of their respective actions.

Questions to Consider

  1. What factors must be considered when determining whether or not genocide has occurred under the Sudanese government?
  2. If it is determined that genocide has occurred, how will the parties responsible be identified and held accountable? If genocide has not occurred, what steps, if any, should the international community take to address the humanitarian crisis?
  3. What obstacles might the Secretary-General encounter when approaching the development of possible ceasefire agreements within the region?


  • Sikainga, Ahmad (2009). The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis: Understanding the Darfur Conflict. The Ohio State University Press.
  • Zirulnick, Ariel (2011). South Sudan: A Timeline to Independence. The Christian Science Monitor.
  • United Nations, Department of Public Information (2007). The United Nations and Darfur. Peace and Security Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information.

UN Documents

  • United Nations, Security Council (2004). The Sudan. 18 September. S/RES/1564.
  • United Nations, Security Council (2004). The Sudan. 30 July. S/RES/1556.

Commission of Experts to Review the Prosecution of Serious Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste (the then East Timor) in 1999

From the early sixteenth century until the beginning of the Second World War in the Pacific, the island of Timor had been divided between a Dutch-ruled western half (administered as part of the Dutch East Indies) and a Portuguese-ruled eastern half (known as Portuguese Timor or East Timor). The Japanese invasion of European territories in the Southwest Pacific interrupted this state of affairs; Allied troops were driven off Timor in February 1943 and European colonial control was not restored until after the surrender of Japan in 1945. Portugal was quick to re-establish colonial rule over their half of the island and declared East Timor an Overseas Province in 1955, but the territory was largely neglected. In 1974, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal resulted in the installation of a new government which sanctioned the creation of Timorese political parties. On 28 November 1975 Fretilin, the de facto governing party of East Timor, made a unilateral declaration of independence that was largely unrecognized by the international community; the United Nations continued to classify East Timor as a non-self-governing territory. On 7 December 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor by air and sea. Indonesian military action had effectively dismantled Timorese armed resistance by the end of the 1970s, but a clandestine separatist movement persisted in the cities. The United Nations did not recognize Indonesia’s annexation.

In January 1999 the increasing cost of supporting the occupation and internal democratization efforts within Indonesia prompted Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie to announce that a referendum would take place to allow the people of East Timor to vote on the issue of autonomous integration within Indonesia. The Security Council established the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to provide consultation and security for the referendum. On 4 September 1999 the results of the referendum were announced, with the majority of votes cast against autonomous integration, the results were a de facto vote in favor of independence. Within hours of the results being announced, pro-integration militias supported by Indonesian soldiers began a campaign of violence and destruction throughout East Timor, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 Timorese and the forced evacuation of UNAMET staff. Under economic pressure, Indonesia announced on 12 September 1999 that it would withdraw from East Timor and allow international forces to restore order. On 15 September 1999 the Security Council passed resolution 1264, authorizing the establishment of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET). Australian troops arrived in Dili the next day and brought an end to the violence. On 19 October 1999, the Indonesian Parliament formally revoked the integration proposal and, on 30 October, the last Indonesian representatives left East Timor. On 25 October, the Security Council passed resolution 1272 (1999), establishing the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to administer East Timor, which it would do until the declaration of East Timorese independence on 20 May 2002.

In June 2000, UNTAET established the Special Panels for Serious Crimes (Special Panels) within the Dili District Court and the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) within the Office of the General Prosecutor in order to bring those responsible for the 1999 violence to justice. Under mounting international pressure, the Indonesian government authorized an inquiry into the events in 1999 and created the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court to try those indicted by the report of the inquiry. However not all those indicted were brought to trial, and by 2004 all but one of those brought before the Ad Hoc Court had been acquitted either at trial or on appeal. In East Timor, concerns have been raised about the ability of the Special Panels to deliver justice, and whether the General Prosecutor is able to operate sufficiently independent of the East Timorese government. In fulfilment of the Security Council’s request that the Secretary-General inform it of developments in East Timor, a Commission of Experts was appointed on 18 February 2005 to assess the progress made in bringing to justice those responsible for such violations, to determine whether full accountability has been achieved and to recommend future actions. The members of the Commission of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General were representatives from India and Fiji.

Questions to Consider

  1. What have been the judicial processes used by the Indonesian Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor, and the Special Panels for Serious Crimes?
  2. Have those institutions functioned effectively to achieve justice and accountability for the crimes committed in East Timor? If not, what obstacles and difficulties have been encountered?
  3. What additional measures should be considered by the Secretary-General to hold those responsible accountable, secure justice for the victims and the people of East Timor, and promote reconciliation?


  • Marker, Jamsheed (2003). East Timor: A Memoir of the Negotiations for Independence. McFarlnad & Company, Inc.
  • Martin, Ian (2002). Self-Determination In East Timor: The United Nations, The Ballot and International Intervention. International Peace Academy Occasional Paper Series.
  • Nevins, Joseph (2005). A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor. Cornell University Press.
  • Smith, M.G. (2003). Peacekeeping in East Timor: The Path to Independence. International Peace Academy Occasional Paper Series.
  • Ramos-Horta, Jose (1987). Funu: The Unfinished Saga of East Timor. Red Sea Press.
  • Taylor, John G. (1999). East Timor: The Price of Freedom. Zed Books.
UN Documents

General Assembly Plenary


The General Assembly Plenary typically considers issues that are best addressed in a comprehensive manner or that require coordinating work between many bodies of the United Nations. For example, the 60th General Assembly established a Peacebuilding Commission that oversees the United Nations peacebuilding processes and coordinates the work of the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary-General and Member States emerging from conflict situations. Note that if the Security Council, which is given the primary task of ensuring peace and security by the Charter, is discussing a particular issue, the General Assembly Plenary will cease its own deliberations and defer to the Security Council. Additionally, only the Fifth Committee is able to set or discuss the United Nations budget. No other bodies, including the Plenary, are able to do so. The Plenary committees, both concurrent and combined, have the widest latitude of the deliberative bodies to discuss and pass resolutions on a wide variety of topics.

Education for Democracy

Democratic governance and popular representation in government are core rights identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To support democratization and democracy across the world, the United Nations has encouraged the empowerment of civilians and their participation in policymaking at all levels through many avenues, including recently a focus on education for democracy. Educating citizens about democratic principles, from democratic participation to the protection of human rights, builds a strong foundation to support democratic governance. At the same time, the United Nations recognizes that democracy takes many forms, so its focus has been on encouraging and developing the ideals that make a government democratic, rather than promoting one specific model of government. Even so, electoral democracies around the world have grown substantially from the 1970s onward, with both the proportion of electoral democratic governments and proportion of the world’s population living in electoral democracies rapidly increasing between 1975 and 2015, the latter more than doubling over that time period as numerous new electoral democracies emerged as the result of decolonization and the end of the Cold War.

In 1974, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted the Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which proposed a structure for national education programs to instill respect and understanding of human rights. According to the most recent quadrennial report requested by the Recommendation in 2017, nearly all of the 83 Member States that responded to the UNESCO survey had included principles of peace and non-violence, cultural diversity and human rights in their national education curricula. These principles help establish an environment where democratic governance is effective by helping to define the roles of people and governments with respect to each other. The role of UNESCO in promoting education for democracy eventually culminated in the 1992 International Forum on Education for Democracy in Tunis, where UNESCO discussed the purpose of education both in building democratic traditions in new democracies and in combating democratic apathy in old ones.

Since the 1992 UNESCO forum, education for democracy efforts have entered into the purviews of many United Nations organizations, each approaching the issue from different perspectives. The United Nations Development Programme considers education and democratic ideals as development goals, particularly given their status in the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2004 the General Assembly proclaimed the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which built off the achievements of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) and planned to improve human rights education in phases, first targeting primary and secondary education from 2005 to 2009, then moving on to focus on other facets of education. The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) was founded in 2005 and funds projects in burgeoning democracies to strengthen the voice of civil society, call attention to human rights and facilitate the participation of all groups in democratic processes, with a large emphasis on projects that allow for more participation by women. UN Women, founded in 2010, also uses a gendered approach to education for democracy, seeking to increase representation of women in political systems.

The General Assembly first directly addressed this issue in November 2012 with the passage of Resolution 67/18, Education for Democracy. In this resolution, the General Assembly tied together the previous work done for education for democracy; the resolution encouraged Member States to integrate human rights and citizens empowerment into domestic education systems and called upon the various United Nations organizations to assist in sharing their expertise. This resolution also coincided with then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s launch of the five-year Global Education First initiative to accelerate progress on the education-related Millennium Development Goals, including fostering the democratic ideal of global citizenship by supporting individual projects across the world that promote access to education and civic engagement.

In its most recent resolution on Education for Democracy, the General Assembly has placed Education for Democracy squarely in terms of Sustainable Development Goal 4, “ensuring quality education for all,” and the Education 2030 Framework for Action for meeting this goal. In particular, the resolution ties together education for democracy, human rights, and civic education and education for sustainable development, and calls on Member States to integrate all of these into their education standards.

Past efforts to implement education for democracy initiatives have struggled in some developing countries due to insufficient standard education infrastructure for these programs to build upon. This problem is particularly exacerbated by conflict, where instability and refugee crises undermine the reach of educational programs. The March 2018 report “It’s Her Turn” from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, revealed that refugee girls are only half as likely as their male peers to enroll in school by the time they reach secondary education, and highlighted some of the challenges girls face that cause this discrepancy.

Questions for Consideration:

  • How does the the General Assembly participate alongside UNESCO, UN Women and other United Nations organizations in promoting education for democracy?
  • How can democratic ideals be promoted in ways that do not conflict with social, cultural or political traditions?
  • How does the role of education for democracy differ between established democracies and newer, more fragile ones?


UN Documents:

Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel

The United Nations relies heavily on its own personnel and third-party humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel to fulfil its mandate to maintain peace, security and well-being across the world. Ensuring their safety is vital to maximizing their performance in United Nations operations and to the overall success of their missions, as well as facilitating recruitment and establishment of future aid work. While rules of war have protected humanitarian personnel for well over a century, these workers continue to be attacked by both State and non-State actors. Further, It is important to remember that fatalities are not the only threats facing aid workers, as violent crime, abduction, and other non-lethal acts also threaten the well-being of personnel.

The four Geneva Conventions form the basis for modern rules of conduct during war, and the First Geneva Convention defines the protections of humanitarian personnel in areas of conflict. First ratified in 1864, the First Convention designated hospital and ambulance personnel as neutral parties and required belligerent parties to respect that neutrality. As methods of war evolved in the decades after the First Convention, the international community recognized shortcomings in the Convention and by 1949 had revised and expanded the original Convention to apply to all medical personnel, religious personnel and civilians. In 1977, two Additional Protocols expanded the Convention to cover colonial and non-international conflicts, and in 2005 a third Protocol introduced a new symbol for medical and religious personnel, the Red Crystal. Despite these attempts to modernize the Geneva Conventions, they fail to address conflicts involving non-State armed groups (NSAG), which have become increasingly common since the end of the Cold War. In August 2016, airstrikes led by Member States laid waste to a medical center in Yemen operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). This strike demonstrated that these attacks are perpetrated not only by militias or non-state actors, but also by the Member States that have supported United Nations resolutions supporting protection of humanitarian actors. In response to this and other events, the General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2017 reaffirming the need for state governments to hold accountable actors treating centers of humanitarian aid as tactical targets.

Alongside humanitarian personnel, United Nations personnel and peacekeepers have also faced dangerous environments. In 1948, attacks against peacekeepers in Palestine resulted in the death of the Palestine Mediator and his assistant, demonstrating early on that the presence of the United Nations would not always be welcome in areas of conflict. Infrequent attacks continued over the following decades, but the United Nations did not consider them grave enough to require preventative action, instead considering the attacks to be within the understood risks of participating in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. The safety and security of humanitarian personnel serving the United Nations was not formally addressed until 1992, when Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali deemed the risks to United Nations personnel intolerable. Boutros-Ghali’s initial report prompted the International Law Commission to draft the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994 and entered into force in 1999, and was later expanded in 2005 with an Optional Protocol. However, as of 2018 only 92 Member States are party to the Convention, and 32 are party to the Optional Protocol.

Fortunately, in recent years fatality rates among both peacekeeping and other United Nations personnel have dropped, with the International Peace Institute estimating the ratio of peacekeeping deaths being halved between 1990 and 2010. In 2017, the Secretary-General reported that overall United Nations personnel fatalities in 2016 hit a five-year low, despite increased numbers of personnel in unstable environments. However, while fatalities and casualties have dropped, the number of personnel affected by security incidents remained high, although the count in 2016 was below the 2010-2016 average. Predominant among these incidents were intimidation, violent crime, terrorism, abduction, and sexual harassment and assault, with violent crime representing the majority of threats posed to aid personnel. Data from 2016 further showed that while both men and women face relatively equal risks of experiencing some threats, 71 percent of personnel directly affected by sexual assault were women.

Looking ahead, the United Nations seeks to empower domestic and international instruments used to bring perpetrators of humanitarian violence to justice and to strengthen the Security Management System for United Nations programmes. The report of the Secretary-General noted that efforts to improve safety and security were beginning to bear fruit, as the overall rate of attacks had slowed compared to earlier in the decade. It further emphasized the importance of adequate and consistent support from Member States in continuing that trend, and also for Member States to conduct investigations into crimes against United Nations personnel and humanitarian personnel. In 2017, the General Assembly urged States to enact national legislation to facilitate the implementation of international law concerning the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, and additionally to ensure effective legal prosecution against those who threaten or harm them. Humanitarian organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, have also called for independent international investigations into attacks on humanitarian personnel, however, due to a lack of consent from the States involved, such investigations have not been possible. To ensure the United Nations is able to continue providing critical programs in high-risk areas, the organization must train qualified personnel and adopt a management system that facilitates the transfer of risk information between host countries and humanitarian personnel.

Questions to Consider:

  • What challenges are associated with ensuring the safety and security of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers? How does the type of work affect the challenges and potential solutions?
  • How can the United Nations better protect humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers in areas of conflict?
  • What protections do humanitarian personnel or UN personnel need outside of active conflict areas?
  • How can Member States or the United Nations ensure threats and attacks against United Nations personnel and humanitarian personnel are effectively investigated and prosecuted?


United Nations Documents:


General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security)


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. For more information concerning the purview of the United Nations General Assembly as a whole, see the introduction to the General Assembly Plenary.

Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction

A biological weapon is a biological agent, such as a micro-organism or a biologically produced toxin, that is used to cause death or disease in a target population. The potential number of victims of biological weapons is enormous due to the possibility of human-to-human transmission, which could easily cross international borders. The fact that biological weapons can affect areas or resurge after their initial deployment compounds the potential problems both for national governments and for the international community. Biological weapons have been used for centuries and, with rapid advances in research and technology, the ease of acquiring biological weapons has increased significantly. Over the past three decades, there have been reports of various uses of biological weapons by terrorist groups in plots against civilian populations. Experts warn that terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram may be able to harness biological weapons via poorly-secured biological research facilities, potentially leading to a vast increase in biological weapons use without the international community’s control or ability to sanction.

In 1975, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), a multilateral treaty aimed at banning the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons, came into force. The Convention aims for the complete disarmament of biological weapons by preventing States Parties from developing and stockpiling biological weapons and their precursors, by developing and enforcing confidence building measures and by promoting and improving peaceful biological activities. In 1986, the Second Review Conference of the Convention attempted to increase compliance by passing a number of confidence-building measures (CBM). But doubts and suspicions persisted among States Parties and many pointed at ambiguities in the language of the Convention and what those may mean for actual destruction of biological weapons, namely in what constitutes acceptable uses of potentially fatal illnesses, what research can be done and how to transfer information and resources safely. Unwilling to disarm when others would not, many States Parties continued to move only slowly toward disarmament.

The Third Review Conference was held in 1991 and created a group of governmental experts to research potential scientific methods the international community could use when verifying that States Parties were destroying biological weapons stockpiles. The Third Review Conference led to an expansion of confidence-building measures in 1991, which required new public declarations regarding facilities and past offenses. These measures meant to increase compliance, but self-reporting, lack of verification and overall reluctance to dismantle weapons programs persisted. A Special Conference in 1994 created an Ad Hoc Group of States to negotiate and develop a legally-binding verification system in which States Parties could be held accountable for stockpile destruction. In order to address concerns that these measures might stifle scientific growth and economic potential, the First Committee and States Parties to the agreement reaffirmed their commitment to technological research and economic growth. This was accompanied by commitments to prevent proliferation of biological weapons at all research levels. Reporting procedures remained complex, causing difficulties when monitoring compliance. As a result, the Sixth Review in 2006 adopted by consensus a detailed plan for promoting universal adherence and agreed to update and streamline procedures for submission and distribution of CBM.

The early 2000s was marked by both terrorist threats and the threat of multiple widespread epidemics. These crises underscored the desire among Member States to reduce access to biological weapons and the technology that can create them. In response to these growing fears, Member States approved an Implementation Support Unit (ISU) in 2006, which would provide assistance to Member States to adhere to the BWC. The ISU will be in place until the Ninth Review Conference in 2021. In order to achieve its mission, the ISU provides assistance and support, including technical and administrative support, to States Parties moving into compliance with the BWC. However, attempts to strengthen the ISU and fully equip it to the recommendations of the Review Conference chairman and secretariat were fundamentally unsuccessful due to, in part, reluctance to further increase the ISU’s capability, and unrealistic monetary and capacity expectations. States Parties left the 2016 Conference with almost universal frustration and met again in a intersessional meeting called for as a direct result of the upset at the 2016 conference.

In its most recent meeting, the General Assembly again stressed that Member States should move toward full compliance with the BWC. Reluctance to fully comply and the financial and technical capacity limitations facing many Member States have persisted. To reestablish cooperation in the face of 2016’s fraught meeting, the General Assembly especially stressed the importance of continued meetings and information exchange on the topic and reiterated the importance of confidence-building measures, calling for more frequent reports from Member States on the peaceful use of biology and technology and the continued pursuance by Member States to ensure that biological agents are not “in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes” and turned into “weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”

In December 2017, the States Parties to the BWC met for the annual intersessional and agreed to a three-year work program leading to the 2021 review conference. In support of this goal, the States Parties agreed to set up separate groups of experts to discuss measures for strengthening cooperation and assistance; reviewing developments in science and technology; strengthening national implementation; improving assistance, response, and preparedness; and institutional strengthening of the Convention. Regardless, there is still no mechanism within the BWC that allows for monitoring or enforcement of the BWC and ISU limitations prevent it from fulfilling some of that role. Information is self-reported by Member States and this leaves open the possibility that whaMember States may conceal details about their biological weapons possessions.

Many problems still face the First Committee. Despite the almost universal rhetorical commitment to the BWC, Member States still resist creating an implementation arm for the BWC and are still unable to agree on ways to strengthen the ISU. Much work has yet to be done on border and resource maintenance, particularly in areas where Member States lack the funds to secure transportation of their biological weapons resources. In addition, there is still reluctance to surrender weapons stock while other Member States still maintain weapons, and methods of destroying stockpiles are time consuming and expensive.

New scientific and technological developments have led to a desire to develop a code of conduct for areas of research with the potential for accidental or intentional infections of populations with novel pathogens, but further regulating biological research is controversial and many Member States worry about the financial impact of doing so. Considerable differences exist among Member States in how these five issues are best addressed, but there is general agreement that all are important, especially in the context of rapid advances in biological research and the instability in many regions of the world.

Questions to Consider

  • What is an appropriate enforcement mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention? How could such a mechanism be effective while respecting state sovereignty? What measures should be taken to deter development or production of biological weapons?
  • What resources are lacking for Member States seeking to destroy their biological weapons? What responsibility does the international community have to assist them in doing so?
  • How should the international community respond to the possible use of biotechnology to produce a novel biological weapon? What measures could prevent such an occurrence without unduly restricting biological research for peaceful purposes?


United Nations Documents

Consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures

Practical disarmament measures attempt to control the use of small arms, particularly those illicitly traded across borders and those used in conflict areas. Unregulated arms pose many threats and are often used in organized crimes, but light munitions, firearms and single-user weaponry have been used in terrorist attacks worldwide, which adds a layer of complexity to the problem. A notable spike in small arms use occurred in 2016 in Southeast Asia, marking the spread of small arms and an increased use in terrorism. Because small arms are easy to access and hard to trace, their regulation is key to minimizing their destructive potential.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the First Committee laid the groundwork for its current debate and efforts on the issue of disarmament. Early debate surrounded defining the issue at large, including what constitutes small arms and how unregulated small arms trade and smuggling threatens international peace and security. In 1988, the Committee debated the structural issues that lead to illicit arms trade, including border security and transitioning former combatants back into society. In 1995, the First Committee explicitly stated the link between illicit arms trade and violence, stating, “arms obtained through the illicit arms trade are most likely to be used for violent purposes and that even small arms when so obtained… can pose a danger to regional and international security.“ In 1996, the General Assembly established the Group of Interested States in Practical Disarmament Measures. This group, led by Germany, conducts research and discussions regarding best practices in post-conflict disarmament, with a special focus on small arms and light weapons. Its deliberations were frequently cited in First Committee debate.

In November 2000, the First Committee called for the Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which would build upon the foundational work the First Committee and the international community had built. The Conference resulted in the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), which lays out various goals at the national, regional and global levels to reduce arms trading. In 2005, the General Assembly adopted standards for marking and tracking small arms laid out in the International Tracing Instrument (ITI). Under the ITI, Member States are obligated to mark and track small arms within their borders. The ITI was not without flaws; many Member States were, and remain, functionally unable to live up to the ITI’s obligations. Monetary requirements, regional and domestic stability and the prevalence of crime and terrorist organizations make implementing tracking standards difficult. Without consistently implemented tracking standards, the First Committee may never meet the goals laid out in the PoA.

In the past 15 years, the focus of practical disarmament efforts has been in volatile post-conflict areas, in which the presence of small arms increases the likelihood of renewed hostilities or violent crime. Post-conflict disarmament has been closely linked to demobilization and reintegration, aiding former members of armed groups on their reentry into civilian life. In the early 2010s, the First Committee focused on promoting regional approaches to conflict resolution. Regional approaches also encourage development as a way to subvert demand for small arms, reducing conflict and crime and, therefore, illicit small arms trading. The General Assembly stressed the importance of tracking small arms by a cooperative effort between Member States. Its 2014 work noted that, in cases where there are existing peacekeeping operations, Member States may be able to leverage peacekeepers’ presence in post-conflict zone disarmament efforts.

In 2016, the Secretary-General commissioned a report on all aspects of illicit small arms trade, including post-conflict practical disarmament. This report stressed the importance of reducing surplus arms stockpiles, defined as “the weapons and ammunition that do not constitute an operational need.” This report also called attention to managing stockpiles in countries neighboring conflict zones, which can be vulnerable to diversion. In particular, countries neighboring conflict zones often are sources of additional small arms, and arms regulation and tracking among these Member States can be key to small arms reduction later on during post-conflict reconciliations.

Despite the recent progress in addressing the issue of practical disarmament, many challenges remain. First, the changing nature of conflict in recent years has necessitated disarmament efforts where high levels of organized violence persist, whether conducted by States, explicitly political non-state actors or criminal organizations. This means that the disarmament efforts must be protected, often by peacekeepers or the forces of the Member State. It also means that many tracking efforts are limited and suffer from a lack of resources. Second, disarmament efforts have recently begun to encompass non-state actors like terrorist groups and rebel militias that may not have an interest in a lasting peace or an obligation under international law. The presence and influence of non-state actors increases the demand for small arms and, subsequently, creates a need for situational intelligence and possibilities for corruption or co-optation of disarmament processes. Finally, disarmament efforts have become increasingly linked to development, such as to better address the root causes of the conflict in question and prevent future conflict; simply put, if a region is stable, there is significantly reduced illicit arms trade. The success of future efforts is likely dependent on the ability of the United Nations to address these challenges and opportunities.

Questions to consider

  • What are the primary difficulties in your region when implementing the ITI? How can your region overcome these difficulties and what resources are needed to do so?
  • How much effort should be made toward removal of small arms from active conflict zones? In such circumstances, how should the disarmament mission be protected?
  • What incentives should be provided to armed groups to decommission their arms and ammunition? How can such groups be prevented from purchasing new weapons with the incentives provided for decommissioning existing stockpiles?


United Nations Documents

General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial)


The General Assembly Second Committee addresses the economic development of Member States and the stability and growth of international financial and trade networks. The Second Committee deals solely with the economic development of Member States and addressing State-to-State assistance. It does not set or discuss the budget of the United Nations, which is solely addressed by the Fifth Committee. The Second Committee also does not address social issues that affect development; such issues are considered by the Third Committee.For more information concerning the purview of the United Nations General Assembly as a whole, see the introduction to the General Assembly Plenary.


Women in development

Women play a crucial role in development, as they act as a catalyst for large economic, environmental and social change. These changes then set the stage for greater sustainable development. Women account for 49.6 percent of the world’s population and have great economic potential. They also fulfill major roles in societies around the world. For example, women account for 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Thus, they can cause major changes that can directly meet major development goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The United Nations recognizes this potential, and has been working to give women the tools and support they need to affect real change in society.

The United Nations has been committed to furthering women’s rights since its founding in 1948. In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is widely seen as the International Bill of Rights for women. CEDAW establishes a framework for specific action and offers definitions regarding discrimination. Through multiple Conferences on Women, the United Nations affirms its progress toward women’s empowerment. These conferences outline the United Nations’ commitment, in partnership with non-governmental organizations, to combat any remaining gender inequality and promote women’s rights throughout the world.

The UNDP has led to the creation of several initiatives to incorporate women into different roles for economic, social and environmental change. The Gender Equality Seal Programme, for example, aims to curb gender inequality in the workplace through assessment and then implementation of changes. The key areas for the Gender Equality Seal certification include eliminating gender-based pay gaps, increasing women’s roles in decision-making, enhancing work-life balance, enhancing women’s access to non-traditional jobs, eradicating sexual harassment at work and using inclusive, non-sexist communication. inMore than 400 companies across ten countries have been certified since 2009. This program also certifies regional UNDP offices in their work to support governmental partners in addressing gender equality. Certified entities are in turn supported with other resources UNDP has to offer. This program shows that collaboration with government and private organizations can lead to success in addressing gender equality in development.

The United Nations recognizes the need for sustainable development across the world, particularly when it comes to the connection between gender equality and development. In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted to continue the work developed under the Millenium Development Goals. This overarching plan includes seventeen goals, such as eliminating poverty, addressing climate change, gender equality and responsible consumption. They work hand in hand to create progressive actions addressing equality and sustainability. Gender equality is explicitly stated as one of the seventeen goals, and finds itself as an integral part of the remaining sixteen.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one initiative the United Nations created to address various development issues, including women’s role in development. The initiative addresses three core areas: gender equality, crisis response and development impact. Gender equality is a critical component of development. In order for gender equality to play this role, efforts to ensure available and equal opportunities must be part of any plan. The UNDP approach recognizes the unique experiences and needs of women and their ability to contribute to society. Their contributions are crucial in dealing with international issues such as climate change, conflict and disease. The UNDP strongly emphasizes the need for collaborative work to address this issue, including engaging civil organizations, nonprofits, academic institutions, for-profit organizations and international organizations.

In recent years, development strategies have sought to integrate women into more parts of society. By doing so, women can have a greater impact in society, including in areas such as the economy, law and the military. In 2015, United Nations General Assembly passed two resolutions to address women in development. These resolutions build upon past work, and call upon all future efforts to consider how to give women the opportunity to affect change in all parts of society. The United Nations is currently engaged in programs focused on creating sustainable economic development to have women engage in more active roles to promote economic growth and productivity, as mentioned in the 2017 resolution called Women in Development. Examples of programs to address women’s role in economic development are mentioned in several United Nations platforms. Several countries are highlighted in their progress towards including women increasingly serving in military roles, collaborations to end gender-based violence, women’s involvement in politics and differently-abled women joining the labor force. Such examples are a result of the partnerships between the UNDP and all aspects of civil society.

Despite the progress of several initiatives, women still face societal barriers to their involvement in economic development. Women around the world face violence and exploitation everyday while trying to work and support themselves and their families. They also often lack the tools and resources, such as education and funds, needed for their participation in development. The United Nations must continue to work with Member States and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to women facing violence and provide them with the resources they need. Member States must also recognize the potential that women have to affect change in society and take steps to increase their ability to aid development in their countries. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, highlighted the continued importance of connecting women and development stating “even where progress is made, it may not reach the women and girls who need it most and the ones that are being left furthest behind.” In her 2018 speech to to the United Nations, Mlambo-Ngcuka urged Member States to recognize that failure to address this issue can result in missing the other development targets. With this in mind, Member States will need to work together to build upon past successes to strengthen women’s role in development.

Questions to consider:

  • Is there a distinct role for women in development? What can Member States do to cultivate their role to increase and impact on development?
  • How can Member States work together to embrace a sustainable and equitable development model? Are there different methods that developing or developed countries are using that could be implemented globally?
  • What can be learned from initiatives, such as the UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal Programme? Are there successes or challenges from these programs that can be used to make new programs more effective?


Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources

The conflict over the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not only an issue of disputed territory but also over natural resources. Resources—including land, water, minerals, natural gas and oil—have been contested, with Israel and Palestine both claiming ownership. However, Israel has maintained control over the majority of the resources, including 85 percent of the water. Where Palestine sees this as illegal seizure of these resources, Israel maintains that it has the right to these resources. The World Bank estimates the resources in the West Bank are worth $3 billion USD, with minerals alone estimated to be worth $900 million USD. The conflict over resources leads to other pressing challenges, such as violence; it also shapes who benefits economically from the resources. One area of particular contention are the gas reserves off the coast of the Gaza strip. The conflicts over natural resources contribute to larger issues of violence and conflict in the region. While this problem has had continued attention from the United Nations, solutions are difficult to identify.

Though the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a topic of discussion for the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly first discussed permanent sovereignty over natural resources in the occupied Arab territories in 1973. The resolution was partially a response to Israel’s settlement policy established in 1967. The policy encouraged the establishment of settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. These Israeli settlements often cause tension around natural resources, both by using water and land for agriculture and by encouraging mining and other economic activities. In a resolution passed during the 1973 meeting, the General Assembly emphasized the importance of international collaboration to address this problem. The General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General report on specific exploitation and regulations enforced by Israel that may deter Palestinian economic development.

In 1983 the UN General Assembly recognized the rights of the Palestinian people to the resources within the occupied territories and stated that Israel’s actions are illegal exploitation of these resources and their economic potential. Israel and its supporters maintain that Israel’s actions do not break any laws. They argue instead that Israel has the right to defend itself and its territory. In 2005, the Secretary-General reported on Israel’s continued support of new  settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This report argues that the settlement activity violates international law, blocks investment and commercial activities, and degrades the environment. The Secretary-General notes that many of the same issues exist in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The report also highlights concerns about the water taxes imposed upon Palestinians and Syrians, in addition to the wells dug by Israel in the occupied territories. As of 2005, this report and previous resolutions have not deterred Israel. The World Bank estimates that the lost potential income is equivalent of 33 percent of Palestine’s GDP, and show that the Palestinian economy shrinks by $3.4 billion USD annually.

The international community continues to debate this issue, with consensus often difficult to reach. In 2011, the UN Security Council discussed the issue but was unable to pass a resolution on Israeli settlements. Since its first resolution on this topic, the United Nations General Assembly has reviewed the issue on a biennial basis, passing resolutions expressing concern about the environmental degradation caused by farms and pollution. In order to better address these issues, the United Nations General Assembly tasked United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to provide direct aid to the Palestinian people in resolution 33/147. The UNDP in turn launched the Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) in 1980. Through the PAPP, the UNDP delivers funds and training to the Palestinian people to develop jobs and infrastructure. In order to do this, the UNDP mobilizes the international community for funding, personnel and resources for the PAPP. Since 1980, the UNDP has provided $1.7 billion USD in development assistance to the Palestinian people. This aid has funded many projects, including those that focus on natural resource and environmental management. The UNDP recognizes the importance of managing essential resources such as water and land. Environmental degradation and water sanitation continue to be major challenges for the UNDP and the Palestinian people. Many areas of the occupied territories struggle with water sanitation. Despite 70 percent of the homes in Gaza being connected to a sewage system, the infrastructure is in need of major repairs and has lead to contamination of the aquifer. Continued efforts to address these issues will be crucial to prevent further degradation of infrastructure and ensure access to essential resources.

Today, many agencies in the international community and the United Nations continue to condemn Israeli actions due to their effects on the Palestinian economy. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development called these actions ‘de-development’ of Palestine in their 2017 report Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the Economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This report highlights how Israeli actions have negatively affected the Palestinian economy, and shows how resources drawn from the occupied territories play a major role in this downturn for the Palestinians. In addition to the UN, the European Union called upon Israel to stop the exploitation of resources in the occupied territories.

Palestinian protest groups first proposed the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to change its behavior. This movement calls upon the international community to boycott products from Israel until they cease construction of settlements, dismantle the separation wall and commit to protecting the rights of the Palestinian people. Opponents of this approach state that it is unclear if BDS has been effective. Some proponents of the two-state solution have also proposed as a solution an agreement that the largest Israeli settlements would be identified as Israeli territory and be exchanged with the same amount of land for the Palestinian people. This exchange of land would also take into account the resources and economic potential of the areas. This solution would require greater coordination outside of the United Nations General Assembly to achieve, but would help address issues with natural resources within the occupied territories. Additionally, consensus within the international community has been difficult to achieve concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. In order for the United Nations to implement solutions to this conflict, consensus will be an important part to any strategy.

Questions to Consider:

  • How can the international community ensure that economic gains from resources in occupied or contested territories are distributed fairly? What role can or should non-state actors play in encouraging resolution of the issue through actions like BDS?
  • How can the United Nations ensure that Palestinians have adequate access to water and other essential resources?
  • What steps can the United Nations take to prevent further environmental degradation? What role might Israel and Palestine play in preventing that degradation?


General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)


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.


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:

  • 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?


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:

  • 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?


UN Sources:

General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal)


The General Assembly Sixth Committee addresses issues relating to international law. The Committee not only drafts new international law, but also offers interpretations of existing international law, as well as recommendations for Members to implement international regulations through national law. The Committee also considers legal issues which affect the United Nations Secretariat and operations. The Sixth Committee does not resolve legal disputes; that is the responsibility of the International Court of Justice.For more information concerning the purview of the United Nations General Assembly as a whole, see the introduction to the General Assembly Plenary.

Please note: When considering the reports of sub-committees that may change the United Nations Charter or other legal documents, the Sixth Committee may act on provisions within that report and write resolutions appropriate to carry out any recommendations from such reports. When a topic results in a recommendation to change the United Nations Charter, the provisions laid out in Chapter XVIII and elsewhere in the Charter must be followed in the GA Plenary session, followed by submission of any approved portion to the Member States before ratification. Similarly, if this Committee recommends the formation of a new treaty or comparable legal agreement, a treaty conference would be called for during the GA Plenary session, to be held at a later date.


Status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and relating to the protection of the victims of armed conflicts

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are a collection of four Conventions and three additional Protocols that established protections and standards of humane treatment for those not directly involved in armed conflict. Together, these constitute the foundation of international humanitarian law which regulates armed conflict between states, covering both legal justifications for war and the legality of wartime conduct. Designed to protect those who are not or who are no longer participating in armed conflict, the Conventions provide specific rules to safeguard combatants or members of the armed forces who are wounded, sick or shipwrecked; prisoners of war; and civilians, as well as medical personnel, military chaplains and civilian support workers of the military. The Conventions apply in all cases of armed conflict, both declared and undeclared, among High Contracting Parties. Some provisions apply in conflicts with non-state actors and when only one belligerent is a Party to the Conventions.

While often referred to as a single document, the Geneva Conventions are actually four Conventions and three Additional Protocols. The First Convention (also known as the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field) details the protection of soldiers on land, those sick, and the wounded during war. It is a revised version of an older treaty that dates back to 1864. The Second Convention (also known as the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea) pertains specifically to military personnel at sea during war and replaced the 1907 Hague Convention. The Third Convention (also known as the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) applies to prisoners of war, while the Fourth Convention focuses on the protection of civilians, including those in occupied territories. The Third and Fourth Conventions specifically were created and established after World War II to prevent further harms like those seen during both World Wars.

In 1968, the General Assembly’s resolution 2444 paved the way for the Protocols by solidifying international agreement on the protection of civilian populations against the dangers of indiscriminate warfare and provided some groundwork for the Protocols. In 1977, the General Assembly welcomed the two new protocols and urged Member States to ratify them. Additional Protocols introduced in 1977 addressed the recognition that war, internal and external, causes massive collateral damage and victimizes civilian populations that are otherwise uninvolved. The following decades ushered in a slow but constant expansion of what harms the international community deems unacceptable and, consequently, a series of conflicts about those actions, the duties ascribed to the international community and state sovereignty. While the Conventions of 1949 enjoy universal adoption and ratification, the Protocols lack ratification by several High Contracting Parties to the Conventions.

In 2008, the Sixth Committee noted one of the fundamental issues surrounding the Geneva Conventions: despite nearly universal adoption, Member States continue to engage in actions counter to the Conventions. Attacks on civilian areas, hospitals as munitions targets and torture persist. The General Assembly urged its members to ratify the Rome Statutes, which would enable the International Criminal Court to pursue Geneva violations against ratifying States’ nationals. Many States have resisted doing so, either citing jurisdiction over their own nationals or reluctance to submit to a higher authority. In addition, Member States were urged to join in the Montreux Document, which obligates private military personnel to follow international humanitarian law. The debate at the time reflected the conflict over tactics and approaches to combating global terrorism, especially in light of countries’ use of waterboarding, force feeding and other extreme measures in pursuit of terrorist organizations.

In 2014, the Sixth Committee presented a report on the Additional Protocols and their implementation among Member States. At this time, many Member States wished for more direct United Nations involvement in international humanitarian law. Member States have continued to distrust others’ commitments to the Protocols and point to instances of civilian targeting and attacks on humanitarian workers, even those bearing the emblems of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Member States continue to be reluctant to report Protocol violations. Many are vocal about the need for Protocol enforcement, while not reporting alleged violations or ratifying the Rome Statute which would allow the International Criminal Court to weigh in on violations. Resolution 69/120 was adopted, which reaffirmed established international humanitarian law and called upon Member States to quickly collect and disseminate information regarding violations per the methods in Protocol I.

The 71st Session of the General Assembly proposed streamlining reporting processes and making a central database to report alleged Protocol violations. The Sixth Committee expressed concern over the limited protections under humanitarian law for individuals affected by intrastate conflicts, largely as a response to weaknesses exposed by the recent migrant crisis and a need to address asymmetric warfare or armed conflicts involving non-state parties. The Committee also advocated for universal adoption of the Montreux Document, an ICRC document outlining legal obligations for participating states regarding the operation and actions of private security forces or private militaries during armed conflict. Currently only 54 Member States have become signatories to the Montreux Document.

The Sixth Committee faces many issues. It must first achieve full adoption of the Additional Protocols and the Montreux Document and compliance therewith. Member States continue to fail in their obligation to report violations of the Conventions. With increasing strife and ambiguities in how best to apply the Protocols to non-State actors, especially in high-conflict areas and with mass movements of refugees, the Conventions are more important than ever before. Without full adoption of the Additional Protocols, some aid workers are left vulnerable. In addition, the use of military contractors, militias and other forces associated with but not commissioned by Member States, the Montreux Document and reporting are key to international success.

Questions to consider:

  • What are the responsibilities of Member States regarding conflict areas where militia and other non-State actors are involved? How should Member States approach non-State actors originating from their borders and how can Member States adapt the Geneva Conventions when those actors are entering or otherwise crossing borders?
  • What is the role of Member States in enforcing the Additional Protocols and the Montreux Document when violators are not High Contracting Parties or signatories and how can Member States compensate for the lack of accountability on the part of non-Member States?
  • How can the United Nations address issues of accountability without full reporting from Member States and without the use of the International Criminal Court? What can the international community do to incentivize compliance and the full adoption of the Court?


United Nations Documents:

Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission

In 2016, 145 United Nations personnel stood accused of sexual assault. Similar scandals have plagued UN missions, including a massive scandal in the 1990s when peacekeepers abused those in their charge, leading to an HIV/AIDS outbreak in Cambodia, and 2014 revelations of child sexual abuse in Central African Republic. While the United Nations continually strives to uphold its values and principles regarding human rights, United Nations personnel periodically commit crimes, including sexual crimes, and other abuses while on mission. While discussion of this topic often mentions peacekeeping personnel, the term is used broadly to refer to all United Nations personnel and affiliated personnel. Though long-standing numerical data does not exist and past reports have been scarce, peacekeeping personnel have committed crimes including assault, pedophilia and rape; these crimes are especially notable because of personnels’ positions of power and ability to control access to United Nations services. When humanitarian workers commit crimes, it sows distrust among Member States, decreases United Nations mission efficacy, and delegitimizes the work done on behalf of the United Nations.

In 2005, the General Assembly asked the Sixth Committee to review criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. The Sixth Committee is uniquely equipped to address the many legal complications involved in the topic. The Committee requested that a group of legal experts identify jurisdictional issues for peacekeepers, as well as the consequences outlined in General Assembly resolutions. The resulting 2008 report clarifies that a confluence of legal issues complicate accountability for United Nations personnel on mission. The United Nations typically defers to host States to prosecute crimes committed in their jurisdiction. Because United Nations personnel often operate in countries with limited legal capacity, States may lack the infrastructure or political will to effectively prosecute misconduct. Once personnel depart the host country, extradition laws may make the prosecution unlikely or impossible. Some States object to the practice of deferring to the host State on prosecution due to differences in domestic laws, perceived inability of the host State to prosecute or fully investigate offenses, political disagreement, or belief that the claims are not legitimate. The Report points to a number of solutions and suggests responses, including maintenance of host State jurisdiction whenever possible, capacity-building and the creation of an international convention to aid in the process of determining jurisdiction and prosecution. Over the course of the next two years, an Ad Hoc Committee within the Sixth Committee was created to look specifically at the recommendations made by the Group of Legal Experts and provide further implementation recommendations.

In 2013, the Sixth Committee also urged Member States to create jurisdictional agreements. The Sixth Committee aimed for more information sharing, especially during investigations into alleged crimes. Internally, the Sixth Committee committed to improved training for personnel on United Nations standards and expectations. Delegations acknowledged the contributions that the United Nations has made regarding criminal accountability but also the negative effect criminal misconduct via peacekeepers and others on missions has had on the credibility of the United Nations. Supporting the zero tolerance policy of the United Nations, Member States discussed serious crimes, like sexual abuse and exploitation, while also speaking of respecting international and national laws within each country.

In 2014, the Secretary-General issued a report on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. The report was supposed to focus on the state of the issue and provide current updates on jurisdictional agreements. The report relied on volunteered information and only contained information from Colombia, El Salvador and Finland. The report clarifies that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Legal Affairs are working to reconcile those numbers internally and improve reporting processes and procedures. It concludes that far more work needs to be done in extending extrajurisdictional agreements and asks Member States to continue to share information and to do so in a streamlined manner.

In 2017, the General Assembly requested a comprehensive report on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations. The Report of the Group of Legal Experts was placed, once again, on the Sixth Committee agenda, in hopes of furthering Member States’ cooperation. The same issues are the ones at odds: reluctance to extradite to host States for prosecution, disagreement over whether host States can be trusted with prosecution, lack of information sharing. The General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General continue to improve reporting methods and requested updates on cases reported to the Secretary-General.

Looking ahead, Member States might consider addressing some of the following issues. The most significant issue is the lack of reliable data on the issue. Member States continue to report only sparingly on investigations and fail to report on overall trends. The lack of overarching data and the lack of updates from specific Member States to the Secretary-General prevent clear understanding on the extent of the issue. The second significant issue is the ambiguities surrounding jurisdiction. It is still unclear which State or States have jurisdiction in a number of cases. Some States have sought to improve accountability by adding extraterritorial jurisdiction for their nationals serving under United Nations auspices, but this is far from universal. It is more common that Member States will spend significant periods of time disputing jurisdiction or simply not begin investigations at all as a result of anticipated jurisdictional disputes. A 15 February 2018 report of the Secretary-General provides information on possible measures to strengthen responses to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, implementing the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy, and utilizing a more victim-centered approach to allegations. These measures include increasing awareness of prohibited behavior, using an accountability framework, improving data collection, and improving development of personnel screening mechanisms. UN agencies need to improve management controls to prevent and ensure accurate reporting of sexual exploitation. The consistent difficulties in reporting, Member States reluctance to actually implement recommended changes, and difficulties adapting legal and peacekeeper training regimes persist. Without accurate data or updated legal systems, criminal actions by peacekeepers will persist unprosecuted.

Questions to consider:

  • In which ways can Members States communicate allegations more quickly, efficiently and privately with those at the United Nations in charge of following up on allegations of misconduct, abuse or sexual exploitation?
  • What data reporting difficulties exist and how can the Sixth Committee incentivise more accurate and prompt reporting and data collection?
  • How can host States and States of Origin better coordinate for investigations and jurisdictional issues? How do these coordination efforts intersect with the Sixth Committee’s efforts?


UN Documents

The World Health Organization Executive Board – WHO


Dominican Republic
New Zealand
Sri Lanka
United Republic of Tanzania
Viet Nam


The World Health Organization is the United Nations Agency responsible for combating disease and promoting health worldwide; it directs and coordinates international health initiatives within the United Nations system. It has universal membership in the World Health Assembly. The WHO Executive Board is composed of members technically qualified in health, and gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly. Members on the Executive Board serve for three-year terms. The 34 members provide guidance and implementation for World Health Assembly policies. The WHO focuses on public health, medical infrastructure and disease outbreaks worldwide. The WHO is guided by its constitution signed in 1948 and is the successor to the League of Nations’ Health Organization.


Promoting The Health of Migrants

As of 2017, there are an estimated 250 million international migrants and 763 million internal migrants. Migrants are persons who travel among locations rather than living stationary lives. Generally, migrants can be categorized into economic migrants who travel for work opportunity and refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who travel due to persecution and instability. Globalization makes economic opportunity more accessible and the ability to traverse borders easier; as a result, the number of migrants is skyrocketing. There are large numbers of migrants in developed countries, but lack of access to health systems, inability to access previous health records, inconsistent quality of care and inadequate finances prevent many migrants from securing proper healthcare. Major global problems like the European migrant crisis, stemming from long-running wars in the Middle East, continue to compound the vast number of health issues that refugees face. On top of the very basic humanitarian issues that result, the United Nations has committed to Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals: to provide universal healthcare worldwide by 2030. The World Health Organization (WHO) is striving to fulfill the main principle of the SDGs—to leave no one behind—and promoting migrant access to quality health services is essential for global health security and reducing health inequities.

The earliest multilateral actions on migrant health date back to the 1949 International Labor Organization (ILO) Migration for Employment Convention, which required ratifying States to ensure medical attention for newly arrived migrants and their families. The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, passed by the United Nations, expanded the Convention and significantly broadened the rights of migrants and refugees. The 1990 Convention ensured migrants’ access to emergency medical care regardless of their migrant status, equality of access to social and health services on par with nationals, and protection against working conditions harmful to migrants’ personal health. However, both Conventions have limited health provisions and have suffered from a lack of widespread support. While ratified by a number of migrant-origin States, the largest receiving States in North America and Europe have not signed the Conventions.

Migration received much greater attention in 2003, when then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the Global Commission on International Migration, the first panel of its kind designed to address migration issues. It reported its findings to the 2006 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, resulting in the creation of the Global Forum on Migration and Development. The Commission, however, only addressed issues of economics and human rights; it did not address health issues. Migrant health-related work did not begin until 2008, when the World Health Assembly (WHA) passed its first resolution on the health of migrants, which called on Member States to cooperate on health provisions and promote migrant-friendly policies, including a set of four goals: reducing migrant morbidity, establishing equal health treatment, ensuring migrants’ access to health care and minimizing the negative health impacts associated with an individual’s migrant status. The resolution also requested the WHO Director-General to start developing migrant health-related policy through collaboration with other international organizations. The 2008 resolution led directly to the Global Consultation on Migrant Health, held in 2010. Held in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Consultation led to two pivotal outcomes: a lengthy evaluation of migrant-related health needs and the creation of an extensive framework by which Member States ought to develop policy. The framework provides guidance on legal systems, health policy, and data collection and transfer.

In 2016, the United Nations hosted the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, culminating in the New York Declaration, which commits Member States to the creation of a new Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The New York Declaration focuses largely on basic access to health systems and reproductive health in particular. In January 2017, out of concern for an inadequate health component in the GCM, the WHO Executive Board requested that the Secretariat develop a framework of priorities and guiding principles for migrant and refugee health. In May 2017, the WHA adopted a resolution that encouraged Member States to make use of the framework to promote migrant health and ensure its inclusion into the GCM discussions. In cooperation with other organizations, the WHO developed the Proposed Health Component in the GCM. It proposes eight major actions and means to implement them, including enhanced commitments to multilateral agreements, greater data collection of migrant health information, improved health and well-being of migrant women, children and elderly people, and a push for rights-based and inclusive universal health coverage.

Despite the progress made, several major challenges remain. Healthcare capacity building takes time, especially in developing States with particularly weak systems. And less obvious health concerns, like mental health problems, are especially high among refugees fleeing conflict. This can put strain on both migrant-receiving and origin States. The reluctance of host States to provide care continues, often attributed to a reluctance to pay for the needs of transient populations, especially when that care may cause additional strain to existing health systems and when those populations are fleeing existing conflict, as in the case of refugees. The Executive Board will need to address continuity of care and health data sharing for people on the move, particularly considering the privacy and medical practices that vary among Member States. Strengthening all States along the chain of migration will help ensure fair and even healthcare.

Questions to Consider

  • What can Member States do to increase migrant access to healthcare systems and to provide relevant healthcare information to migrants who are now seeking healthcare in a different jurisdiction?
  • How can migrant origin-States better equip migrant populations for the health issues that often arise and how can the United Nations support receiving States where additional resources may be needed?
  • What practical measures can the United Nations take to support data and information sharing among Member States and to strengthen policies that support migrants?


UN Documents

Global vaccine action plan

While vaccines have long been a tool for disease eradication, their impact became most clear in the 1980s and 1990s, when North America and much of Europe eradicated polio. The rest of the world soon followed and had effectively eradicated polio by the mid-2010s. Historically, illnesses like polio and smallpox killed thousands of people annually, with some estimates as high as 500 million people over the course of the past century. The near eradication of smallpox and polio in developed countries through vaccination led to widespread use of the polio vaccine throughout the world. Public health initiatives, both internationally and nationally funded, meant that vaccine use skyrocketed worldwide. No organization has been a more consistent advocate for vaccines than the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO and its primary decision making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA), have committed to eradication of disease by vaccination.

The WHO was instrumental in the eradication of the smallpox virus and the near eradication of the wild poliovirus. It has advocated for the development of vaccination programs against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, Haemophilus influenzae type b disease and epidemic meningococcal A meningitis. Its efforts began in the 1950s and 1960s, when the WHO, at the behest of the WHA, began targeted vaccination campaigns. In 1999, the WHA established the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. The Advisory Group began a long process of creating the infrastructure and research to effectively administer worldwide vaccination programs. This marked a shift from campaigns focused on just one disease. Building on this work, the WHO released its Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS) in 2005. GIVS and its successor programs are overseen by the WHA, which manages their policy direction.

GIVS was the first broadly focused global 10-year plan to bring immunization for multiple diseases. Previous global vaccination efforts focused on specific diseases, like the WHO’s campaign to eradicate smallpox. In recognizing the indisputable good done by promoting the use of vaccines, the WHA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched GIVS with an ambitious set of goals: increasing coverage of immunization on a national level to 90 percent, to reduce childhood morbidity and mortality by two-thirds its 2000 levels, to introduce new vaccines and strengthen existing vaccination systems, among other goals. GIVS worked within four strategic areas: protecting more people in a changing world; introducing new vaccines and technologies; integrating immunization, other linked health interventions and surveillance in the health systems context; and immunizing in the context of global interdependence. Though largely successful, the GIVS struggled with uncooperative policy makers, undefined benchmarks for success, and massive underfunding. The final report on GIVS included new objectives and recommendations for the WHA to consider when drafting a new action plan.

In 2010, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called for 2010-2020 to become the Decade of Vaccines. By December of the same year, the WHO, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the National Institutes of Health, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, and many other public health organizations joined them, creating the Decade of Vaccine Collaboration. The Decade seeks to meet vaccination coverage targets universally, reduce child morbidity and create and introduce new and improved vaccinations. As part of the Decade, the World Health Organization, partner institutions and governments have enacted one of the most ambitious global health campaigns, the Global Vaccine Action Plan, which was passed by the WHA and replaced the Decade in 2012.

At the time, the world was reeling from a 2011 revelation that fake vaccination campaigns had been used by intelligence agencies searching for Osama bin Laden. Massive distrust spread and, on top of the political repercussions, people now doubted that the vaccinations were real. By the time it was passed, the Action Plan had brought together more than a thousand individuals from more than 140 countries and 290 health organizations worldwide. It aimed to prioritize immunization worldwide, raise awareness about vaccines, create easily accessible routes for people to become vaccinated and provide consistent and sustainable funding for immunization efforts. The Action Plan established immunization tracking goals and measurable variables for success. It is currently overseen by the Women and Children’s Health Accountability Commission, the Independent Expert Review Group (iERG) and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts. Both expert groups depend on robust accounting of progress and challenges from Member States, NGOs and regional bodies, then take that information and present their recommendations for changes in vaccination schemes to participating Member States and the World Health Organization governing bodies.

In 2017, the world saw renewed outbreaks of preventable diseases due to undervaccination and refusal to vaccinate children. Two separate polio outbreaks—in addition to highly contagious outbreaks of rotavirus, Hepatitis A and other preventable diseases—demonstrated the importance of vaccination. Simultaneously, political support for many vaccination campaigns has been waning. Though their effectiveness was indisputable, their success meant many Member States no longer saw the need for continuation. Member States were beginning to push for large funding cuts and roll backs in vaccinations for diseases seen as eradicated. When combined with distrust of outside medical professionals , especially in those areas like conflict zones where access is already difficult; a growing level of skepticism about the efficacy of vaccines; and anti-vaccination campaigns, particularly in inner cities and targeting poor populations, the lack of funding and continued efforts may mean massive regression and disease resurgence. In 2017, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts recommendations included stronger leadership and governance of national immunization programs, improved funding for polio vaccination programs, strengthened monitoring of global and regional vaccine plan programs, increased support for vaccine research and development, and achieving elimination targets for maternal and neonatal tetanus, measles and rubella.

Looking ahead, Member States have a number of issues to consider. Member States need to focus on making immunization programs national priorities. Though expensive, especially in areas with poor infrastructure, violent conflict and unstable political regimes, immunization programs and the educational campaigns that support them are the most effective way to prevent disease. Support for further research—like those done for oral diseases in the early 2000s—can aid in this process. In addition, the ebola and zika outbreaks emphasize the need more expansive vaccinations. Without new research, the world cannot prevent these diseases. The massive distrust of foreign health workers in developing areas and the spread of anti-vaccination campaigns in the west are both major challenges.

Questions to Consider

  • How can the WHO create successful vaccination programs for unstable regions, especially those plagued by violence and disrupted by poor infrastructure? What changes to vaccinations and vaccination program structures are needed to facilitate successful programs?
  • What educational campaigns have been successful and how can the UN leverage existing or new educational campaigns to compensate for the distrust and misinformation around vaccines?
  • What research is still needed to combat communicable diseases and how can the UN use that research to further its goals for maternal and neonatal vaccinations, tetanus, measles and rubella?


United Nations Documents

SPECIAL COMMITTEE: United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)


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.

Sound management of chemicals and waste

Chemicals present a problematic duality for States. Although chemical industries contribute significantly to national economic health, both directly and indirectly given chemicals’ utility throughout the modern economy, improper management can adversely affect human health and the environment. Impoverished communities are particularly at risk to exposure because of their occupations, living conditions, lack of knowledge about the effects of exposure and reduced options when an exposure does occur. Poor management of chemicals and waste can lead to illness, contaminated neighborhoods and reduced economic capacity in the region, with unsound management of chemicals alone resulting in an estimated 1.3 million deaths per year. For this reason, sound management of chemicals and waste is a development priority for all Member States.

International law on sound management of chemicals and waste is centered on three main conventions: the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention, together referred to as the BRS Conventions. The Basel Convention, enacted in 1992, sought to regulate States’ international transportation and disposal of hazardous waste, prompted by incidents of developed countries selling their hazardous waste to States with less-restrictive environmental protection laws. Further, the Basel Convention also sought to reduce the generation of toxic waste, and to promote sound management of the waste that was generated. The Rotterdam Convention, which entered into force in 2004, promoted more open information exchanges through encouraging hazardous chemicals exporters to use proper labeling, safe handling directions, and public disclosures of any known chemical restrictions or bans, and was jointly managed by the UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Stockholm Convention, also entering into force in 2004, improves the regulation of harmful persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which, due to their persistence in the environment, can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects. In 2012, the secretariats of these three Conventions merged (except for the FAO part of the Rotterdam Convention) to a joint secretariat under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in order to promote synergy among the Conventions. Additionally, in 2017 the UNEP-managed Minamata Convention entered into force, which regulates mercury production, storage and use.

Complementary to the specific foci of the BRS Conventions, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development set a goal of ensuring all global chemical production and usage is done with minimal impacts on human health and the environment. To this end, governments, industries and civil society organizations formed the UNEP-managed Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in 2006, which has funded 184 projects in 108 countries since its founding. Additionally, UNEP launched the Eco-innovation Project in 2014 with funding from the European Commission to promote sustainable practices, including with respect to waste management, among small- and medium-sized enterprises, with its first results expected by 2019. In the UNEP 2017 Annual Report, UNEP noted that significant progress had been made on sound management of chemicals and waste, as world’s governments, civil society organizations and industries, with the assistance of UNEP, met almost two-thirds of the policy goals UNEA set for the 2016-2017 period. In particular, States were successful in adopting policies creating and enabling the conditions necessary for sound management of chemicals and waste, and for reduced impact of chemicals; however few States adopted national waste management strategies. Additionally, UNEP noted that few States adopted economic and market-based incentives or other industry- and business-focused policies to promote sound management of chemicals and waste. As industry efforts on this issue are closely tied to improved management of resources, UNEP has also sharpened its focus on the circular economy, where valuable resources in waste are reclaimed, rather than discarded.

Many aspects of chemical and waste pollution fall outside of the immediate purview of the BRS and Minamata Conventions and SAICM, such as plastic waste and toxic heavy metals (besides mercury and leaded paint). Generous interpretations of the BRS Conventions allow for some restrictions on these issues; for example plastic waste, particularly marine plastic waste, can be interpreted as international transportation of hazardous waste and thus fall under the Basel Convention. Additionally, marine plastic waste often contains absorbed POPs relevant to the Stockholm Convention. The third UNEA meeting in late 2017 targeted the problem of pollution, resulting in several resolutions addressing different types of pollution, including marine litter, as well as nearly 2.5 million pledges of action from governments, civil society organizations, businesses and individuals.

Looking forward, the international community is rapidly approaching the 2020 deadline for sound chemical use and must decide the role SAICM will play post-2020, particularly with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals rely upon sound management of chemicals and waste, as the United Nations Development Programme considers it a key part of over half of the Goals. With the Minamata Convention approaching its first year in force, the UNEA is also looking forward to seeing the progress made on mercury restrictions. Further, illicit activity undermines existing laws on chemicals and waste management. In 2017, INTERPOL uncovered more than 1.5 million tonnes of illegal hazardous waste, trafficked primarily from North America and Europe to Africa and Asia, and further estimated that only 10-40 percent of global electronic waste was disposed of properly in 2014. Additionally, despite UNEP support, many Member States did not address priority waste or chemical issues in the BRS Conventions or SAICM, falling short of the UNEP goals for 2016. Chemical and waste production has increased rapidly in developing countries over the last decade, increasing the burden of sound management on countries without comprehensive chemical and waste management institutions, a trend worsened by illicit trafficking of waste to these countries. Pollution from developed and developing countries has long-ranging effects, including on least-developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that lack the infrastructure to effectively protect themselves from international pollution. As such, the international community must not only abide by their environmental obligations under SAICM and the various Conventions, but also work to improve the capacity of developing countries, particularly LDCs and SIDS, to manage chemicals and waste.

Questions to Consider

  • How have the various chemicals and waste Conventions affected your country?
  • What local, national, regional and international systems exist that could be utilized in the constructing chemical and waste policy?
  • How can the United Nations aid in cooperation amongst governments, civil society and industry for sound management of chemicals and waste?


UN Documents

Protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict

Armed conflict, in addition to producing devastating effects on civilians and infrastructure, also threatens and damages the environment. Environmental degradation can occur directly or collaterally, or as a second-order effect—for example, a weak state or the failure of the rule of law may result in poaching or other exploitative practices going unprosecuted. In addition to these direct costs, environmental damage increases instability and harms those who rely on natural resources for their livelihood, potentially fueling further conflict.

While agreements limiting the means of warfare have existed since at least the Declaration of St. Petersburg in 1868, it was not until the late twentieth century that the environment received specific protection. Earlier agreements did, however, indirectly protect the environment, such as the Hague Convention IV of 1907, which outlined acceptable actions during war and forbade the needless destruction of “the enemy’s property,” and the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (the 1925 Geneva Protocol). As awareness of the importance of environmental protection grew over the following century, so did its prevalence in international law. The 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions dedicates article 55 to the “protection of the natural environment.” In 1994 The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compiled the Guidelines on the Protection of the Environment during Armed Conflict as a survey of existing international rules, a document that was later disseminated by the General Assembly and cited by the UNEA. However, these guidelines are not binding, nor do they provide structures to enforce or compel Member States to comply.

The issue is further complicated because the restrictions outlined in the Guidelines come from International Humanitarian Law (IHL) as well as International Environmental Law (IEL). These classes are quite distinct: IHL provides standards for general protection during armed conflict with few direct references to environmental protection, while IEL is a vast body of works dedicated to general environmental protection with limited references to armed conflict. There remains a gap between the structures of humanitarian and environmental law, despite their logical link. Further, many existing laws that do relate environmental protection to armed conflict deal only with interstate war and conflict, leaving situations involving non-State armed groups (NSAG) and intra-state conflicts largely unaddressed. Agreements restricting means of warfare are difficult to forge in these scenarios, as States are often reluctant to engage in diplomacy with NSAGs, out of concern for legitimizing them. Additionally, while many NSAGs have agreed to abide by the Geneva Conventions and maintain rules of conduct, it is very rare for an NSAG to include specific environmental protections in their rules of conduct during war. NSAGs may also be unwilling to agree to any environmental restrictions as they often fund their operations through exploiting the environment in protected areas, such as through poaching or logging.

In 2016, the UNEA adopted by consensus a landmark resolution on the topic of environmental protection in areas affected by armed conflict, establishing UNEA as a forum where States, international organizations and civil society organizations can approach this issue in a political, rather than legal, manner. The resolution identified environmental protection during armed conflict as a humanitarian issue, particularly in regard to its impact on women and displaced peoples, and as such encouraged States to incorporate protections from international law into their national legislation. It further brought attention to weaknesses in IEL, both in terms of poor implementation within States and failures of States to fully comply with the protections. The UNEA discussed the issue again at its third meeting in December 2017, and adopted a resolution focused on combating pollution in areas of armed conflicts through rapid responses to direct and indirect sources of conflict pollution. However, in the interest of consensus, the resolution does not reference the environmental risks of targeting industrial and military facilities nor explicitly mention the role of “scorched earth policies,” such as NATO-led bombings on chemical plants in 1999 in Yugoslavia, which released significant amounts of toxic substances into the environment, including mercury.

Because armed conflict is multidimensional, solutions to protect the environment must also be, addressing problems from the impact of toxic munitions and destruction of industrial buildings to environmental degradation caused by NSAGs and displaced peoples. Future work by the UNEA should begin to address the failings of legal protections for the environment in these situations, particularly with respect to non-international conflicts that are largely outside of the scope of current IHL. As of yet, the United Nations has not formally endorsed the 1994 Guidelines established by the ICRC, which now need to be modernized to fit the current state of armed conflicts. Further, the UNEA in 2016 was unable to decide on its role in conflict prevention, due to conflicting instructions from the General Assembly; while resolution 53/242 forbade UNEP from becoming involved in conflict prevention, resolution 57/337 called upon all United Nations organizations to consider a conflict prevention perspective in their activities. Whatever the UNEA decides its role to be, environmental protection is crucial to stability, as access to natural resources, such as potable water, viable farmland and oil and natural gas, are linked to an estimated 40 percent of conflicts in the last 60 years, and those conflicts are twice as likely to relapse within five years of resolution. This places environmental protection in areas affected by armed conflict in a key position to aid other environmental and development goals through assisting in stabilizing regions where these projects occur.

Questions to Consider

  • What struggles does your country face when dealing with armed conflict and the environment?
  • How can the UNEA work with other international organizations, such as the International Law Commission, to ensure effective implementation of IHL and IEL?
  • What international programs can be expanded to increase oversight for enforcement of international law?
  • How should the international community address environmental hazards of historical armed conflict, such as landmines and toxic remnants of war?


United Nations Documents

ECOSOC Commission: Committee for Development Policy – Expert Group (CDPEG)


Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
Trinidad & Tobago
United Kingdom
United States of America
Viet Nam


The Committee for Development Policy – Expert Group (CDPEG) is a subsidiary advisory body of ECOSOC for issues relating to international development, particularly the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, and also reviews the list of countries considered to be “least-developed countries.” Unlike the delegations of many of the larger United Nations bodies, the 24 members of CDP are not representatives of any particular country, but rather provide their own knowledge and experience in the area of international development, although the members are selected with a geographical balance in mind. The CDP was established in 1998 as part of the reform of the subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC, supplanting the Committee for Development Planning, which was established in 1966.

Monitoring the development progress of countries that are graduating and have graduated from the list of least developed countries

The classification of least-developed countries (LDCs) was created by the United Nations in 1971 in order to highlight countries in particular need of international support. At that time, the Committee for Development Policy was tasked with monitoring their economic progress and identifying States eligible to graduate from the LDC list, which currently contains 47 countries: 33 in Africa, nine in Asia, four in Oceania and one in the Caribbean. The LDCs represent diverse situations, ranging from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Haiti to Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) such as Chad, and populations ranging from the tens of thousands in Tuvalu to the over 150 million people in Bangladesh. As these LDCs have developed in the decades since their inclusion, some have become eligible to “graduate” and be removed from the list of LDCs; it is then the job of the Committee to review the graduation criteria and to ensure that graduates are able to continue developing.

The current standards for identifying LDCs were established in 2005 and are based on in three different categories: income, human assets and economic vulnerability. Currently, a country may be included on the list if it meets all three of the inclusion criteria, and may graduate after meeting two of the three graduation criteria or surpassing double the income threshold in two consecutive triennial reviews. The process to graduate from the LDC list takes at minimum six years and includes the work of a number of United Nations bodies, including the final approval of the General Assembly. Even after graduation, Member States who participated in the assistance program are still expected to report to the Committee with updates of how they plan to continue growth on the ground.

The international community met in Paris in 1981 to develop guidelines for domestic action and international support to promote development in those countries. This Substantial New Programme of Action was adopted unanimously. Numerous LDCs initiated the recommended domestic policy reforms, but this did not prevent the total debt of LDCs to double in the next decade. There were numerous contributing factors, including the cost of serving external debt and a global economic recession in the early 1980s. Despite two more decennial conferences, only three countries, Botswana, Cape Verde and the Maldives, graduated from the list between 1971 and 2011, although the United Nations did not establish a formal graduation process until 1991. Taking place in Istanbul, the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in 2011 saw the international community reflect on this failure to stimulate development in the world’s poorest countries, noting several shortcomings of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action. Notably, official development assistance totalled less than half of previous pledges and LDCs were not granted effective representation in relevant international decision-making. This new Istanbul Programme of Action aimed to enable half of the LDCs to graduate by the end of the decade. Civil society organizations also produced their own separate declaration, which strongly criticized developed countries for not acknowledging their role in exploiting the economies of LDCs. As of early 2018, Equatorial Guinea and Samoa have graduated, with seven additional countries—Angola, Bhutan, Kiribati, São Tomé and Principe, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu—recommended for graduation by CDPEG and two—Nepal and Timor-Leste—that, while eligible, had their recommendation deferred to the next triennial meeting in 2021. Despite this progress, the international community is far from achieving its goal of graduating half of the LDCs by 2021.

One major concern with graduating LDCs is ensuring that economic development does not slow after graduation, as graduated countries lose access to privileged aid resources designated for LDCs, such as special reduced tariffs for exports to major developed markets, including the United States and the European Union. Although the graduation criteria are quantitative thresholds, CDPEG must also make qualitative decisions as to whether graduation is appropriate for those States that are eligible for it. For this reason, CDPEG reviews the status of all LDCs and recent graduates every three years and makes recommendations based on the results of these reviews. Fortunately, there has not yet been an instance of a country being re-identified as an LDC after graduation, indicating some durability in the development progress made by former LDCs. In the most recent triennial review, each of the three most recent graduated LDCs maintained passing scores in two of the three categories in addition to well surpassing the doubled income threshold. Interestingly, of the nine LDCs eligible for graduation in 2018, only Nepal became eligible through meeting the economic vulnerability threshold, compared to the eight countries each that achieved the income and human assets thresholds. It is unclear whether this unbalance should be troubling and whether the importance of economic vulnerability should be revisited.

In response to concerns from LDCs about losing LDC support mechanisms after graduation, the Committee also investigated the possibility of increasing incentives for LDCs to graduate. Currently, the international community does provide graduates with some smooth transition measures which are similar to the lost LDC support, however the Committee introduced the idea of individualized incentive packages for graduating LDCs. These incentives could be designed to assist in progress toward transforming the economy, and to build relationships between the graduate and the international community. In particular, the Committee endorsed the idea of a “pledging conference” of donors at the time of graduation, although historically there have been concerns of donors not fulfilling their pledges. One complicating issue is the base reluctance of Western democracies to provide assistance to LDCs with authoritarian governments. Further, there are several LDCs that are small island developing States, which face unique challenges due to their geography, such as climate change, and require special support even after graduation.

Questions to Consider

  1. How effective has the Istanbul Programme for Action been? What additional actions are needed by the international community?
  2. What structures and resources should be available to incentivize LDC graduation?
  3. How should the Committee address LDCs with unique development concerns, like Small Island Developing States?


United Nations Documents

Science, Technology, Innovation for Sustainable Development

Science, technology and innovation (STI) play a crucial role in United Nations development strategies. By taking advantage of modern technologies, developing economies can sidestep the development routes taken by the older, developed countries. STI also helps developed countries increase national wealth and reduce their environmental impact. For this reason, STI for sustainable development is relevant to almost every country. However, the unique social environments of each country result in diverse challenges and opportunities for STI, from gender equity to unemployment caused by labor-saving technologies. As the Committee on Development Policy noted in 2013, these issues require input from the social sciences, justifying the need for STI to involve the social sciences just as much as the natural and physical sciences, in order to ensure effective implementation of existing technology. These social concerns have become increasingly important as the rate of technological advancement has increased and thus widened the divide between those with advanced STI and those without.

The United Nations first began discussing the role of STI for development in 1949 at the United Nations Scientific Conference for the Conservation and Utilization of Resources, where Member States discussed the potential for underdeveloped regions to benefit greatly from new technologies. It was not until 1961 that the Economic and Social Council would call for the creation of United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of the Less Developed Areas, which took place in Geneva in 1963. Following the Geneva Conference, developing countries began lobbying for increased access to science and technologies, marking a divide between the Global North (developed countries) and the Global South (developing countries). In response to growing discontent, the United Nations General Assembly convened the 1979 Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) in Vienna, which specifically focused on improving the spread of technology and the technological capacity of developing countries. The Conference concluded that building technological progress in a country required coordinated effort at the national and international levels. Despite this idea, the debt crisis of the 1980s in the developing world and the failure to adequately fund international agreements made in the wake of UNCSTD hamstrung progress on both fronts in general. Notable exceptions to the trend of stagnated development are the Four Asian Tigers: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Through substantial investments in technology and education starting in the early 1960s, they succeeded in developing into high-income economies by the turn of the century.

The international community continues to debate the appropriate policies to facilitate technology transfer. In 2013, the Committee called for STIs that aid provision of basic human needs to be considered global public goods that are non-exclusive and available to all—a position favored by many developing States. This position would disrupt the traditional system of incentivizing researchers and inventors, which provides creators of new ideas with exclusive (and temporary) intellectual property rights (IPR) in the form of patents and copyrights. The current IPR regime was developed to ensure that scientists and researchers had adequate economic incentives to pursue new research by providing them with a system to ensure that they benefit from their work. Further, individual countries are restricted in how they manage IPR policy under World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, especially the 1995 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which sets minimum limits on the duration and strength of national IPR protections for all Member States of the WTO. While restrictive, TRIPS also allows for flexibility in limited circumstances, which States Parties, primarily developing countries, have most notably utilized to increase access to essential medicines. The Committee previously reported that the default TRIPS protections may not be appropriate for STIs in the development context, instead favoring increased use of non-exclusive licensing and other tools to facilitate dissemination.

Governments play an important role in promoting STIs for sustainable development. In addition to crafting IPR policies to promote STI usage, governments can direct funding and national research priorities. Governments can also foster strong markets and competition, which can contribute to STI growth and development. But markets are not the only answer; some important innovations, such as alternative treatments for tropical diseases or adaptations in response to climate change, may not be economically viable given market forces, but which are nonetheless of critical concern for lower-income countries. Additionally, by developing effective innovation strategies, governments can aim to “leapfrog,” avoiding spending resources on obsolete technologies that were historical stepping stones to the current state of the art.

STI for sustainable development is particularly important for allowing middle-income countries to build their wealth and to fuel growth through domestic STI development, a feature of most wealthy developed countries. A case study of the development progress between 1960 and 2000 of middle-income countries in Asia and Latin America highlighted the differences in STI needs for transitioning from low-income to middle-income versus transitioning from middle-income to high-income. While the former requires the traditional focus on ensuring access to education and strengthening institutions, the latter relies on effective universities and other tertiary education facilities and increased spending on research and development programs. In particular, the study highlighted the importance of high relative spending on research and development, noting that a threshold of one percent of GDP spent on such programs seemed to differentiate middle-income countries that successfully grow to higher income levels, such as the Republic of Korea, from middle-income countries that stagnated, such as Argentina and Brazil. Given that about 70 percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, promoting STI and stimulating growth in these countries is critical to meeting the international goals of poverty reduction.

Questions to Consider

  1. How should the international community balance the need for freer STI dissemination against the need to protect IPR? How do international agreements such as TRIPS and TRIMS affect countries’ ability to utilize STI?
  2. What additional programs can States and the United Nations support to increase domestic STI capacity?
  3. What special considerations, programs, tools and approaches can meet the unique development needs of middle-income countries?


United Nations Documents

ECOSOC COMMISSION: Commission on Population and Development (CPD)


Burkina Faso
Dominican Republic
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Republic of Moldova
Russian Federation
Sierra Leone
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States of America


A functional commission of ECOSOC, CPD monitors and studies population trends and the interrelationship of those trends with development issues. Established in 1946 as the Population Commission and renamed in 1994, the CPD’s primary mandate from ECOSOC is the monitoring, analysis and follow-up of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). CPD is composed of 47 Member States elected every four years by ECOSOC.

In its review of the Programme of Action of the ICPD, the CPD directly reviews policies and implementation of the Programme at local, national and international levels. CPD is also tasked with arranging studies about and advising ECOSOC concerning the following: integrating populations with development policies, strategies and other programs; providing population assistance to developing countries and those economies in transitions upon their request; or addressing other population or development questions that arise from UN organs.


International migration and development

International migration and its relationship to development touches all countries of the world, yet the connection between the two is often misunderstood by the international community. The commonly-held perception that migrants leave their home countries to escape development failure comes from the trend that international migration has led to a net increase of population in developed countries and a net decrease in less developed countries since the 1950s. While development failures are a factor, the positive correlation between development and overall emigration levels is driven by many variables, such as differences in employment opportunities in different countries and likelihood that rising education levels affect both the ability and desire to emigrate and can cause “brain drain.” The prevalence and inevitability of migration as an outcome of economic development gives rise to the central question of how countries should regulate migration flows, including the implementation of policies that adapt to both the positive and negative economic effects of migration.

Many of today’s goals for international migration and development started in the framework created by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). In 1994, the ICPD convened in Cairo to establish a framework for a 20-year Programme of Action. The ICPD Programme of Action, which was ultimately adopted by 179 Member States, was a comprehensive 20-year action plan intended to focus global thinking and United Nations action on population and development toward a people-centric approach. While previous population conferences had mostly focused narrowly on family planning, the ambitious ICPD Programme of Action, which the General Assembly extended indefinitely in 2011, contained wide-ranging recommendations on health, development, and social welfare, with reproductive health playing a central role. The Conference recommended the creation of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council. The CPD plays a key role in maintaining databases on migration, development and population trends, as well as monitoring and reviewing progress toward the ICPD Programme of Action.

The ICPD Programme of Action recognized the positive and negative economic impact of international migration, including the role of remittances, or the transfer of funds, by migrants to relatives in their home country. However, the Programme of Action did not set actionable objectives for United Nations Member States to better manage the challenges and benefits of migration and development. With the rise of international migration, experts as well as United Nations agencies and Member States have begun to shift their attention toward the migration-development nexus, where migration can act as a vehicle to foster development. Notably, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the General Assembly in 2015, contains several targets for protecting the labor rights of migrant workers and implementing well-planned and well-managed migration policies. The High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development was the first United Nations dialogue focused solely on the linkages between migration and development. In 2006, this dialogue created the Global Forum on Migration and Development as a consultative forum for both civil society and governments to better grasp the development-migration nexus. These initiatives have begun to accelerate progress toward the migration and development-focused Sustainable Development Goals, but inter-agency cooperation remains at a nascent stage and recommendations are numerous, broad and sparsely implemented. To this end, the Global Migration Group (GMG), comprising 18 agencies, was formed to promote inter-agency cooperation and the wider application of international practices, legal instruments and norms on migration.

Since the implementation of the Program of Action by the ICPD, there has been a need for a technical forum to reach the goals laid out in the framework. During the 49th session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2016, the CPD was recognized as an organization that could fulfill this role. In resolution 2016/25, the Economic and Social Council highlighted the need for the CPD to act as a technical forum for Member States to discuss the challenges that come with international migration and solutions that can meet these challenges. Additionally, the resolution calls upon the CPD to streamline its agenda by using the the Programme of Action and Sustainable Development Goals. By doing so, the CPD can act as a forum for Member States to discuss specific strategies to meet these goals for migration and development.

It was noted that in order to continue to implement strategies to meet the challenges of migration while meeting development goals, UN agencies and partner organizations will need to make better use of data. Data allows a better understanding of trends and how strategies can affect those trends. During its 50th session, the CPD produced the International Migration Report 2017 for ECOSOC. This report referenced United Nations Migration Data and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The report covers four main themes: levels and trends in international migration, net international migration, legal instruments on international migration, and the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants. The accomplishments of this body lay in terms of United Nations Global Migration Database (UNGMD), which tracks the inflow and outflow of international migrants, studies trends in international migration, and tracks statistics on foreign populations. This work has shown how important data is for tackling global issues such as international migration. While this data has already helped influence policies, challenges remain. In order to help Member States and partner agencies make use of this data, the CPD and the United Nations will need to consider how to make this data accessible and how to provide the expertise, where needed, to interpret trends found in the data.

The CPD continues to provide a forum for Member States to discuss technical strategies to address the challenges that come with international migration and development. By using frameworks such as the ICPD Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals, CPD can continue to focus on bridging the gap between migration and development. In addition to being a technical forum, the CPD can bring data to the forefront of this discussion. The CPD has the opportunity to affect real change by bringing Member States opinions forward and creating solutions to bridge the gap between international migration and development.

Questions to Consider

  • What unique challenges do Member States face when addressing international migration and development? How can the United Nations and the international community support Member States in addressing these issues?
  • How can the CPD continue to use data to bridge the gap between international migration and development? How can the CPD make this data more accessible to Member States and partner agencies?
  • In what ways can the CPD continue to build upon the ICPD Programme of Action, Sustainable Development Goals, and other past work to bridge the gap between international migration and development?


UN Documents

Adolescents and youth

The UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) is part of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations.The Economic and Social Council created the Population Commission in October 1946, and renamed it to its present title in December 1994. ECOSOC mandated that the Commission aid in implementing the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population Development. Adolescent and youth issues are a main part of CPD’s mandate because as these populations change within Member States, new challenges need to be met. These changes in populations also create new opportunities for development strategies. Meeting the demands of population change with development strategies is called population development. The CPD is tasked with meeting these challenges and opportunities by providing Member States assistance with population development.

The Commission on Population and Development has conducted several studies to better understand the changing populations of different regions around the globe. Some countries have aging populations, with larger older generations, whereas other countries have larger populations of adolescents and youth. There are some countries that exhibit a “youth bulge” where adolescents and youth make up the majority of the population, but the country is also experiencing declining fertility rates. These trends all present different challenges for development.

One of these challenges is how poverty affects adolescents’ and youth’s access to necessities such as healthcare. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly raised concerns about the growing problem of overpopulation in developing countries. Within these discussions, Member States raised concerns about poor access to education and health services and high rates of poverty in adolescents and youth in developing countries. In Resolution 2012/1, the General Assembly called upon governments to recognize the issues that arise with a younger population and recommended they implement programs to address these issues. The focus was particularly on crafting social and economic policies to eradicate poverty within the youth population, promote equal opportunity by eradicating discrimination among men and women and improve access to education and healthcare for youth in poverty.

CPD faces the challenge of first getting Member States to recognize the issues confronting adolescents and youth in their populations and then implementing strategies to address them. The main goal of CPD is to ensure that all states are providing equal opportunities for and access to education and jobs. Furthermore, CPD has been working to ensure the fair access to healthcare by adolescent women in developing countries. Both CPD and ECOSOC have made it a priority to convey to Member States the significance of providing accessible contraceptive healthcare and other family planning services to adolescent women and families. In general, the aim is to reduce maternal and infant mortality, as well as to improve reproductive and sexual health through educational means or healthcare services. Improving health and mortality are important goals for CPD in developing countries as it addresses the issues of increasing mortality rates and increasing population or overcrowding in Member States. These goals have been on the agenda for CPD since the early 1990s and they are yet to be accomplished due to Member States lacking the ability and resources to implement the initiatives.

Much of the current work of CPD recognizes that, in order to best address the needs of adolescents and youth, they need to be involved in implementing solutions. In April 2018, CPD met for its fifty-first session, focusing on the development of sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration. The Secretary-General’s report to the Commission noted that immigration can lead to the transfer of skills and challenge traditional roles and societal barriers, in particular for women and youth. This can enhance innovation with the sharing of ideas across borders. To these ends, the Secretary-General recommended that investment should be made in capital development and policies that target youth mobility. By doing so, interventions and opportunities can be designed to meet the needs of adolescents and youth where they are. This will better integrate them into implementing strategies, as they can have a direct affect on how their needs are met. These recommendations have driven the next wave of work for CPD.

CPD is seeking to further strategize on implementation plans to achieve the goals that they have been seeking for decades. For CPD quality education, accessible healthcare services, and equal opportunity in the workforce for adolescents and youth are significant and important. Most of the challenges and setbacks that they have experienced in attempting to implement and formulate programs and policies have been due to a lack of resources for Members States to participate or a lack of cooperation. ECOSOC and CPD are aware and respectful of national sovereignty; they are also very much aware of the implications of attempting to sanction its Member States to achieve their goals. Therefore, CPD aims for all its Member States to recognize these issues and cooperate in finding solutions to them. It is important that CPD continue to integrate empirical research into its recommendations to ECOSOC; if implemented, the recommended strategies will help developing regions with the integration of youth and adolescents into their population and development policies. It may also be imperative for the developed regions of the world to help the developing world with the issue of a growing youth population.

Questions to Consider

  • How can the United Nations encourage cooperation of all Member States in addressing the issues affecting adolescents and youth?
  • In what ways can Member States prepare for changes in their workforce? How can they meet the challenge of a growing demand for jobs?
  • What recommendations can CPD make to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are considered when addressing issues affecting adolescents and youth? In what ways can CPD and ECOSOC support States in meeting these goals?


UN Documents

International Court of Justice

Advisory Opinion: Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence In Respect of Kosovo (Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Kosovo, Serbia)

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 1 July 2010. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation nor considered in hearing the case.

On 15 August 2008, the Permanent Representative of Serbia to the United Nations requested that the sixty-third General Assembly address the Republic of Serbia’s request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding whether Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is in accordance with international law. The General Assembly addressed Serbia’s request and adopted resolution A/RES/63/3 in October 2008, which requested the International Court of Justice issue an advisory opinion. The question at hand was “Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” as submitted by Serbia.

Kosovo has had a tumultuous political past. In 1945, Kosovo was labeled as the Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija, within the People’s Republic of Serbia, within Socialist Yugoslavia. In 1968, the region became the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Six years later, the new Yugoslav constitution granted the Province of Kosovo increased administrative independence. However, by 1989, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević revoked Kosovo’s privileges due, in part, to rising ethnic tensions. In response, the Kosovo Assembly declared itself an independent state on 2 July 1990; Albania was the only state that recognized an independent Kosovo. Albanians are the largest ethnic group in Kosovo.

In 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army began attacking federal Yugoslav security forces, claiming that the security forces had been involved in the attempted ethnic cleansing of Albanians. Violence escalated and the region seemed on the brink of war. After a massacre of 45 Albanian civilians was reported in January 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) used the breakdown of the negotiated Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo (Rambouillet Accords) as a justification for military intervention in early 1999. When the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia did not comply with demands to allow peacekeepers, NATO carried out an extensive coercive bombing campaign to urge Milosevic to capitulate (this military action was unsanctioned by the United Nations, where NATO faced opposition from both Russia and China). A combination of coercive, targeted bombing and political pressure ended the war between Serbia and Kosovo, and Serbia agreed to allow peacekeepers in Kosovo.

After the war, the NATO-led Kosovo force entered into Kosovo to provide security for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as was established in Security Council Resolution 1244. The resolution permit an international civil and military presence in Kosovo, established the framework for UNMIK, mandated withdrawal of Serbian security forces in Kosovo and instituted a political process facilitated by the United Nations to resolve the final status of Kosovo. This process to resolve the final status of Kosovo was initiated officially in 2006, with negotiations being led by the UNMIK between Kosovo and Serbia.

In February 2007, Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nations special envoy for Kosovo, provided a draft settlement proposal to leaders of both Serbia and Kosovo. The Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (CSP) laid out a comprehensive proposal for the status of Kosovo; while it did not explicitly mention independence, most observers concluded that statehood would be the eventual result of enacting the proposal. However, despite discussions working to address concerns from all sides, the settlement talks stalled in late 2007. This resulted in the Assembly of Kosovo’s second unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008.

The question presented by the sixty-third General Assembly to the International Court of Justice involves a variety of issues of international law and sovereignty. Security Council resolution 1244 provides the baseline for the relationship between the regions and for the resolution of Kosovo’s final status. Although the question presented assumes that the declaration was an act of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, this is not a forgone conclusion; the Court’s opinion should consider this question. The advisory opinion must also address the issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the protection of civil and humanitarian rights, and the effect of the decision on the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia as well as the international community as a whole. Territorial integrity—the principle under international law that nation-states should not attempt to promote secessionist movements or border changes in other nation-states—is widely accepted as an international norm and should be taken into consideration, particularly in cases of secession.

In addition to substantive questions, there is also a jurisdictional argument. Some opponents point out that while the General Assembly may have referred this case to the Court, the Security Council should be responsible for requesting the advisory opinion given its passage of Resolution 1244 and role in the existing peacekeeping operation. As the Security Council has not asked for an advisory opinion, the Court should use discretion and not answer the General Assembly’s request. Resolution 1244 indicates that any final settlement between Serbia and Kosovo must be the result of a negotiated agreement between the parties or of a Security Council decision. According to those who argue the ICJ does not have jurisdiction, the Resolution excludes a unilateral act as a possibility for a final settlement.

Proponents advance a number of arguments for the Court to find the unilateral declaration of Kosovo to be in accordance with international law. Foremost is that Kosovo’s action is justified by the fundamental human rights abuses and the lack of representation Kosovar people suffered while a part of Serbia. Proponents argue that, while all citizens of the world possess the right to self-determination within the framework of the existing State, the principle of carence de souverainete (lack of sovereignty) encourages secession when a territory is so heavily misgoverned that self-determination within an existing State is not possible. The placement of UNMIK as a governing body was viewed as recognition of existing misgovernment by Serbia.
Proponents further assert that the long history of enmity and distrust between Albanians in Kosovo and Serbia continues to exert a poisoning influence on efforts toward integration.

Opponents of Kosovar independence argue that Kosovo is not in accordance with international law. These proponents highlight the inviolability of the principle of territorial integrity. Within international law, the principle of territorial integrity is seen as being of the utmost importance—a cornerstone to the Charter of the United Nations. According to the Vienna Convention of 1969, the international community should treat territorial integrity  as a “norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted.” Furthermore, the principle of territorial integrity as an internationally recognized norm not only applies between States but also within them. Proponents of a single Serbian state point to the large difference between the rights of the minority group and the right to secession. While all human beings, minority or not, have the right to self-determination, it is an internal right; secession is fundamentally external.

The Court will first need to consider its own right to jurisdiction in this case. While the General Assembly may submit issues to the ICJ for an Advisory Opinion, this is traditionally done in reference to the need for legal clarification on some matter before the General Assembly. Since a part of its jurisdictional argument is based in the implications of a Security Council resolution, jurisdiction may or may not be an issue. If jurisdiction is warranted, the Court must also then take into consideration the two competing fundamental issues of international law represented here: the inviolability of the principle of territorial integrity and the rights of peoples to self-determination. Various treaties and human rights documents speak to these issues. In addition, competing claims of human rights violations may be important in this case.

Questions to Consider

  • Given that the General Assembly has asked the Court to provide an Advisory Opinion on an issue regarding which the UN Security Council has passed a Resolution, where does this Court find jurisdiction to consider the merits of this Advisory Opinion?
  • How do competing claims of self-determination and territorial integrity/sovereignty apply in this case?
  • Given the existence of a Security Council resolution as one source of law, do the provisions of Resolution 1244 affect the ability of Kosovo to declare independence when combined with other relevant sources of law on self-determination?
  • Do human rights issues on either or both sides provide a legal impetus or impediment to a declaration of independence, either alone or in combination with the other legal issues defined here?
  • Under what circumstances does international law permit unilateral declarations of independence?


United Nations Documents

Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – Georgia v Russia

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 1 May 2010. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation nor considered in hearing the case.

On 12 August 2008, the Republic of Georgia instituted proceedings at the International Court of Justice against the Russian Federation. The application that asserts Russia violated Articles 2 through 6 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) “through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities exercising governmental authority, and through the South Ossetia and Abkhazia separatist forces and other agents acting on the instructions of, and under the direction and control of the Russian Federation.” South Ossetia and Abkhazia are regions that have declared their independence from Georgia and share borders with Russia and Georgia. South Ossetia declared its independence the same year Georgia declared its independence from Russia (1991) and Abkhazia followed the next year (1992). Georgia considers South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be part of its sovereign territory.

Tensions between Georgia and both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have flared several times into armed conflict. While Georgia and Abkhazia negotiated a ceasefire in 1994, political and military tension between the two parties has increased. During 1998 and 2001 the tension translated into short armed conflicts. While the conflicts were resolved with further ceasefire agreements, the military situation continued to escalate. The peace agreement correlating with these ceasefires permitted Russian peacekeepers to remain in the contested territories. On 21 April 2008, Georgia accused Russia of downing of an unmanned drone over Abkhazia. Eight days later, Russia accused Georgia of amassing troops to attack Abkhazia and increased their peacekeeper troops in response. Tensions increased when additional unarmed Russian troops were sent to Abkhazia on 30 May, for necessary railway repairs; Georgia accused Russia of planning an invasion.

In August 2008, South Ossetian separatists attacked Georgian peacekeepers. The conflict resulted in Russian tanks and soldiers moving through South Ossetia into Georgia on 10 August 2008. Two days later, Russia halted its incursions into Georgia after agreeing to a six point plan to defuse tensions in the region. The plan allowed for cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of troops from region. At the end of August 2008, Russia formally recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The government of Georgia considers South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be independently administered territories, and it remains concerned about the rights of ethnic Georgians living in these territories.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted by the General Assembly on 21 December 1965, and entered into force 4 January 1969. It is a core international instrument in prevention of discrimination. The Convention defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

Georgia alleges that Russia’s actions throughout the 1990s, and especially in the war of 2008, violated the Convention, including, inter alia, through dislocation of ethnic Georgians from their homes, killing of civilians and refusal to allow ethnic Georgian refugees to return to their homes. Georgia claims that these acts evidence a consistent and protracted pattern by the Russian government of the ethnic cleansing of these territories in violation of the Convention. Russia’s actions are specifically alleged to have violated Articles 2 and 5 of the Convention. Both Georgia and Russia are parties to CERD without reservation (Russia is a party by succession, as the USSR was a party to the treaty, and Russia assumed the USSR’s treaty obligations).

Article 22 of the Convention allows States Parties to refer disputes arising under the Convention to the Court, under certain circumstances. Georgia claims jurisdiction under Article 22, outlining numerous previous attempts to resolve the dispute through other means.  It petitioned the Court to act with haste to protect Georgians from further discrimination.

Russia argues that Article 22 requires Georgia to pursue a negotiated settlement to disputes before appealing to the Court. Russia notes that Article 22 is a last resort, utilized only after all other measures provided for under the Convention have been exhausted, including referral to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and negotiation between the parties. They claim that Georgia has not made any previous claims of and that, as a result, the Court does not have jurisdiction.

Russia argues that the principle of self-determination, embodied in the UN Charter and various international conventions, permits the separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia—both majorities—to secede from the state of Georgia. Russia also claims that the
obligations of Articles 2 and 5 of the Convention do not apply extraterritorially but are instead obligations only required of a state within its own sovereign territory. Russia claims that its intervention in the first and second phases of the conflict had been with the express consent of Georgia and in the nature of a peacekeeping operation at the behest of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Russia argues that, beyond the question of jurisdiction, this case is not an issue of racial discrimination. Additionally, Russia claims that the 2008 wars began as a result of Georgian aggression in the contested territories and that characterizing Russia as the aggressor in the war is a political response related to Georgia’s expressed intentions to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Russia claims that the responsibility for the violations of the obligations under the Convention rest primarily with the authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This responsibility, it maintains, can not under any circumstances be attributed to Russia, since these authorities are not its de facto organs and were not acting under its direction and control. Referring specifically to the request for provisional measures, Russia maintained that the dispute in both form and substance fell outside the scope of the Convention.

Over the objection of Russian Federation, the Court issued an interim ruling following the public hearings. The Court reserved judgment on its final determination of whether Article 22 allows jurisdiction but did find sufficient jurisdiction to issue an interim ruling. This ruling ordered all parties to refrain from any and all violations of the Convention and to allow for humanitarian aid in the region. The Court must now determine whether it has jurisdiction over the matter and, if so, whether a violation of the Convention has occurred.

Questions to Consider

  • What jurisdiction does the Court have in this case? Are parties obligated to exhaust other measures to resolve the conflict under Article 22 of the Convention before seeking a judgment from the Court?
  • What is the scope of a State’s obligations under the CERD? Do the alleged actions constitute racial discrimination under the Convention?
  • How should the Court resolve the conflict between self determination and territorial integrity?


United Nations Documents

Fisheries Jurisdiction – Spain v Canada

This is a historical case. In accordance with AMUN rules and procedures, please note that the historical timeline for this case will stop on 1 March 1996. Any and all updates to this case after that date will not be relevant to the AMUN simulation nor considered in hearing the case.

On 9 March 1995, Canadian authorities seized a Spanish fishing vessel, the Estai, and arrested the crew approximately 250 miles off the coast of the Canadian island province of Newfoundland, just outside of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Canada charged the ship’s captain with fishing a species of halibut that is protected under the Canadian Coastal Fisheries Protection Act as well as under a mandate issued by the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organization. The crew’s catch was confiscated. In response, Spain deployed a warship to the area, remaining just outside of Canada’s EEZ. This action prompted Canada to do the same. The ensuing standoff culminated in Spain providing a gunboat escort for ships sailing under the Spanish flag. During this diplomatic incident, the Spanish government filed its grievance with the International Court of Justice, demanding reparations and the return of the confiscated ship.

Spain contested the Canadian arrest in its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), citing that the arrest took place outside of the 200-mile EEZ established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both Spain and Canada are States Parties. Spain also argued that Canadian authorities unjustly used force to respond to a alleged violation of international law. Spain asserted that the ICJ had jurisdiction; both Canada and Spain have made declarations accepting compulsory jurisdiction by the Court over disputes under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute (known as the Optional Clause).

In the court proceedings, Canada argued the legality of the seizure and arrest were rooted in the second, third and fourth provisions of the Canadian Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, which states that “No foreign fishing vessel shall enter Canadian fisheries waters for any purpose unless authorized by this Act or the regulations, any other law of Canada or a treaty.” The crux of the argument lay in its challenge of the court’s jurisdiction. Canada claimed that areas regulated under the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (the NAFO Convention) were excluded from the Court’s jurisdiction. In that argument, Canada also cited the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (The Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks).

Spain’s rebuttal was multifaceted. Spain argued that the NAFO regulatory area exclusion, under a reasonable interpretation, only applied to vessels that were not explicitly associated with a recognized sovereign state. Likewise, Spain argued that its grievance was not with any claimed conservation effort—but with that of the arrest itself—which would not allow it to be grounds for exemption under the Optional Clause. Spain further argued that the force used by Canada to seize the Estai and arrest the crew violated the principles of general international law, including the use of corporal punishment in an international case that involved regulations and treaties.

The Court’s decision in this case depends on two key questions. Does the Court have Jurisdiction in this matter? If the Court does have Jurisdiction, how does the Court interpret the actions of the Canadian government in light of the overlapping treaties obligations and general principles of international law? It is important to note that in deciding matters of jurisdiction, the state’s use of its authoritative force, legal or otherwise, is not necessarily the primary concern.

Questions to Consider

  • Does the Court have jurisdiction in this case?
  • How do national laws apply to foreign vessels in international waters?
  • How do the Convention on the Law of the Sea, agreements of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, and other relevant treaties apply and interact with national law in this case?
  • Was boarding the Estai a violation of international law to board the Estai?
  • Does a reasonable interpretation of the treaty exemption only apply to “vessels” that are not explicitly associated with a recognized sovereign state, or should the treaty be interpreted more broadly?
  • Should the scope of the dispute between the Parties be limited to the pursuit and arrest of the Estai and the consequences or is it a broader issue for the Court to hear?


United Nations Documents

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