IGNITING MINDS IN A HEATED WORLD
Dear future delegates,
The time has come for another inspiring elbMUN conference. We are looking forward to hosting university students from all over the world in the beautiful city of Dresden. Whether this is the first time that you are tasting the life of a diplomat or you are already well experienced in the field of international politics: from April 3rd to April 7th, you will hold heated debates in the Saxon State Parliament. To end the day, you will have the chance to get to know your fellow delegates in a less formal setting at our socials. Be sure that we have a multifaceted program up our sleeves for you -like every year. This years conference will be characterized by a large variety of burning issues addressed. The topics we are proud to present will cover a large variety of aspects which, depending on the way dealt with, could either lead to severe tensions even war or to an easing of the situation and peace. Our committees range from the Yemen Crisis over post-conflict areas and cyberwar, Internally Displaced Persons and Rights of Indigenous People to Food Security and Waste Management. It is in your hands how these hot topics will evolve. It is your choice and your excellency, to shape the direction. Join us at elbMUN 2017!
Best wishes and see you in April!
Laura Baumert and Felix Flamme
elbMUN 2017 Secretaries-General
Topic: The Yemen Crisis
Political conditions on the Arabian Peninsula have been relatively stable in recent years. One exception though has not accomplished balance in decades: Yemen.
Consequent to the unification of Marxist South and Republican North more than 25 years ago, the country is currently facing one of the most severe crises in contemporary times. But the roots of this crisis are engrained beyond the historical dimension itself: Ethnical clashes, ecological disasters, the imminent lack of water resources, as well as the political struggle between former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponent Abd Rabbouh Mansour al-Hadi. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also involved in this regional conflict, adding fierceness to what now has reached an international dimension.
Never completely calm and stable, the situation turned into an open conflict when the so-called “Arab Spring” changed political systems in different North African countries. Since the government under Ali Abdullah Saleh has responded violently to thousands protesting, the government has lost more and more of its control and Mr. Saleh exposed himself to a severe assassination attempt. He finally stepped down in 2011, leaving his position to former vice president al-Hadi, who later won an election without opponent. Conflicts between social groups, having been part of the country’s history, increased during this time. Not only have they been caused by political and religious factors, but also by decreasing water resources and Sunni-Shia tensions.
Under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the conflict entered an international dimension in March 2015, when airstrikes and ground troops of the Saudi-led coalition and other allied countries entered Yemen in an attempt to regain control over the entire country and to push back the Houthi, a Shia-led religious-political movement.
Considering these aspects, in addition to the resignation of UN special-envoy to Yemen Jamar Benomal in April 2015 and more than one unsuccessful attempt for a sustainable ceasefire, a short-term solution to this humanitarian and political crisis fades more and more into the nether of impossibility.
Nevertheless, the Security Council adopted different resolutions on a yearly basis, condemning the violations of human rights, emphasizing the need for a peaceful, orderly, inclusive and Yemeni-led transition process, and recalling all parties for negotiations for a comprehensive ceasefire. Moreover, the members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the increasing presence of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and the ISIL/Da’esh in Yemen.
It is up to the International Community to take measures to oppose this threat to both international security and humanitarian demands. Could a resolution for engagement be procured in the Security Council? Become a member of the most important international committee in regards of security matters and crisis management. Subscribe for a seat in elbMUN 2017’s Security Council and help us draft a resolution which has the power to break through the vicious circle.
The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly is concerned with the challenges of disarmament and international security in the means to accomplish a world in peace. It resembles the General Assembly, thus every 193 United Nations member states can attend. The agenda is set by the General Assembly, which is also in charge of voting over draft resolutions passed by the committees.
Consus-buiding is the key regard to the First Committee in order to legitimately and cooperatively exert influence on matters of relevance for collective peace, including domestic military budgets, cuts in arms production, and seeking solutions to general challenges to the international security regime.
The first resolution to ever be passed by the First Committee called for “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction” (1946). Undoubtedly, the world is still struggleling with containing the spread of weapons of mass destruction while new challenges emerge from social developments and technological advancement for which the First Committee has to find appropriate solutions.
Topic I: Demilitarization of post-conflict areas
Colombia, Nigeria, Sudan, Ukraine: The continuous emergence of modern post-conflict areas has become a challenge of global relevance. While the international actors agree on the need for peacekeeping measures, the approaches to implement are far apart.
In modern wars, the involvement of various non-governmental actors such as warlords, militias, rebel groups, criminal gangs and even private security companies causes a seemingly unmanageable complexity of conflicts. As many interest groups are widely connected to international networks using hybrid warfare strategies and highly depend on foreign financing, their involvement poses the risk of transferring regional conflicts to an international or global level.
This may be considered a consequence of the observed economization of wars and conflicts by many actors, becoming distinguishable within the detachment of predominant economic interests from initial political objectives. Rebel groups and terrorist networks tend to regard peace treaties as a fundamental threat of existence both to their legitimacy and their financial dependence on networks they have created. Among others, these criminal activities include arm or drug trafficking, prostitution and forms of modern slavery.
Even though there are formal peace treaties over the course of various conflicts, these political agreements do not always indicate the actual implementation of peace but rather represent a starting point for further peace building measures. In fact, only an estimate of 50% of these treaties lead towards a stable and sustainable state of peace.
The development of sustainable peace consolidation processes including demilitarization and reintegration of ex-combatants is therefore of great importance. Regarding the armed conflicts’ underlying international connection and entanglement, multilayered and foresighted approaches need to be provided in order to prevent post-conflict areas from relapsing into conflict. Facing the complexity and challenges of resilient demilitarization,
the UN have worked on the implementation of so-called DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) programs culminating in the foundation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission in 2005. As the structure and the participants’ constellation of wars is changing constantly and differs regionally, the UN have to foster the development of fine-tuned solutions cooperating with non-governmental actors.
Although there are first collective attempts of demilitarization measures, the international community is at odds about an appropriate strategy and lacks common guidelines concerning the issue. elbMUN 2017’s DISEC offers an ideal platform for discussion on appropriate strategies. Join the debate!
Topic II: Countering Cyber Warfare - Securing Cyber Peace
The global digital network, known as cyberspace, integrates both non-governmental as well as governmental actors worldwide in a single, comprehensive and interconnected information platform, hence allowing barrier-free communication between its users. The exchange of data within this network has nowadays evolved into a crucial element of basic human economic and social activity, but also of civilian and military infrastructure, from hospital computing systems to nuclear power plant emergency facilities.
The accessibility and openness of the common web makes it vulnerable and exposes sensitive data and infrastructure to outside manipulation and sabotage. Hacker attacks have risen to be a well-known phenomenon of the 21st century, steadily gaining in technical sophistication while constantly facing the competition of IT-Security systems. Thus, manipulation and spy software have reached a considerable technical level which allows them to infiltrate complex and well-secured IT-systems anywhere in the world.
Moreover, digital infiltration cannot only open up access to classified information but also to exert political pressure on sovereign countries. In addition, by use of the so-called ‘infowar’, third parties can air political propaganda in foreign media and alternate political structures. At this point, the ‘fifth battlefield’, apart from ground, sea, air and space, has been conclusively opened, introducing a new technological era. Governmental as well as non-governmental actors around the world are more and more aware of dangers and potentials of this development, engaging in large-scale IT infrastructure.
At the same time, the militarization of cyberspace has taken a very specific, fast-paced dynamic. This is also due to the fact that ‘in cyberspace there can be no defense without attack’, as pointed out by Rex Hughes, military counselor of the NATO. As of 2016, according to Wall Street Journal, at least 29 countries dispose of a military agency specialized in digital warfare and security. This emphasizes how state actors are willing and trying to take pre-emptive measures when facing hybrid menaces. States, in this context, face the difficulty of finding effective, yet proportionate means in accordance with international law.
However, it must not be forgotten that civil society and its critical infrastructure are likely to be at the forefront of cyber conflicts; nowhere else is precise distinction between civilian and military targets this challenging.
In order to secure peace and avoid conflicts as well as protect civil society, measures need to be taken to enforce the rule of law and transparency within cyberspace. To let this endeavor succeed, the international community needs to achieve a consensus about the harms cyber war can inflict on societies and states. Also, international treaties will have to provide the means and frames for a fight against the dangers posed by the world wide web.
You are invited to reflect onwhat a stable and peaceful order could look like in today’s digital world as member of elbMUN 2017’s DISEC!
The Economic and Social Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and thus playing a key role within it's institutional framwork. It's responsiblity ranges from coordinating the specialized agencies in economic and social sectors (e.g. UNESCO, WHO, UNHCR) to the implementation of regional and local environmental programs, and it holds accountable the World Bank Group (and therefore it's sub-segments IMF, IBRD etc.) in questions of global social and economic equality. Although negotiations in the ECOSOC are considered to be fairly effective amoung equal parties, it's decisions are not obligatory to any extent. As economic and social questions increase in complexity and interdependence, the council's voice however weighs heavy in the international community.
Topic I: Food Security and Crop Science
“The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.” (ECOSOC in its 20thsession on May 12 1999)
Over half a century has passed since the Declaration of the Right to Food within the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but 795 million people still suffer from hunger. Groundbreaking progress has been made in the fields of technology, communication and mobility while one of the most fundamental aims, world food security, has been severely neglected. Current food production by far exceeds the amount necessary to guarantee adequate access to food. According to a prognosis of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world population will rise to nine billion by 2050, implying an increase in food production of 70 percent. The last-mentioned stands in contrast with the stagnation and even decline of our natural resources due to a non-sustainable exploitation and the growing effects of climate change.
This contradictory development urges the international community to act and find appropriate solutions. Several suggestions about how to approach the challenges have been proposed. One topic discussed frequently is the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) to improve the quantity and quality of food production. Supporters put their hopes in products such as golden rice with higher nutritional values, resistance to extreme climate conditions and pests; critics, however, argue that GMO food provokes the loss of biodiversity, the threat of hazards to health and environment as well as other consequences not yet foreseen. Hence, standards and regulations of crop science differ from country to country, which is also influenced by the role of the private sector and interests of lobby groups.
In addition, alternative measures comprise, for instance, the redistribution of agricultural commodities, which could be achieved by reducing meat production, in particular factory farming as it accounts for an enormous share of crops and resources whilst providing little to nutrient output. A recent study by the University of Minnesota suggests that up to four billion people could be fed in addition to today’s population utilizing the crops currently used for livestock as nutrition. Furthermore, supporting smallholders improves regional food production and helps to tackle poverty, the major cause of hunger.
A variety of aspects has to be taken into consideration in order to successfully fight hunger globally: How to assure fair payment of producers in the agricultural sector that more and more develops towards a part of an industrial value-chain? What role will agricultural and economic policies of each country play in the future? How can developing countries be supported more effectively and to what extend do wealthier countries have to change their way of living?
Let’s take on the challenge at elbMUN Conference 2017 as member of the United Nations´ ECOSOC to develop a plan on how to combat hunger and ensure sustainable economy and agriculture!
Topic II: A great globe of garbage? Multilateral Strategies for Waste Management
As a matter of fact, the international community by-produces an estimate of 5.65 billion tons of waste each year. Every additional gram of refuse intensifies the destructive implication on earth’s ecosystem. That is why the world as a whole is influenced by the way states address their trash disposal. Consequently, an international agreement on minimum standards and methods of waste management is a sine qua non necessity. Such strategies could help to improve the quality of human life, enhance public health, protect natural resources and reduce Greenhouse Gases.
A prime example for the importance of this matter is plastic garbage, since roughly 80 per cent of used plastics end up in the ocean. Due to the ocean current it accumulates in certain areas like the great Pacific garbage patch near the American coast line. Owing to the fact that it is located in international waters, no actor takes responsibility. Plastic slowly decays into micro particles as a result of ultra-violet radiation and undulation of the ocean. Plankton ingest those particles, which let plastics leap into the food chain. Hence, scientific research has evidenced traces of plastic in human organisms all around the globe, which can cause infertility, cancer and other diseases.
The great impact garbage handling has on flora and fauna also resides in air pollution by burning trash, causing poisonous gases to form in land fillings, killing fish by pollution of water, and many other perilous consequences.
On the contrary, one has to take into consideration that garbage incineration is a colossal industry. The leading six companies worldwide had a combined turnover of more than 75.76 billion US-Dollars in 2015. Trash generates jobs and capital. Consequently, there is a trade-off between economic growth and health hazard. Means to prevent soil and water contamination are not only expensive, but also do not have a short-term monetary benefit. On top of that they pose a possible threat to economic productivity of factories. The additional costs, being transferred to consumers, may cause prices to increase. In various sectors the constrained demand results in an even greater financial deficit for private companies.
Nonetheless, differences between developed and developing countries have to be considered as well. Less developed and emerging countries argue with the reportedly challenging amalgamation of an establishment of rules for sustainable waste management and economic revival. Therefore, effectiveness, sustainability, affordability, and adaptation to different types of economies are corner stones of any sustainable waste management. While each nation faces its own challenges, there is an urgent need for common minimum standards.
Do you fancy garbage? Join elbMUN 2017’s ECOSOC to debate on what global waste management could look like.
"All Victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.", says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the opening of the 4th HRC-Session in March 2007. Intending to consolidate and fortificate effective protection of human rights the General Assembly passed a resolution in March 2006, reconstituting the organ formerly known as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Drawing its legitimacy from their primary ambition to prevent horrific acts of violence and thus violation of human rights in wars like WW II, it nowadays follows a wider framework to unveil, and if possible, prevent infringement and violation in any aspect. It does however receive criticism since a key set of its members are considered to explicitly violate or conceal violation of human rights. It's members are said to pripritize in establishing influence over others rather than taking care of protecting human rights.
Topic I: Internally Displaced Persons
In September 2015, Europe was shaken to its core when thousands of migrants from Syria and elsewhere were moving towards Europe, seeking asylum and refuge from war, persecution and torture. Until this day, the crisis has not yet come to an end although it has lost some of its presence in the media. With new laws and regulations being implemented by the EU and international institutions like the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the international community approaches this urgent subject. Besides, non-governmental-organizations (NGOs) and governmental agencies provide assistance where it is most crucial; in refugee camps and at the borders.
One group of refugees, however, seems to be forgotten by the world’s public. Not being granted the same status, they are called Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Nonetheless, these people deserve a similar amount of attention from world politics in their struggle for peace and shelter. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement issued in 1998 by the former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, define IDPs as follows: "Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border." Shocking numbers published by the UNHCR end of 2014 indicate an estimate of 38 million people worldwide struggling for refuge as internally displaced in their respective country.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement state guidelines for governments and NGOs. However, it is hard to control the upholding of these guidelines and human rights, since the protection of IDPs lies in the state’s responsibility due to its sovereignty and its duty to care for its citizens. To date, there is no specific mandate from the UNHRC concerning IDPs. At the international level, no single agency or organization has been designated as the global leader on protection and assistance of internally displaced persons. Rather, all are called upon to cooperate with each other to help address these needs pursuant to the "collaborative approach". Neither does this lack of distinct accountability in such a collaborative approach hold individual actors responsible, nor does it exactly define any concrete competences. Only in 2005, the UNHCR signed an agreement with other humanitarian agencies. With this agreement, it assumes the main responsibility for protection, emergency shelter and camp management for IDPs. Since then, the UNHCR has been able to help and provide shelter to 14.7 million people – out of 38 million.
Still, NGOs find it very hard to support and protect IDPs, finding themselves in a constant state of conflict with state sovereignty. At the same time, human rights violations occur daily in IDP camps. Many IDPs therefore have lost their hope and faith in international institutions. Those who have been helped still live under desolate conditions in camps. How can the UNHCR secure protection and help for IDPs? In what way can NGOs and the UN work together with nation-state actors in that field?
If you want to find answers to these questions and all those
coming along and think it’s interesting to see how NGOs cooperate with
UN-institutions, go and join the Human Rights Council!
Topic II: Rights and statutory violations of Indigenous Peoples
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, around five per cent of the world’s population are member of one of over 5000 different indigenous peoples. Often attempting to live in harmony with nature, speaking over 4000 languages and preserving distinct traditional values, beliefs and their ethnic identities, indigenous peoples’ way of life can certainly be considered an important heritage of mankind.
However, having been deprived of their human rights, territories and resources upon the arrival of settlers, many indigenous communities were confronted with the impact of infringements of substantial parts of their existence. The awareness of the necessity to protect indigenous peoples’ rights has risen in recent years, but still, discrimination and unlawful treatment towards them continues to be a reality. Land grabbing and expropriation for economic means of private investors, seemingly purposeful discrimination in legal systems, and a denied or insufficient access to healthcare and education add up to a worrisome picture. On top of that, structural poverty and high unemployment rates similarly pose major challenges to some communities as well. On these grounds, questions concerning the concrete implementation of indigenous peoples’ rights, adjudicated in the UN General Assembly’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007, seem to remain unanswered and an issue to be addressed by the Human Rights Council.
Equally, the discussion on how to further strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples and especially find means of ensuring the assertion of those rights, shall be accompanied by a critical perspective on human rights violations carried out by some indigenous communities themselves.
Traditions such as the custom of wife inheritance including sexual assault and rape in parts of South-of-Sahara Africa or even homicide on widows, carried out among certain indigenous tribes in New Britain, clearly are to be scrutinized, if not condemned as human rights abuses. Female circumcision is another example, still widespread in western and north-eastern Africa and parts of Asia, or the obligation to kill an enemy in order to become nubile, a custom of the Omo-Tal in Ethiopia. These practises just as well give rise to issues about legal restrictions of certain traditions the international community may need to place in order to guarantee human rights. Consequently, it needs to be examined to which extent states can or must accept parallel legal structures within indigenous communities if those stand in contradiction to national or international law. After all, the privileges and rights coming with citizenship similarly include respect for the law and civic duties. Not meaning to impose external values on indigenous groups, it can therefore be perceived as crucial to encourage a closer cooperation between indigenous communities, states and non-governmental organizations to end any kind of human rights violation. Encouraging a certain kind of personal identification of indigenous communities with their home countries may furthermore be helpful to solve existing conflicts. Particularly, non-governmental organizations may represent an important partner to collaborate with in order to connect with indigenous communities, but would in practise need the permission of the states to operate within their territories.
Undoubtedly, neither part of the area of conflict between the protection of indigenous rights and the obviation of human rights infringements caused by some indigenous customs outweighs the other. Still, the need of action for the international community to protect human rights seems certain either way.
A balanced consideration of both sides and the elaboration of steps to consider for both areas of action are therefore in equal measure demanded to be addressed by elbMUN 2017’s Human Rights Council.