Planting peace on common ground
Dear students from all over the world, future delegates:
we are honoured to invite you to our elbMUN 2019 conference at the Saxon Parliament in the beautiful city of Dresden. From April first through fifth, four councils will once again engage in heated debate on relevant and controversial issues of international politics.
This year's motto "Planting peace on common ground" reflects our understanding of worldwide cooperation.
The primary responsibility of the United Nations system is to establish peace. In order to achieve further goals such as prosperity and equality, the international community must first tackle the age-old threat of armed conflict. Both internal and interstate wars pose severe threats to humans and our political systems. The United Nations has had a significant impact on peace when it renewed the manner of inter-state conflict resolution by creating an arena for compromise and cooperation.
How does one establish peace between ethnic groups and nations that have always lived in conflict with each other? We believe, the key to progressive world politics lies in finding a common thread. Once a shared interest or value is found by two parties, even if it is the mere principle of humanity, it builds the basis for a peace process. We have faith in the concept of common ground. In a time where the divide between societal groups increase all over the world, empathy for the political opponent is a rare asset and yet the premise for peaceful collaboration.
Together with you, we want to do our part in clearing the way for peace through passionate debate and mutual appreciation. As a team also hope to bring you, dear delegates, closer together. In the end, peace starts with people who are willing to believe in and work for it.
Welcome to elbMUN 2019!
Paul Klahre and Lena Bühring,
In 2011, a horrific conflict erupted in Syria. It started during the peaceful protests against the country’s autocratic ruler Bashar al-Assad which later turned into a bloody civil war. It quickly developed into one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time marked by the repeated use of chemical warfare and terrorist organizations such as ISIS gaining more and more territory. Over the course of time, an estimated number of over 500 thousand Syrians have lost their lives - more than 5.6 million were forced to leave their country and more than 6.6 million are currently internally displaced.
After almost eight years of fighting between the regime and many opposition parties, the Syrian regime seems now to have won the upper hand, regaining most of its former territory apart from the Kurdish stretch in the northeast of Syria. The only significant rebel stronghold left in the province of Idlib accommodating at least 3 million Syrian civilians and thousands of fighters as well as radical extremists. In order to prevent Assad from retaking the province and potentially causing a humanitarian catastrophe a “demilitarized zone” has been established, controlled by Russian and Turkish forces. Still, the threat of an attack prevails.
Nonetheless, trying to use the political momentum of a temporarily relatively calm situation, the UN is making attempts to revitalize its past efforts to reach peace at the conference table. At the heart of these negotiations is the goal to establish a new constitution that all parties agree upon - a challenge that, in the eyes of some, can only be overcome by a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned process. However, this could turn out to be particularly difficult as the Syrian conflict is far from being a purely national one. Instead, it turned out to be an incalculable battle between a multitude of both regional and international parties pursuing vastly different ideologies.
With all this in mind, Syria is currently standing at a crossroads, unsure about what the future holds: Will it ever be possible for the parties to work and become more compatible with one another? How far can the international community go to prevent a new military escalation? Will the fighting continue or might there finally be hope for peace?
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 overdraft resolutions passed by the committees.
Consus-building 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 struggling 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: Cybersecurity and -warfare
Over the last years, the danger of cyber attacks has been rising and rising. Many of the governments of the world have been part of cyber attacks, both as attacking and attacked party as it happened in 2007 in Tallin, Estonia. On April 27, dozens of websites of the Estonian government became a target of denial-of-service attacks. As Estonia is a very progressive nation in terms of digitalization, this attack was very effective and hurt Estonias economy and the people as they could not use these websites, which gave reason to riots in the streets in the course of which about 150 people got hurt. Not as obvious was the attack on the American electrical power grid. In 2009, reports by the United States of America Department of Homeland Security surfaced that China and Russia had infiltrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, although China denies the attack.
If the people behind the software programs activate them they will cause massive power outlets in the country, disrupting the economy which could be used to distract from a simultaneous military attack or create a national trauma. Attacks like these had the effect that a number of military organizations around the world have reconsidered the importance of network security to modern military doctrine and led amongst other things to the founding of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre (CCDC) which operates from Tallin since August 2008. The EU formed the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) which is supposed to help the member states in questions of cybersecurity, but with a lack of regulations is not able to do much. And that is the general problem the nations face.
Cyberspace does not work like the “real world”, the same rules do not apply, and with the steady development of technology, the attacks get more and more dangerous, especially in nowadays era of digitalization. But if the international community manages to lay ground rules in our dealing with one another, it should be able to do that for cyberspace, too.
Join the DISEC at elbMUN 2019 to discuss possible regulations in the width of cyberspace and what kind of actions could be taken on the topic of cybersecurity.
Topic II: Private Military Security Companies (PMCs)
Even though Mercenaries might seem like ancient history, Private Military Companies (PMCs), which can be seen as a modern-day equivalent, play an integral part in modern warfare. Their services include the recruitment of private soldiers, protection of official buildings like embassies and operations in conflict zones. PMCs are in high demand and are part of the modern, globalized industry.
Since armies around the globe often dependent on the logistics of private firms, it can be hard to tell the difference between state-controlled military personnel and private contractors. This has led to major problems regarding the role PMCs and their personnel can play in modern warfare. Employees of PMCs, who are deployed in a crisis zone, are often armed and sometimes even involved in active combat. Such a situation questions the state-owned monopoly on violence. Employees of PMCs have an undefined position in international law. That problem results in two important issues: PMC-employees have no legally defined rights if they become prisoners of war and it has also proven difficult to hold the employees of PMCs accountable for their actions in crisis zones.
Given the fact, that private military involvement in warfare is a transnational industry, the solution will require international involvement. What responsibility lies in the United Nations to implement international instruments and laws to exercise effective control of PMCs? What kind of regulations should be put in place to ensure a compatibility with human rights and is there a legal role for PMCs in the future warfare system?
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: LGBTQI+ rights in the labour market
Currently, being gay or lesbian is illegal in almost 73 countries – mostly in the Middle East, Africa and Asia –, meaning that homosexual activity between consenting adults is illegal. It is officially punishable by imprisonment in 28 countries and by death in 5 of them. This repression increases even more drastically when considering transgender, queer and intersex people.
Despite these facts, measures on an international have always been hard to enforce and do stay so. In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBTQI+ rights, following which the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report documenting violations of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, including hate crimes, criminalization of homosexual activity, and discrimination. Following the issuance of the report, the United Nations urged all countries which had not yet done so to enact laws protecting basic LGBTQI+ rights.
Moreover, they represent a significant part of the total labour force and is therefore vital to the economic activity of each and every country. Still, fewer than 20% of states have adopted employment anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQI+ employees. Finally, even if the passage of labour legislation against discrimination in the labour market based on sexual orientation and gender in many OECD countries such as Australia, Canada, the US, or the EU has been effective to a certain extent, this part of the population often experiences more obstacles to getting a job, lower job satisfaction, earning bias and more bullying or harassment than others.
If you wish you could find solutions at an international level regarding this key issue, then join the 2019 elbMUN ECOSOC - we are looking forward to meeting you!
Topic II: Arctic climate change - a new age of trade?
Induced by continuously rising temperatures due to climate change the Arctic ice cap will see a proportional decline in its volume and extent in the foreseeable future. Apart from the ecological dimension, the melting ice will spark interest for economic usage in the Arctic region as it yields new opportunities for shipping routes and easier accessibility to exploitable natural resources in that area. A 2017 IMF study projected a positive outcome for Russia’s economy due to climate change, depicting the improved navigability of the so-called Northeast Passage along the northern coastline as a major factor. In September 2018 the Danish shipping company “Maersk Line” sent the world's first container ship on the Northeast Passage between Vladivostok and Saint Petersburg. This process not only draws the Arctic coastal states’ (Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark (via Greenland), Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and the United States) attention but can implicitly affect more southern nations, which might see competition by rerouting international shipping routes and/or emerging markets for natural resource exploitation. Hence, those regions currently most profiting from shipping passages through the Malacca Strait, Suez Canal, and Panama Canal, among others, might face harsh competition from the Northwest and Northeast Passage in the future.
Contrary to the legal situation in the Antarctic, the Arctic lacks a similar legal framework imposed by the international community, which would restrict or delegate usage rights of the Arctic. Instead, the Arctic is subject to international law and conventions on territorial rights of the sea. However, coastal states still assert further claims on the Arctic by exerting regulations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to expand their territorial reach beyond the international standard of 200 nautical miles, i.e., these coastal states may legally set their territorial claim depending on the extent of the continental shelf underwater. Consequently, political and military conflicts may arise from this situation.
Tackling these issues requires a comprehensive approach balancing ecological and economic interests both between the coastal states as well as between the coastal and other implicitly affected regions in the south. Furthermore, enhancing the legal framework for the Arctic thwarting political and military conflicts is of major concern.
Join us in this year’s elbMUN ECOSOC to find sustainable solutions for an intensifying global problem which might stand as a paragon for conflicts of interests resulting from the world’s biggest change to come: climate change.
Topic I: The Role of the European Union in a changing world
The challenges of the European Union concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) may have never been more difficult than they are right now: How should the EU behave towards Russia after the annexation of Crimea? Is NATO still the appropriate and legit alliance of defence for Europe? Which ideas has the EU to fight international terrorism? These questions underscore several difficult issues concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, which call for a united and intelligent response.
Basically, the fundamental aims of the Common European Foreign and Security Policy, which are settled in the Treaty of the EU (Article 21), are among other things the promotion and the support of human rights, peace, democracy and the prevention of violence and war. Do the decisions and actions of the European Council and the individual states follow these principles and purposes? The contradictions between the vulgarized values and the actions of individual member states but also of the EU as a whole are causing a loss of credibility within Europe and other parts of the world. On the one hand, the EU is an alliance is based on solidarity. On the other hand, most of its member states often seem to act quite selfishly.
What has happened to the European spirit of a strong alliance based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law?
However, there are ideas of designing a new Europe: Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion of a common European Army shows that there are countries and governments who are willing to bring Europe closer together. Those people aim for Europe to gain more sovereignty and independence from the USA because they think that Europe is not any more the centre of the world, at which it has considered itself for centuries. But is Europe responsible for defending and spreading its values in the world?
Especially relating to the conflict among Russia and the USA with Europe being caught in the middle: Is the EU predestined to act as a mediator or does it have to pick a side? Does Europe need a new role in world politics at all and does it have to be a big player again?
If you want to find an answer to those question, join the European Council at elbMUN 2019! The orientation of the EU in general, but especially a new alignment of the CFSP, will have to be fundamentally re-thought. How should the EU position itself towards Russia?? Should it continue to base its security on the USA and NATO or become more independent? The opinions and goals of the different states could not be more diverse and conflicting!
Topic II: Common agricultural policy
In 2018 58,82 billion euro of the EU budget were spent on farmers’ support under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). A waste of money and resources one might argue, considering that firstly, farmers represent 3% of the EU’s population and generate roughly 6% of the EU’s GDP. Yet they receive over 35% of the EU’s total budget through CAP measures. Secondly, the CAP is criticized to be wasteful as it leads to overproduction, which is sold as surplus to developing nations.
Furthermore, the ones profiting the most from the CAP are mega-farms and vast agri-industrial conglomerates which receive around 80% of the CAP-direct payments although they constitute only 20% of European farms. On the other hand, the CAP ensures food security and reasonable pricing. The unpredictable impacts of global warming on harvests make it more important to protect domestic food supplies and thus that the EU remains independent from fluctuating imports. Additionally, the CAP provides stability which allows the farmers to implement improvements in productivity and environmentally friendly production methods. It also helps the development of rural communities: The farming and food sectors together provide nearly 44 million jobs in the EU.
On 1 June 2018, the European Commission presented legislative proposals on the future of the CAP for the period after 2020. These proposals aim to make the CAP more responsive to current and future challenges – but can they really live up to this promise? Join the European Council at elbMUN 2019 in order to analyze these proposals and think ahead! How can the European countries foster conservation and safeguarding biodiversity, while maintaining food security and export competitiveness of developing countries? Lead our Union to sustainable farming.