One of the six main organs of the United Nations, the Security Council, also commonly known as the UNSC, it is by far the most influential, albeit controversial one.
Housed in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, it consists of 15 members states, whose representatives must stay at the Headquarters at all times, to allow for ad-hoc meetings should a situation calls for it. Out of the 15 member states that constitute the UNSC, five of them are permanent members, while the rest are elected on the basis of their geographical location. Collectively, France, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States are called the Permanent Five (P5 in short), and any substantive resolution would not be adopted should any of them cast a “no” vote.
UNSC deliberates topics that are deemed to be affecting “international peace and security.” Historically, it includes debating over conflicts between states. In recent years, topics expanded to other forms of conflicts such as counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism.
Increasingly, Responsibility-to-Protect (R2P) as a norm is emerging in international politics. R2P argues that states have an obligation to intervene militarily when there are evidences of mass atrocity against civilians. The idea that states should intervene is contrary to Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter, which states that sovereignty of any state should be respected, and any internal affairs of a state is essentially its sovereign affairs. Yet, some UNSC decisions in recent time, most notably with respect to Libya, can be constituted as conforming to the norm of R2P. Critics rightful noted that R2P is only extended selectively, and other conflict areas are being ignored (think Syria). Would a more stable and peaceful world order come about, or is it business-as-usual at UNSC?
Topic 1: Tackling Cyberterrorism
With the growing reliance on computerized technologies in the management of crucial aspects of human life, such as the electrical grid, the stock exchange and telecommunications, the vulnerability of important computerized systems to sabotage from malicious external parties seems ever more glaring.
The inherent dangers of our reliance on computerization have been explored even in Hollywood, in movies such as Eagle Eye and Digital Fortress. However, the proliferation and increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, backed by state-backed or anonymous organizations, has been going on for almost a decade, as exemplified by the recent Stuxnet attack on an extremely specific target: Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that had been configured to control and monitor specific industrial processes, that were also used in Iranian organizations suspected to be refining uranium.
Cyberterrorism is a relatively anonymous, mobile and efficient weapon as opposed to conventional attacks, which makes it more likely to be adopted by terrorist groups seeking to achieve maximum impact on the usual lifestyle of its target population. The effects of cyberterrorism can also extend further than a mere electronic breakdown or compromising strategic national assets. The effects of a malfunctioning hydroelectric dam computer, for example, can have extensive indirect effects on civilians, in the form of flooding of homes and farmland, causing economic and social collateral damage. This ability allow the usage of cyberspace as a potential weapon of mass destruction.This may destabilize already-tense regions such as the Middle East and plunge the international community into greater turmoil.
The UNSC, while recognizing the presence and potential impact of terrorism by setting up its own Counter-Terrorism Committee, has not formally defined cyberterrorism within its resolutions or discussed any stance regarding countries or organizations that engage in such activities. This legal gap may be a show-stopper for the UNSC in the event of a cyberterrorism incident, as many conflicts can arise when the characteristics of a cyberterrorist attack are taken into consideration.
These problems include:
1) The stateless characteristic of the Internet, which is often the medium for cyberterrorism, which transcends national and state borders and are difficult to justify a point where a country or state has jurisdiction to act against the offenders.
2) The impact of a cyberterrorist attack can extend further than just the compromising of computer systems and databases. A cyberterrorist attack can encompass many different types of conventional attacks. For example, a cyberterrorist attack can be used to compromise a hydroelectric dam, which can then be used to flood homes of civilians living downstream, causing deaths.
A resolution for this topic matter should discuss:
1) The definition of what should be construed as a cyberattack/cyberterrorism attack
- If a country’s defense system is compromised and used to launch attacks against another country or influence regional or global peace and stability, should it be construed as a cyberterrorist attack? Who should be held responsible for the results if there are any casualties?
2) The extent to which UNSC should take action against such an organization
- By condemnation of the country, or the organization?
- Approval of UN peacekeeping forces to confiscate or limit such technology and expertise?
- To create a counter-terrorism unit aimed at preventing such warfare?
3) How much the UN will intervene in cyberterrorism matters, and when the sovereignty of a country is compromised.
Topic 2: Syria
Syria is currently enduring a state of civil war between government forces and armed opposition groups. The roots of the conflict lay in the fact that the Alawite regime headed by Bashar al-Assad was perceived to be corrupt and highly oppressive by the Sunni majority in Syria. Peaceful demonstrations were initially staged against the government but this was met with military force. This caused horrified military personnel defected to the ranks of the opposition, giving them access to the equipment and organizational skills needed to form a full-scale armed rebellion. This became a reality in 2012.
Why is this topic interesting?
This civil war brings numerous problems to regional security and stability in the Middle East, offering delegates a holistic UNSC experience. The UNSC’s purpose is to preserve peace and stability, and to protect human rights, as such, discussions in the actual UNSC are centered on these two themes. One will find that Syrian Civil War presents problems that fall nicely under both themes. Firstly, the civil war is spreading beyond Syrian borders. Clashes linked to the conflict between the Alawites and Sunni Muslims has already occurred in Lebanon. Secondly, the rebellion is highly fragmented in nature, with various groups fighting to eliminate the Syrian government. This brings into question the future of Syria because these groups may start fighting amongst each other, causing further civil strife. Thirdly, Syria is a countries known to have stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), chemical weapons in particular. These WMDs may fall into the wrong hands and threaten neighboring countries; Israel is particularly vulnerable especially if such weapons are possessed by Muslim jihadists. Finally, human rights abuses have been committed by both the Syrian government and the rebels.
A resolution for this topic should:
1) Address the conflict itself, providing measures that may bring an end to the conflict.
2) Address the future of Syria by providing a framework for the transition to stable governance in the long-term.
3) Find means to secure the WMDs in Syria and prevent them from falling into the hands of extremist groups.
4) If possible, punish previous human rights violations
5) Adopt measures to prevent further human rights abuses.
The Facebook Group serves as a platform for delegates to discuss issues and stay in contact. Approval of membership to the group will only be done after committee/country allocations have been finalized.
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All committees in SMUN operate with standard Rules of Procedure. Please download the document to facilitate your preparation for the conference.
The 2013 Study Guide will be uploaded soon.
The Study Guides will tell you in detail of the topics that are being discussed in this year’s conference. Please click on “Topic 1″ or “Topic 2″ to download the Study Guides.