AFRICA INTERNATIONAL MODEL UNITED NATIONS 2010
Nicole A.W Gichuhi
THE FIRST COMMITTEE ON DISARMAMENT AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
The General Assembly's work on disarmament is conducted through one of its main committees, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. The First Committee is one of six main committees at the General Assembly of the United Nations which deals with matters concerning world peace and more specifically all matters on Disarmament and International Security (DISEC). The First Committee provides space for each state to discuss their positions on disarmament-related matters, and to work together to come up with compromises or to propose language or tools to better understand and approach the issues. It offers the opportunity for states to build consensus on the issues, to reach common understandings and principles and to agree on norms of behavior. Among many other things, the General Assembly discusses and makes recommendations on principles of cooperation for maintaining peace and security.
In an attempt to improve negotiations and debate, the idea of a "thematic debate" will be put into practice during the deliberations of the first committee. The thematic topics shall, but will not be limited to the two topics outlined below:
1) Ensuring the safety and upholding the Human Rights of non-combatants especially women and children during conflicts.
2) The dangers of climate change on international and national security and stability.
Delegates will be required to focus their attention on these topics as opposed to dealing with general issues that are normally addressed within the First Committee. The justification for this approach is that thematic debate facilitates interactions, whereas the general debate is encompassed by representatives reading long statements that can take hours, with relatively little added input.
BACKGROUND OF THE TOPICS
A. Ensuring the safety and upholding the Human Rights of non-combatants especially women and children during conflicts.
This theme is covered in International Humanitarian Law whose cornerstones are the Geneva conventions of 1949 and their additional protocols. Protecting civilians is one of the major objectives of IHL which hinges on the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians. The Geneva law was aimed at reducing the barbarity of war i.e. making it as humane as possible; minimize the impact of war on civilians especially women and children who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of war.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) lays down the minimum protection and standards applicable to situations where people are most vulnerable in armed conflict. It aims to prevent situations that might exacerbate vulnerabilities, such as displacement and destruction of civilian property. International humanitarian law demands of belligerents that they respect the principles of distinction (between combatants and non-combatants), proportionality (of violence used) and precaution (against disproportionate effects of military attacks on non-combatants) in using violent means in situations of conflict (article 48 and 51).
Perhaps the most important of these, certainly in relation to civilian protection is that of distinction, which underpins the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. This requires combatants to distinguish between those actively engaged in hostilities, on the one hand, and civilians and others (including the sick, wounded and prisoners of war) on the other hand. In that regard, international humanitarian law plays the role in time of war or violent conflict that human rights law plays in peacetime, guaranteeing fundamental rights for each individual.
Worldwide, an estimated 300,000 children are engaged in armed conflicts—with tragic consequences. They are often forcibly recruited or abducted to join armies, some under the age of 10. Many of them have witnessed or taken part in acts of unbelievable violence, often against their own families or communities.
In Article 38, the Convention on the Rights of the Child urges governments to take all feasible measures to ensure that children under 15 have no direct part in hostilities. The Convention also set 15 years as the minimum age at which an individual can be voluntarily recruited into or enlist in the armed forces. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict is an effort to strengthen implementation of the Convention and increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. After receiving the first 10 ratifications needed for its entry into force, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict became legally binding on 12 February 2002. Today, more than 100 countries have signed and ratified this Protocol.
Three United Nations entities- UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR- have primary roles in providing protection and assistance in humanitarian crises. Children and women constitute the majority of victims of war. UNICEF urges governments and warring parties to act more effectively to protect all victims especially the above mentioned two most vulnerable groups. The Geneva law continues to provide the best legal framework for dealing with non-combatants as civilians are entitled to full protection from military attacks unless they are shown to be directly taking part in hostilities in which case they lose that immunity.
The major challenges faced by victims of war include displacement, hostage-taking, abduction, sexual violence (rape), dangers posed by cluster munitions (white phosphorous munitions) and other war crimes. Issues such as displacement and resettlement for victims of war remain a pressing humanitarian concern. The challenges faced by the victims of war should be addressed and given high priority in order to come up with conclusive and practical solutions that can be implemented over a short time so as to bring comfort and enable the victims to move on and restructure their lives.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, civilians are to be protected from murder and permitted to lead normal lives, if security allows. Additional Protocol I of 1977 provides further details extending civilian protections in international armed conflicts. IHL forbids attacks against civilians, and identifies special protections for children. All civilians are to be protected against murder, torture, pillage, reprisals, indiscriminate destruction of property, and being taken hostage. Although women have the same general legal protections as men, the Geneva Conventions recognize the principle that "women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex." This means that additional protections are provided to address women's specific needs arising from gender differences, honor and modesty, pregnancy and childbirth. For example, women POWs or internees are to be held in quarters separate from men's under the immediate supervision of other women. Women are to be protected "against rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault." As to relief shipments, "expectant mothers, maternity cases and nursing mothers" are to be given priority.
According to the ICRC, the law of armed conflict:
Protects, in armed conflict, all who do not, or who no longer, take part in hostilities: civilians, wounded and sick soldiers, prisoners of war
Strives to prevent parties to an armed conflict from resorting to criminal methods and indiscriminate or disproportionate use of force
Forms part of the international legal framework that aims to uphold human dignity and protect people from arbitrary treatment
Protection of children in times of war is a pertinent issue under this theme. Today in more than 30 conflict situations worldwide, more than 250,000 young persons under the age of 18 are ruthlessly exploited as soldiers –some as young as seven or eight , girls as well as boys. More than 2 million children have been killed in wars and civil strife and 6 million have been maimed or permanently disabled. Thousands of girls are subject to rape and other forms of sexual violence and exploitation while boys are abducted from their homes and fields at a very large scale. Many more have been orphaned or separated from their parents. To tackle this tragedy the Security Council has called for stronger efforts to end the use of children as soldiers and protect children in armed conflict.
Women experience armed conflict in diverse ways as victims, survivors, leaders and
peacemakers. Violence against women in conflict zones is often an extension of the gender
discrimination that already exists in peacetime. They are often stereotyped as victims and their experiences and contributions are virtually ignored in conflict zones and in nations emerging from war. Despite this women can also play a significant part in peacemaking if they are properly supported and genuinely included.
Far more men than women directly engage in armed conflict, which increases the
responsibilities on women to maintain standards of care, health services, industry and
agriculture. Women and their dependents in conflict zones are likely to lose access to adequate
healthcare, including safe contraceptive methods as a greater proportion of money is
being directed into war. Armed conflict often leads to a reduction in formal medical or
psychological support for home-based carers, most of whom are women.
Sexual violence against women during conflict is a tactic of war that has reached epidemic
proportions. For example, up to 500,000 women were raped, many at gunpoint, in Rwanda
• Women are often raped to humiliate the men to whom they are related (the men are
• often forced to witness the assault).
• •In societies where• ethnicity is inherited through the male line, “enemy” women are
• raped and forced to bear children.
• •Women are kidnapped and used as sexual slaves to service troops, as well as to cook for
• them and carry their loads from camp to camp. They are purposely infected with HIV.
• Violent conflicts force women from their homes, and expose them to indiscriminate
• violence while they search, unprotected, for safe havens
There is little recognition in international agreements of the impacts of small arms on women’s lives, or their contributions to peace building and their specific needs as combatants when demobilised. However, in October 2000, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women, Peace and Security, which urges for women’s genuine and equitable participation in peace negotiations in war zones and the aftermath.
All these information should be considered when coming up with new resolutions or when seeking to make additional amendments to the existing international legal framework.
B. The dangers of climate change on international and national security and stability.
Climate change is a well know topic due to the increased sensitization and numerous debates that have been held about it in the recent past the most notable being the talks at Copenhagen. The focus has been mainly on its environmental impact and its direct impact; that is those that can be seen straight on at a glance. However, there are consequential impacts of climate change that is to say those that will arise from the realization of the direct threats of climate change. These potential destabilizing impacts of climate change include: reduced access to fresh water; impaired food production, health catastrophes- especially from vector- and food-borne diseases; and land loss, flooding and the displacement of major populations. Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for the various volatile regions in the world.
The potential security consequences of these destabilizing effects include; they increase the potential for failed states and the growth of terrorism; large-scale migrations will lead to greater regional and global tensions; conflicts over scarce resources are almost certain to escalate; and the geopolitical reordering of states as they struggle to cope with coastal flooding, food shortages, and disease. In the most catastrophic scenario, political order in large parts of the developing world will collapse and hundreds of millions of people will perish or emigrate.
Mass human migrations are destructive destabilizing events to countries losing their citizens and to those region and states taking in refugees. Abject poverty, social turmoil, cultural conflicts, social-infrastructural collapse, murder, mayhem and war will sadly be the resultant consequence of migration due to the environmental catastrophes. Measured in today’s international security terms think of the situation in Darfur, Somalia, Chile and Haiti put together and multiply them to a large scale with increased conflict intensity happening at the same time all over the world.
Over the last two decades, many experts have made urgent calls to take the global environment seriously as a national security problem. But the diffuse and remote nature of the threat has made it difficult to integrate planetary peril into traditional security thinking. These challenges are daunting but they must be faced as this is not the time for inaction but the time to plan for a future crisis which as evidence suggests will occur at one point or the other. To minimize climate risks, national leaders must find an effective balance between sovereignty and international collaboration. Existing international institutions probably will prove inadequate to deal with the unprecedented demands of climate change; new international institutions and mechanisms will be needed.
The question then put out to the representatives sitting in the committee is whether it is possible to come up with workable solutions for these potential dangers and more importantly coming up with directives and action plans on how these recommendations can be executed. This stems from the realization that in most instances finding the solution to a problem is not impossible the challenge is posed in implementing the decision and monitoring that implementation and ensuring that is being done in accordance with the directives issued.
In summary the committee will try to come up with ways of preventing the threats posed by climate change from materializing and also come up with measures to mitigate them in the event that these threats are realized. The committee will also deal with the subject of the defense strategies to be taken up by individual countries and the international community as a whole.
The committee is expected to:
1) Come up with resolutions that seek to find practical and workable solutions to problems that have not been addressed by the relevant existing treaties and international laws.
2) Seek ways to strengthen already existing covenants that have in one way or another been weakened or unable to meet the objectives for which they were entered into.
3) Research on the agenda topics and outline the ways in with war, lack of peace and security affects the livelihoods of civilian and make recommendations on how to deal with the negative effects.
4) Recommend measures that can be taken up in order to reduce or mitigate the effects of climate change especially within the developing countries which do not have the financial capacities to meet these contingencies on their own.
5) Violation of International Humanitarian law should also be looked into with recommendations for what action should be taken against the offenders as well as recommendation as to how to strengthen or reinforce the existing punitive and pre-emptive mechanisms.
6) Look into the issues of disarmament and arms control as a measure of reducing the quantity of illegal weapons among the civilian population and the question of what qualifies as direct engagement in war and war-like activities should also be addressed so as to provide an interpretive guidance on the notion of direct participation in hostilities.
In relation to children and women in armed conflict.
25th March 2010
Sudan: ceasefire agreement with justice and equality movement (jem) is a historic opportunity to release children
Afghanistan: children to be at center of any peace framework for Afghanistan
Afghanistan: visit of the special representative for children and armed conflict to Afghanistan
Nepal: conclusion of discharge of child soldiers in Nepal.
Nepal: children discharged from the Maoist cantonments
International criminal court: UN official testifies in the Lubanga case
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, Peace and Security, which urges for women’s genuine and equitable participation in peace negotiations in war zones and the aftermath.
LATEST REPORTS ON CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICTS.
• Sri Lanka Visit Report
• Burundi Conclusions
• Sudan Conclusions
• Myanmar Conclusions
• Uganda Report
• Burundi Report
• Report to the Human Rights Council
• Colombia Report
• General Assembly Report
Annual Report of the SCWG
1) Geneva Convention 1949
2) Additional protocol I of the Geneva Conventions 1977
3) Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions 1977
4) UNICEF Convention on the rights of the child 1989 and the optional protocol 2002.
5) Climate Conflict Jeffrey Mazo
6) Wolfgang Seiler
7) Humanitarian news and analysis – A project of the UN office for the co-ordination of Humanitarian affairs.
8) UN Secretary-General reports to the Security Council on
a) Children and armed conflict
b) Women Protection of civilians in armed conflict
c) Women, peace and security
d) Small arms
e) Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
9) Legal Protection of Children in armed conflict- ICRC Advisory Service on international humanitarian law.
10) Statute of the International Criminal Court.
11) Special representative for children and armed conflict issues annual report to general assembly 19991026
12) World Health Organization – Violence against women in situations of armed conflict and displacement (july 1997).
13) Declaration on the protection of women and children in Emergency and armed conflict.
14) United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (1992).
15) The Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty Draft
16) Kyoto Protocol.