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SMUN PUBLICATIONS

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

TORCH Publication of SMUN 2013

SMUN 2013 Opening Ceremony

Issue No. 1

Highlights Opening ceremony with our Patron, Mr SR Nathan Committee sessions commence Guest speakers: Mr Kevin McGahan (UNESCO) Mr Navin Rajagobal (ICJ)

Opening ceremony cake generously sponsored by Cake Love Couture.

NUS Political Science Society


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UNESCO gets fixated on solving sex trafficking, fails to address other facets of issue By Agustin Joan Marie

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization   (UNESCO)   have   two   topics   to   discuss   for   this   year’s   SMUN: freedom of information and sex trafficking. But first things first,  it  seems  that  in  today’s  digital  day  and  age,  the  Wi-Fi password was more important, or so the French Republic claimed. A unanimous vote prompted the committee to begin with sex trafficking, where Saudi Arabia opened the session with their statement,   “Even   as   we   speak,   there   are   people   being   trafficked.   Freedom of information is not something that concerns as many humans.”   India   agreed   with   this   view   and   asserted   that   by   addressing this issue first, a common direction could be formulated so as to better guide the discussion that would soon follow. Afghanistan claimed that sex trafficking is a direct result of poor socioeconomic conditions. The delegate argued that by improving the socioeconomic conditions in a country, the issue of sex trafficking would naturally become less of a problem. This notion was  rejected  by  Saudi  Arabia,  who  called  it  a  ‘dubious  proposition’   since victims of sex trafficking are primarily forced into the trade, and poverty was not that key driving force behind the issue. As a result, it turned out that addressing the issue of sex trafficking first did little to help provide a common direction for the council. UNESCO remained undecided, with delegates battling over the best method to tackle the issue – be it an international framework to find and repatriate victims of sex trafficking (a short term solution) or improving the socioeconomic conditions in countries so as to reduce the pool of potential sex trafficking victims (a long term solution). The lunch break proved to help the committee become much more docile, as full stomachs and sleepy selves that made the delegates less high-strung. 2

UNESCO Sound Bites “Afghanistan: Point of information. When was the last time you saw a rich sex worker? Saudi Arabia: Victims of sex trafficking are victims for a reason. They are not victims because they are poor, they are victims because it is a crime. It is like saying being rich would actually exempt you from being a victim of rape.”


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“Hope that they can be discussed in due time.” However, a resigned atmosphere seemed to envelop the room as the debate over the two different solutions continued. Luckily, our UNESCO guest speaker, Dr. Kevin McGahan, arrived at the right time and provided a welcome break from the cumbersome discussion. Dr.  McGahan’s  session  on  human  trafficking  proved  enlightening   and timely, allowing the delegates to be critical of their own discussions so far. However, it soon seemed all for naught when the committee reached a standstill with no motions from the floor and no speakers on the list. The much requested unmoderated caucus was granted by the Chairs and UNESCO finally had something to work with – two working papers and one draft resolution. Unfortunately, the committee ruled the working papers as problematic or undiscussable, while the draft solution will be discussed on the morning of the second day of the conference. Chair Ingmar Salim reminded the committee that there are still several issues within the topic that remain unaddressed such as prosecution measures of sex traffickers, instances of UN peacekeepers contributing to the human trafficking problems (such as in the case of Bosnia), victim protection and the concept of ‘consent’.  Regarding  the  differences  between  prostitution  and  sex trafficking  brought  up  earlier  in  the  day,  “it  is  unfortunate  that  they   have  gone  under  the  radar,”  he  says,  “I  hope  they  can  be  discussed   in  due  time.”

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WFP in favour of biofuels as energy source By Lur Heng Guang

The issue of biofuels and its role as a replacement, or a substitute for fossil fuels has been a burning topic amongst world leaders ever since its inception as a sustainable energy source for nations. With this in mind, on day 1 of SMUN 2013, the WFP (World Food Programme) launched into a series of debates with regard to biofuels and the effect biofuels have on food security. Various motions were brought up and discussed, with the general consensus of the council being in favour of biofuels as an energy source. The delegate from Colombia stated that biofuels   were   ‘key   to  a  sustainable  future’.    However,  differing  opinions  were  held  over   the negative impacts of biofuels on food security in the different nations. The delegate of Indonesia held a strong opinion that any threat  to  a  nation’s  food  security would be due to a lack of planning by an individual government. The delegate from Iraq supported this statement,  stating  that  ‘world   hunger  is   not   caused  by  biofuels,   but   rather by lack of proper infrastructure, such as a lack of transportation’.   Both positive and negative impacts of biofuels were heavily debated between the delegates. The delegate from the United States brought up the point that agriculture, and biofuels by extension, is a main source of revenue of developing countries, and biofuels in the long run would increase employment rates in such nations. The delegate of Russia mentioned the concern of biofuels being environmentally friendly, as fossil fuels were still being used for energy in the conversion process.

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One of the moderated caucuses focused on the relationship between food crops and biofuel production. Some delegations such as Bangladesh and South Africa argued that pouring resources into biofuel production would lead to higher costs in food prices, due to the lower amount of food produced in return. This led to intense debates over economic, and by extension, socio-political impacts of biofuels. The delegate representing Iraq pointed out that if biofuels were to be fully implemented as an alternative energy source, developing countries would have to rely on developed countries due to a lack of resources in the developing nations.


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“break free from previous reliance on OPEC nations for oil .� The delegate from Indonesia brought up the point that countries traditionally rich in oil would lose much of their economic power, as did India, pointing out the fact that biofuels would enable countries to break free from previous reliance on OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) nations. However, the delegate from Russia noted that this would affect bilateral relations between countries and OPEC nations. Eventually, after much discussion, the scope of the topic was summarized into 2 main aspects, the economic and socio-politic aspects of biofuels, and one minor, the environmental aspect of biofuels. With regard to the realigned scope, the delegates broke off into a unmoderated caucus, with the aim of finding solutions to the biofuel debate. Three solutions were arrived at, namely, using cellulosic technologies to refine the process, providing funds for further research, having governments enforce policies for food and biofuel production with balance in mind, and finally, to set up an organization in the vein of the United Nations to assess imports and exports to other countries.

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UNSC worming through the Cyber Sphere By Valerie Lim

The United Nations Security Council first began by setting the agenda of the civil conflict in Syria. However, a sudden news update, concerning cyber attacks on several countries, changed the course of the council’s discussion, steering the agenda towards cyber terrorism. The countries could agree on the importance of combating cyber terrorism but not its definition or strategies to combat cyber terrorism. Nevertheless, the United States of America (USA) submitted a draft resolution with a highly controversial clause (12) where the council had to deal with the age-old tension between sovereignty, security and, perhaps by extension, justice. After a long and frustrating debate, the committee seemed very keen to pass resolutions. The council focused and debated on terms such as “calls upon”, “recommends” and “encourages”. An amendment was almost passed, if it had not been for the veto by the Chair of the committee. It was the first day of the session and the council failed to address key issues, such as whether it was really possible for countries such as Russia, USA, China and Israel to share cyber intelligence. Should the council manage to successfully agree on measures to tackle this form of terrorism in the days to come, the resulting international agreement would be unprecedented.

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SOCHUM - Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream… By Ritika Mohapatra

The above quote by Martin Luther King Jr. would be an appropriate description of the SOCHUM’s proceedings on day 1 of SMUN 2013. Universal rights, in the context of international law and jurisdiction, were the issues addressed by the committee. The session was one filled with intensity, well-adapted national sentiments and a great deal of enthusiasm. The first half saw a clear divide between two schools of thought. The first one was mainly advocated by Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, a rather appalled Iraq, a fiery Argentina and to some extent Afghanistan, whose delegates were of the view that the diversity in social and cultural conditions is an inevitable inhibitor of convergence towards a common set of basic ‘universal’ rights. The second school, roughly comprising of France, Switzerland and China emerged with an empathic yet firm stance that viewed certain very basic human rights, human dignity for instance, or the right to food and life, as the basis of any attempt towards reaching consensus in international law and jurisdiction. A digression, in the form of a rather aimless debate revolving around the definition of universal rights, ensued thereafter. Following which, Afghanistan’s mention of the Sharia law, as an example of how even the most basic rights in certain Islamic countries are driven by religion, was the beginning of the emergence of two blocs, the Islamic countries, and the general standard in line with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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The realisation provoked France to take a diplomatic stand, with a few delegates suggesting how the Western countries thought of themselves as having higher moral ground, while delegates of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, along with support from Myanmar, believed that any forceful laws would only lead most Muslim countries into submission, with a substantial amount of discontent, to say the least. Finally, after a seemingly immovable bi-polar view of the committee, gradual consensus was withheld as to narrowing down the scope of the discussion to specific issues of extradition, trans-national arrests, enforcement, torture and ill treatment of victims suffering under the clutches of foreign legal systems.


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“almost Gangnam style perked up Korea and Switzerland” As a second tangent, the debate swayed to the problem of education, particularly propagated by an almost Gangnam style perked up Korea and Switzerland, suggesting literacy level targets that were unrealistic to countries of Argentina and Brazil in terms of resources, with the latter disregarding the issue of education as not one of concern of the Council. This was later followed by a rather disturbing discussion over the legitimization of torture, triggered by one of the mandates of the first draft resolution proposed by India. The session ended with a majority  of  the  countries  voting  in  favour  of  India’s  resolution.

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“Did someone say Gangnam style?”


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WHO delegates enter deep discussions about sexual and reproductive health By Agustin Joan Marie The World Health Organization convened on the first day; and right off the bat, many opening statements by the delegates stressed their continued awareness of the importance of sexual and reproductive health. The first issue within the topic of sexual and reproductive health that the committee focused its attention on was the subtopic of female genital mutilation (FGM). This issue drew fierce and passionate statements from many of the delegates such as the delegate of Australia, who deemed the practice barbaric and useless. Additionally, the delegate of Burkina Faso spoke for many of the other African nations, sharing their experiences dealing with the practice of FGM as well as calling on more developed nations to do more to help and to provide more aid. As debate progressed, solutions were floated in order to deal with FGM. The delegate of China eventually proposed a blanket ban on the practice of FGM. This drew much protest from many of the delegates. Some, including the delegate of the United Arab Emirates and Netherlands were uncomfortable with the idea of imposing a blanket ban, preferring to take a more nuanced and balanced view. For example, they brought up the fact that FGM is often motivated by traditional and cultural factors, and imposing laws and regulations were not addressing the root of the problem. A common refrain heard from the debate was the worry that a straight blanket ban would in fact drive the practice underground, exposing women and girls to increasingly dangerous, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions.

“I want everything” - China 10

After a lunch break, the committee began to shift its focus. Moving from female genital mutilation, they briefly touched on the topics of abortion, HIV/Aids and the improvement of infrastructure in relation to sexual and reproductive health. At some point, WHO was cleanly divided  amongst  the  ‘haves’   and  ‘have-nots’  on  the  issue  of  aid.   In an overture to the less economically developed countries, the delegate of USA stated that they were open to give aid as much as possible within reasonable limits. The  delegate  of  China  remarked,  “I   want   everything,”   in   response   to   a   statement on how much aid should be provided by the more economically developed countries. As the debate wrapped up for the day, delegates expressed their intentions to continue constructive debate as well as an intention to explore the cultural and countryspecific aspects of the vast topic over the duration of the conference.


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ICJ: Court opens By Felicia Wong The ICJ opened on Day 1 of SMUN 2013 with a training workshop by the Presidents of the court, which was essential given its unique Rules of Procedure (ROP), which differed from those of the rest of the committees. This was followed by an opening ceremony, where an opening statement conveyed sympathy for Pakistani villagers and also for the United States as victims of terror attacks. Stipulations regarding commonly agreed facts and disagreed definitions were also made, such as the definition of suffering and the military necessity of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). China proposed that   the   interpretation   of   the   term   “injury”   or   “suffering”  in  this  case  should  be  limited  to  the  negative  impacts  it   has on a particular individual or group, be it economical, physical or psychological in nature. The evidence packet was then presented by the advocates to the judges for their perusal. The United States began the court session with a fierce attack on Pakistan, questioning both their reliability (regarding the source of their claims) and admissibility (relevance of their claims). This prompted the Presidents to intervene and prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. Afterwards, the Presidents reiterated their views that definitions could be more closely based to authority, while the Judges were more impartial but emphasized that claims should be more closely linked to the law – specifically the 1977 Protocol I Amendment to the Geneva Convention, article 35. The committee then welcomed guest speaker, Dr Navin Rajagobal, Deputy Director of the Centre of International Law. He gave an enlightening talk which emphasized the importance and relevance of international law in international politics, especially in an era of advanced telecommunication systems providing global citizens with a platform to air their views on international issues.

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As the court session is still in the early stages, the final decision regarding the drone campaign in Pakistan is still in the works with both advocates and judges working hard to reach a conclusion.


Torch Issue 1 2013