Welcome to the 2008 Baylor University Model United Nations High School Conference! More specifically, welcome to the General Assembly Third Committee. I, along with the other committee chairs, am excited for the opportunity to chair this committee, and am especially looking forward to hearing your debate for the duration of our conference. The three topics for this committee include: The Health of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa, Child Trafficking in Eastern Europe, and the Current Situation in Myanmar. These highly interesting topics provide a wide range of social and humanitarian issues, and are designed to broaden your horizons on crucial issues located throughout the world’s many regions.
This research guide has been prepared to provide a basic history of this committee and to equip you with background on the topics. While it encompasses different approaches and a guideline for the topics, it is not an exhaustive list of questions and solutions. I highly encourage you to facilitate your own research and dive deeper in the topics provided, paying careful attention to your government’s positions and past actions. With an ample knowledge of the topics and solutions for the future, you will be better equipped to debate effectively in committee. This conference is meant to be an education experience designed for the improvement of research and negotiating skills. I look forward to hearing your dialogue on the Third Committee topics and to meeting you in the fall. Until then, good luck with your research!
The Third Committee Chairs
The Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural affairs committee (SOCHUM) is part of the greater General Assembly (GA). The GA is the largest body within the United Nations and is characterized by six main committees including: Disarmament and International Security, Economic and Financial, Social, Humanitarian and Cultural, Special Political and Decolonization, Administrative and Budgetary, and the Legal Committee. Commonly referred to as the Third Committee, SOCHUM’s primary focus is the examination of human rights issues. This committee was created to address a multitude of international issues that do not fall under the realm of other committees in the General Assembly. The SOCHUM committee’s responsibility is to complete resolutions on social, humanitarian, and cultural issues affecting various parts of the world. Some topics include the advancement of women, protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the elimination of racial discrimination, and the promotion of the right to self-determination (“Social”). The GA includes representation from all member states. All six committees have the responsibility of preparing draft resolutions for the GA plenary body to approve.
According to the UN Charter, the Third Committee (along with the other main committees) shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of promoting international co-operation in the economic, social, cultural, educational, and health fields, and assist in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion (“Charter”). The United Nations issued eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000. Combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases, eradication of extreme poverty hunger, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality, ensuring primary education, promoting gender equality, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development are all the eight goals set by the United Nations. All votes within this committee are decided on by a simple majority rules vote, not unanimously, because SOCHUM decides on non-pressing and non-military matters. This committee cannot mediate confrontations between two or more countries however it can press for the continued efforts of maintaining peaceful relations. The issues delegated to this committee encompass human rights issues from a variety of different cultures in the world.
In social humanitarian efforts, protecting the rights of the people is of utmost importance. The United Nations is committed to protecting the rights of all and achieving the millennium development goals of combating AIDS, improving maternal health, and promoting gender equality. In many developed nations, women and men have equal rights. However, In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rights of women have been and are continuing to be abused. According to research, HIV originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the twentieth century. (“Attacking Aids”) Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a collection of symptoms and infections in humans resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 10 percent of the world’s population is in Sub-Saharan Africa but more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV can be found here. Unlike other regions, the majority of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa (61%) are women. Typically, women are in subjugation to men and are therefore more susceptible to acquiring AIDS or HIV. Although treatments for AIDS and HIV exist that slow the progression of the virus and treat some symptoms, there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood and breast milk. Transmission of this virus can come in the forms of contaminated needles, blood transfusions, sexual relations, breastfeeding, or other exposure to bodily fluid.
History of HIV/AIDS in Africa
Evidence conclusively shows that HIV originated in Africa. After a 10-year study was completed in 2005, a strain of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) was found in a number of chimpanzee colonies. These chimpanzees, living in southeast Cameroon, contained a strain that was a viral ancestor of the HIV-1, the cause of AIDS in humans. Later, a model developed by computer of the evolution of HIV-1 suggested that it is very possible that the first transfer of SIV to humans occurred around 1930. In other studies done of primates in other continents no trace of SIV was found. This lead to the conclusion that HIV originated in Africa. (“History of HIV/AIDS in Africa”) In Kinshasa in the 1970s, the first HIV epidemic occurred. The emerging epidemic in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was noticed when an increase in opportunistic infections, such as cryptococcal meningitis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, tuberculosis and specific forms of pneumonia, occurred.”(“History of HIV/AIDS in Africa”)
Maternal Health Affect by HIV/AIDS
The target for this Millennium Development Goal is to cut the maternal mortality rate by three quarters internationally. In nations like sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations has recognized a number of factors that contribute to a high maternal mortality rate. A lack of good health care, poor infrastructure, civil war and conflict, extreme poverty, and the lack of sustainable development have been cited as the more influential factors. Maternal health has been a difficult problem to tackle in the nations where it is needed most, but actions have been taken to accomplish this goal. Certain Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Doctors Without Borders have increased the amount of doctors available in underdeveloped areas. These organizations have lobbied governments for better local access to health care, clinics and doctors. Many developed nations have also sent medical personnel and clinic supplies to help combat this problem. Still other organizations, in an effort reduce the mortality rate have worked to reduce rural poverty, increase public awareness of the problem, and provide and childbirth-related complications, and at least 10 million suffer serious injuries or disabilities. More than 80% of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.” (“HIV/AIDS Worsens Maternal Health”)
United States: The United States began a program to help eradicate global HIV and AIDS. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was endorsed by Congress in 2003. PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion approach to combating HIV and AIDS around the world. The United States is currently the world leader in its level of support for combating HIV/AIDS. Within PEPFAR Congress also endorsed the ABC method of prevention, “Abstain, Be Faithful, Use Condoms.” (“President’s HIV/AIDS Initiatives”)
European Union: The European Union’s response to this challenge of the MDGs to combat AIDS and other communicable diseases is based on a "policy framework" designed to confront the three diseases listed: HIV/AIDS, malaria and Tuberculosis. Making condoms available is most effective in preventing transmission but the European Commission's strategy also includes promoting the development of microbicides (a vaginal gel preventing transmission) and also investing in the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine for developing countries.
South Africa: South Africa’s national HIV treatment program was initially hesitant about providing antiretroviral treatment to HIV-positive people, because many carry doubts and unconventional views about HIV and AIDS within the government. However, the state began to supply the antiretroviral drugs in 2004. Unfortunately, the distribution of the antiretroviral drugs has been slow. (“History of HIV/AIDS in Africa”)
Since the inception of the United Nations, its members have always been aware of the importance of the world’s quality of life and average living standards. Though in the larger scheme of history the AIDS pandemic is only relatively recent, as the HIV/AIDS virus was not first officially recognized until 1981, the pandemic is only another manifestation of a human rights violation. The United Nations, as can be noted by the existence of the Economic and Social Council as a principal organ, has always held the preservation of human rights high on their priority list. On the same day in 1966 that the General Assembly adopted the world famous ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights), the General Assembly also adopted the equally important International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Instead of one large and encompassing international treaty, two treaties were written due to political divisions during the Cold War, as opposing political camps debated over the use of positive rights versus negative rights. Though debate still continues on these topics, it has greatly diminished, and it has become evident after years of attempted implementation, one cannot have one list of rights without the other.
Presently, the ICESCR has been ratified by every Sub-Saharan state with the exception of Mozambique. Among a wide variety of positive economic, social, and cultural rights, the ICESCR states in Article 12 of the treaty that, “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” and this obviously is to include women. Though the actual present economic and living situation in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa may prevent that this highest standard be obtained, it can be easily argued that a continent-wide AIDS pandemic does not constitute the “highest attainable standard” by these states.
Beginning in the 1990’s, International awareness and action on the HIV/AIDs pandemic took a sharp rise. The UN took many actions, working through its various organs, and also with the WTO (World Trade Organization) to produce a worldwide collective effort against the pandemic. In the early 1990’s, the UN was working on the health crisis in Africa through the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). However, in the mid-1990’s it was apparent that a greater collective effort would be needed, so the UN created the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) that works under Economic and Social Council, by combining six international organizations together. After declaring, “Southern Africa remains the epicenter of the global AIDS epidemic,” UNAIDS has since spearheaded the UN’s fight against the pandemic. UNAIDS helps Sub-Saharan Africa in preventing the spread of HIV, helps in the response to AIDS itself, and also helps the mediation between states and pharmaceutical companies for access to affordable medications (Dunoff).
As the UN entered the 21st century, it widened the scope of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa from a committee, to both the Security Council and the General Assembly. In 2000, when the UN Security Council met to discuss the worldwide AIDS situation, it was the first time in its history that it convened to deliberate on a health issue. The Security Council recognized AIDS “as a significant security concern and call[ed] for member states and peace keeping missions to develop prevention and treatment programs.” (Dunoff) Furthermore, in 2001, the General Assembly met with AIDS as the topic, and produced the UN’s Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. The Declaration called for “specific funding levels and national strategies to address the pandemic.” (Dunoff)
Also in 2001, as the tensions between African states and pharmaceutical companies increased over access to medications and intellectual property rights, the UN worked with the WTO at the Doha Ministerial meetings to produce the Doha Declaration. As the meetings progressed, large Western pharmaceutical companies agreed to grant 10 year extensions to Sub-Saharan African states for compliance with intellectual property rights, as then the Declaration was signed and progress was made towards getting accessible medications to HIV/AIDS patients in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, through its past resolutions, since the breakout of the AIDS pandemic, the UN has worked within itself and with other international organizations on the HIV crisis, as large steps have been taken towards solving this problem.
Implications for the future
Although progress has been made, there is still much ground to cover in the area of women’s health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the nature of HIV/AIDS, unlike most diseases it “robs societies of their most productive adults during the prime of their life.” (Dunoff) This will only affect the ability of these states to produce viable economies and emerge successfully from this crisis. Thus, the immediate future of this topic will be dominated by the accessibility of medications to HIV/AIDS patients versus pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights. Though the greatest need of the argument is accessible medication for those afflicted by the greatest health crisis since the bubonic plague, the need for the economic incentives of a pharmaceutical company to develop new drugs is also essential. A possible solution to this division would call for the releasing of all AIDS medication patents, so that through a free market and competition generic medicines could be produced domestically by these afflicted countries. To satisfy the drug companies, they would be properly compensated for their patents by various governments, as well as subsidized for production. This would lower health care costs greatly, as the patient would only pay for distribution and manufacturing costs, instead of drug development and research costs.
Origins of Child Trafficking
Child trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation” (Dottridge). Such exploitations include forced labor services, slavery, servitude and often-sexual prostitution. Trafficking in persons is increasingly drawing attention as a forced labor and prostitution issue and is becoming increasingly dire in many regions throughout the world. It is difficult to accurately assess the number of trafficking cases, however, due to the issue’s criminal nature. Many studies believe there to be about 1.2 million children trafficked per year, though the largest victim database records only a portion of those individuals. Eastern Europe accounts for at least 200,000 of these children per year. While patterns of trafficking vary, oftentimes children from rural areas are brought to urban areas under the pretence of a better life and greater opportunity (Boonpala). Victims are approached by recruiters, transporters, and employers with various motives for uprooting children who have no idea of the fate awaiting them. Even if they are aware of the hardships ahead, some children and their families take the initiative to migrate due to a desperate desire for greater income and social change.
There are many factors that encourage the trafficking of children. Among the most prevalent include poverty and the desire to earn a living and support the family, a lack of education and training, political conflict and natural disasters, cultural attitudes towards children and girls in particular, and inadequate local laws and regulations (Boonpala). Political conflicts between different regions and disparities between national economies have also increased the number of children trafficked across borders in recent years. Most children are approached and are promised better living conditions, only to leave home and be placed An increased number of international organizations have begun to take notice of the issue of trafficking and a few, including The International Labor Organization (ILO) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have devoted significant time and effort developing potential international solutions.
UNICEF’s most notable contribution to the issue of child trafficking is the foundation of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Entering into force September 2 1990, the CRC has 140 signatories and is the first internationally legally binding agreement to incorporate human rights for people under the age of eighteen. Article 19 asserts that: “State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has care of the child” (Convention).
These principles are followed through the convention’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is a body of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the convention’s protocols. States party to the convention are required to submit initial bi-annual reports to the Committee on how child rights are implemented within the state, followed by reports every five years. The Committee then examines each individual report and provides recommendations and concerns for the state’s further implementation (Convention). In 2000 the UN adopted two fundamental documents defining and assessing the severity of trafficking in persons. The first is entitled the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Known as the Palermo Protocol, this document defined child trafficking as basic transportation by methods such as threats, violence, abduction, or deception. It was also designed as a tool for combating cross-border trafficking through judicial and law enforcement means.
Adopted in 2002, the second document is the CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. Article 3 of the protocol requires States to prohibit forms of abuse associated with trafficking, whether they are “committed domestically or transnationally on an individual or organized basis” (Dottridge). Founded to promote social justice as the foundation of international peace, the International Labor Organization is also committed to lessening the number of children trafficked throughout the world. This is demonstrated by the 1999 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (No. 182). This convention declares child trafficking to be unacceptable in all countries regardless of their level of development, and targets trafficking that leads to exploitation in forced labor settings and illicit or criminal situations such as drug trafficking and prostitution (Boonpala).
Central and Eastern Europe
Post-Communist economic transition in Central and Southeastern Europe is one of the most crucial factors leading to the development of child trafficking. Market transition in this region has not been accompanied by comprehensive social policies, causing unemployed youth and women to become the new poor: dependent on charity and increasingly susceptible to trafficking. Further, trafficking can help deplete a developing country of its human capital and has a negative impact on the health, education, and morality of children. The global increase in poverty is most evident in Eastern Europe, rising from 1 million to 24 million people between 1987 and 1988, and the percentage of the population below the poverty line is over 44 percent in Romania and in the surrounding countries (Tyler). Living conditions for the majority of the 150 million children in East European states have significantly worsened since 1989.
Most countries in this region have signed the Trafficking Protocol and have national plans of actions against trafficking, in concordance with UNICEF’s guidelines on child victims (Dottridge). Some of these plans include capacity building efforts under EU programs, information campaigns, and reintegration plans. Furthermore, shelters and assistance programs at both ends of the migration spectrum are operated by many NGOs. The flow of children throughout Europe is characterized by phases and distinct destination. For example, in 2005 teenage girls in Albania were reported to be trafficked to Italy and from there to other countries. The number of Albanian children trafficked to beg in Greece was reported to have fallen considerably, while the numbers trafficked to beg within Albania and in neighboring Kosovo were increasing (Dottridge). Such trends prove difficult in estimating the number of children uprooted from their homes, and it is increasingly important to reach conclusions about patterns that remain unchanged. Statistics in Moldova show that the Russian Federation is an important and consistent destination for children. Knowing this information is helpful for preventative efforts and plans of actions for the route between the two countries (Dottridge).
The international federation Terre des Hommes estimates that 6,000 children between the ages of 12 and 16 are trafficked from Eastern Europe each year, with more than 650 forced to work as sex slaves in Italy along. Further, the majority of prostitution trafficking is to Albania. Many European children who are put in such dire situations are ultimately working for the good of their families, and will endure the hardships of trafficking in order to provide income for their families. One mother in Albania said, “of course I miss my child, but we live like animals. I’m glad they took him. He has a chance to have better conditions” (Tyler). This mentality prevails throughout the region, and is one of the biggest perpetrators of continued child trafficking.
Implications for the Future
Countries within Central and Southeast Europe have implemented a myriad of programs to curb the flow of children between borders, though the number of children trafficked continues to rise and there are many more measures to be taken. As displayed, roots of child trafficking in Europe are linked to economic transition and the need for citizens in developing nations to secure income, regardless of consequence. The first step in stopping the trafficking of children is to address the developmental needs of the countries in question. As Central European nations continue to develop, will markets provide jobs for low-income families? Will children be lifted of the burden to supplement family income by providing their labor or prostitution? Or will child trafficking continue to be prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe, regardless of developmental status? These are key questions to consider when preparing for committee debate. If development is not the determining factor in child trafficking, then what is? What can be done to stop the flow of children throughout Europe? Further thoughts of consideration include the implementation of national programs and the development of a cohesive regional network designed to track children and return them to their country of origin.
Child trafficking is a violation of basic human rights and should not be tolerated in the world community. According to Albert Thomas, the first Director of the ILO, “the exploitation of childhood constitutes the evil of the most hideous, the most unbearable to the human heart” and it must be stopped (Boonpala).
The issue of human rights violations is a critical topic for the Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian committee, and no case been more relevant than in the state of Myanmar. In May of 2008 a cyclone devastated the nation of Myanmar (Burma) killing hundreds and thousands people and leaving millions without food, water, or shelter. The Junta military government refused international aid, leaving millions of people vulnerable to disease, starvation, and death. Not only was the government refusing aid, the little aid that was allowed into Myanmar was diverted and horded by the government. There have been similar instances of the question of intervening in humanitarian crisis such as in Somalia and Rwanda. Can the international community provide aid without government permission? How long can members of the United Nations allow human rights violations of a state continue while they support human rights? How can SOCHUM influence the General Assembly to take action in situations in Myanmar? Should the Untied Nations unilaterally provide aid for nations that are victims of humanitarian crisis’s even if the government refuses? How can the Untied Nations do things differently in Myanmar than in the past?
History of Humanitarian Crisis: Somalia
One of the best examples of the issue of humanitarian intervention was in the nation of Somalia where the Security Council created Resolution 794 that stated that “all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.[i]” The decision to send the predominantly U.S. forces of the United Nations International Task Force (UNITAF) to Somalia from December 9, 1992, was taken by outgoing U.S. President George Bush in response to reports that the majority of food arriving in Somalia for relief of the famine was being looted, and that relief agencies could not operate because of a general climate of insecurity[ii]. The intervention was successful in providing aid and an estimated 100,000 lives were saved, but not without tragic consequences.
The situation began to sour when in 1993 the second U.N. Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II) came in and tried to “nation-build,” in efforts to stop the crisis. This effort was a major failure that caused the tragic deaths of 18 U.S. Army Rangers and many other militias aiding in Somalia. Later in the 1995 (second) edition of An Agenda for Peace, the fundamental policy document on U.N. peacekeeping, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali expressed less optimism about the possibilities for intervention than he did in1992, largely because of the United Nations' searing experience in Somalia. Continuing efforts by congressmen to cut or restrict U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping are also a direct response to the perceived failures in Somalia[iii]. The Clinton administration's refusal to respond to the genocide in Rwanda that began in April 1994 was due in part to its retreat from Somalia.[iv] Yet the lack of response by the United Nations and the United States in Rwanda was a disaster that ended in over 800,000 deaths. Both instances of intervening and not intervening led to devastating consequences for the United Nations and peacekeeping efforts. How can the United Nations act differently in Myanmar? Is military intervention necessary? How can the United Nations stop human rights violations and provide humanitarian aid?
The situation in Myanmar is very difficult. How can the United Nations provide aid when the government refuses? Will the situation be the same as it was in Somalia? In the aftermath of the storm, Myanmar's rulers have blocked or confiscated much of the food and supplies donated by the United Nations and other foreign groups, barring foreigners from distributing donations.[v] Relief experts say the aid being distributed is a fraction of what is needed to help as many as 1.5 million people facing starvation and disease. The military appeared to be diverting some resources from cyclone victims to the referendum.[vi] Secretary Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance for aid to enter devastated regions, or else the problem will become astronomical. If the situation continues, major human rights violations will be committed. The combination of illicit activity and economic desperation makes Myanmar a center for another tragic export business: that of human beings. Men, women and children from Myanmar are trafficked in forced labor, especially prostitution.[vii]
In light of such events, what can the United Nations do? Some people suggest,” if there were ever a moment when the international community, led as it must be, by the U.S. and the U.N., should use force to prevent what now looks like mass murder, this is it. It is also a rare opportunity to open up the beleaguered, isolated repressed population to the outside world, and to show a face for the US and the West that is humane. When aid is being stolen or hoarded in front of our eyes, we have a duty to face down the junta."[viii] But it is not simple enough to invade. Somalia taught the United Nations important lessons on trying to invade. If the United Nations invaded, who would be responsible for rebuilding the nation?
In 2005 SOCHUM addressed issues of human rights in the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law by the Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 2005/35 of 19 April 2005.[ix] This resolution is one of many that discuss issues of humanitarian crisis and violations of humanitarian law. This committee also supports the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are to “Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty, Achieve Universal Primary Education, promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, Reduce Child Mortality, Improve Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, Ensure Environmental Sustainability, and Develop a Global Partnership for Development.”[x] These eight goals must be taken into consideration when this committee devises a plan of action. Also look at past and current UN General Assembly sessions to gain better understanding as well as research resolutions on Myanmar’s human rights violations before the disaster. It will also be helpful to understand Myanmar’s history and current government, as well as past situations such as Somalia.
Questions to consider
What should this committee do in such a crisis? Is it right to intervene and unilaterally provide aid? If so, how would this committee define in what instances intervention would be necessary? Should sanctions against the government be issued? Does humanitarian intervention go against state sovereignty? How can the United Nations improve on enforcement of universal human rights? What preventative measures can this committee suggest to General Assembly so that problems like Myanmar will not stand in the way of a humanitarian crisis? What does your delegation feel about the situation in Myanmar? What stance does your delegation have on past cases such as Somalia and Rwanda? These and many other questions are very important to understand while researching and debating possible solutions.