General Plenary

General Plenary

Topic I: Fighting Recruitment for International Terrorists and their Organizations

"The passing of the resolution on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy with its annexed Plan of Action by 192 Member States represents a common testament that we, the United Nations, will face terrorism head on and that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, must be condemned and shall not be tolerated.”

Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, President of the 61st session of the General Assembly Launching the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 19 September 2006

Previous United Nations Action

Terrorism has been on the agenda of the United Nations for decades. Thirteen international conventions have been elaborated within the framework of the United Nations system relating to specific terrorist activities. Member States through the General Assembly have been increasingly coordinating their counter-terrorism efforts and continuing their legal norm setting work. The Security Council has also been active in countering terrorism through resolutions and by establishing several subsidiary bodies. At the same time a number of programmes, offices and agencies of the United Nations system have been engaged in specific operational actions against terrorism further assisting Member States in their efforts. To consolidate and enhance these activities Member States opened a new phase in their counter-terrorism efforts by agreeing on a global strategy to counter terrorism. The strategy, adopted on 8 September 2006 and formally launched on 19 September 2006 marks the first time that countries around the world agree to a common strategic approach to fight terrorism. The strategy forms a basis for a concrete plan of action: to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; to prevent and combat terrorism; to take measures to build state capacity to fight terrorism; to strengthen the role of the United Nations in combating terrorism; and to ensure the respect of human rights while countering terrorism. The strategy builds on the unique consensus achieved by world leaders at their 2005 September Summit to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.[1]

What Is Terrorism?

The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” Within this definition, there are three key elements—violence, fear, and intimidation—and each element produce terror in its victims. The FBI uses this: "Terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." The U.S. Department of State defines "terrorism" to be "premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.[2]

Terrorist acts or the threat of such action have been in existence for millennia. Despite having a history longer than the modern nation-state, the use of terror by governments and those that contest their power remains poorly understood. While the meaning of the word terror itself is clear, when it is applied to acts and actors in the real world it becomes confused. Part of this is due to the use of terror tactics by actors at all levels in the social and political environment. Is the Unabomber, with his solo campaign of terror, a criminal, terrorist, or revolutionary?

So we see that distinctions of size and political legitimacy of the actors using terror raise questions as to what is and is not terrorism. The concept of moral equivalency is frequently used as an argument to broaden and blur the definition of terrorism as well. This concept argues that the outcome of an action is what matters, not the intent. Collateral or unintended damage to civilians from an attack by uniformed military forces on a legitimate military target is the same as a terrorist bomb directed deliberately at the civilian target with the intent of creating that damage. Simply put, a car bomb on a city street and a jet fighter dropping a bomb on a tank are both acts of violence that produce death and terror. Therefore (at the extreme end of this argument) any military action is simply terrorism by a different name. This is the reasoning behind the famous phrase "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". It is also a legacy of legitimizing the use of terror by successful revolutionary movements after the fact.

The very flexibility and adaptability of terror throughout the years has contributed to the confusion. Those seeking to disrupt, reorder or destroy the status quo have continuously sought new and creative ways to achieve their goals. Changes in the tactics and techniques of terrorists have been significant, but even more significant are the growth in the number of causes and social contexts where terrorism is used.

Over the past 20 years, terrorists have committed extremely violent acts for alleged political or religious reasons. Political ideology ranges from the far left to the far right. For example, the far left can consist of groups such as Marxists and Leninists who propose a revolution of workers led by a revolutionary elite. On the far right, we find dictatorships that typically believe in a merging of state and business leadership. Nationalism is the devotion to the interests or culture of a group of people or a nation. Typically, nationalists share a common ethnic background and wish to establish or regain a homeland. Religious extremists often reject the authority of secular governments and view legal systems that are not based on their religious beliefs as illegitimate. They often view modernization efforts as corrupting influences on traditional culture. Special interest groups include people on the radical fringe of many legitimate causes; e.g., people who use terrorism to uphold antiabortion views, animal rights, radical environmentalism. These groups believe that violence is morally justifiable to achieve their goals.[3]

How Do Terrorist Organizations Recruit Members?

"Without a doubt, the Internet is the single most important venue for the radicalization of Islamic youth," says Army Brigadier General John Custer, who is the is head of intelligence at central command, responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan. Custer says he knows where the enemy finds an inexhaustible supply of suicide warriors. "I see 16, 17-year-olds who have been indoctrinated on the Internet turn up on the battlefield. We capture 'em, we kill 'em every day in Iraq, in Afghanistan," he says. Asked if the Internet is training up new battalions of those young people, Custer claims, "It's a self-fulfilling prophesy that’s exactly what the jihadist Internet is there to do."[4]

However, even if the internet is being used to recruit, a majority of people who currently use the internet would not know how to find or access sites that promote or encourage joining a terror network. With the emergence of Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking sites, it is becoming increasingly simple to find and communicate with both known and unknown terrorists. Groups calling for armed Jihad active on Facebook Leader of banned organization claims success in actively recruiting students Terror suspect on trial used networking site up until time of arrest.

For example, radical British Jihadist groups are actively operating and recruiting students on the social networking site Facebook and other forums, an investigation by The Journal can reveal.

A private Facebook group called ‘Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah’, the name of a successor organization to the banned extremist group Al Muhajiroun, has been operating since early 2007. Members of the group include several students at British universities such as Sheffield and Manchester and one employee of the financial services giant Citigroup.

The Facebook group has links posted to extremist literature by the jailed radical preachers Abu Hamza al-Misri and Abu Qutada calling for the waging of armed jihad against the British and American governments. There is also literature demanding the expulsion of any Muslim who votes in elections or "provides assistance" to the ‘kuffar’, or nonbeliever.

One article entitled Jihad: a Ten Part Compilation describes violent Jihad as an "individual duty" of all Muslims. The article also includes a religious ruling for young Muslims on the legitimacy of taking up "martyrdom" without informing their parents. It concludes: "No permission [from parents] is required in obligatory jihad.”[5]

Possible Actions and Solutions

The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy which was discussed previously in this Background Guide suggests multiple ways of combating terrorism and the further recruiting of terrorists. Some of these solutions include:

1) To encourage relevant regional and sub-regional organizations to create or strengthen counter-terrorism mechanisms or centers. Should they require cooperation and assistance to this end, we encourage the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate and, where consistent with their existing mandates, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and the International Criminal Police Organization, to facilitate its provision.

2) To acknowledge that the question of creating an international centre to fight terrorism could be considered, as part of the international efforts to enhance the fight against terrorism.

3) To work with the United Nations, with due regard to confidentiality, respecting human rights and in compliance with other obligations under international law, to explore ways and means to:

  1. coordinate efforts at the international and regional level to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations on the Internet, and;
  2. Use the Internet as a tool for countering the spread of terrorism, while recognizing that States may require assistance in this regard.[6]

However, this should be seen as a step in the right direction rather than a complete solution. Further discussion and action on part of the UN will most certainly be required as well as required.


There is no doubt that Terrorism is and will continue to be a growing problem for all members of the United Nations. In order to combat Terrorism and stop the proliferation of terrorist organizations, the continuing supply of new recruits must be stopped.

While recruitment continues in traditional, grassroots methods on the ground in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., the internet is becoming an increasingly useful tool for the recruiting of terrorists. Whether through social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace, or through Arabic-language sources, the issue of internet recruiting must be addressed.

Only when Intergovernmental Organizations such the United Nations along with State governments move to inhibit internet proliferation of terrorism and its recruitment can the growth of terrorist organizations be expected to slow or decline.

Topic II:  Reform of the International Monetary Fund

Background to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was founded in 1944 at the Breton Woods Conference as the primary organization to monitor and ensure global financial stability and cooperation. It was formed in response to international economic disorder and depression in the 1930s that saw the need for an organization to assist states facing an economic crisis, meaning these states earning less than they are spending on imports and debt. The IMF helps them to balance payments and regain stability. The purpose of the IMF in helping such countries is to offer advice on how to improve their economy, give them short-term loans until they can balance their spending and earning in the ways the IMF suggests, help to train citizens to be more effective at running their country’s economy in the international arena, and finally it is a forum where members can discuss the international economy.[7] Each member state of the IMF pays a subscription fee, or quota, which is based on the size of their economy and determines the percentage of voting power in the organization. The United States currently holds the highest percentage at 17%.[8] The funds loaned to states come from these quotas.

The IMF has agreed to partner with the UN in pursuance of its Millennium Development Goals by reviewing the progress of each state toward them[9]. However the IMF has received increased criticism in recent years for its management of financial crises in East Asia in 1997, Russia in 1998, and Argentina in 2001 and 2002.[10] The crises in these states have negative effects on both neighboring states and the global economy, making the role of the IMF a global concern. It is the chief contributor to international financial cooperation and its success and effectiveness is of great interest to all states, especially developing nations who feel victimized by its policies. As a result its ability to minimize the worldwide effects of a crisis has been called into question.

IMF Programs and the Niger Food Crisis

When a state seeks the aid of the International Monetary Fund, the IMF agrees to loan money, advice, and services if the state will follow their Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). These programs involve harsh austerity measures to cut public spending, devalue the national currency to stimulate exports, reduce imports, and encourage foreign investment. However one major concern is that the measures have a significant negative effect on the poor, the majority of the population in these nations. In the case of Niger the IMF agreed to assist them in their time of economic difficulty. After cutting a deal the IMF instructed Niger to increase taxes on milk, sugar, wheat flour, water, and electricity. According to the Nigerien government the IMF told them to withhold free food to the greatest in need because they did not want to depress market prices for foreign investors.[11] After months of mass protests, the state backed down, eliminating the tax on milk and flour and reducing it on water and electricity. Some see this incident as an immoral lack of respect on the part of the IMF for not recognizing the basic right to food.

In response, criticism has focused on necessary reforms of IMF policy. In article 17 of resolution A/RES/59/222 adopted by the UN General Assembly regarding International financial system and development in 2005 the UN encouraged the IMF “to pay due regard to the special needs and implementing capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to minimize the negative impacts of the adjustment programmes on the vulnerable segments of society.”[12] They stressed the need first to make programs that are sensitive to each states specific need, instead of applying the same policies to all states, and second to focus on funding “public infrastructure investment” and building self-sufficiency rather than paying more attention to simply increasing exports of products like cash crops.[13] States are often expected to meet the IMF’s conditions immediately and at virtually any cost, but more flexible conditions may be more appropriate in dealing with economic crisis. In regards to popular support, IMF strategies may be more accepted if increased flexibility allows a state to take ownership of reforms, rather than the IMF imposing them on state governments that must then desperately try to meet its standards to prevent the IMF from withdrawing its loans.

State Representation

The UN has strongly encouraged the IMF to address the issue of a lack of representation of developing countries in decision-making groups.[14]  Although developing nations receive most of the aid from the IMF, these countries also have the least representation due to their lower quota. For over six years the Group of 24 (G24), a coalition of developing nations, has fought for greater say in decisions and policies made by the IMF.[15] Africa has been a leading voice in the fight for vote re-allocation. The continent receives almost half of all IMF loans but has only two seats on the IMF boards, compared to Europe’s ten.[16] African representatives feel that policies decided upon by the IMF for implementation on the continent need an African perspective. In 2004 the UN strongly encouraged the IMF to make progress in improving the voice and effective participation of developing countries in decision-making, but since then little has been done.[17] Developed countries in the IMF such as the US and the UK feel that their votes should not decrease because they contribute more money to the organization. The IMF requires an 85% vote to pass a resolution, therefore giving the US veto power with a 17% vote. Unrest stemming from the G24 regarding representation is increasing, making the question of representation a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.


Criticism and opposition toward IMF policies are growing and becoming a topic of much international attention. Structural Adjustment Program policies and implementation need to be modified to take into account the differing needs of each state, to become more sensitive to vulnerable groups in impoverished nations, and to allow more long-term financial development. The IMF also must actively address the concerns of its members who are developing states and come to an agreement regarding vote re-allocation. As an international organization charged with monitoring the international economy, it is in the global interest that the IMF function in the most effective and successful way possible. Given that debates in the ECOFIN will be about possible IMF reform, the following questions will be important: How should the IMF alter voting and representation? What role should quotas play in representation? Why should the IMF take into consideration the perspective of state leaders of developing countries? Do IMF programs actually work? How can it reform its programs to take into account state-specific needs? Should the IMF focus on short-term improvement from financial crisis or long-term sustainability? How can IMF policies by sensitive to vulnerable groups?

Topic II Works Cited

Topic III: International Watercourse Law


There are 263 international watercourses covering 140 separates states. Control and use of these water ways is a major security concern of those states involved. The ability to bring one’s people drinking water is by far one of a state’s most basic actions. This ability however is threatened by the needs of other states to bring water to their people. These tensions over control of international waterways could spark war, especially in the arid Middle east where water is resource sharing the value of oil.[18]

Past Actions

In 1911 at a meeting in Madrid the Institute of International Law published the first major international document on international watercourse, called the Madrid Declaration on the International Regulation regarding the Use of International Watercourses for Purposes other than Navigation. These declarations recommended the use of joint water commissions and discouraged unilateral basin alterations. In 1966 a meeting of the International Law Association built upon the foundation of the Madrid Declaration with its Helsinki Rules of 1966 on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers.[19] In 1970 rather then endorsing the Madrid Declaration or the Helsinki Rules, the United Nations requested that the International Law Commission begin drafting a separate set of international watercourse laws. These recommendations were later compiled into the United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.[20] This convention was approved by the UN in 1997, but the convention still lacks the thirty five states’ approval to become ratified international law.

Current Situation

With lack of international ratification of the Watercourse Convention, conflict and tension over the use of international watercourse has risen. The question before the General Assemble Plenary is how to obtain ratification of the 1997 convention, or, if this is impossible, how to craft a new convention that will be more widely accepted.   

[1] "UN Action to Counter Terrorism." United Nations. 5 May 2008 .

[2]"Terrorism Research - What is Terrorism?." Terrorism Research - What is Terrorism?. 6 May 2008

[3] "Terrorism Research - What is Terrorism?." Terrorism Research - What is Terrorism?. 6 May 2008

[4] "Terrorists Take Recruitment Efforts Online, Scott Pelley On The Use Of The Internet To Recruit Jihadists - CBS News." CBS News - Breaking News Headlines and Video from 6 May 2008

[5] Johnson, Miles. "British students being recruited to jihadist Facebook groups | EuropeNews." EuropeNews. 6 May 2008

[6] "UN Action to Counter Terrorism." Welcome to the UN. It's your world.. 6 May 2008

[7] “What the IMF does”

[8] “IMF Member’s Quotas and Voting Power”

[9] “IMF Managing Director…”

[10] “Timeline: Argentina”

[11] “IMF accused of exacerbating famine in Niger”

[12] A/RES/59/222 United Nations, General Assembly 11 February 2005

[13] A/RES/59/225 United Nations, General Assembly 14 February 2005

[14] A/RES/58/202 United Nations, General Assembly 4 February 2004

[15] “G24 demand for greater IMF clout” October 2004

[16] “Africa fails in IMF vote demand” October 2004

[17] A/RES/58/202 Article 10, United Nations, General Assembly 4 February 2004

[18] Everything you need to know about the UN Watercourses Convention.

[19] International Documents. International Water Law Project.

[20] Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses 1997.