Legal Committee

Topic 1: The Question of Reproductive Rights

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and The Danish Institute for Human Rights mandated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) define reproductive rights as “rest[ing] on the recognition of the basic rights of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents”.

In this contentious area, there are huge disparities worldwide in both the availability and even mere knowledge of such rights. This can be seen using various indicators and correlates, such as maternal mortality statistics. More industrialized regions such as Canada, the US, and much of Europe see greater availability and quality of reproductive services, but social stigmas and conflicts between different ideological groups contribute to additional barriers.

Intersections of race, socioeconomic status, and religion are just the surface when addressing this topic. While the debate has historically focused on women, the role of men and LGBTQ individuals have added another layer of complexity to an already divisive issue. Topics like contraception, abortion, access to reproductive healthcare and education, and freedom to make other reproductive decisions face fierce debate between and within countries.

The role of the government and religious ideology in reproductive health services and education, such as who should bear the burden of the cost of such services and if they should be available at all are widely contested.

One particularly publicized example is the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate in the United States. “Heartbeat” bills banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat in Georgia and other states have been followed by similar bills in Alabama and other parts of the country. These bills call for medical professionals who perform abortions and the women who receive them be harshly penalized, causing both outrage and celebration in the international community. There are further concerns that these bills will make way for the challenging of Roe v. Wade, which protects the right of a woman to have an abortion.

Topics to consider:

What are some guidelines to use when addressing those who are non-binary?

Where is the boundary between protecting those who access reproductive services and infringing on the religious freedoms of others?

Are restrictive reproductive laws effective in terms of improving reproductive health and decreasing reproductive and sexual health-related deaths?

Is the current definition too broad? Not broad enough? What should be added or removed?

More resources:

https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/NHRIHandbook.pdf

Abortion laws worldwide: https://reproductiverights.org/worldabortionlaws

Article on Alabama: https://www.vox.com/2019/5/14/18623474/alabama-abortion-kay-ivey-roe-v-wade

Roe v Wade: https://www.cnn.com/2013/11/04/us/roe-v-wade-fast-facts/index.html

Interactive maternal health map: http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interactive_charts/mdg5_mm/atlas.html

LGBT health disparities: https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/lgbt-disparities

Topic 2: Addressing the Relationship between Nation States and its Media

The relationship between Nation States and their media is a rapidly evolving field of debate occurring worldwide. While freedom of information and of the press is recognized as a basic human right is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), no Nation State has a perfect relationship with their media. With issues including censorship, conflicts of interest, and misuse of media outlets and data, each nation is unique in how they interact with and utilize their media.

Modern day media has moved beyond print forms and even past television news. When discussing media in the 21st century, the Internet cannot be discounted. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately two thirds of American adults get their news from social media at least some of the time, despite acknowledging that they believe the news is likely inaccurate. With media moguls like Facebook gaining more influence, traditional media outlets are needing to innovate their platforms in order to stay relevant.

The abundance of information available online has brought into question how such information is used, including how state governments can take advantage of such intel. One such example is China’s notorious reputation for using media to both produce state-sponsored content and to crackdown on dissidents based on their online activity. Censorship of sites that are deemed unacceptable by the government is also widespread.

Media outlets also retain the immense power and responsibility of spreading information to a mass audience. Therefore, misinformation can be extremely damaging, and governments are not immune to being targets of defamation. The line between healthy criticism and skewed statements has become increasingly blurry. Media outlets can also collaborate with governments to spread information in favor of different interest groups and to further political agendas. 

Topics to consider:

How can misuse of data and media outlets by government be mitigated?

Where is the line between censorship and proper caution in distributing certain content?

How can both Nation States and media outlets be kept accountable and free of bias?

More resources:

Open Net Initiative for regional and country profiles: https://opennet.net/research/profiles

News across social media platforms 2018: https://www.journalism.org/2018/09/10/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2018/

China’s media censorship: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/media-censorship-china

Freedom Information and the Press: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-press-freedom-day/previous-celebrations/worldpressfreedomday20090000/freedom-of-information-and-the-press/