Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee

Topic 1: The Question of Self-Governance for Nations Without a State

Nations without a state or “stateless nations” are ethnic or cultural groups that do not possess their own state or are not a majority population in any nation state. Oftentimes, nations without a state are not represented in the majority population’s culture or government. In addition, stateless nations may also face marginalization, discrimination, or oppression. Many scholars suggest that the emergence of nations without a state is the direct result of imperial and colonial actions. So far, the United Nations has few declarations, regulations, or supports in place for stateless nations. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) begins to establish a framework outlining the minimum standards and rights for Indigenous peoples; however, critics notes that while the declaration discusses self-governance and self-determination, it merely states its importance and provides little advice on implementation and enforcement. Many academic sources draw attention to the fact that the UNDRIP was initially opposed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States in 2007.

Many nations without a state call for increased rights to self-governance. Self-governance refers to individuals or groups’ abilities to have autonomy and authority over oneselves without interference or opposition from external governments, nations, or other groups. While some nations seek a formal structure of self-governance with agreements outlining administrative controls of land, resources, and decision-making processes, other nations seek informal structures based on consultation, cooperation, and collaboration with existing governments.

Examples of nations without a state may include but are not limited to:

  • Indigenous peoples within Canada (and around the world)

  • Québécois (French-Canadians)

  • Kurds

  • Uyghurs

  • People of Puerto Rico

  • Tibetan people

  • Scottish people

  • Igbo people

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the definitions or qualifications to be considered a nation without a state?

  2. How should negotiations between governments and nations without states take place? Will it cause devastating emotional burdens and trauma for the individuals involved in this process?

  3. How can the United Nations ensure fair and proper implementation of self-governance for nations without a state around the world? Will self-governance differ between nations and is this acceptable?

  4. Are there further benefits that extend from granting self-governance to nations without a state that can benefit said nations and the international community?

  5. How will judicial and legislative systems address conflicts between nations within the same geographical regions?

Sources and Resources for Further Reading:

Topic 2: Addressing Non-Refoulement in the Age of Global Warming

Refoulement is a word not commonly known but which is centrally important to understanding the plight of refugees and displaced people. Refoulement involves returning refugees to the place where they fled from, regardless of whether or not the refugees are liable to be subjected to persecution.

The creation of The Principle of Non-Refoulement could be considered one of the UN’s crowning accomplishments. In article 33 of the Refugee Convention it is stated that “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” The post war world that drove the development of this convention was largely guided by a feeling of duty to uphold human dignity after the oppression of the fascist and communist regimes was fully grasped by the international community.

In recent years several states have expanded their conception of who can benefit from the Principle of Non-Refoulement including those likely to be victims of gender or sexuality based violence among other categories. In spite of this broadening of scope and the generally landmark nature of the convention itself, it remains silent on the issue of refoulement of those who are not likely to be subjected to state or discriminatory based persecution but who otherwise have their welfare at risk.

Many displaced people today are fleeing regions due to factors such as extreme weather like droughts and flooding.  The physical threat of these extreme weather events as well as their impacts on food scarcity and economic stability can certainly be considered tangible threats to one’s well being. Therefore it must be asked of the international community how it can manage these populations? Should states be able to refoul those individuals fleeing environmental concerns when there is credible threat to their wellbeing in their place of origin? Furthermore as climate change accentuates these factors, frequently in nations that are already in a state of political and economic turmoil, can the UN create a new commonly accepted set of precepts in this time of urgency?

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is the interaction between state sovereignty and the UN’s responsibility to act on behalf of vulnerable individuals and groups.

  2. How can the international community distribute responsibility for climate and environmental refugees given the disparate impacts of climate change.

  3. What should qualify someone to be protected from refoulement under a new set of regulations?

Sources and Resources for Further Reading:

SOCHUM 2022 - Policy Doc - Google Docs