Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee

Topic 1: Addressing the Right to Assembly

Quoting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

However, with today’s trends, that is not always the case. There are numerous nations that suppress this right to fulfill different objectives. While countries like Russia make headlines, other places are not completely innocent. Violations to the right to assemble also occur in so-called democratic countries such as the United States of America, as seen with Trump’s use of federal forces in Portland.

Some countries have taken denying this right even further. Even more extreme examples include Spain, where restrictions are being placed on the Freedom of Assembly by the government through legal means. When such violations are enshrined into governments’ policies, citizens may be left defenseless in trying to regain their crucial right to assembly.

While different governments and nations have different thresholds for what is considered Freedom of Assembly, it is without a doubt that the right to assembly does not have the same definition worldwide. As a part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to assembly must be protected for all peoples worldwide.

Topics to Consider:

  • What is considered a peaceful assembly?
  • To what extent should individual nations have a right to mandate peaceful assembly based on their definitions in their country?
  • To what extent are other nations able to enforce the United Nations’ definitions on the right to peaceful assembly onto other nations?

Further Reading:

Mandate from the UN:

Canadian Government’s definition on freedom of assembly:

USA Right to peaceful assembly:

Cornell information on First Amendment which includes right to assembly:

Topic 2: Addressing the Efficacy of Current Legislation Regulating International Armed Conflict

While the United Nations has created several resolutions regarding the regulation of international armed conflict, it remains unclear whether the current legislation allows for effective policing of all types of conflict. Rules for ensuring humanitarian protection during armed conflict are dictated in United Nations International Law, consisting of a multitude of treaties including the 1949 Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims. While the legal boundaries of armed conflict are defined, the methods of enforcement from the international community are often insufficient to adequately protect international human rights.

Since the Geneva Convention of 1949, the United Nations has increasingly regulated human rights as they pertain to victims of armed combat. While these regulations include specifications on the type of violence acceptable during war, they also outline acceptable treatment of captured soldiers and non-combatants. However, the enforcement of these rules can be difficult, especially when the nature of the conflict is less defined and includes several militant groups who are not directly affiliated with a nation. The United Nations has been criticized for its inability to enforce international law in a timely manner, and there is currently no single entity tasked with policing infractions. This becomes problematic when combatants are allowed to violate human rights for long periods of time without international intervention. This seems to be the case in Libya currently, where there are widespread reports of human rights violations but very little intervention. In the past, enforcement of international law has been up to the actions of the Security Council or countries acting unilaterally, but there is arguably a need for a more immediate response to international law violations.

The United Nations has a responsibility not to infringe upon a nation’s sovereignty, and as such its capability to police wars between nations is limited. However, as a symbol of international humanitarianism it must protect human rights as quickly as possible. In situations where nations are not cooperating with international law, or where militant groups are violating human rights, the United Nations currently cannot respond outside of the Security Council. A method of intervention that does not require military action or approval of the Security Council and that can be deployed quickly in response to human rights violations would ensure that international law continues to be obeyed.

Questions to Consider:

  • Are the current methods of enforcing international law sufficient?
  • Is there a way to protect human rights that does not involve military action?
  • What is the best way to hold violators of international law responsible?
  • How can international law enforcement be applied equally to all nations regardless of status?
  • How can governments be held accountable under international law?

Further Reading:
UN International Law and Justice
Enforcing International Law, Frederic L. Kirgis
United Nations, Uphold International Law
The Independent, Trump could face international human rights law consequences for his coronavirus pandemic response
Diakonia, Enforcement of International Law