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V. Legal Committee

A.      Criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission (78)

The United Nations has long claimed that its officers and peacekeepers are entitled to diplomatic immunity while on mission. These claims are based on multiple treaties which define diplomatic immunity and prohibit nations from prosecuting diplomatic officials while they are working on government business. However, many incidents by United Nations officials have weakened these claims of immunity and have led to considerable backlash from local and national officials. Sexual misconduct by peacekeepers is a persistent problem and numerous peacekeepers have avoided justice by invoking the United Nations’ diplomatic immunity when charged. Similarly, United Nations officials were responsible for starting a cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010. Is it appropriate for United Nations officials to claim diplomatic immunity in response to crimes in other countries? If not, then how should the United Nations proceed to protect diplomats from politically-motivated prosecutions? Delegates should investigate ways to balance the need to protect diplomats and United Nations officials from prosecution with the need to allow for justice when peacekeepers and officials commit crimes in other countries.

B.       The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (133)

The responsibility to protect refers to the obligation of states to respond to allegations of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The responsibility emerged after the failure of the global community to stop the genocide of European Jews in the Holocaust, but has remained controversial throughout history. While many support the idea of an obligation of states to intervene in situations of genocide and other crimes against humanity, invocations of the responsibility to protect doctrine are often criticized as developed and western countries using their power against the developing world. The United Nations has struggled to find a way to balance the interests of the global community in preventing crimes against humanity with the need to prevent powerful nations from using the responsibility to protect as an excuse to exert their will on weaker states, particularly in the global south. Delegates should consider ways to strengthen the responsibility to protect doctrine to better address contemporary issues of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. At the same time, special consideration should be given to how the international community can monitor the use of the doctrine as a justification for military intervention, and provide an opportunity to verify its necessity when invoked.

C.       The law of transboundary aquifers (87)

Freshwater resources are of pivotal importance to all nations and peoples, especially those in landlocked areas without access to standing water or rivers. Underground aquifers of fresh water often straddle the borders between states and serve as a point of contention, as each state claims control of the aquifer. Such aquifers are especially important given how critical they are for supporting local agriculture and national resource independence. They are equally important to transnational ethnic minorities, many of which are dependent upon these aquifers for fresh water, as they are not well-integrated into the national identities and infrastructures of their host states. With hundreds of such aquifers in Europe alone, and thousands more across Asia, Africa, and the Americas, the United Nations must develop legal principles to guide nations in equitably using these freshwater resources. Should nations with a transboundary aquifer be allowed to use the aquifer however they wish, or should they be required to split water usage proportional to the amount of the aquifer within their land? Do ethnic minorities have a special right to access transboundary aquifers located within their historical lands? How does the international law of transboundary aquifers intersect with national sovereignty and the right of nations to use their own natural resources?

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