Topic – The threat to international peace by organized armed groups and PMCs
With Sonal back to chairing and a number of senior MUNers set to make a return to the floor in Sri Lanka, this Security Council looks extremely promising. Promising in the sense, breaking the boredom I’ve been complaining about Security Councils in the past few years, especially the predictability of the awards from Day 1.
The topic invokes mixed feelings for me, personally. Organised armed groups excites me but PMCs bores me. That’s just me I guess. I’ve been at the PMC topics since 2009.
PMCs – Private Military Companies/Contractors – have been likened to the rise of 21st century mercenaries. They came into wide public attention following the massive use of PMCs by USA in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were used as a means to reduce the official troop deployment and casualty numbers. Their use was criticised following human rights violations and excessive use of force by Blackwater operatives especially in Fallujah.
However, the modern PMC was defined by South Africa’s Executive Outcomes (EO). EO operated in Sierra Leone in 1995, successfully helping the government fight back the RUF terrorist group. EO was using armour and armed helicopters, making EO as capable as most developing country armed forces. EO was paid for the service through mining rights in Sierra Leone. International opposition to these capabilities led to EO running out of business.
PMCs do have some sort of legal cover since they are registered corporations and so can be held to some sort of accountability. However, organised armed groups as a whole are not always legally covered. Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, the LTTE are all examples of such groups. They are terrorists and their threat to international security is obvious.
However, their legal definition and justification of the use of violence can get blurry when one considers the issue freedom fighters and rebels. Take for instance the Free Syrian Army. They are terrorists to Syria and Russia but legitimate rebel forces to the West. Thus, sorting out the definition will be vital during conference.
PMCs do pose a threat. The fact that a company with higher military capabilities than most developing countries, increases the chances of using them for military action to destabilise such countries. Take the film Dogs of War (1980) for instance which clearly highlights this threat. In 1995 the world feared EO gaining its own state within a state.
Having spoken to Sonal, I can give you three key pointers to consider during debate;
- A framework/mandate to control the deployment of PMC’s and ensure that PMC’s aren’t the easy way out for governments when they want to use force without repercussions.
- Not all organised armed groups are, to term it loosely, bad. Some of them actually pop up due to oppressive governments and dictators.
- Balance out the pros and cons and form solutions on how organised armed groups can be controlled or even monitored.
It promises to be a committee of good debate but it’s all up to you as delegates to rev things up at UNSC.
General Assembly (DISEC)
Topic – The responsibility to protect failing states
Failing states or failed states is not a pleasant topic for discussion. The hardest part about the topic is the definition of a failed or failing state. Then to add to it is the controversy about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept.
Your chairpersons, Sam and Pramuk, have defined failed/failing states as follows;
“governments or political bodies that are unable to provide basic services and provisions to their inhabitants. Such basic necessities can include, but are not limited to, the failure to provide adequate security to citizens, inability to provide public services (such as education) or the use of excessive force against a nation’s own citizens and/or in conjunction with territorial loss.”
This is a pretty good definition. But the thing about defining this term is that now countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, Venezuela, North Korea and even Russia fall into the category of failing states. Does the international community have the capacity to contain the after effects of anyone of those states completely failing and becoming more Syrias – only more dangerous. Looking at the mess the UN has made out of dealing with Syria, we can imagine how it might be if the North Korean regime failed and disappeared tomorrow morning.
Interestingly it is estimated that absorbing North Korea into a unified Korea, would cost nearly a trillion US dollars. Who will pitch the bill? South Korean taxpayers are increasingly reluctant to do so.
The Libyan intervention of 2011 was done with the R2P justification. But failure of the Libyan state was only accelerated by the NATO intervention. Today’s Libya is more dangerous to live in than at any point during the oppressive yet stable Qadaffi regime.
For me, if there is a lesson to be learnt it is that intervention through military means to topple an oppressive regime is not the best answer. Instead, it is better to enter into dialogue with the regime and work on tinkering the system to bring in more democracy while aiding the growth of other political forces. The regime changes in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are very good examples of this.
Looking at the study guide and putting my own two cents I would give the following three pointers for debate:
- Reconsider the use of force to the extent NATO did in Libya when enacting responsibility to protect. Use force to get through humanitarian aid than to topple the regime, for instance.
- Look into creating a strategy that aims to protect or instil democracy in countries lacking democracy, so that violent regime change as seen in Syria and Libya do not have to occur. Zimbabwe, Angola and Algeria are good candidates for such a programme to start work on before their regimes start to unravel.
- On a very security related matter, considering proper implementation of arms embargoes on oppressive regimes might be an effective means of reducing their capability to harm their own citizens. Ironically, it is the arms producers of the P5 that end up supplying the arms possessed by such regimes and it is those very arms producers that end up supplying the interventions forces when R2P is called upon.
Topic – The Situation in Syria
The situation in Syria cannot be discussed in any platform without involving what is happening in the larger Middle East region. The thing about the Arab League is that it involves only Arab states and thus excludes Turkey and ofcourse Iran and Israel. Thus, the Arab states can openly discuss their Arab interests – a concept that is spearheaded by Saudi Arabia.
Unlike in the past the number of rivalries between the Arabs states have reduced. Egypt is no longer the ideological force it used to be. Syria’s Shia regime has been kicked out. Qatar’s attempts at an independent foreign policy seem to have been curtailed. Libya is no more trying to unify North Africa.
Saudi oil money has kept the League in ideological unity for the last few years and has been characterised by the intervention in Yemen and the attempts at creating an Arab NATO. However, now things are getting gloomy for Saudi Arabia. Thousands of immigrant workers are losing their jobs as the low oil prices are causing the economy to grind to a halt.
That could mean less unity within the League in the future.
Returning to Syria, Manbij was recently captured by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces supported by the US. It really puts ISIS on the back foot. It also means that the Kurds have increased their power base in Northern Syria.
In Aleppo Assad is increasing his control over the birthplace of the revolution with Russian air support. Russia seems to have got a commanding position in getting anything done about the future of Syria and that threatens the Arab interest of ensuring an Sunni-Arab led Syrian regime. Assad being propped up by Russia means Iran continues to have influence in Syria. If Iran cannot be pushed out of Syria, then Iraq is going to prove an even more difficult matter.
I would give the following three pointers for debate at the Arab League:
- Look into means of supporting the rebels in Aleppo to hold on to their regions of control
- Work on further reducing the support flowing from Arab states to ISIS, in order to gain a higher moral ground in supporting the mainly Arab rebels.
- Create a comprehensive strategy on dealing with the influence of Iran in Syria and Iraq without the use of overt aggression – possibly consider means of creating a detente phase in the Arab-Iran relationship to allow a faster end to the Syrian conflict.
At the end of the day Delegates, ensure that you all debate with the Arab interests at heart.