Coming into Day 2 of Arab League at NYMUN, I was a bit sceptical due to the fact that the President of the League, Hisham Samsudeen, wasn’t wearing his well-known bow tie. Hisham at a conference without his bow tie? Kind of depressing but I was proven wrong as the speakers list opened up. Compared to the previous day, more delegates had the courage to voice out their opinion (or more like they were forced to). In my opinion it was a good move in order to break the novice delegates’ fear of speaking that had been heightened the previous day by the experienced delegates.
One thing I realised was that the head table was not allocating a time limit on Moderated Caucuses and speakers go to speak repeatedly on the same topic. I first considered it a waste of time. However, after speaking to the head table, I realised that the decision was based on the fact that the topic, Situation in Syria, is diverse and broad to such an extent that each Moderated Caucus topic could move to different areas, catalysing higher quality debate. As such, I realized how much experience the head table of the Arab League had and how well they made use of it.
At some instances, I felt that the committee lacked decorum, such as when some delegates were taking selfies, while another delegate delivered a speech. Maybe that was one of the rare cons of allowing the use of electronic devices during sessions. But that is hardly the fault of the technology. It is the fault of the chairs for not discouraging it because selfies are typically taken in plain sight. Then again selfies are not criminal and is a normal facet of social life – I bet you delegates at actual UN committees take selfies these days.
Debate proceeded as the delegates tackled one of the highlights in the situation in Syria, the global problem of Syrian refugees. The delegate of Palestine kept insisting other countries to open up their borders to allow refugees a safe haven. Even though Palestine itself wasn’t willing to do so, or rather able to, considering its current political situation.
The delegates of Sudan, Egypt and UAE sponsored a very interesting resolution, which eventually passed. The resolution confirmed that the Syrian Opposition Force (SNC) was the only legitimate government in Syria, while still highlighting the importance of reconciliation with the Kurdish forces. It also requested greater participation from the US and the UK; an action I question considering the Arab frustration about Western intervention in the region. The sponsors highlighted the importance of participation of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre as well.
Further, the resolution demanded greater on-ground military participation, and more airstrikes. However, I believe that this resolution may not be feasible considering the first operative clause that gives the SNC a higher political pedestal despite the presence of a number of other political units in the country, including the Assad government, with equal or greater capabilities.
On the other hand, the resolution, submitted by Palestine, Iran and Algeria failed. The sponsors called for the League to cancel Syrian debt, provide greater humanitarian aid through safe corridors and prevent money laundering. Most interestingly, the resolution called on the League to look into possible avenues of cooperation with the Assad regime – which is probably the main contributing factor for the resolution failing.
However, I believe that, had the two resolutions been merged a stronger and more holistic document could have been produced. Furthermore, if the delegates had been able to slightly work around their foreign policies and consider the remote possibility of working together with the Assad government under strict conditions, then the League may have been able to do what the real world organisation has failed to do so thus far – bring some hope to the people of Syria and the wider Arab world.
This piece was co-authored by Shabeeb Ahmmed and Ramesh Ganohariti.