The General Assembly Third Committee – the Social Cultural and Humanitarian Committee (SOCHUM) – serves as an organ of the General Assembly that focuses on human rights. Since SOCHUM is an organ of the General Assembly, any member of the GA is also a member of SOCHUM. The way that this committee runs its voting process is similar to many other bodies, in which, any issue presented is dealt with by a majority vote. SOCHUM has made its way to being one of the most vital bodies in the General Assembly. This is because the main purpose of the committee organ is to focus on the examination of human rights question and the promotion of fundamental freedom.
SOCHUM today focuses on many different areas that can affect the rights of many. The committee looks into the treatment of children, the advancement of women, and protection of refugees. The committee also addresses important social development questions such as the treatment of refugees, juvenile delinquents, crime, drugs, and any other issue that can corrupt the individual right of a person. Since many of the issues involving human rights are so wide ranging, the committee works with other organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, and UNHCR to ensure that resolutions are strong enough to affect real change, and moreover, that they are effectively implemented. Coordination with other committees is essential for SOCHUM because the issues it deals with requires coordinated policy solutions across a variety of fields (i.e. Refugees, peace keeping development).
One of the many successes of SOCHUM includes the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during World War II. This draft emphasizes freedom, justice, peace, and overall human rights. Another recent accomplishment of the committee occurred during the 63rd Session of the United Nations when SOCHUM passed [A/RES/63/117], which established ‘Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.’ An obstacle this committee faces is that resolutions are not binding to individual state members. Consequently, implementing resolutions can be quite difficult. Another obstacle that a fully implemented resolution encounters is the committee’s inability to impose sanctions and authorize armed intervention. At times it is simply a country’s uncooperative mindset that leaves issues unresolved despite the committee’s efforts. Nevertheless, resolutions passed by SOCHUM are significant and instrumental in effecting positive change.
The social, humanitarian, and cultural issues brought to the GA Third Committee by all of the Member States have an impact on individuals throughout the world. The negotiations and draft resolutions are the result of Member States working together to create solutions that will ideally be implemented on a global scale. Every action of the GA is influenced by the national sovereignty of Member States, and although vital, this element has proven to be a significant source of disagreement within the General Assembly and its Main Committees. Creating resolutions that provide actions and solutions to global issues while preserving national sovereignty has proven to be a formidable task for the GA. Keeping in mind the words of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the start of the 62nd General Assembly, it is important that Member States maintain flexibility in negotiations for the purpose of “getting things done” in the UN and around the world.
Background guides for HAMUN 43 coming soon!