The United Nations (UN) was founded as an international organization on October 24, 1945 by 51 countries. Over the ensuing decades, more countries applied for and were accepted as Member States resulting in the current 193 members we have today. The primary concerns of the UN, as laid out within the Charter of the United Nations, are international peace and security, the development of friendly relations among nations, and the promotion of social progress. The General Assembly was established in 1945, pursuant to Chapter IV of the Charter of the United Nations and is a main body of the organization. Although the General Assembly is a deliberative organ, it may take action in a case where the Security Council fails to do so according to the “Uniting for Peace” resolution of November 1950, is also the body responsible for electing members of the UN Security Council, and also adopts the budget of the United Nations. One of the main committees is the General Assembly Fourth Committee (GA4), which is also known as the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (SPECPOL). It deals with a wide range of topics such as outer space, mine action, public information, decolonization, peacekeeping, and Palestinian refugees and human rights. As stated in Article 9 of the Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly consists of all Member States of the United Nations. The Charter further outlines the functions and powers of the General Assembly in Articles 10- 17. Each Member State has one vote and for important questions there needs to be a two-thirds majority of the members that are present and voting. For decisions on other questions a majority of the members that are present and voting is sufficient. According to Article 22 of the Charter of the United Nations, the establishment of subsidiary organs that the General Assembly determines are necessary in order to follow its functions, is possible.
Topics and Foci of GA4
As the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, the General Assembly Fourth Committee deals with decolonization as well as political topics that are not subject of the General Assembly First Committee. The committee has undergone some reform over the last few decades, in order to get to where it is today. At its inception, the primary role of GA Fourth was decolonization, but as countries became independent, the workload reduced significantly, leading to the merging with the Special Political Committee in 1993. An additional change that was made was in regards to the overlap between the GA First Committee and the GA Fourth, both of which dealt with similar topics in the realm of conflict and conflict -affected situations. In order to reduce this overlap, it was then decided, that the First Committee would deal with questions such as arms control and disarmament whereas the GA Fourth would discuss particular conflicts. Some of the other topics this committee deals with are public information, atomic radiation, demining or peacekeeping. Another important topic for the fourth committee is outer space. Both GA First and GA Fourth deal with the topic of outer space, but in different areas. The First Committee focuses on the weaponization of outer space, whereas the Fourth Committee is responsible for the peaceful use of outer space. In 1959, the General Assembly setup the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) confirmed by resolution 1472 (XIV) to deal with subjects concerning outer space. The committee consists of 71 Member States and two subcommittees. COPUOS works on a consensus basis and expresses recommendations to the General Assembly. Since the topic of outer space has a wide range of subjects, there is a Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and there is also the Legal Subcommittee. COPUOS and the two subcommittees meet annually to work on questions that are presented to them by the General Assembly. The topic of Palestinian refugees and human rights is also of great importance to the General Assembly Fourth Committee, and is in fact the only General Assembly Committee which considers the topic of Palestinian refugees by making it a cornerstone of the Committee’s work. In the past sessions, the committee worked on a large amount of draft resolutions and decisions concerning this topic. When the General Assembly Fourth Committee considered the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, there was a number of delegates expressing concern about the progress of a possibility of peace in that area. It was Houston Area Model United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee stressed that every possible effort has to be exercised in order to reach peace and delegates recommitted to the goal of establishing peace and security in the region. Peacekeeping is a topic that consists of a variety of complex issues, which remain challenging, even today, to implement. These challenges include operationalizing the protection and promotion of human rights, electoral assistance, protection of civilians, and mine action. In areas of conflict, peacekeeping can help in providing security, but also helping countries to overcome conflict and achieve peace. Important principles for UN peacekeeping operations are impartiality, consent of the parties, and particularly no use of force except for self-defense as well as the defense of the mandate. Currently there are 16 UN peacekeeping operations and there have been 67 peacekeeping operations since 1948. Many of those peacekeeping operations concern the Middle East. One of those is the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which maintains the ceasefire between Israel and Syria after their disengagement of their forces in the Golan Heights. There are also the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The General Assembly Fourth Committee also deals with the topic of public information. In order to address this topic fully, the General Assembly established the Committee on Information (COI) as a subsidiary body. The COI has several responsibilities, such as providing guidance on policies, programmes and activities, as well as overseeing the work of the Department of Public Information. The mandate of the COI was stated in General Assembly resolution 34/182, which was adopted in 1979. The committee currently has 113 Member States and any country that is not currently a member of the COI can request membership. In its annual general debate, the committee adopts one draft resolution, which is adopted by consensus and then further debated by the General Assembly Fourth Committee.
1. Creating a UN Convention for Protocol on Cyber Warfare
Given the advancements in technology, the threat of Cyber Warfare between countries remains a very real possibility. Tensions between nations such as the United States and North Korea have seeped into the realm of cyber-attacks as a tool of warfare. Furthermore, multiple terrorist organizations around the world are becoming more adept in executing cyber-terror attacks. Considering these recent events, there is a great need for a standard protocol on limiting Cyber Warfare in the age of technology. The UN currently has initiatives set on monitoring the use of cyberspace, however further steps need to be taken in order to keep up with the rapid rise in cyber warfare capabilities.
2. Referendum on the Future of the Western Sahara
Western Sahara remains as a disputed non-decolonized territory under the UN’s listing. The land used to be controlled by the Spanish government, but has since been relinquished by Spain and remains as an officially uncolonized area. Conflicts over rights to the land have continued to exist as Morocco and Mauritania both claim partial ownership over the land and are vying for complete annexation. Additionally, inhabitants of the Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, are vying for independence and the right to create a government for their homeland. Past referendums have been held concerning the land rights to Western Sahara, however no decision has been reached. A major issue that exists is that the situation has not garnered much needed international attention, thereby being placed low on the UN’s list of geopolitical priorities. Now that tensions between Morocco and Mauritania have been escalating, the UN must take needed action in coming to a cohesive agreement over the future of the Western Sahara.