Monday, 10 March 2014

The FCO/BCU Model United Nations Security Council: A Fantastic Legal Experience

Mr. Lamiegha Brinemugha
LL.M. International Human Rights Law (2013-2014)

IT WAS A DREAM come true to be part of the Model United Nations Security Council meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on February 11, 2014 held in partnership with the FCO Youth Inspiration Group and the Birmingham City University School of Law. I had the honour of representing Guatemala as Foreign Affairs Minister in the Security Council meeting with a view to resolving a fictional crisis in the created African country of Ruritania.

I gained invaluable legal and international relations experience during the MUN. It helped to reveal to me the practical workings and implications of decisions made at the multilateral level of the United Nations.  

International legal sanctions are sometimes expressions of a particular discourse rather than a reflection on the seriousness of the compelling humanitarian issues. It demonstrated to me that member state decisions are very likely characterized in “politics by other means” (both explicitly and implicitly) through high powered diplomacy and in some cases certain resolutions lead to adverse humanitarian crises rather than ameliorating the situation.

An extremely interesting aspect of the event was our “alliance building” for voting on the resolution to be drafted at the end of the session. It revealed to me that many states were not too concerned with the human rights issues and the humanitarian implications, but that they were distracted with how America appeared to have an overarching agenda against the sanctions on Ruritiania.

These developments led to a coalition against America’s interests during the voting session. Thus, some resolutions passed were not really in the interest of the crisis ridden Ruritania but against the motivations of some powerful states.

The MUN was concluded by a resolution drafting session. It quickly became apparent that the legislative language could not be vague and ambiguous so as to render ineffective the implementation of the text. For instance, the Security Council resolution 678 passed on November 29, 1990, authorized member states to use ‘all necessary means’ to  implement Resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent resolutions to restore peace in Iraq. So at the end of the MUN we were able to draft a “Resolution on Ruritania” but it was not to the satisfaction of all the member states. Perhaps this is exactly how it is in the United Nations’ Security Council?  

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Presentations

We were extremely fortunate to hear from some very prestigious speakers. Ms. Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, spoke very persuasively on the need to increase the employment of women in senior civil service roles. Information was key for helping women progress and the window of direct employment of women into senior positions in the civil service should be opened wider. Ms. Owen used statistical data to advocate for women to get more equal access to senior positions. She cogently identified that a successful team leader must engage in the morale building of women team members and as well identify the strengths and weakness of each member.

We also had a very engaging speech by Mr. Robert Hannigan, Director General for Defense and Security. Mr. Hannigan noted some challenges facing the UN Security Council such as protecting the sovereignty of a state, the veto power of the permanent members, and he gave the audience some valuable insights into the role of the civil service in collating intelligence and the importance of the use of intelligence for appropriate political decisions at the multilateral level.

Then Ms. Melinda Simmons, Head of the Conflict Department, highlighted the challenges posed by member states in protecting their respective interests in areas embroiled in crisis. Ms. Simmons submitted that while the United Nations is an agent of change and promotion of international peace and security, there are constant political challenges that need to be navigated. Recent conflicts in Eastern Europe and Africa were discussed, and she identified that effective dialogue is crucial for the dissipation of conflicts. As a means of preventing conflicts from escalating, countries should be encouraged to enter into bilateral and multilateral treaties, which detail appropriate intervention without unjustifiably undermining the sovereignty of a state. Ms. Simmons maintained that the multilateral political fora was crucially important for maintaining peace in the world.

Concluding Comments   

Interacting with the FCO Youth Inspiration Group was also very rewarding. The YIG were a fantastic group and we all enjoyed our collaborations with them. I had the opportunity of sharing ideas with the group especially on foreign policy as it affects the workings/challenges of the United Nations.

A special thank you to Dr Jon Yorke and Emily Farrow of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the other personnel at the FCO who helped organize the MUN. This event created an invaluable educative platform for interaction, networking and sharing of ideas. We also had an event Facebook page  which was a generative resource for materials and pre-event discussions at the MUN.

By way of passing remark, all participants at the MUN whether as participants or otherwise should be given a certificate signed by the FCO and organizing University. I look forward to working with the United Nations or Foreign and Commonwealth Office someday.