The United Nations (UN) Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) was created as the first of the Main Committees in the General Assembly when the charter of the United Nations was signed in 1945. Thus, DISEC is often referred to as the First Committee. DISEC was formed to respond to the need for an international forum to discuss issues of peace and security among members of the international community. According to the UN Charter, the purpose of DISEC in the General Assembly is to establish “general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments” and also to give “recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or to the Security Council.” Although DISEC cannot directly advise the decision-making process of the Security Council, the fourth chapter of the UN Charter explains that DISEC can suggest specific topics for Security Council consideration. Aside from its role in the General Assembly, DISEC is also an institution of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), formally named in January 1998 after the Secretary-General’s second special session on disarmament in 1982. The UNODA is concerned with disarmament at all levels—nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and conventional weapons—and assists DISEC through its work conducted in the General Assembly for substantive norm-setting support in order to further its disarmament initiatives.
Topic A: Achieving the SDGs through Disarmament in the Middle East
Disarmament and development are mutually reinforcing processes. Funding that is diverted from weapons toward projects to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can create a better, healthier future for a country’s citizens. However, in the Middle East, excess defense spending has choked development projects. In a 2018 report from the World Bank entitled “Poverty and Shared Prosperity,” the authors argue that the decline in both disarmament and development projects has worsened living conditions in Middle Eastern countries, which has only accelerated in recent years. In fact, the report shows that the extreme poverty rate doubled between 2011 to 2015 in the Middle East. During that same period, countries in the region allocated a total average USD 163 billion towards military spending. By spending this money on armaments and military projects, governments are choosing not to make those funds available for critically needed development projects. This creates a cycle of poverty, as poor living conditions are correlated with increased rates of violence, as argued by Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala. Delegates in this committee will focus on the role of DISEC in promoting disarmament around the world as a mechanism for achieving the SDGs.
Topic B: Regulating the Use of Private Military Contractors
The private military contractor (PMC) industry is now estimated to be worth more than USD 200 billion and employs more than one million personnel. This industry thrives on conflict areas around the world, in developed and least developed countries alike. PMCs have faced sharp criticism over their accountability and transparency, violation of human rights, destabilization of the rule of law, and their potential breach of the rules of conflict under the Geneva Conventions as unlawful combatants. Moreover, they pose a threat to the right to self-determination, as they can be used by both state and non-state actors to destabilize or overthrow legitimate governments. Although the UN Mercenary Convention entered into force in 2001, only 35 countries have ratified it. PMCs were notably deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States, where they were involved in the 2007 Nisour Square Massacre and the Abu Ghraib torture case. Today, there are three times more contractors than American military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. PMCs have also been hired by China in Xinjiang, Russia in Syria and Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates in Yemen, and more. Even the UN has employed PMCs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to protect UN staff. In this committee, delegates will discuss how to address the rapid emergence of PMCs and ensure that their role in future conflicts is lawful and just.