The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, or the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM), focuses on issues dealing with fundamental human rights in the international community. SOCHUM was founded in 1948 in reaction to the establishment of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Third Committee promotes and enforces basic freedoms and ideals meant to be enjoyed by the entire international community such as the right to life, the expression of cultures, the freedom of political participation, the protection of children’s rights, and the promotion of social development, among many others. SOCHUM derives its legitimacy from the original United Nations Charter and operates with the goal of designing peaceful settlements for issues within the large spectrum of social, humanitarian, and cultural complications in the international community. This body does so by initiating studies that encourage the proposal of recommendations for the promotion of international cooperation and fundamental freedoms for all.
Topic A: Combatting Racism, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance
UN Secretary-General António Guterres described discrimination as a poison upon our societies which must be fought everywhere and every time. The past few years have seen an increase in violent attacks based on race, nationality, and religion. Online groups are becoming more radicalized, creating an increasingly divided world. Both online and in community meetings, radical groups have built operations in public, seeking to convert people to ideologies that sow division. One often-discussed form of intolerance is Islamophobia. The spread of Islamophobic content is one of the most common ways that far-right terrorist groups recruit new members. This can be partially attributed to the false perception that the Muslim community at-large are perpetrators of terrorist attacks. This is highlighted by attempts to blame Muslim refugees for recent terrorist attacks although many of these perpetrators have been citizens of Western states. However, xenophobia and discrimination can also be found all over the world, often working to entrench the existing societal hierarchies. It is the responsibility of the Third Committee to ensure that each individual has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Topic B: Human Rights Violations in Refugee Camps
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, a refugee is any person who has fled his or her country as a result of persecution, war, or violence. In most cases, refugees are also unable to return to their home countries and therefore must stay in temporary accommodations, referred to as refugee camps. Ideally, refugee camps provide shelter while also delivering other vital aspects of life such as emergency aid, education, and job training. In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stated that the number of forcibly displaced people was 68.5 million, with 24.5 million refugees facing conditions in which “their basic human needs for sustenance and security are disregarded.” As this number has continued to grow, it is becoming even more common for refugees to face discrimination, human rights abuses, and other forms of hate, even within refugee camps. There have been instances of camps being described as “inhumane,” as pregnant women and children are housed in unsafe and improper manners, fights and attacks occur often, and people are left to sleep in tents during the coldest months of winter. Even though these facilities were created to house and protect refugees, many refugees report feeling unsafe, as women housed in a Greek facility, for example, claim they are too afraid to even leave their tents after dark to use the restroom. It is clear that the needs and rights of refugees are being overlooked, even in the wake of all they have already survived and left behind. The struggle and suffering of refugees should not be ignored, putting a stop to the abuse and negligence faced in refugee camps should be absolutely paramount.