Human Rights Council

From the 1st to the 3rd November 2012 a delegation of MUNTUM went to the University of Oxford to take part at the OxiMUN conference. During these three days we had the chance to not only experience an exciting simulation of the United Nations conference, but also to embody UN organs in the spectacular ambient of Oxford Colleges.

Each of us was sent to different committees, and I had the chance to participate debating at the Human Rights Council representing Uganda, together with other 34 countries in the beautiful Magdalen College. The two topics we had been preparing were

1) The Legitimacy of Unilateral Coercive Measures in Defending Human Rights
2) The Issue of Armed Militia Groups in Uganda and the Surrounding Region,

the latter being of great interest for me, representing the government of Yoweri

Before the attendance of the conference, there had been a very big movement, in particular in social networks regarding the video “Kony 2012”, created by Invisible children. Interestingly, during the research on the topic, I came across very wide variety of contradictory opinions concerning this film. And for me personally, as a representative of the Ugandian government it was my duty to be critical toward the possibly misleading illustration of the actual country’s situation in the video.

It is a very enriching experience to try to get into the thinking of a completely different culture, of a government that might have political opinions totally distant to the own way of regarding things. It is very easy to adopt a general idea given superficially in the newspapers. But the truth is, that there is always much more behind it, and sometimes even the real problem might totally differ of the one that the general opinion is talking about.

What I had to defend was the fact that, since the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was already gone from the Ugandian territory, the principal objective of the country I was representing during this conference was a different one as compared to the general opinion. While it still was necessary to fight the LRA in other African nations, in this particular case, my aim was to reach an increase support from external partners for the country during this transition time.

As one recognizes during these conferences, being a member of the African Union, already determines the first strategic move, searching for support in the African continent. And so, while my first priorities started with the focus on Northern Uganda, I learned that, in order to obtain favourable results, it was necessary to ally with the countries closest to one’s situation.

And these are the type of things that one learns during the Model United Nations simulations. One has to be able to defend one own country’s position, while at the same time learning that the only possible way to reach an objective is to make concessions and form alliances.

Furthermore, a key point in the debate is to bring the ideas and resolutions in an organized manner, proposing interesting, already outlined solutions, though still open to discussions and modifications.

It is very impressive to experience how, even though this is just a simulation and neither I am from Uganda, nor the American girl I had sitting next to me was Spanish, one gets completely drawn into the subject and uses even the lunch breaks to discuss firstly working papers and then draft resolutions to be introduced the soonest possible to get to voting procedure.

During the session for the second topic, two draft resolutions were introduced, although both failed not having reached a two-third majority and thus amendments had to be make in order to finally achieve the passing of one of the two resolutions.

Finally it is very interesting to mention, how one gets aware of the importance of addressing all different issues in the resolution. Take into consideration the powers the council has, regard both short-term and long-term solutions, consider all nations involved and very importantly, find a realistic way to bring the resolutions into implementation.

All in all, participating in these conferences has been a very enriching experience; in particular due to the fact that you learn details from countries and situations you otherwise would not have come across. One has to get into a foreign country’s position and hereby recognizes how not all is black or white.

Maria von Prittwitz

International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), based in The Hague, Netherlands, is the main judicial pillar of the building that is the United Nations. As can already be derived from the name, it is not comparable to the committees of the UN and therefore special, in that is has its own rules and way of functioning. Given that we exclusively prepared for committee or GA sessions in our weekly meetings, I knew it would require a lot of work to familiarize myself with this new structure. Nevertheless, I saw it less as work and more as exciting adventure to get a glimpse into what might be referred as the “highest court on earth”. In the briefing the ICJ chairs mailed all ICJ Judges of OxiMUN we were given three real-world cases and assigned to be attorney to one of the parties in one of the cases. Despite this specialization, we were required to prepare all cases equally thoroughly, since we had to deliver a judgment on the cases we did not represent either side. In addition, we were required to prepare a memorial describing the initial stance on the case in which we were chosen to represent a country.

The factual basis for legal arguments on the topic of international law is manifold, consisting of, amongst others, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, treaties between states and customary international law. The main challenges during my preparation were to get a hold of how these sources of international law interrelate and how they are to be interpreted. Once I read through the plenty of material that is easily accessible via internet, legal terms such as jus cogens (ideas that are seen as so important that they are valued higher than all other sources of international law) and acta jure imperii (sovereign acts of states that enjoy immunity under international law) began to seem less intimidating. While working on the memorial together with my extremely competent partner attorney Iqra (who, in contrast to me, actually studies International Law at the Trinity College in Dublin), my confidence further increased, which was a necessity in order to represent the Ukraine against Romania properly.

Finally the time came for the legal proceedings to begin, located in the captivating Christ Church College at Oxford University. In a group of 15 (12 delegates + 3 chairs) we then heard the statements and questioned the legal arguments put forward by the attorneys, deliberated upon the cases in question and finally issued a judgment. Interrupted only by the social events, we discussed all three cases and in doing so got to exchange many interesting ideas and opinions about how international law is supposed to work. After the last session ended on Sunday, we were all satisfied with what we achieved but also sad having to part again. I personally gained huge insights into a formerly unknown topic and am very thankful for having had the chance to do so.

Christian Dörfel