GIMUN 2016: HRC – A week of ups, downs, and strides forward

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The GIMUN 2016 Annual Conference, held from March 7th to 11th at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, gathered around 200 students for a model UN. In the next few days, we will have the honour of publishing reports on the six committees’ debates, brought to you by the journalists of the GIMUN Chronicles.

HRC

By Ashli Molina

After five days, 30+ hours, and several coffee breaks, the Human Rights Council succeeded in debating topics pertinent to our global society.

Day one certainly did not set the tone of the rest of the week. The debates started off slow, steady, and quite dull to be honest. The first topic to be addressed was the protection gap of environmentally displaced people (EDPs). In alphabetical order, countries stated their introduction to the topic, which led to a premature debate of the importance of EDPs. The 28 countries and three non-governmental organizations agreed on the need to resolve the issue, but where they diverted was on deciding how to tackle the resolution. While some countries such as Peru and El Salvador were keen on defining the term EDP before moving forward, other countries such as Russia made it clear that a definition was not necessary and a waste of time. Other points of debate focused on funding, disaster prevention, and the creation of an entirely new convention dedicated to EDPs.

On Tuesday, day two, we saw a balance between rupture and reconciliation. The committee suspended the debates multiple times—with both moderated and unmoderated suspensions—leaving the chairs with no choice but to advise the delegates to either continue forward or to adjourn the debate. At this time, the committee divided into two groups—on one hand there was the coalition that favored the working resolution created by Cuba, Peru, Australia, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea, and the other coalition created their own working resolution, backed by El Salvador, Eritrea, India, and Gabon. The question of whether to differentiate migrants and refugees, and external versus internal refugees was central to the debates of the day. After many procedural debates, many changes to the working resolutions, and many disagreements, the day finished off peacefully. The countries agreed to adjourn the debate, turn in the working text to the chairs, and wait for the verdict on Friday.

There was a change of pace the following day. Most countries took a break and sat back to listen to three delegates—Australia, Russia, and the Maldives—present individual Universal Periodic Reviews (URP), an evaluation of the condition and progress of a country’s human rights record. As expected, the debate was heated. It was not an easy day for the three countries as they were hit with heavy criticism, especially in regards to the LGBT community, religion, and immigration. Once the debate slowed down, the committee divided into three groups and worked together on an improved review for each country. Countries suggested adjustments on controversial human rights issues. By the end of the day, upon voting, Australia was the only country to adopt a URP. Russia and the Maldives did not manage to move forward with a URP, but they accomplished much by listening to other countries’ arguments and advice.

On Thursday, the HRC switched to its second topic: the right to be forgotten on the Internet. This topic introduced the need for privacy and liberty of expression, which ignited heated debates, because countries were clearly divided on the issue.

Cuba and China voted in favor of an increased protection of personal information at the national level. Others, such as El Salvador and Australia, were critical of anything that would restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press. A third group, including Peru and South Korea, opted for a position in between the two latter coalitions. Countries noted that the Internet owns a wealth of information on average citizens as well as high profile public figures, and that it is not always used wisely by the public. In the eyes of Egypt, the right to be forgotten is a risk of abuse in the case of an authoritarian country. The committee finished the debate, turned in working resolutions, and prepared for the final day of the week, which would consist of voting.

Day five wrapped up the week. It was short and sweet. The HRC first voted on topic one, the protection of EDPs, and passed draft resolution 1.1 with 20 countries in favor, 2 abstentions, and 5 countries against it.  For topic two, there were two draft resolutions on the table. Draft resolution 2.1 did not stand a chance with 13 countries in favor, 1 abstention, and 15 countries voting against. Draft resolution 2.2, however, passed with 15 countries in favor, 9 abstentions, and 5 countries against. Those who abstained or voted against the resolution did so because they were afraid it was a “European resolution, not a world resolution.”

The committee celebrated the week’s debates and achievements by enjoying a more relaxed afternoon of casual conversations and applause. Later on that evening, the delegates of Peru and the Maldives were nominated most outstanding delegates of the week. The weekend fed the minds and souls of a multitude of delegates.

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