Recapping Model UN at the 2017 Reform Conference

Recapping Model UN at the 2017 Reform Conference

During last week’s Reform conference, SSDP hosted a Model UN that allowed students to gain a little insight into how drug policy works at the international level. Participants picked a country, researched their stances on drug policy, and drafted recommendations that were debated over the course of two sessions on consecutive days. The overall goal of the session was to draft an outcome document that would deal with any number of topics decided upon the first day. The outcome document would be comprised of recommendations that were voted in with a two-thirds majority of participants.

Day one began with participants being given the opportunity to make an opening statement to the rest of the General Assembly. Countries such as the Czech Republic and Canada expressed their support for a public health approach to drugs, while countries such as Afghanistan and China reaffirmed their belief that security measures to prevent cross-border trafficking should be strengthened. Bolivia made a particularly strong statement expressing support for drug policy sovereignty among member states, meaning that each country has the right to construct policies around drugs that fit their national needs as opposed to following strict international guidelines. The intersections of human rights in drug policy was introduced by Bolivia as well, and supported by Mexico. However, Israel responded by cautioning against framing drug policy within such a broad category as “human rights”. The United States made some incendiary comments early on in this session that clearly affected the rest of the simulation, as they expressed a level of superiority and arrogance among the member states present that clearly rubbed some the wrong way. It was clear from the start that this GA session would be contentious and lively.

Following introductory statements was a 30-minute Unmoderated Caucus, in which member states got to informally meet with each other and make plans to support their initiatives. During this period some alliances began to form that would carry over into the rest of the session. After this segment, a moderated debate began over what the topic of Day Two’s outcome document should be. While the initial topics for debate were limited to security/trafficking, the death penalty, public health, and access to medicines, Bolivia was quick to introduce the fifth topic for consideration, human rights. Bolivia argued that human rights covered nearly all the other proposed topics and that a broad topic would allow them to focus on a large range of recommendations instead of limiting themselves to just a handful. Member states that supported voting in this new topic included Mexico, Canada, Czech Republic, and Nigeria, while the member states leading the charge against the inclusion of human rights were China, Israel, Dominican Republic, Russia and the United States. Ultimately, the inclusion of human rights as a topic in the outcome document was voted down by the general assembly, as it fell one vote short of a two-thirds majority. After a lively debate and several rounds of voting, the only topic that received a two-thirds majority among all delegates was Public Health. China was among those who argued against the inclusion of public health, expressing that they believe drug use to be a moral issue and not a health issue. This claim was vehemently rejected by most other member states, and Public Health ended up passing with only two dissenting votes. Day one concluded on that note, setting the stage for a debate on public health recommendations the next day.

Day two began with another brief unmoderated caucus, allowing delegates to draft new recommendations and gather support for any recommendations they would like to support. The following moderated debate started off hot, with the United States making some incendiary remarks about the other member states when a recommendation was put to the floor that condemned the United States for sparking the global War on Drugs. Member states such as Mexico and Bolivia argued that the USA’s Drug War is merely an expansion of Western Imperialism, and argued that the biggest current impediment to global health is indeed the United States. North Korea’s delegate gave a fiery speech in which they condemned the USA’s delegate as a bully, and Nigeria demanded an apology from the US after some particularly harsh remarks about the failures of other countries to prevent the trafficking of drugs into the United States. In the end, the recommendation condemning the US Drug War as the biggest impediment towards public health was accepted by a two-thirds majority and entered into the outcome document. Russia decided to take advantage of the hostile environment towards the United States by introducing a recommendation to remove US troops from Afghanistan, citing the decades-long occupation as a major impediment to public health. Though many states questioned how the occupation was directly related to drug policy, the desire to embarrass the United States trumped reason, and the recommendation was successfully voted into the outcome document.

The impact of this first debate had a clear ripple effect throughout the rest of the session, as holding the United States responsible for the devastating effects of the War on Drugs became a central talking point. At the conclusion of the session, four recommendations were voted into the outcome document. In order, they are:

  • The General Assembly strongly condemns the largest impediment to global public health, which is the global drug war being perpetrated by the United States of America. This war has also been used to destabilize other countries and justify horrendous violations of human rights. In the interest of public health, we call on all member states to condemn the United States on these grounds and recognize that the highest attainable standard of public health will be impossible to reach so long as the global War on Drugs continues.
  • The Netherlands recommends that UN member states increase accessibility of harm reduction services, including the implementation of drug consumption rooms, take-home naloxone programs, needle exchange programs, and heroin-assisted treatment. In line with the previous recommendation, the United States will supply a budget in the excess of one trillion dollars over fifty years to the nations exposed to the greatest public health risks.
  • Israel recommends that UN agencies give budgetary priority to the expansion of programs that have shown to reduce the severity of the many health risks associated with the unsupervised use of psychoactive substances and to research and develop programs which emphasize the health benefits and medicinal properties of psychoactive substances.
  • The Russian Federation recommends the expulsion of the United State military and coalition partners from Afghanistan.

Many other recommendations came close to passing but were voted down.

Ultimately, Model UN was a fun experience for all those involved. Unlike the 2015 Model UNGASS, this simulation had only twenty or so participants and was not as heavily moderated for accuracy and efficiency. Nevertheless, participants said that they all learned a few things about the processes by which decision making happens at the United Nations level, and expressed an interest in continuing to learn more about international drug policy as a whole.