[Topic: Reforming UNSC - Abuse of veto power]

The Syrian Civil War

The Syrian Civil War has almost entered its 9th year. It started as a follow-up to the Arab Spring in 2011, where pro-democracy activists in Syria saw hope in democratizing the country and pushed for reforms by engaging in peaceful protests (Aljazeera 2018). In response, the government led by President Bashar Al-Assad launched a massive crackdown, killing and imprisoning many of its citizens who were involved with the protests (Marima 2018). Over time, the conflict escalated into a civil war, mainly concerning the forces of the Syrian government against the rebel groups. In addition, many local and international actors have joined the fray with specific interests in mind. Countries such as Russia and the United States have been involved in the civil war, both through direct or indirect means.

Discussions on the situation often times have been tainted by interests Russia, as the nation has issued many vetoes on Security Council Resolutions on Syria, including one recently (S/2018/321) where the council wishes to create investigative efforts on the use of lethal chemical weapons (UN News 2018), effectively halting any significant action from the Security Council. This is due to Russia’s close ties with Syria and the need to protect its only port, Tartus (Inwood 2018). Another Resolution that was drafted 2 years earlier in 8th of October 2016 with a more general topic regarding the cessation of all hostilities in Syria and the prevention of financial support to violent groups within the civil war such as ISIL was also vetoed by the Russian Federation. This is due to Russia insisting to not include aerial bombardment as a prohibited activity as it would help militants such as Jabhat-Al-Nusra (Borger 2014).

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

The Palestinian question has been a long-standing and polarizing issue in the United Nations concerning the legitimacy of both Palestine and Israel. Initially, the UN adopted the partition plan under Resolution 181 of the General Assembly. The resolution proposes the separation of the land of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, to which many Jewish communities in present Palestine believed to be a legal basis of the creation of the State of Israel. Furthermore, it recommends the further separation of the City of Jerusalem into a completely different entity from the two other states governed by an international regime (Prawer, et al. 2019). After that, however, the area in which the two nations reside have seen a cycle of conflicts and displacement of Palestinian refugees. The UN has generally supported the “two-state” solution that entails the coexistence of both the State of Israel and Palestine but was unable to truly enforce it, shown by the ongoing violence from both sides (Nation 2014).

In relation to the Security Council, many resolutions that address this specific issue were vetoed by the United States. Recent examples include Resolution S/2018/516 written by Kuwait that pushes the need of providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of the ongoing violence in Palestinian areas and the promotion of a peaceful reconciliation of both Israel and Palestine; Resolution S/2017/1060 written by Egypt in response to a move by the US government to recognize Jerusalem as a capital city of Israel and move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that urges the need to respect the position and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.

References

Aljazeera. 2018. "Syria's Assad offers amnesty to army deserters." Aljazeera News. 9 October. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/syria-assad-offers-amnesty-army-deserters-181009090035909.html.

Borger, Julian. 2014. "EU backs supply of arms to Kurdish fighters in Iraq." The Guardian. 15 August. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/15/eu-backs-arms-kurdish-fighters-iraq.

Inwood, J. 2018. "Syria war: Weapons key players have at their disposal." BBC News. 12 April. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43730068.

Marima, Tendai. 2018. "Amid poll restrictions, Eswatini activists hope for change." Aljazeera News. 19 September. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/poll-restrictions-eswatini-activists-hope-change-180917135522256.html.

Nation, United. 2014. "Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories." UNISPAL. 26 August. https://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/9a798adbf322aff38525617b006d88d7/5cb088a503903f6485257d880056b608?OpenDocument.

Prawer, Joshua, Michael Dumper, Bernard Wasserstein, Stewart Henry Perowne, and Buzzy Gordon. 2019. "Jerusalem." Encyclopedia Britannica. March. https://www.britannica.com/place/Jerusalem.

UN News. 2018. "UN chief ‘following very closely’ reports of chemical weapons use in Syria’s Aleppo." UN News. 25 November. https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/11/1026531.


Why the UN was born: Honoring UN

History

The UN was born as a result of a collapse of the League of Nations, an organization formed after World War One with the aim to facilitate international cooperation and world peace. As The League had failed to prevent the Second World War, the United Nations was the international community second attempt at bringing all nations together under the same efforts to secure world peace and advance development. Near the end of World War II the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union began formulating the original U.N. Declaration, signed by 26 nations in January 1942. The name "United Nations", determined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration. The United Nations officially emerged on 24 October 1945, with the approval of five sponsors: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States alongside a majority of other signatories. The principles of the U.N. Charter were first enacted at the San Francisco conference which convened on April 25, 1945. This was done  in authority by President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and attended by representatives of 50 nations, including 9 continental European states, 21 North, Central, and South American republics, 7 Middle Eastern states, 5 British Commonwealth nations, 2 Soviet republics (in addition to the USSR itself), 2 East Asian nations, and 3 African state. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. When the UN was set up these issues were reflected in its structure. For example, the Security Council had 5 permanent members including the USA and the Soviet Union. They had the power of veto, indicating that the support of the superpowers was essential for any action to be effective. The General Assembly was the debating chamber where every member had equal status. The number of the members has trebled since World War 2, reflecting the massive changes which have taken place because of decolonization and globalization. The UN also established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ensure every individual had the right to enjoy basic and inherent rights. Specialized Agencies such as WHO and UNESCO were established to tackle specific problems such as health and education.


Missions

The United Nations has better means of r solving the international conflict and negotiating peace than its predecessor, the  League of Nations. It has formed a new structure of organizations to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,… to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights,…to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” To conclude, United Nations nowadays functions as a tool to maintain peace, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, uphold international law and promote sustainable development. However, the UN labors are under significant influence from five competing superpowers: the US, Russia, France, China, and the UK. The liberal use of veto power by these countries has limited the decision-making power of the UN. The equilibrium between the essentially of maintaining peace and the risk of violating nations’ sovereignty has been a delicate issue. Nevertheless, by giving every country a voice in international decision-making, the UN still plays a significant role in global diplomacy.

REFERENCE

"History of the United Nations." United Nations. Accessed March 17, 2019. http://www.un.org/en/sections/history/history-united-nations/.

"The United Nations Is Born." HISTORY. November 15, 2009. Accessed March 17, 2019. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-united-nations-is-born.

“What We Do.” United Nations. Accessed March 17, 2019. http://www.un.org/en/sections/what-we-do/.



[TOPIC: TRADE WAR] The Rise of China

Trade disputes between the US and China began long before the current economic friction and occurred in tandem with the rise of China. Ever since the opening of China in 1978 and its entrance to WTO, the world has witnessed rapid growth and consolidation of Chinese economic power, through which Beijing uses to exert its political influence in the region, as well as around the world. This phenomenon manifests itself in China’s recent ambitious international projects that aim to expand China’s trade and investment activities. The West, especially the US is wary of this strategy because of the geopolitical implications that could result from a Chinese-dominated international system. Many experts say that the root cause of trade war is more about the hegemonic competition between a rising and a declining power or in other words, the US trying to prevent China from overtaking its dominance in the current world order, than about opposing trade policies [1].

Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a Megaproject that China is currently undertaking and considered the largest project of the century: an interregional network of railroads and shipping lanes linking itself with 70 countries across 4 continents. As the name implies, there are two segments: The "Belt," which recreates the ancient Silk Road land route, and the "Road," which alludes to a route through various oceans. The main focuses of this massive project are in infrastructure, transportation, and energy. Furthermore, it comprises more than 60 percent of the world population and over 30 percent of the global trade and GDP.

Source: World Bank

Source: World Bank

On the one hand, several experts argue that the Belt and Road Initiative brings a lot of benefits to developing countries and citing projects such as an oil pipeline in Myanmar and rail networks in Kenya, which seem to be worthy capital investments [2].  On the other hand, analysts warn that the massive amount of loans from China might lead the recipient states to fall into a “debt trap”. For instance, Sri Lanka borrowed billions USD from China for infrastructure projects, including the Hambantota port project [3]. However, owing more than $8 billion to Chinese firms, which is over its ability to pay back [4], the Sri Lanka’s government had to agree to lease this port to China Merchant Port Holdings in 99 years with $1.4 billion in return. A study by the Center for Global Development suggests that 8 more countries: Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan would struggle to repay their Chinese Belt and Road loans [5]. To critics, by gaining access to the strategic locations in these countries, China is building a string of overseas military bases [6].

Made in China 2025

This is the defending and ambitious plan made by the Chinese government to create globally competitive advances in autonomous technologies by 2025. This national strategy aims to build up 10 strategically and technologically important sectors such as 5G networks and cybersecurity, high-end precision tools and robotics, and aerospace, most of which are currently exclusive domains of Western companies [7]. This project includes government incentives and heavy investments in research and innovation. In fact, between 2000 and 2015, China’s spending on research and development (R&D) had soared by an average of 18% annually, whereas that of the US rose only around 4% [8]. Moreover, in 2017, China’s input on R&D ranked 2nd around the world with 1.36 million patents on inventions and about 9.8 patents per 10,000 people [9]. This surge in China’s R&D places China in a highly competitive position with the US, the largest supporter of science and technology.

Additionally, foreign companies seeking to access the Chinese market are allegedly required to enter into joint ventures with, and transfer technology to, domestic firms [10]. In the U.S. government point of view, this plan breaks international rules by using illegal and unfair methods to get US technology at effective discount rates [11].


Reference

[1] The World Bank. 2018. "Belt and Road Initiative." 29 March. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/regional-integration/brief/belt-and-road-initiative.

[2] [6] Taylor, Adam. 2018. "Why countries might want out China Belt Road." The Washington Post. 22 August. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/08/22/why-countries-might-want-out-chinas-belt-road/.

[3] Ching, Frank. 2018. "China Belt Road Debt Trap ." Japan Times. 28 August. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/08/28/commentary/world-commentary/chinas-belt-road-debt-trap/#.XIeW9ij7RPY.

[4] Schultz, Kai. 2017. "Sri Lanka, struggling with debts, hands a major port to China." New York Times. 12 December. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/asia/sri-lanka-china-port.html?module=inline.

[5] Center for Global Development. 2018. "China Belt and Road Initiative Heightens Debt Risks in Eight Countries, Points To Need in Better Lending Practices " Center for Global Development. 4 March. https://www.cgdev.org/article/chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-heightens-debt-risks-eight-countries-points-need-better.

[7] Wei, Liu. 2018. "Trump Trade War on China is About More Than Trade" The Diplomat. 20 July. https://thediplomat.com/2018/07/trumps-trade-war-on-china-is-about-more-than-trade/.

[8] Showstack, Randy. 2018. "China Catching Up to United States in Research and Development" Earth and Space Science News . 24 January. https://eos.org/articles/china-catching-up-to-united-states-in-research-and-development.

[9] Wangshu, Luo. 2018. "Research and Development Success in China." The Telegraph. 27 February. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world/china-watch/business/research-and-development-success-in-china/.

[10] Hopewell, Kristen. 2018. "What is made in China 2025" The Washington Post. 3 May. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/05/03/what-is-made-in-china-2025-.

[11] Liu, Tao, and Wing Thye Woo. 2018. "Understanding the U.S.-China Trade War." China Economic Journal 319 - 340. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17538963.2018.1516256.