United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee (Legal)
The Sixth Committee is one of the main committees of the General Assembly, which fulfills the role of primary forum for the consideration of legal questions. Its mandate consists in promoting the development of public international law and its codification. The Sixth Committee is in charge of international law-making negotiations and has the authority to negotiate new treaties within this framework.
Every Member State of the United Nations is entitled to representation in the committee and the decision-making process is carried out preferably by consensus while voting remains possible.
Migrant vs. Refugee status of citizens at risk of becoming stateless
With more than 65 million people forcibly displaced globally the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ are frequently used interchangeably in media and public discourse. But isn’t there a difference between the two of them?
Especially Island States and Coastal States are under constant threat of ever rising sea levels, collapsing sea walls and devastating natural disasters as a consequence of climate change. Such events often threaten the existence of the State itself.
Consequently, if the State does cease to exist as a result of climate change, then what is the legal status of its displaced (prior) population? Both ‘Refugee’ and ’Migrant’ status offer different forms of protection under international law. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, it is necessary to identify and assess the applicability of both in this situation.
Almost four decades ago the International Court of Justice in its Western Sahara Case held that:
‘It is for the people to determine the destiny of the territory and not the territory the destiny of the people.’
Should the displaced population, in this case, be considered refugees or is migrant a more appropriate status? In the absence of having acquired a new nationality, could its people be considered ‘stateless’ as a matter of international law? The Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly will discuss these questions during KULMUN 2018 and thus has the chance to change the scene of international politics to ensure adequate protection is provided to such displaced populations.
International law and new warfare methods: the dangers of automatization
Autonomous weapons systems could be defined as systems which are “capable of targeting and initiating the use of potentially lethal force without direct human supervision and direct human involvement in lethal decision-making.” Recent armed conflicts have seen an increased use of highly automated technologies, such as remotely piloted drones of the US military. These systems aren’t considered to be autonomous because they still operate under human supervision, but it is becoming increasingly clear that autonomous weapons systems could be fully developed and used in the near future.
Policy makers, military professionals, legal scholars, and scientists have expressed great concern over the issue of autonomous weapons. The US Office of the Secretary of Defense recognized that “cyber-attacks or malfunctions introduce the possibility that autonomous systems will act in an unintended fashion” and “sophisticated algorithms are subject to failure if they face situations outside their intended design parameters.” In July 2015, over 1000 experts in artificial intelligence, including Elon Musk or Stephen Hawking, signed a letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons.”
From a legal point of view, the most important concerns are whether autonomous systems can satisfy principles such as distinction and proportionality, required by the Geneva Conventions and whether it will be possible to hold anyone responsible for the harm these weapons might cause.
During KULMUN 2018, the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly can shed light on the regulation of autonomous weapons be it through the development of new legislation, or the reform of current one.
|State of Israel*|
|The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland|
|People’s Republic of China||Republic of Kiribati*||Republic of Seychelles||United States of America*|
|Republic of South Africa|
|Republic of Marshall Islands*||Republic of the Sudan*|
Note: * indicates that the country is advised for experienced delegates.