University School Model United Nations 2014




Terrorism in West Africa

On the night of 14–15 April 2014, 276 female students aged 12–15 were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist organization claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. Boko Haram leader Abu-Bakr Shekau claimed that girls as young as nine should be married instead of attending school and that he intends to sell the girls into slavery in violation of international law.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNICEF condemned the abduction, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the reported intention by Boko Haram to sell abducted girls as slaves is a crime against humanity absolutely prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Boko Haram and other Islamic fundamentalist groups in Africa are opposed to any form of "Westernization", and are believed to have been responsible for more than 6,000 deaths in Northern Africa in the past 5 years. The Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in its fight against the insurgency, and the resulting crackdown combined with a French military operation in Mali has led to the capture or killing of hundreds of Boko Haram and Islamic Maghreb  members. However, the anti-insurgency campaigns have failed to stabilize the situation with many terrorist groups across the African Sahel increasingly targeting civilians while financing themselves through the international drug trade and human trafficking.

Although Boko Haram does not currently possess the numbers or firepower needed to overthrow the Nigerian government, there is fear that terrorist groups operating in Africa such as Al­ Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Shabab—with substantial funding from illegal activities and training and weapons from countries such as Iran-- could unite and potentially destabilize all of Northern Africa.

The Civil War in Syria

Syria’s human rights record and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction under the dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad has often been a concern of the United Nations. With the changes in the country and the region following the Arab Spring in early 2010, the UN led the way in an effort to engage with Syria to reduce regional tensions and promote Middle East peace. However, the Syrian government’s brutal response to nation-wide demonstrations quickly descended into an armed conflict that has lasted three years, taken more than 146,000 lives, and displaced nearly 9 million people within the country and beyond its borders.

The Syrian government has been given military support by Russia and China, while Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Great Britain, and the United States have transferred weapons and humanitarian aid to the rebels. Based in Lebanon, Hezbollah has entered the war in support of the Syrian army while other Islamic fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaeda, operating out of Iran and Iraq, are supporting the rebels. The international response has created what may be a ‘proxy war’ between global powers.  However, a UN report has described the conflict as being "overtly sectarian" between mostly Alawite and Shia government forces fighting against Sunni-dominated rebels.  

Both government and opposition forces have been accused of severe human rights violations.  There have been reports of massacres, widespread torture and terror, and the use of chemical and thermobaric weapons in violation of the Geneva Convention. The severity of the humanitarian disaster is illustrated by the four million Syrians, Palestinians, and Kurds who have fled the country and become refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, with millions more left in poor living conditions with shortages of food and drinking water. The situation is especially bad in several refugee camps on the borders of Syria, where residents are facing death by starvation. The UN remains deeply concerned by the conflict and has led the international community’s efforts to work towards a negotiated political solution to the conflict.

Annexation of the Crimea

In 2014, Ukraine had experienced years of corruption and lack of economic growth. Ukrainian President Yanukovych sought to attract investment capital from the European Union (EU), but Russian President Vladimir Putin—fearing a loss of influence in Ukraine--used threats and enticements to get the Yanukovych to sign an economic treaty with Russia instead. A series of violent protests against the treaty culminated in the ousting of Yanukovych, and the installation of an interim government. Russia has accused the United States and the EU of funding and directing the revolution, and has refused to recognize the new government, threatening an oil and gas embargo on the EU.

In the aftermath of the revolution, laws were passed by the interim government outlawing the use of the Russian language and denying ethnic Russians basic constitutional rights. Riots soon broke out in the Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine where ethnic Russian were a majority. Pro-Russian forces--widely believed to be undercover Russian soldiers—took control of the Crimean peninsula, occupying Crimea's parliament building and calling for a referendum on Crimea's autonomy. In this referendum, 96% of Crimean residents voted to join the Russian Federation and the peninsula was quickly occupied by Russian military forces.  This vote has been condemned by the EU, the US, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar officials as contrary to Ukraine's constitution and international law, particularly a 1994 treaty in which Russia pledged to respect Ukraine’s borders.  The United States and the EU have initiated economic sanctions against Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated his belief that the 1954 incorporation of Crimea into Ukraine under the Soviet government was invalid, and declared he was protecting the rights and property of ethnic Russians.  With Ukrainian military forces moving to control continued rioting in Russian majority districts, Putin has again stated he will protect ethnic Russians by any means necessary and massed Russian military forces along the eastern border of Ukraine.

Robert A. Crawford.
Copyright © 1998
All rights reserved.