General Assembly, 1st Committee

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General Assembly, 1st Committee


Hello Delegates!
Welcome to the 2014 University of Georgia Model United Nations Conference. My name is Lauren Williams ( and I will be your chair for General Assembly I, the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC). I am a sophomore from Thomaston, Georgia and this is will be my second year at UGAMUNC. I previously served as the co-chair at UGAMUNC’s Second Continental Congress Crises committee. This year we have selected three topics that represent some of the most important international issues relating to disarmament and international security, and I am thrilled to see the lively debate that is sure to follow. Due to the caliber of the topics for this committee and your level of preparation, intelligence, and creativity, I know you will find UGAMUNC DISEC 2014 as one of your greatest Model UN experiences.
Before proceeding I would like to introduce myself. I am currently an Honors Student double majoring in Political Science and Public Relations here at the University of Georgia. Besides Model UN, I am a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Lamda Delta National Honor Society. In my free time, I like to participate in intramural sports, experience the great city of Athens, and cheer on the Atlanta Braves, Denver Broncos, San Francisco Giants, Georgia Bulldogs, and the greatest athlete to ever live: Peyton Manning.

I am honored to have Carter Chapman ( as my co-chair at this year’s conference. Carter is a sophomore from Atlanta, GA double majoring in International Affairs and Marketing with a minor in Portuguese. He is a brother in Phi Delta Theta fraternity as well as the President of Building Tomorrow at UGA. Like his chair, Carter is a big sports fan and cheers for all of the Atlanta based teams as well as Chelsea FC, a soccer team that plays in the English Premier League. He is also widely considered to be one of the greatest people ever to attend the University of Georgia.

As you begin your research, I hope that you will find this background guide useful as a starting point. However, it is only a starting point for your research and preparation, and I strongly encourage you to do independent research to better understand the issues, your respective countries’ positions, and the range of possible solutions.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I am very excited for this year’s committee and I look forward to meeting you all in February.
Best of luck and GO DAWGS!

Lauren Williams

Chair, GA1, DISEC

Background of General Assembly, 1st Committee
Since the founding of the League of Nations in the 1920s, efforts to prevent war and its effects have been a focal point of international relations. The victorious Allies established the United Nations at the end of World War II to prevent such a catastrophe from ever reoccurring. The charter drafted by the United Nations’ original fifty-one nations called for a General Assembly to address grievances and international issues. The charter also established six committees to provide recommendations for resolutions.

The United Nations General Assembly First Committee is one of the six main bodies within the General Assembly. It is one of the original organizational bodies established by the United Nations to provide adequate research and information for the UN General Assembly. This body meets annually for a four to five week session in October and focuses on issues concerning disarmament, international security, and maintaining peace around the globe. Contemporary issues within the First Committee pertain to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction (including biological and chemical weapons) and small arms and lightweight weapons trade.

Currently, the United Nations is composed of 193 member nations, each of which sits on the First Committee and has an equal vote. While it is not the First Committee’s role to take decisive action as they are not able to pass binding resolutions, implement sanctions, or mobilize military, it does deliberate on various issues and reports its findings to the United Security Council and secretariat of the UN. In addition, this body works closely with the United Nations Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament to address and begin to resolve some of the most pressing issues facing the international community.1

I. Bioterrorism & the Reduction of Chemical Weapons

The use of chemical and biological weapons is not a new occurrence as countries, regimes, and coalitions have utilized these in warfare since ancient times. The use of chemical weapons dates back early as 400 BC when the Spartans used sulfur gas against their enemies.2Despite the Hague Convention in 1907 that prohibited the use of chemical weapons, chemical agents have been deployed continually, notably in World War II, Vietnam, and in the Gulf War.3 The international community has gone to great lengths to prevent the spread of chemical and biological weapons, but their use continues to devastate human lives.

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These biological weapons can originate from various bacteria, viruses, toxins, rickettsia, fungi, and in combinations.4While many believe that the anthrax virus serves as the most blatant weapon by bioterrorists, due to its reputation and capability to infect masses on a relatively short time scale, the smallpox virus, Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), plague, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fevers, Q fever, and epidemic typhus have all become prime candidates for attacks involving bio weaponry in part due to their readily availability.5

The Center for Disease Control categorizes chemical weapons into several classifications by the type of chemical or its effects. These include: biotoxins, blister agents, blood agents, caustics (acids), pulmonary agents, incapacitating agents, long-acting anticoagulants, metals, nerve agents, riot control agents (tear gas), toxic alcohols, and vomiting agents.6

A Long History

It was not until the twentieth century that we saw an increase in the magnitude and level of devastation brought on by biological warfare, much of which was at the hands of non-state actors. In March of 1995, the Japanese militant group Aum Shinrikyo opened containers of liquefied sarin on five different subway cars in Tokyo, killing 12 people.7 In another act of bioterrorism, U.S. officials discovered that members of a cult founded by Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Oregon spread salmonella bacteria over salad bars and coffee creamers in various Oregon restaurants, injuring over 750 people in 19848. Many foreign governments suspect the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda to be maintaining chemical and biological labs at facilities throughout the Middle East. As the threat of terrorism increases, so does the threat of chemical and biological warfare.

However, it is not only non-state actors whose possession and use of chemical weapons have posed a threat to international security and human lives. German spies infected the livestock of Allied forces with anthrax during World War I, and in 1918, the Japanese essentially began a biological warfare program as they acquired massive stockpiles and experimented on prisoners of war, where they later would poison Soviet water sources and release bacterial plague into Chinese villages over the course of World War II.9 After witnessing the massive acquisition of chemical stockpiles by Japan, other European countries were quick to follow suit to fortify heir biological weapons programs. The U.S. began vast research into bio weaponry during and after World War II, but all stockpiles were eventually destroyed in 1969 by a signed executive order from President Nixon.10 Despite the signing of the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972, Russia intensified its efforts into its bio weapons programs well into the 1990s, even dispensing “yellow rain” toxins to allies they supported.11 Even after the accidental but disastrous release of anthrax from a Soviet military compound in Sverdlovsk in 1979 that killed hundreds, Russia continued to increase their production capacity of anthrax and strengthen its supply of chemical agents.12 Additionally, Iraq admitted to violating the BWC, although it was one of the ratifying nations, when it conducted research into the offensive use of several toxins and deploying weapons filled with anthrax and biotoxins in 1991.13
Past UN Action

The Geneva Protocol signed in 1925 was the first mechanism to prohibit first use of biological and chemical agents in warfare, but it did not put into place any mechanism for ensuring compliance.14 Because there was no direct prevention mechanism, the protocol did not have a significant effect on the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.15 The most significant action by the U.N. came in 1972 when 22 states signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which entered into force in March 1975 and banned the development, production, acquisition, transfer, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.16 Interestingly, at the BWC’s inception in 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union held the only publicly known biological weapons stockpiles.17 The intended role of the BWC, now ratified by 170 states with the addition of Malawi in April 2013, was serving a complimentary role to the tenets of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.18 To resolve the dilemma of enforcing compliance, if a party finds that another state is not complying with the standards of the treaty, under the BWC, they may file a complaint with the UN Security Council.19 The BWC seeks to eliminate large quantities of pathogens and toxins and its transfer systems.

The BWC’s Article Twelve requires a review conference every five years. There have been seven review conferences thus far, producing moderate results. At the second review conference in September 1986, BWC state parties adopted Confidence Building Measures to increase the effectiveness of the BWC. The (CBMs) included directives to “exchange information on abnormal outbreaks,” “exchange data on high-containment research centers,” and “promote scientific contact.”20 In response to the threat of biological warfare in the first Gulf War, state parties of the third review conference in September 1991 created a group of governmental experts (VEREX) for the purpose of reaching a consensus on a compliance verification mechanism.21 VEREX submitted its findings in a report in 1993, further suggesting the need that a multi-combatant approach be undertaken to enforce the BWC22. The Sixth Review conference in 2006 set up an Implementation Support Unit for the Convention, which provided “administrative support and assistance” and “support and assistance for obtaining universality.”23 The Seventh Review Conference “reaffirms that under all circumstances the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons is effectively prohibited by the Convention and affirms the determination of States parties to condemn any use of biological agents or toxins other than for peaceful purposes, by anyone at any time.”24

Another pivotal breakthrough came in 1992 when, the UN General Assembly approved the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The CWC prohibits the “development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical weapons” and advocates for the destruction of all chemical weapons and even routine evaluations of chemical plants.25 Currently, the international community has destroyed about 81% of the recognized chemical weapons stockpile, with 189 states having ratified the convention.26 Notable non-members of the convention are suspecting of harboring chemical weapons including Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and Syria, although the Syrian government has agreed to provisional status into the CWC after alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.

Chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia

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While the objectives of both the CWC and the BWC enjoy moderate success, many problems still remain. Both the CWC and BWC still lack an effective international compliance verification mechanism.27 Both state and non-state actors still hold existing stockpiles that cannot be identified and destroyed without a verification regime. As with many international treaties, there are also many inconsistencies between the provisions of the CWC, the BWC, and the domestic chemical and biological weapons policy of state parties.28 Both conventions also experienced difficulties in regards to the limits of on-site inspections.29 The state parties of the BWC and the CWC must also find a way to increase Convention membership so that universality is ensured. As advances in biosciences and biotechnology continue to increase the threat of biological and chemical warfare, the international community must work to create effective compliance verification, guarantee full compliance, and ensure universal membership.
A Growing Risk

It is clearly evident that developments in bioweapons have thoroughly evolved in recent years due to advancements in modern technology, and the number of parties actively engaged in pursuing bio weaponry for offensive purposes is still a dozen and growing.30 One of the greatest dangers the international community currently faces is the threat of biological and chemical weapon use by non-state actors, mainly terrorist and insurgent groups. The fact that several governments sponsored terrorist groups in past conflicts by providing the financial backing needed by the insurgency groups further exacerbates this danger. The governments of Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq are just some of the recognized nations providing financial backing and refuge to known terrorist groups while private benefactors in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also contribute to these groups’ efforts.31 Additionally, it is increasingly hard to prevent the spread of such weapons and to identify those countries that are stockpiling these chemical agents as weapons because chemical and biological materials have diverse purposes and are vital to medical research and protection.32 Since the infamous anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001, spending, regarding research on “medical defense” in many countries has dramatically increased33

Additional problems arise due to the ease in which chemical and biological weapons can be released. Ballistic missiles, rocket launchers, aircrafts, and manual dispersion can dispatch chemical and biological weapons.34 While many methods of chemical and biological weapons dispersion require the expertise and skill of national armed forces, there are several methods that require very little manpower and come at a relatively low financial cost. In total, the relative ease in which bioweapons can be attained and their ability to affect the masses over large geographic areas in very small concentrations make them the ideal choice for terrorists groups.
Recent Developments: The Syrian Situation

Devastation in Syria
While the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, Ad Hoc Group, the 2006 Sixth Review Conference, and smaller subsequent conventions may have reduced state supported pursuits of biological agents, recent years have shown an increase in smaller factions and rogue groups advancing their own agendas through exploring bio weaponry. After long suspicions of Syria harboring some of the most advanced chemical weapons in the Middle East, rockets containing the chemical sarin hit the suburbs of Damascus, Syria on August 23, 2013 killing hundreds and injuring thousands.35

Destruction in Damascus, Syria

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UN investigations concluded that the rockets did indeed contain high quality sarin and, Syria launched the rockets from areas under governmental control. While Syrian’s government under President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition forces blame each other for the chemical attack, the European Union, Arab League, and United States cite evidence that points to the Syrian government’s forces. Much debate has risen in the international community on whether military action should be taken against Syria, with President Obama currently appealing to the public and Congress to support drone strikes against Syria despite wavering criticisms of intelligence reports by the U.N. and United States from members of Congress. While the international community condemned the attacks, states and individuals within those states have mixed views on the potential for military intervention.

On November 1, 2013, Syria met a deadline to disable or render inoperable all of its declared chemical weapons production and facilities after facing threats of military intervention from the United States.36 Additionally, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspected nearly all of Syria’s production facilities, certifying the safety of these facilities and verifying their inventories. While peace talks between Syria and several nations remain ongoing and slow moving, President Bashar al-Assad still has access to substantial amounts of conventional weapons.37 Meanwhile the current state of the country remains in havoc with news of Israeli attacks on Syrian military bases alleged to be harboring Russian missiles and outbreaks of polio and other highly contagious diseases.38

Cause for Immediate Action and Preparedness

Proponents of immediate action in increasing awareness and defense have expressed interest in a variety of methods to combat rising threats. Some highly advocate the further development and use of a surveillance system that can chart outbreaks to reduce fatalities.39 Others, including nonaligned international agents, express interest in setting an international standard for defense, such as developing vaccines and antibiotics, and trying to prevent attacks in war and on a domestic front.40 Many express the urgency in recognizing these ongoing issues and point to the fact that bioweapons are inexpensive to produce, readily available, possess a large capability to affect masses, and can spread quickly over large geographic distances. These serve as dangerous advantages for terrorist groups that are set on inflicting harm. Bioterrorism and the threat of chemical weapons are escalating crises that pose a great threat to international security and human lives. Therefore, preparation is key when responding to the threat of biological weapons.

The CDC has implemented thorough guidelines for shipment of specific pathogens that may be used as bioterrorism agents and NGO’s have invested much money into research on diminishing the severity of potential chemical attacks.41

Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Defense, the American Red Cross are just a few of the organizations that distribute preparatory information and actively train individuals and first responders for potential attacks brought on by biological warfare.42

Questions to Consider

  1. How can the UN regulate the manufacturing and development of biological weapons? Is this even the UN’s responsibility or should this responsibility lie within the governments of the individual state?

  2. How can the UN discern the differences between biological materials that are potentially terroristic threats and those that are also used in developing vaccines for medicinal purposes?

  3. Are any states currently violating withstanding policies and what actions should be taken against those who violate international agreements?

  4. Should an international agency whose sole purpose is to monitor the development of biological weapons be created and if so, what are its provisions?

  5. What can be done to halt the acquisition of chemical weapons by non-state actors?

  6. What action should be taken against Syria? What measures should be taken to prevent this event from ever reoccurring?

II. Cyber Security


The internet is an absolute necessity, an incontrovertible means of communication, and an infinite source of knowledge in the modern era. Governments, businesses, institutions, and individuals all make up the global community of Internet users and rely on it as an essential feature to accomplish any and all tasks in today’s world. Cyberspace makes it possible for international businesses and governments to quickly and efficiently conduct business, manage crucial infrastructure, and run social networks that have become the center of knowledge communication, and media.43 Global Internet usage increased from 360 million to over 2 billion from 2000 to 2010, and its continued expansion makes it a central focal point of the global economy.44

This vast computer-networking infrastructure is used to control computer networks, control towers, railroad operations, telephone systems, power supply stations, and stock exchanges not only on a national level but a global one. Thus, cyber security has become a heightened issue to all technologically connected states as well as the institutions and corporations that work within them. The potential for cyber attacks have dramatically increased in part due to the rising proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the ease of information exchange.45 Additionally, the increase of cyberspace operations in frequency and sophistication and the rise of small group or individuals engaged in malicious cyber activity creates a very real threat to global security, capturing the attention of the international community and its realization for collective action.46
Cyber Crime

Cyberspace is described as the “systems and services connected either directly to or indirectly to the Internet, telecommunications and computer networks.”47 The growing importance of the protection of cyberspace stems from the ideological notion that it is the government’s responsibility to protect the life and property of its citizens as well as to maintain order, all of which pertain to its use.48 Threats to cyber-related infrastructure and individuals continue to increase annually, with reportedly 431 million adults victims affected around the world in 2011.49 Therefore, it is not surprising that cybercrime has now become a profitable market, which “exceeds a trillion dollars annually in online fraud, identity theft, and lost intellectual property.”50

Cyber crimes also pose a unique threat to international security. As the world’s web communications have grown, so has the legal scope and understanding of how cyber crimes are to be considered and prosecuted. Current laws are underwhelming inadequate, making legal proceedings dense and circuitous. Additionally, the shear quickness in which cyber attacks can be carried out makes it hard to prevent and even harder to find those who are behind it.51 Cyber attacks have become so advanced that even those with the most secure systems are subject to victimization. Some of the most high-profile companies that were victims to cyber attacks include Google, Sony, Lockheed Martin, PBS, and Citibank.52 Likely many more attacks a year go unreported as companies try to maintain a favorable reputation and avoid legal issues.53

One of the biggest concerns lies in advanced persistent threats (APTs), which are more malicious in nature, rarely publically disclosed, and largely seek to acquire secrets and intellectual property.54 The victims of these types of attacks are often high profile governments, military organizations, and international institutions. Organized criminals, terrorists, and insurgents have a virtually new offensive domain in which they can carry out their harmful practices and disrupt government operations. Thus, cyber security has now evolved into a crucial matter of national security. Also, a huge risk is posed in the way in which cyber attacks can escalate. What is to prevent successful hackers from continuing their criminal activity and repeatedly pursuing the same or even more high profile targets? This escalation would be nothing short of cyber warfare, and the success of some parties would encourage other insurgents, creating a harmful trend. Therefore, efforts to secure the World Wide Web against cyber attacks from hackers, terrorists, private profit-driven groups, or the states themselves, whether it is for espionage or cyber warfare, are crucial to protecting international infrastructure.

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