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Special Session of the UN Security Council on International Terrorism

Meetings at the Foreign Office always are worth the way. Seeing these impressing elevators with their gentle circulation, one must face that a movement inside the house probably will lead to an important action outside. To get well-prepared for the Special Session of the Security Council at the Freie Universität Berlin, we met once in October and November, to get familiar with the Rules of Procedure of this important organ.

During the first meeting in October everyone was excited about the distribution of the five permanent- and ten non permanent countries that form up the Security Council. Beside this, Peggy Wittke gave all participants a short introduction about the frightening history of terrorism and the countless attempts to avoid it. These lessons made the need for a common definition of terrorism evident. With us stayed our partners, the Iraqi diplomats, with whom we shared to represent a country. Our partners participated in a training course for foreign diplomats at the Foreign Office. So one represented country consisted of two thinking heads, and during the first attempt one had to unify its own position with the one of the partner and of course with regard to the interest of the represented country.

To remove from formal language, the cooperation with the diplomats from Iraq was a pleasure and honor at the same time. Of course, contrary positions had to be bridged and there were different assumptions in how to express a view. But the basic affair was the art of diplomacy. And could there be a better example, than getting two different cultures together? Although the Iraqi way of negotiation is more reserved, that is not less successful. This was also visible throughout the preparation. The Iraqi diplomats were thousands of kilometers away from their hometown, confronted with a different way of living – and speaking. The more should their work in the teams be honored.

First of all, a position paper of the represented country had to be prepared. The Iraqis of course also had some other very important meetings throughout the whole country; therefore it was sometimes hard to find time for this work. The topic, the Definition and Root Causes of Terrorism in general again took a lot of time. The little time was faced by a good atmosphere and the highest level of productivity.

For several years the international community has been trying to agree on a universally accepted definition for „terrorism“. So far no substantial progress has been made. On the agenda were the discussion about a definition for terrorism, its root causes and possible measures to fight it. A full schedule for all delegates, especially since it was the first touch with the rules of procedure, as they are applied in the United Nations, for several of them.

On thing that turned out very quickly during the simulation was that actually most things take a lot longer then one expected them to. Even the discussion about the agenda setting lasted for about an hour, in which the delegates discussed whether to first discuss the definition or if the measures to fight terrorism are not the more pressing topic, or if maybe one should combine this topic with the one about root causes in one point of the agenda. After all the delegates decided to set the definition first, the root causes second and the measures to combat terrorism as third.

Also during the formal debate about the definition substantial progress was usually made once the debate was suspended. Even though questions about the speeches made during formal session were allowed, this part of the discussion could only be used to present the position of one’s own country, but hardly to achieve any sort of compromise with the others. This was mostly achieved during informal consultations, e.g. in the regional groups or also during lunch break.

One of the questions discussed among the states was the request by the Republic of Congo that the armed fight for the peoples’ right to self-determination should somehow be excluded from the definition of terrorism, when all peaceful means have been exhausted and if so how and who should determine this. Other countries such as Qatar wanted to ensure that the fact that there is a possibility of exploiting the fight against terrorism for national interests is mentioned.

All in all the simulation was a rewarding experience, and besides the things one learned about terrorism, it allowed the participants to try out many things which would be of use for the following simulations, such as writing position papers, acting within the framework of the rules of procedure and most certainly we learned to appreciate the long preparation period we have for New York, which really allows us to work ourselves deep into „our“ country and to grow together as one team.

In the end the delegates in the simulation achieved something the real life diplomats have failed in so far. They passed a resolution,  which was introduced by Italy, containing a universal definition of terrorism in line with a resolution passed by the Security Council in 2004.

Ruth Halle and André Richter