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General Assembly Second Committee

represented by Isabell Nagel and Miriam Reuschel

As one of the six Main Committees of the General Assembly, the Second Committee of the General Assembly (GA 2nd) discusses mainly economic and financial issues. Resolutions of the Second Committee are passed on to the General Assembly Plenary. All Member States of the United Nations are represented at the GA 2nd. As in the General Assembly Plenary, votes are cast on a ‘one country, one vote’ basis.

This year’s proposed agenda of the GA 2nd was:

  1. Climate Change Economics;
  2. Economic and Trade Policies to Address Food Price Volatility;
  3. External Trade and Micro-financial Assistance to Developing Countries.

All three topics were of great interest to Australia. As one of the largest donors of Official Development Assistance, Australia is eager to help developing countries to strengthen their economic performance. During preparations in Berlin, we prepared Australia’s position on all three topics and concluded that climate change was the most pressing and urgent topic on the agenda: it was also directly linked to the others.

On the first evening, the agenda-setting took place. Within the first caucusing of the conference, we succeeded in convincing other states of Australia’s preferred order: 1, 2, 3. We really felt that everybody was willing to compromise and work hard during the next couple of days. That evening, we also got the chance to talk to some of our main partners, mainly close allies from Europe, North America and South-East Asia: we found out that most of the countries we talked to had similar priorities concerning climate change. These priorities were mainly:

  1. Outlining a concept for the Post-Kyoto Process;
  2. Strengthening the idea of Clean Development, as described in the Kyoto Protocol, in the fight against climate change;
  3. Addressing the crucial issue of deforestation, which counts towards global green house gas emissions each year; and
  4. Drawing attention to new technologies, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), and the merits of investing in scientific research.

During the five days of simulation we only managed to discuss and vote on the first topic, which was also due to many discussions regarding the speaker’s time and several discussions on the call for a suspension of the meeting. Throughout the conference – especially during the informal caucus – we worked hard on two resolutions.

For the first resolution we worked together mainly with our regional partners from the Asia-Pacific area. The resolution aimed to outline a new strategy in thinking about fighting climate change. We were able to stress our most important arguments and projects within this resolution, such as the need for more research on new technologies and the importance of a fair, holistic post-Kyoto process. Drafting this resolution was definitely long and hard, but in the end our efforts paid off as it turned out to be one of the longest resolutions, as well as one with the most signatories.

On the first day in caucus, we immediately began to collect ideas. We came up with a wide range of issues including: reminding developed countries of their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the importance of research into new technologies; clean development; emission trading schemes and natural disaster monitoring. Since we were quite a big group, it took us a day to write down and structure our ideas logically. Australia was able to contribute a lot towards the clauses on clean development, natural disaster monitoring and particularly regarding the possibilities offered by new technologies, such as CCS. When it came to lobbying, we immediately realised we had a lot of support for our paper and only made some minor adjustments to it in order to even get tougher negotiating partners, such as some of the Middle Eastern countries on board. Furthermore our image of ‘a good international citizen’ also helped us during negotiations with countries, such as Iraq, Pakistan and the Latin American group. When the last day arrived and voting procedures started, we were nervous. The moment our resolution passed, with just three votes against it, we definitely felt proud that this resolution had turned out to be a resolution, which could really – if we were the real UN – make a difference.

The second resolution we worked on focused mainly on the problem of deforestation and was drafted as a more specific and valuable addition to the Asia-Pacific working paper. On this project we worked together with countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

Besides time spent in informal caucus, there were also many speeches by delegations, which were interesting to listen to in order to find out more about the different positions of the delegations. Unfortunately, we were only able to be put on the speaker’s list on place 142 because our note with the request to be added to the speaker’s list got lost the first day. Nevertheless, we were able to stress the importance and the main goals of the two resolutions we were working on.

At the end of the final session, 13 working papers were handed in and became draft resolutions. During the voting procedure on the last day, all of them passed. Even though we were really tired and craved caffeine, we also realised how much work had been done in this committee. Of course the process wasn’t always easy, but as we had made our way through all the challenges – be it simply staying alert or convincing China how reducing emissions could also be in its interest – we couldn’t help but feel a little bit like real diplomats.