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General Assembly Third Committee

represented by Santiago Gómez Rojas and Christina Tahamtan

Since in the General Assembly, in accordance with Art. 10 UN Charter any question and matter may be discussed within the scope of the Charter, the Third Committee is the one of the six Main Committees where delegates may deal with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs.

This Committee was already created during the first session of the General Assembly in 1946. The powers and functions are similar to those of the General Assembly, indeed restricted to its specific issues. The Third Committee plays an important role for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world, as well as for education, and for other matters related with the well-being of the individual and the family. Draft resolutions passed in this Committee should then go to the General Assembly Plenary, in order to be adopted or rejected by the representatives of the nations present in the Plenary.

The topics proposed this year to handle with were:

  1. Examining the Uses and Implementation of Technology in Educational and Social Development;
  2. Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children in Conflict; and
  3. Improving Emergency Response through Humanitarian Reform.

Although all topics were of great interest for Australia, and knowing that the official website of the Australian aid programme released a speech held in August 2008 by Mr Bob McMullan, Secretary for International Development Assistance, in which he stated the reprioritisation of education in the aid programme, we as delegates of Australia decided that the second topic should be more of interest, as the promotion of human rights is a very important issue for Australia. Nevertheless, education is also one of the major topics for Australia in order to promote development, economic growth and stability, specifically in the Asia-Pacific region.

When we came to the first session of our Committee, we were very curious to see in which order the agenda would be adopted. The agenda setting process was very exciting and very hard, because we had to vote on the agenda several times. From the beginning there was no unanimity and after three rounds of proposed orders and voting, the agenda was finally adopted as follows: ‘Improving Emergency Response through Humanitarian Assistance’ first, ‘Examining the Uses of Technology in Education and Social Development’ second, and as third and last ‘Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children in Conflict’.

Our preferences were clear, but there were many delegates, particularly representing African and Latin American countries, who wanted to continue discussing Humanitarian Reform. Since the first night, we began to find our possible partners to work on a paper. That is why our first approaches were directed to the important partners of Australia: the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia.

We wanted to concentrate particularly in capacity-building in recipient countries, specially focused on natural disaster reduction, rather than man-made disasters and more on prevention through the implementation of the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action.

The next day, our work began by exploring the opinions of our partners to know how effective we could work with them.

Since the first moment we faced the barriers of language and culture. Furthermore, there were different interests and it was not very easy to find a common ground to achieve common objectives. The Delegation of the United States wanted to reinforce the role of women reacting in emergency situations and did not show any interest in our strategy, however this idea did not oppose Australia’s interests and we promised to work on this paper if they sponsored another one containing our interests.

A compromise was achieved, but later, as we had to concentrate working with other partners, they rejected our sponsorship and removed some of our clauses from the resolution. Nevertheless, we stayed a signatory.

The rapprochement to Canada and New Zealand was harder. The delegates of New Zealand were distrusting Canada, because the Canadian delegates did not want to tell us the topic of the paper, unless we promised them to support it and not tell anyone about the content of it. After a bargaining of 40 minutes aiming to know the intentions of Canada before giving our work, we all finally decided to work separately.

After this disagreement, we concentrated to work closely with the African countries and Japan, other Asian countries and the Pacific islands present at the conference.

Japan was one of the most active delegations proposing several working papers addressing many problems in accordance with Australian interests. We signed every paper of Japan and worked together as sponsors for a resolution addressing the climate change problem related with emergency situations, which included a call to the international community to work in the creation of an international convention of climate refugees, in order to create international instruments to deal with this problem in the future, when many island-states lose their territory.

For the resolution on climate change-related problems within the Humanitarian Reform process we mainly worked together with the Delegations of Japan and Argentina, but our other allies, such as New Zealand, Canada, Indonesia, a number of Asian-Pacific countries and some other 30 countries signed this resolution. Important for us in this resolution were operative clauses in which we hinted at the urgent need to develop technology designated to evaluate and analyze climate change by focusing particularly on geographical information systems, hazard prediction and early warning systems. We especially mentioned our concerns about the first climate-related refugees coming from the Fiji Islands. We also urged to develop effective mechanisms to exchange views about challenges and achieved objectives. Important for us in the context of climate change is sustainable development through special mechanisms such as the Carbon Capture and Storage Technology.

A very good way to call the other delegate’s attention to our interests and proposals was to hold a speech on the second day of the conference where we highlighted issues such as prevention measures, risk identification and mitigation, the cluster approach and our support of the work of inter alia the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or the Central Emergency Response Fund. Strategically very important was that we announced the fact that Australia and its region represent, beyond Africa, the widest and most disaster-prone continent in the world. Mentioning this fact, we received a couple of invitations of not only African countries but also European ones who demonstrated their interest in working with us and invited us for negotiations.

On the second and third day, we worked inter alia with the African bloc and some Arab states on a resolution that deals with the improvement of infrastructure in conflict-affected areas and to find local solutions. The so-called ‘rescue me’ resolution we worked on, was quite important to Australia since we especially worked closely with the Delegation of Ethiopia, which is a new and important partner in Australia’s aid policy and allows to gradually establish relations with other countries on the African continent. Being the bridge between the African countries and Asia on the one hand and the Western countries on the other hand, Australia managed to enhance dialogue between the two blocs and we had a great number of Western countries to sign our resolution.

All in all, Australia worked efficiently with many countries from all continents on this important issue, which was a very good outcome for the debate.

On the last day of debate, we finished the work on the resolutions and had a several hours long voting procedure since our Committee came up with 30 working papers, which resulted in 17 draft resolutions, from which 15 passed.

By and large, the four days of the conference were a unique, challenging and therefore extremely enriching time that we really enjoyed. Even though it was just a simulation, we think that we got quite a good impression of the UN by working with challenging partners making it hard to find common grounds, recognising the challenge to come up with new and creative ideas and co-ordinating our work with several partners at the same time.