Paris Peace Conference, 1919

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919!

My name is Lily Piao, and I am a sophomore at Harvard College concentrating in History. I was born in China, but since moving to New York as a seven year old I’ve become a tried and true New Yorker. I was on the Model Congress team for all four years of high school, but it was not until I arrived at Harvard that I discovered my love for Model UN. After serving as Assistant Director for HMUN and HNMUN as a freshman, I joined ICMUN, Harvard’s competitive model UN team. When I’m not working with the International Relations Council, I design for the Harvard Political Review and tutor students in the Cambridge area. When I’m not in class, I love walking my proctor’s golden retriever, watching Netflix, and exploring with my friends.

I’m incredibly excited to be your Director for the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and I look forward to four days of interesting and engaging debate. In my guide and in committee, we will explore the ways in which the Paris Peace Conference was a turning point in Middle Eastern history and in global history. We will revisit history to examine the ways in which European powers interfered in the affairs of the former Ottoman Empire either in favor of or against specific minority groups. We will also question the ways in which imperialism manifested itself both through the bilateral promises made by Britain during the war and through the mandate system. This committee includes states that were not fully represented at the original Paris Peace Conference, and I hope this will increase agency for groups whose futures were decided by the outcomes of the conference. I can’t wait to see how you decide to resolve the many contentious issues surrounding the Paris Peace Conference!

I look forward to meeting you all! Please reach out if you have any questions.

Lily Piao
Director, Paris Peace Conference of 1919
Harvard National Model United Nations 2018

Topic Area A: Imperialism vs. Local Sovereignty

During World War I, Great Britain made three bilateral promises: The Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Husayn-McMahon Correspondences, and the Balfour Declaration. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, made to France and the Husayn-McMahon Correspondences, made to Sharif Husayn of Mecca, were inherently contradictory. The first agreement divided most of the Arab lands in the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence for Britain and France while the second seemed to promise the establishment of an independent Arab state led by Sharif Husayn in exchange for Arab support against the Ottoman Empire. England chose to honor the promise that it made to its fellow imperialist power rather than the one it made to the nominal representative of the Arab population. Just like the first two promises, the third promise continues to be a source of contention because it implied the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel. This committee must decide whether or not to honor these secret bilateral promises.

The League of Nations was created during the Paris Peace Conference, and one crucial article in the Covenant of the League of Nations was Article 22, which established the mandate system. This system gave mandatory powers over territories and colonies formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire to Allied nations. The purpose of the system was ostensibly to allow more “developed” nations to aid states in the Middle East in establishing stable, democratic governments, but many in the region and outside of it decried mandates as disguised imperialism. This committee must decide if it would like to modify or completely rework the mandate system that allowed imperialist powers to dictate the establishment of new governments in the Middle East. If the mandate system is allowed to continue, the committee will also determine what clauses must be added to ensure that the Allied powers take actions that are beneficial rather than detrimental for Middle Eastern states.

Topic Area B: The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a conglomerate of many minorities, including the Armenians and the Kurds. The Treaty of Sèvres allotted an independent state to the Armenians and an autonomous region to the Kurds, but it did nothing to ensure that these new states would be protected. Soon after the ratification of the Treaty of Sèvres, Mustafa Kemal eliminated any hope of the immediate success of these states by militarily conquering the Anatolian peninsula, which included the territories given to Armenians and Kurds. The committee must consider whether participants of the Paris Peace Conference have the right to dictate sovereignty, and if they did what are the criteria by which the committee will evaluate each group’s claim to sovereignty? What specific actions would the committee be willing to take to protect new minority states, should it chose to create them?

The Paris Peace Conference also did not address issues of actions taken by the Ottoman government before and during World War I. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) that was at the helm of the Ottoman government in 1915 directly caused the deaths of over one million Armenians in what is now widely recognized as a genocide. However, there was no official recognition of the crimes committed by the CUP and no attempt at international intervention in favor of reparations for the Armenians other than the failed establishment of an Armenian state. The committee must also consider the rights of the Greek and Turkish population living in the Ottoman Empire. As demonstrated by the massacre of Greeks in Smyrna by Mustafa Kemal’s forces and by the forced population exchange between Turkey and Greece soon after, signatories at the Paris Peace Conference failed to ensure that minority populations would be protected in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire and in the age of nationalism.