Disarmament and International Security Committee


Director's Letter:


Dear Delegates,

Welcome to the Disarmament and International Security Committee!

My name is Graham Macklin. I am currently a sophomore at Harvard College and am concentrating in Economics with a secondary in Statistics. My current goal is to go into climate policy research, but I also am fascinated by international relations and in particular the politics of the European Union and the Middle East.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts and have lived in Wayland since I was four years old. I started doing Model UN the summer after fifth grade, but only began competing in my freshman year of high school and have continued to compete in and run conferences at the collegiate level as a member of Harvard’s travelling Model UN team and an Assistant Director for the Paris Peace Conference committee at last year’s HNMUN. Other than Model UN my main extracurricular is the club Nordic ski team.

In this committee you will have the chance to discuss one of the most important and difficult security problems facing the world today – ensuring peace and stability for the people of the Middle East. We will be focusing on the issue of the Kurds, often referred to as the world’s largest “stateless nation” and key players in the recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

In this committee delegates will have the rare opportunity to experience the complex interplay of different UN bodies as this committee will be able to, and will in all likelihood need to, interact with the Security Council in order to effectively implement the solutions that delegates devise. Not only will this ensure that delegates will get a more realistic understanding of the workings of the UN, it will also allow for more interesting discussions – actions taken by the Security Council might well change the facts on the ground, forcing delegates to modify their arguments and update their solutions, keeping debate lively and exciting.

Please be sure to read the background guides when they are released and do any more research necessary to fully understand your state’s position – the better prepared for this that you are the more fun it will be for you and for the rest of the committee.

I look forward to a wonderfully fun and substantive weekend with you all,

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to me.


Graham Macklin
Director, Disarmament and International Security Committee
Harvard National Model United Nations 2019


Topic Area: The Kurdish Question, Revisited

As of yet, the Kurds have largely failed in their push for statehood. The closest the Kurds have come to their own state legally is an autonomous region in the northeast of Iraq. This has helped to placate some Iraqi Kurds, but there has been significant tension between the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi central government, leading to gridlock and animosity, with the Kurdish government going so far as to, largely unsuccessfully, declare independence in a criticized referendum. As Syria has descended into civil war, however, the Kurds have been able to create a de facto autonomous region in the northeast of the country, but freedom, and even autonomy, is explicitly rejected by many Arab (as well as some Kurdish) leaders, both pro- and anti- government, so it is unclear what will happen when the war is over.

It is up to delegates to decide whether they believe that the Kurds should be granted a state, and if so, where it should be. While a General Assembly is not able to directly grant recognition to a state, as that remains the prerogative of the Security Council, in an environment as fluid as the current Middle East, the decisions that this committee makes could have the power to significantly alter the future of the Kurdish people, with its proposal naturally becoming a starting point for any negotiations. The committee, if it chooses this topic, is tasked with developing a suggestion for the boundaries of a Kurdish state, along similar lines to A/RES/181(II) which proposed boundaries for a Jewish state in Palestine in 1947. Such a proposal for the boundaries could be anything from nothing to a full state made up of all of the Kurdish claimed land in all four countries with a significant Kurdish population, although a successful proposal would likely be somewhere in between.

When proposing such solutions, it is imperative that delegates consider the security issues that surround the establishment of a new state in hostile territory. Would such a state receive outside assistance in securing its borders? How would the various armed Kurdish factions be encouraged to share power peacefully? How would the international community assuage fears that such a state would not act as a training ground and safe haven for Kurdish terrorists in Kurdish regions not contained within the proposed state?

Whether or not a Kurdish state is formed, Kurds will be a minority ethnic group in many very violent and unstable areas. Their rights are at risk of being violated and their safety is often, if not constantly, threatened. The United Nations has acknowledged that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” at risk populations from crimes against humanity. The committee must therefore decide how it will carry out this responsibility to protect in relation to the Kurds.

Between the Gulf War and the Second Iraq War, the US, Britain, and France imposed a no-fly zone over most of Iraqi Kurdistan to ensure that the Iraqi central government did not attack its Kurdish population, and have taken similar measures in western Syria during the Syrian civil war in order to protect their Kurdish allies against Syrian and Russian forces. Neither of these actions were explicitly endorsed by the UN, but both have widely been seen as helpful in protecting the Kurds. The committee must therefore decide how much international intervention is warranted in order to uphold its responsibility to protect the Kurdish population. Are no-fly zones enough or should more be done, and if so, how can the United Nations take this initiative?

Delegates must also consider violence between different Kurdish factions. Various regions of Kurdistan support different, and often opposed, Kurdish factions. A prime example of this is in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is split between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) which were enemies in a civil war only about twenty years ago. They have been at peace since, but the recent resignation of the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, following a failed attempt to declare independence from Iraq, risks pushing the two group back into conflict. Because of the sensitivity towards Iraqi forces in Kurdish territory given previous actions by the Iraqi central government (under Saddam Hussein, not the current government) which some regard as genocidal, the international community might well need to get involved to mediate a conflict in order to ensure that Kurdish rights and lives are fully protected.

Bearing these issues in mind, delegates, if they choose this sub-topic, will have to discuss and determine the proper balance between the international community’s responsibility to protect Kurdish rights and lives and the sovereignty of the states in which Kurds live.



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