The SDGs and Negative Attitudes Towards Migrants

Fleeing persecution: The Syrian migrants run after crossing under the fence to Hungary at the Serbian border

The meeting was convened to discuss the measuring of sustainable development goals and targets related to migration. Attention was drawn towards the disproportion in recruitment and employment between migrant and non-migrant workers. Mr. Hovy argued that the task for 2017 is to desegregate such disparities.

In measuring targets related to human trafficking, Mr. Fowke cited targets 5.2 and 8.7 which address violence against women and children, respectively. He advocated for a global indicator that can apply to entire populations and aid in desegregation. Moreover, in order to adequately measure statistics of human trafficking, we must ensure the inclusion of hidden and undetected cases of trafficking victims. Right now, there is no existing methodology to accurately count the number of victims worldwide. He also noted that in terms of the prevalence of populations at risk, the focus of the SDGs on only beneficiaries does not accurately define the overall at-risk population. We need a numerator but also a denominator. We need a percentage and not just a total number.

Next, H.E. Mr. Eliasson recognized that large movement of people has become a prominent feature in the emerging global landscape. Through the 2030 commitment to confront challenges and improve lives, states must leave no one behind and help those farthest behind. Currently, the latter includes migrants, refugees, and displaced persons. H.E. noted the current negative regard for migrants that has pervaded throughout the International Community. We must move towards a positive global role and an appreciation for the beauty of diversity in societies. He concluded by calling on all states to uphold the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 protocol. Managing and protecting the dignity and rights of migrants irrespective of their statuses could help bring an end to poverty and an increase in global prosperity.

Meeting: Fourteenth Annual Coordination Meeting on International Migration (organized by the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA))   

Date/Location: Friday, February 26th, 2016; 10:00-13:00 and 15:00-18:00; Conference Room 11

Speakers: Ms. Yongyi Min, Chief of SDG Monitoring Unit, DESA; Mr. Martin Fowke, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime; Mr. Bela Hovy, Moderator; H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General

Written By: WIT Representative Emilie Broek

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Nation-State of Emergency: Providing International Aid to Syria

Syrian refugees in Kurdistan, Iraq.:

Today, at the 7611th meeting of the Council, there was an unanimous vote led by the President in favor of document S/2016/81, a draft resolution presented by France. The meeting was adjourned immediately afterwards.

The 7612th meeting about the situation in the Middle East and the agenda to be adopted in accordance with it, the S/2016/60 report of the Secretary General, was then initiated. Firstly, Mr. O’Brien spoke on the necessity to agree on providing aid in Syria despite political barriers. With over 200,000 people killed and more than 1 million injured, there are now 4.6 million refugees; the 13.5 million people left are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. He stressed the importance on the protection of civilians, calling the situation in Madaya as the “tip of the iceberg.” To give more numbers on the conflict in Syria, there are 2 million people out of school; 35 schools attacked in 2015. A mere 10% of the 113 requests on the much-needed humanitarian assistance were resolved, and many could not be approved due to the lack of security. He stressed three conditions: 1) stop targeting civilians and their infrastructures that are necessary for human survival, 2) facilitate full access to all people in need, including besieged areas for medical supplies, and 3) allow freedom of movement for all civilians. “The Syrian people cannot wait any longer,” he stated. Ms. Cousin reiterated this call for help with her following briefing. In July 2014, the first interagency convoy allowed people to leave and enter Madaya with only one checkpoint. However, in December 2015, the checkpoint was closed, leaving 44,000 people besieged. Now, food there is very limited – this is just one example of the struggle in Syria that desperately needs aid.

Meeting: Security Council, 7611th & 7612th Meeting

Date/Location: Wednesday, January 27th, 2016; 10:00-11:00; Security Council Chamber

Speakers: President of the United Nations Security Council, José Luis Cancela; Mr. Stephen O’Brien: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ms. Ertharin Cousin: Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Unknown

General Elections in the General Assembly


Today, there was a meeting held by the General Assembly. It was divided into three parts: the election of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Appointment of the judges of the UN Dispute Tribunals, and the Appointment of the judges of the UN Appeals Tribunals.

Mr. Mogens Lykketoft led the meeting on the voting and announcements of various positions. Mr. Filippo Grandi of Italy was elected as the High Commissioner for Refugees. The distinguished representatives of the Pacific, European Union, and the Gulf spoke their congratulations and support for Mr. Grandi’s election. His term will begin on January 16th, 2015 and end on December 1st, 2020. His responsibilities are to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve their problems internationally.

This is relevant to the current problem in Syria, which is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The Office was created in 1950, and since then, it has helped nearly 55 million internally displaced and stateless refugees and returnees.

The Internal Justice Council recommended the judges of the Tribunals, who were appointed today by the Assembly. The statutes of the Tribunals were adopted and amended in resolution. There was a written ballot on the election for the Appeals and Dispute Tribunals, following the rules of procedure. Because the terms of the current judges are expiring, new judges who are eligible for election were voted for consideration. There are currently four vacancies on the Appeals Tribunal and three on the Dispute Tribunal from July 1st, 2016, to be voted for positions, which can be either full-time or half-time. This procedure for identifying suitable candidates enables the Council to place in an informal roster to possibly serve for the next scheduled term of judges.

Meeting: General Assembly 57th Plenary Meeting

Date/Location: Wednesday, November 18th, 2015; 11:00-11:30; General Assembly Hall

Speakers: Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly

Written By: WIT Representative Jin Yoo

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Placing the Displaced: Accomodating the Refugee Crisis


   The Third Committee hosted a meeting to address the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The report focused on the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to seek safety over the last few months. 60 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced as a result of war and persecution. In the past five years alone, the number of people forced from their homes every single day has quadrupled from under 11,000 in 2010 to 42,500.

   The meeting began with remarks from delegates. The first delegate was the representative of Kuwait, and he paid tribute to the High Commissioner for extending humanitarian efforts to the refugees even under every difficult conditions. He stated that Kuwait emphasizes continuation and support to the high commission, and that the country has participated voluntarily to 1 million dollars in aid. The representative also explained that he was very concerned by the suffering of refugees and displaced people in Iraq, which resulted from activity carried out by the Islamic State extremist militant group.

   Another notable speaker was the representative of Pakistan, who stated that the process of helping the refugees has been much too slow and inadequate, and that the international community has ignored this for far too long. The delegate explained that only 127,000 people were able to return home this year, which is the lowest number since 1983. One of the biggest issues is the lack of nutrition and education among children, which could lead to the risk of losing an entire generation.

   A representative who offered a different perspective was the delegate from Kenya, who explained that the burden of hosting refugees is enormous, especially financially. However, Kenya continues to welcome refugees in accordance to tradition.

Meeting: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions

Date/Location: Wednesday November 4, 2015, 10:00 – 13:00; Conference Room 1

Speakers: Representative of Kuwait; Representative of Nigeria; Representative of Pakistan; Representative of Japan; Representative of Kenya; Representative of India

Written By: WIT Representative Kangho (Paul) Jung

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Frank Augstein/AP

Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability


Today an event was held which highlighted how environmental sustainability is an integral part in humanitarian aid effectiveness. The panelists in this meeting discussed the findings from a report entitled “Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability.”

The first speaker, Ms. Gebremedhin, the Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland, began by addressing various environmental issues that need to be taken into account during humanitarian action, in order for it to reach its full potential. For example, management of solid wastes and hazardous materials and safeguarding natural resources are essential, and the reduction of deforestation, desertification, and pollution is necessary for sustained livelihoods in the aftermath of a disaster. Furthermore, efficient leadership and accountability are needed in humanitarian situations, and addressing environmental concerns is a shared responsibility between donors and humanitarian organisations.

Following, Mr. Khalikov, Director of OCHA Geneva, stated the effectiveness of humanitarian aid is dependent on environmental conditions. He cited floods and draughts as main environmental threats that can complicate an already existing humanitarian crisis, like a famine or armed conflict.

Ms. Anita van Breda from WWF USA spoke about combining climate change adaptation strategies with disaster risk reduction. She highlighted the Green Recovery Program – a partnership between WWF and the American Red Cross –, which works to sustain livelihoods, provide adequate water, sanitation, and shelter, and deals with disaster management. Her three key recommendations to take the environment into consideration when taking humanitarian action included: updating academic training and professional development, learning to manage change and developing new ways of learning, and ensuring that staff and volunteers have the necessary discipline, skills, and aptitude.

Concluding the meeting Ms. Costa, the Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission spoke about the threat faced by women and girls when they have to leave their refugee camps to collect firewood for cooking and heating. Many have to travel 5 or 6 hours a day to collect enough wood to cook just one meal, and on the journey are raped, beaten, or killed. Ms. Costa emphasised the importance of shifting communities away from dependence on wood fuel and towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable options in order to decrease the threat of this gender based violence and to reduce deforestation and resource overconsumption.

Meeting Title: Environment and Humanitarian Action: Increasing Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Accountability
Speakers: Ms. Anna Gebremedhin, Director of Humanitarian Assistance and Foreign Affairs of Finland; Mr. Rashid Khalikov, Director of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Geneva; MS. Anita van Breda, Director of Humanitarian Partnerships, WWF USA; Ms. Sarah Costa, Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Commission
Location: Conference Room 5 NLB, United Nations HQ, New York
Date: 23 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT Representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark 

Voices From Syria

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 17 January 2014

During “Voices From Syria,” hosted by the Permanent Mission of Norway, three refugees from Syria spoke about their experiences during the current Syrian Civil War.  Mr. Knut Langeland the Norwegian Minister Counselor on Political Affairs, Disarmament, and the Security Council moderated.

Mr. Anas al-Dabas, a pharmacist from Darayya, Syria recounted how men from his town were pulled out into the street and humiliated by soldiers from the Assad regime.  Fifteen-second interrogations were deemed sufficient by the soldiers to establish the men as innocent or guilty, the later being punishable by death. Mr. al-Dabas explained that his neighbor, who narrowly survived the attack himself, showed him a basement in which 70 civilians were massacred.  Throughout the rest of the town more than 1,000 civilians had been killed by the Assad regime.

(A picture taken on January 19th of activists saving a young girl after her parents were killed in an air strike by a group loyal to President Assad in Allepo. The National. Picture: Mahmoud Hebbo)

Following this account, two cousins, Ms. Amineh Sawan and Ms. Hiba Sawan from Moadamiya, Syria detailed their experiences.  Feeling lightheaded, Amineh Sawan and her cousin rushed to a field clinic the day that the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons in late August 2013.  Upon their arrival, the pair sought to aid other victims by administering CPR.  Amineh Sawan recalled seeing other victims who had become paralyzed or twitched uncontrollably as result of the sarin gas. Hiba Sawan described how citizens of Moadamiya faced shelling and sniper fire at all times.  She recounted that the Assad regime deployed a strategy of “surrender or starve,” in which all access into and out of the area was cut-off.  

Mr. Langeland opened the floor to questions.  When asked about the future of Syria, all three refugees expressed concern about under education and the lack of hope for the their generation of young adults and teens. In closing, the refugees were asked whom they held accountable for these atrocities beyond the Assad regime. While Mr. al-Dabas looked at the inaction of the UN and the Unites States, Ms. Amineh Sawan and Ms. Hiba Sawan were more concerned about China, Russia, India, and other allies of Assad. All three Syrian refugees pled for their countries freedom, asking the world to stop clumping Syria with the external conflicts of Iran and Israel, and to focus on getting the current regime out of power so peace can be possible. 

Written by WIT intern: Katherine King