The Disconnect Between Religion and Extremism

This meeting was held to discuss the issues surrounding extremism, particularly religious extremism.

Dr. Hamad started by noting political and economic improvements relate to the establishment of peace and increasing how long peace lasts.

Dr. Tangara mentioned how the enemy, in this case ISIS, is more sophisticated than many acknowledge. ISIS has taken to attacking societies by attacking their culture. Additionally, he stated that it is important to replace the ancient education that tends to have xenophobic ideals.

Mrs. Lodico commented on the importance of separation of state from religion, and of religion from state. She noted how the world lacks enlightenment, contributing to the number of jihadists. Finally, she discussed how social media has played a proliferating part in the spread of ISIS Propaganda. She said that they began with a single propaganda video, and since then their social media presence has only decreased. Additionally, she pointed out how Nazis never celebrated the genocides that they perpetrated, and yet ISIS has streamed their atrocities thanks to their access to social media. Finally, she stated that fights against ISIL needed to be holistic.

Dr. Durbak noted that Dr. Al-Suwaidi’s book exposed the exploitation of Islam by ISIS. She stated how individuals fell into ISIS as a result of issues in their environments, and pointed out how the uneven distribution of resources can lead to exploitation, powerlessness, and distress.

Reverend Dr. Thomas noted the similarities between some concept of mirages and the story of Jesus in the bible. He pointed out that in extremism, there is a disconnect between religion and reality, and noted that extremism is not confined to any particular region.

Meeting: Forum on “Extremism-A threat and a challenge that needs to be addressed”

Date/Location: Thursday, April 7, 2016; 10:00-12:00, Conference Room 8

Speakers: Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General, World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations; H.E. Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the UN; Mrs. Yvonne Lodico, Founder Grace Initiative, Former Director, UN Institute for Training and Research, NY; Dr. Christine Durbak, Chair and CEO World Information Transfer; Rev. Dr. Douglas Thomas, Adjunct Professor of Religion at Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania; H.E. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR)

Written By: WIT Representative Olivia Gong

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

GSHRD_Logo_Trans_2Spot_Black_ProcessCyan_WhiteBackedThe 7th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was held this past Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Sponsored by 20 human rights NGOs, the Geneva Summit brings together various human rights leaders, activists, and dissidents from around the world who speak out on behalf of human rights, justice, and democracy. This year’s summit focused mainly on the themes of confronting authoritarianism, fighting oppression and defending human rights, communist regime reforms, and the future of liberal democracy.

This year’s panel discussion also highlighted two countries with very poor human rights’ records–Nigeria and Pakistan. Saa, a Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram, spoke about her personal experience when she was kidnapped by the terrorist group. Following this, Ashiq Masih, who is on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy, spoke about her personal experience and violation of her right to freedom of speech. Throughout the summit, various other human rights activists from countries such as Russia, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and China gave their personal stories of human rights violations, giving this year’s conference an added personal dimension.

Furthermore, during the conference, two prestigious awards were given out. The Women’s Rights Award was given to Masih Alinejad for the creation of a Facebook page inviting women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without a headscarf. This Facebook page became incredibly popular and represented the larger political message of protesting the requirement for women to wear a hijab. Ms. Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, said she is not strictly opposed to the hijab, but believes women should be given a choice about wearing one. The next award, the Courage Award, was given to Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on his blog.

Finally, the summit concluded with a discussion on the future of liberal democracy, with statements from the director of UN Watch and other human rights NGOs on the importance of promoting human rights and democracy, particularly in countries with poor human rights track records.

Meeting: Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy
Date & Location: Tuesday, 24 February 2015; UN Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
Speakers: Markus Loening, Chair of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Jakub Klepal, Executive Director, Forum 2000; Yavuz Baydar, Turkish journalist; Maria Baronova, Russian human rights activist; Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer; Yeon-Mi Park, 21-year-old North Korean defector; Tom Gross, journalist; Saa, Nigerian schoolgirl who escaped from Boko Haram; Emmanuel Ogebe, International Human rights lawyer; Pierre Torres, French Journalist held hostage by ISIS for 10 months; Philippe Robinet, CEO Editions Kero; Ashiq Masih, Husband of Asia Bibi, on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Dicki Chhoyang, Central Tibetan Administration; Ibrahem Al-Idelbi, Syrian journalist and activist; Il Lim, North Korean defector and former slave laborer; Maria Corina Machado, Venezuelan opposition leader; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China; Alex Chow, Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Lester Shum, Deputy Secretary General of Hong Kong Federation of Students; Amanda Alvarez, People in Need, Czech Republic; Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, Cuban human rights activist; Manuel Cuesta Morua, Cuban dissident leader; Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch; Fouzia Elbayed, MP, Morocco, Member of Human Rights Committee of Liberal International; Javier El-Hage, General Counsel, Human Rights Foundation; Subhas Gujadhur, Director, Universal Rights Group; Ladan Boroumand, Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran; Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident, president of Initiatives for China
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Special Event: Responsibility of States: State of Play and the Way Forward

6365386329_f24a5e7976_zThe Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Portugal, and South Africa co-organized a special event on the legally binding status of the “Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts.” Opening statements were made by Mr. Divel Tladi and Mr. Pavel Šturma, members of the International Law Commission (ILC). Professor Šturma stated that the draft articles are not yet “legally binding documents but enjoy a high level of authority” i.e. they are often referred to by international courts and tribunals.

Mr. Tladi asserted that the current trend of treating the ILC’s products without further deliberation and the input of states was dangerous for the international community. Assessment of the Commission’s approach should be addressed through a convention in which developing states could contribute. The Director of the Czech Republic’s International Law Department echoed a concern of Daniel Bethlehem, that codification would enable broad responsibility for states. Thus even those who provided military aid to other states have committed a wrongdoing in certain cases.

Dr. James Crawford, one of the contributors to the “Responsibility of States Act”, emphasized that though a convention may be progressive, countermeasures and varying views on multinational criminal responsibility would make consensus “virtually inconceivable”. The legal advisor to the Polish Foreign Minister also did not support the provocation of a conference, to which Portugal firmly disagreed. Earlier, a Portuguese legal advisor called conventions “the natural output of ILC work” that enables more stability.

Meeting: Special event on “Responsibility of States: State of Play and the Way Forward”
Location:
Conference Room 7, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Date:
29 October 2014
Written By WIT Representatives:
Alis Yoo and Brian Lee

Edited by WIT Representative: Philip Bracey and Aslesha Dhillon

Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of World War I

The French and German Mission to the United Nation jointly organized a special event in commemoration of 100th anniversary of the start of the seminal catastrophe of the 20th century – the World War One. Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal, the master of ceremonies, brought the audience’s attention to the 25 member states that co-hosted the event. They span from five continents, which serves to remind the audience that the global effect that the World War I left to people around the world. The global nature of the conflict is also reflected by the letters and diaries of those in the war, which were read during the event. The letters read are not only letters of the soldiers of the belligerent nations in Europe, but also those of the Red Cross nurses and colonial expeditionary forces drafted into the conflict.

IMG_9057 The Secretary-General commented that “the First World War was supposed to have been the war to end all wars”, yet “the battlefields of the Somme, Gallipoli, Passchendaele, Ypres and Verdun form just part of the human roll-call of carnage and unconscionable casualties etched into our collective memory”. He also said with regret that despite of the lessons learnt, military option is still chosen by some as a means to resolve problems. The Secretary-General also took the opportunity to remind the audience of the nature of the settlement followed by the war, and said that it is a particular apt time to reflect the way to ensure peace in the world as the UN steps into its 70th anniversary next years.

Three pieces of war-inspired music were played by the ORPHEUS Chamber Orchestra. The pieces, which are composed by Samuel Barber, Maurice Ravel, and Ludwig van Beethoven respectively, reflect the different moods of the grief of war and anxiety for peace and fraternity among all.

Meeting Title: Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of World War I

Speakers: H.E. Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Interns from the Permanent Missions of France and Germany; and an Intern from the Department of Public Information
Location: Economic and Social Chamber, United Nations Headquarters
Date: 8th July 2014
Written By WIT Representative: Harrison Chung
Edited By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Best Practices and Challenges in Implementing a Moratorium on the Death Penalty

abolitionThe Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Italy convened a meeting to discuss the best practices and challenges in abolishing the death penalty. Twenty-five years ago, only ¼ of UN member states did not practice the death penalty; today more than 4/5 UN member states have abolished it. However, there are many countries that still regularly use the death penalty, including the United States. H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began the meeting with a stringent call for all member states to abolish the death penalty. He stated that the death penalty disproportionately has an impact on people who are poor/disadvantaged because they often do not have access to appropriate legal counseling, and further stated that 14 countries permit the death penalty on children.

The Secretary General called on member states to ratify the 2nd optional protocol in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (abolition of the death penalty), and called on member states to support a resolution in the General Assembly to place a moratorium on the death penalty. “The death penalty has no place in the 21st century, together we can finally end this cruel and inhumane practice around the world”, he concluded. Next, the Permanent Representative of Italy, H.E. Mr. Cardi, affirmed his country’s dedication to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. He stated that capital punishment is degrading, and denies a person’s fundamental right to life. Following, Dr. Karman pointed out how some countries still use the death penalty as punishment when people speak out against their government, express their opinions, beliefs, thoughts, etc. She called on states to begin by eliminating the death penalty for these “crimes”, and to eventually abolish the death penalty as a whole.

Next, Mr. Garcetti, California’s former D.A., gave a statement on California’s challenges, and eventual success in instituting a de-facto moratorium on capital punishment. He also stated that there is no proof that capital punishment deters crime in the U.S. Furthermore, a study was done in the U.S. which found that it costs more to put a person to death than it does to imprison him/her for life, showing that the death penalty is not only a human rights violation, but an economic burden as well. Concluding the meeting, Dr. Paul Bhatti of Pakistan, and Mr. Maja of Zimbabwe, spoke about their countries’ experiences with the death penalty. Currently, Pakistan has the largest population (8,000) on death row; however, executions have been suspended since 2008. In Zimbabwe, no one has been executed since 2004, and the number of crimes punishable by death has significantly decreased in recent years.

Meeting Title: “Best Practices and challenges in implementing a moratorium on the death penalty”
Speakers: H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; H.E. Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of Italy; Dr. Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner; Dr. Paul Bhatti, Former Minister of National Harmony and Minority Affairs, Pakistan; Mr. Gil Garcetti, Former District Attorney for the state of California, United States of America; Mr. Innocent Maja, Attorney, Zimbabwe
Date: 2 July 2014
Location: Conference Room 1, United Nations HQ, New York
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan
Edited by WIT Representative: Aslesha Dhillon

Sustainable Support for Peace Building: the domestic and international aspects

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Today marked the annual session of the Peace Building Commission to discuss both the domestic and international elements of sustainable support in the peace building process. H.E. Mr. Patriota opened the dialogue by highlighting the weaknesses in current international aid, specifically the lack of political, technical, and financial assistance in helping these countries secure hard earned peace and stability.

Deputy Secretary General Mr. Eliasson focused heavily on the Commission’s need to sustain international attention beyond the immediate moment of acute crisis. While fighting may have stopped, the scars and public mistrust stemming from these conflicts often continue to be felt. To heal these scars, countries must restore and maintain public faith in the legitimacy of the state and trust in a peaceful road ahead. This requires that governments deliver public services, such as health care, education, and safe water, in a quick and equitable manner. But H.E Mr. Eliasson stressed that simple international aid rarely helps build this new social contract. Instead, it can weaken national ownership if not done in the right manner.

Mr. Eliasson highlighted three concrete areas of assistance for the international community to place high levels of importance on. First, support the development of the country’s own capacities and resources, primarily those that enable them to raise revenues. Second, fight the illicit flow of money, which resulted in losses totaling almost $1 trillion in developing countries last year. Finally, develop a predictable and more stable framework of support to facilitate peacebuilding in these at risk countries. H.E Mr. Ramos-Horta, former President of Timor-Leste, closed the meeting by commenting on his own experience in the successful peacebuilding process of Timor-Leste. Enabling the leaders of the region, both civilian and military, to engage in honest conversations that bridge the existing divide is essential to recovery. The international community must also help cultivate national ownership and national leadership, as foreign actors cannot stand in as the political leaders of an emerging country.

 

Meeting Title: Peacebuilding Commission annual session: Sustainable support for peacebuilding, the domestic and international aspects
Speakers: H.E. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Chair of the Peace Building Commission and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations; Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General; H.E. José Ramos-Horta, United Nations’ Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peace-building Office in Guinea-Bissau former President of Timor Leste General;
Location: United Nations HQ, New York City
Date: 23 June 2014
Written by WIT Representative: Zachary Halliday
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

 

Humanitarian Crises in Colombia and Myanmar

Rakhine camp._(8288488088)Today in the Trusteeship Council a meeting was convened on the humanitarian crises in Colombia and Myanmar. Beginning the meeting, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Kang, gave a briefing on the situation in Colombia, which continues to be grave as the country faces various humanitarian challenges including natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, as well as widespread violence from armed conflict. Currently, there are over 5.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, with the biggest threats to human security coming from violence against women, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the use of land mines. She pointed out the importance of humanitarian relief funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), but urged donors to do more in supporting Colombia’s humanitarian needs.

Next, Mr. Hochschild, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Colombia, gave a statement about how decreases in poverty in Colombia have not been matched by decreases in inequality. He pointed out the three main dimensions of inequality that persist in Colombia, which are gender inequality, ethnic inequality, and geographic inequality. This inequality combined with ongoing conflict is only making the humanitarian situation in Colombia worse. Following, the Permanent Representative of Colombia spoke about how Colombia must overcome conflict in a sustainable way, so victims and survivors are at the center of the post conflict resolution process. She called for the support of the UN, and pointed out how war is a significant driver of poverty, and every opportunity needs to be taken to promote peace.

Next, Ms. Kang then gave a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, where thousands of people in Rakhine and Kachin states continue to rely on humanitarian aid, and are so far unable to rebuild their lives due to conflict. The IDP camps are in terrible condition, severely restrict freedom of movement, and seriously lack access to adequate health care, water, and jobs. Myanmar also suffers from regular earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, which contribute to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Concluding the meeting, the Permanent Representative of Myanmar spoke about the trust deficit that exists between the government and the donor community. He called for a human rights based approach to humanitarian aid, and an improvement of relations between Myanmar’s government and UN organizations/NGOs.

 

Meeting Title: “The Humanitarian Situation in Colombia and Myanmar” (Organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA))
Speakers: Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Resident and Coordinator for Colombia; H.E. Ms. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN; Mr. Kyaw, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN
Date: 18 June 2014
Location: Trusteeship Council, United Nations HQ, New York
Written by WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan

Starvation: Assad’s battering ram against the Syrians

“Kneel or Starve”

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The Danish Ambassador to the UN hosted a panel to reiterate Denmark’s determination to end starvation as a weapon of war in Syria.

Mr. Zakarya started with a personal account of the life in the besieged and chemically attacked city of Moadamiya. Victims of the regime’s “Kneel or Starve” strategy, the people of Moadamiya survived on a diet of sugar and rice before resorting to foraging edible plants. He added that the Assad regime actively blocked delivery of aid, and individuals who sought medical treatment are shot when returned to the city. Speaking of the disheartening story of a grocer’s daughter starved to death, he said that the strategy deprives Syrians not only of food, but also hope.

Mr. Sammond illustrated the severity of starvation in Syria by pointing to the fact that more Syrians died of starvation than that of illness and attack. Referring to Amnesty International’s report on the Yarmouk refugee camp, he pointed out that there is only half an hour of water supply per day. The lack of supplies is also illustrated by the fact that hospitals are lit by candles and even cigarette lighter, and caesarian sections are performed with little or no anesthetia.

Mr. Al-Dimashqy illustrated the shortage of food by stating that price of food increased by tenfold. Mr. Bitari provided a voice of Palestinians in Syria, and urged the international community to intervene the situation in Yarmouk camp.

Echoing the call for intervention, Dr. Ghadbian joined from the floor by stating that the problem with the starvation strategy is the lack of enforcement of Security Council Resolution 2139, which demanded parties to allow delivery of humanitarian assistance. Saudi Ambassador Al-Mouallimi passionately expressed his regret that some countries prevented the passing of a resolution for bringing those who caused this atrocity to justice.

 

Meeting Title: Panel discussion on “Life under siege: Starvation as a weapon of war”
Speakers: H.E. Ambassador Ib Petersen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations; Alexandra Hiniker, Pax Christi International (Moderator); Qusai Zakarya, Social Activist and Survivor of chemical attack in Moadamiya, Syria; Neil Sammonds, Researcher for Syria at Amnesty International; Ammar Al–Dimashqy, Social Activist in Besieged Areas; Nidal Bitari, Palestinian Lead for Human Rights in Syria; Dr. Najib Ghadbian, Special Representative to the United Nations of National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Force; H.E Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations.
Location: United Nations HQ, Economic and Social Council Chamber, New York
Date: 5 June 2014
Summary Written By WIT Representative: Harrison Chung

 

International Law and Crisis in Ukraine: A Roundtable Discussion

Recent events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have raised an array of challenging issues related to self-determination, secession, international intervention, and annexation. The panel aims to explore the legal and policy implications of these issues.

Note: It was recorded that no representative were present from the Russian Federation or from the 11 nation states that were against UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 that was adopted on 27 March 2014, entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”

In the pursuit of conducting a balanced debate on the issue of Crimea, participants were shown a video of the Republic of Nicaragua delegation providing the UN General Assembly their reasoning for voting against resolution 68/262. The main point highlighted related to the issue of self-determination. This Managua believed validated both – the referendum itself hosted in Crimea on March 16, 2014 and its outcome to join the Russian Federation.

H.E. Yuriy Sergeyev strongly posited that the referendum was illegitimate as it was inspired by Russia and the plebiscite took place while Russian soldiers occupied the peninsula. A similar view is shared by the 100 nations states that were in favour of resolution 68/262 on respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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Christopher Borgen, acting as a legal advisor on the panel, stated that Moscow’s rationale of categorizing the events, as humanitarian intervention too did not have any legal biases, as matters of intervention do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Crimean Constitution [Article 1] as granted by the parent state; Ukraine. Furthermore, he argued that even if the idea of self-determination is condoned in this scenario, it by no means gives any right to entirely dismember the state.

H.E. Ambassador Yuriy further denounced Moscow for violating the 1994 Budapest Agreement and for acting in a manner inconsistent with international law and thus “creating an imbalance in the international security environment”. As part of the agreement of ‘94, Ukraine had given up its nuclear weapons “on the basis of an explicit Russian guarantee of its territorial integrity”. However by breaching this guarantee, President Putin has undermined the foundational framework of the international order by disrespecting historical obligations that take expression in the form of treaties, pacts and agreements.

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Meeting Title:  International Law and Crisis in Ukraine: A Roundtable Discussion
Speakers: Bettina B. Plevan Proskauer Rose LLP, Chair, Council on International Affairs; Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations; Christopher J. Borgen, Associate Dean for International Studies and Professor of Law, St. John’s University School of Law; Mark A. Meyer, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Moldova in New York, Herzfeld & Rubin, P.C.
Location: The Council on International Affairs of the New York City Bar Association
Date: 4 June 2014
Summary by WIT representative: Apurv Gupta
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark