BMUN 5 Political Committee Briefing
The Question of Promoting Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue
Throughout history there have been countless, sometimes violent, disputes in regards to conflicting religions and cultures. This problem has worsened in the last century as member states are becoming increasingly pluralistic and diverse. This question prompts investigation into both domestic and international dialogues in order to achieve peace and stability within and between problematic nations.
There have been significant improvements in recent decades as seen in, for example, increasing decolonisation, the elimination of apartheid, growing global awareness, as well as more tolerance and respect for foreign religions and cultures. However, negative factors such as economic polarisation between nation states and escalating political and social tensions have contributed to frustrations in attempts of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
KEY ISSUES AND FACTS
- Religious Israeli-Palestinian conflict: There has been 6 major wars over the last 60 years, the most recent major conflict being the Gaza War (2008-9), where there have been more than 7,000 casualties, 1430 of which were killed.
- Religious conflict in Iraq between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam: the American invasion in 2003 has further provoked the existence hatred between the two factions.
- Religious (Hindu and Muslim) and cultural conflict between India and Pakistan: Since the partition of British India in 1947, Indo-Pakistani relations have been tense, resulting in 4 wars so far.
- Cultural conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: persisting hatred between these ethnic groups have sparked the bloodiest armed conflict in modern African history: the Second Congo War. Since 1998, this War has resulted in 2.7-5.4 million excess casualties, including about 350,000 violent deaths. Hostilities continue until the present day.
- The Bahá’í Faith and Buddism have often been at the forefront of interreligious dialogue. However, there have been strong criticisms against interreligious and intercultural dialogue, accusing it of being an attempt by the West to enforce their policies onto other parts of the world.
SOME KEY NATIONS
- South Africa
- The Peace Dialogue Programme, created by the UN, placed social integration on the international agenda.
- In 2010, HM King Abdullah II addressed the 65th UN General Assembly and proposed the idea for a ‘World Interfaith Harmony Week’ to further broaden his goals of faith-driven world harmony by extending his call beyond the Muslim and Christian community to include people of all beliefs, those with no set religious beliefs as well. A few weeks later, HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad presented the proposal to the UN General Assembly, where it was adopted unanimously as a UN Observance Event.
- The annual UN World Interfaith Harmony Week reflects and extends efforts in interreligious dialogue by the UN.
- Encourage member states to legislate and enact laws to penalise any discrimination based on the religion or cultural background of individuals
- Broaden national curriculums such that accurate and unbiased information concerning different religions and cultures are incorporated
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER!
- Does your country have conflicting religious and cultural factions? If so, what policies have been implemented to encourage dialogue between them?
- In many cases, conflicts have been rooted in the history, attitudes and social fabric of communities for decades and even centuries – how can your country help improve this effectively?
- Violence counteracts the effects of peaceful dialogue – how can the UN stop attempts by problematic countries to use warfare as the solution to resolve religious and cultural conflicts?
The Question of Strengthening the Capacity of the UN to Manage and Sustain Peacekeeping Missions and Operations
Despite having exerted continued and organised efforts at global peacekeeping, the UN still faces many challenges in this challenging endeavour. The UN’s efforts in certain areas, for example Somalia in the early 1990s, have also been met with some hostility, which brought about more hurdles to effective peacekeeping. Its capacity can be broken down into the intrinsic ability of the UN (for example bureaucracy, structure and organisation) and external factors (such as the geographical, social, political and economic situations of host countries), both of which should be investigated in conjunction and treated with equal consideration.
KEY FACTS AND STATISTICS
- A recent challenge to the UN’s peacekeeping capacity was the Syrian crisis (as dealt with in UN Security Council resolution 2043 [April 2012]); the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) was set up, but its activities have been halted by the escalation of violence in Syria in June 2012.
- There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations and 1 special mission in Afghanistan. Most operations are in Africa and the Middle East.
- A UN success in peacekeeping was its intervention in East Timor in 1999. The Australian-led troops were successful in bringing about complete control to the country which had no government – this was unprecedented and a result of good management of limited resources.
- A UN failure in peacekeeping was its intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, its ‘largest peacekeeping effort to date’. Peacekeepers were ill-trained, badly organised and underfed. Hundreds of these troops were kidnapped by the rebels, stealing their guns and tanks.
In 2000, the UN started to analyse and introduce a series of reforms targeting the efficiency in managing and sustaining peacekeeping missions and operations. Below are the most notable reforms:
- New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping (2009) and its two annual progress reports assess the major policy and strategy dilemmas facing UN peacekeeping today and in the coming years.
- The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was split, creating a new Department of Field Support (DFS).
- The DFS developed the Global Field Support Strategy; this was designed to
- The Secretary-General introduced a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse, which was further strengthened by the Zeid Report in order to strengthen discipline within peacekeeping troops, thus maximising the UN’s capacity and efficiency in this area.
- The Brahimi Report (2000) called for “renewed political commitment on the part of Member States, significant institutional change and increased financial support.”
- Introduce tougher measures against host member states which do not cooperate with UN peacekeeping troops
- Employ more diplomatic means to resolve conflict
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER!
- How should the UN deal with criticisms concerning the possible infringement of national sovereignty in the UN’s peacekeeping endeavours?
- As of the case of UNSMIS, is the UN’s current peacekeeping capacity weak? Are there alternative ways to ensure global peace?
- How can your country contribute towards maximising the UN’s capacity in peacekeeping?
USEFUL GENERAL RESOURCES
- CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
- Key UN Documents: http://www.un.org/en/documents/index.shtml
- Permanent Missions to the UN by all member states: http://www.un.org/en/members/index.shtml
- Country Watch: http://www.countrywatch.com/