DISEC

 

Disarmament and International Security Committee

The Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), also known as the First Committee, is one of the six main committees of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It takes up disarmament and international security matters in the light of the general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, in order to prevent the disruption of armed conflict and the heightening of tensions in the international system. Since the past decade, the committee has been focusing on the issues of nuclear non-proliferation, illicit traffic of small arms, and regional militarization.

As a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, the DISEC is entitled to present its recommendations over the issues under its consideration to a plenary meeting of the Assembly, usually in the form of draft resolutions and decisions. Through this mechanism, the First Committee has been the primary origin of legal initiatives that led to important international treaties and conventions, such as the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996.

Each Member State of the United Nations is represented by one delegate in this committee and decisions on draft resolutions and recommendations are approved on a two-thirds majority basis, turning the DISEC into a broad and inclusive platform for the debate of pertinent issues concerning the maintenance of international peace and security.

 

TOPIC: The Militarization of the Arctic: Political, Economic and Climate Challenges

The Arctic is not only the Arctic Ocean, but also the northern tips of three continents: Europe, Asia and America. It is the place where the Euroasian, North American and Asian Pacific regions meet, where the frontiers come close to one another and the interests of states belonging to mutually opposed military blocs and nonaligned ones cross (…). Let the North of the globe, the Arctic, become a zone of peace. Let the North Pole be a pole of peace.

Mikhail Gorbachev, in a speech in Murmansk, October 1, 1987.

 
The Arctic region has been emerging as a potential conflict zone since the earliest attempts for its militarization. Despite having gained importance during the Second World War, when the region served as a supply line to the Soviet Union from the Allies, it was only during the Cold War that it gained major strategic importance. The division of the international system in two antagonistic blocs created a competition for strengthening military capabilities in order to succeed in the case of a military threat. Also, the prospects for the development of the region in its economic and energetic facets encouraged disputes over it.

For this reason, the Soviet Union, especially, through the creation of the Northern Fleet – aimed to become the basis for Soviet emergence as a naval power – but also the United States, strengthened their positions in the Arctic. Indeed, during the Cold War both states developed military capabilities in the region, among which the deployment of nuclear submarines armed with missiles and the antisubmarine patrol aircraft were the greatest threats.

The projections of climate change have shifted the world’s attention to the Arctic. The region is seen as having great potential mainly because of its natural resources. It is estimated that 13% of world’s oil resources and 37% of its natural gas resources are located in the region (Smith 2011a). With respect to these reserves, about 70% are located in the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (Yenikeyeff and Krysiek 2007). The resources of the Yamal Peninsula, for example, are already being explored.

Beyond that, and of major economic relevance, the progressive thawing may open a maritime transit passageway, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the Northwest Passage (NP) due to summer ice melt, priority to the Russian and Canadian governments respectively. “In comparison with traditional southern sea routes via the Suez or Panama Canals, the NSR offers a considerable reduction (about 40 percent) in the travelling distance between Europe and the west coast of North America, Northeast Asia and the Far East” (Yenikeyeff and Krysiek 2007, 9). The Northwest Passage is mainly disputed between Canada and the United States over its status as internal or international waters. Currently, the utilization of such passages is still limited to the risks and costs of icebreaking. However, it is likely that in some decades these routes will be used despite such challenges, realizing the dream of the navigators from the 15th century of a new route, going through the Arctic Ocean, which would shorten the connection between Asia and Europe (Smith 2011a).

In face of such benefits, the States situated in the Arctic region have been attempting to push forward their territorial claims, of which the dispute over the Lomonosov Ridge (disputed by Denmark, Canada and Russia) is the most prominent. In accordance to the United Nations Convention o the Law of the Sea, a State may enlarge its Exclusive Economic Zone if it is proved that the seabed is an extension of its continental shelf. The turning point in this debate was the 2007 Russian expedition into the Arctic Ocean – Arktika 2007 – in search of geological evidences to prove the extension of its continental shelf. After the Russian flag has been planted in the seabed, the other States have also launched their own expeditions.

In order to achieve the interests of the States one may face an increasing process of militarization and territorial divergences in the region. The Arctic Five nations (United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark) have been developing their military capabilities and their demands in icebreakers to the exploitation of natural resources and commercial routes (Smith 2011b). The potential benefits of the Arctic are also calling the attention of non-regional States, such as China, India, Japan, and also the European Union, among others. These States are increasing their capabilities and investing in technologies to exploit the Arctic. Their role is important, because if their interests are not fulfilled they may intervene in such a way to achieve them.

Therefore, we invite 2013 UFRGSMUN’s delegates to discuss all these issues concerning the Arctic region from the perspective of potential conflicts, which involve the international peace and security. Above all, the debate must take into account not only the interests of the Arctic countries, but the consequences of the issue to the international community. As a result, delegates may find a consistent solution, which could include a revision or reassurance of Arctic region status.

 

References

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Blank, Stephen J. 2011. Editor. Russia in the Arctic. Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute.
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Smith, Laurence. 2011a. O Mundo em 2050. Rio de Janeiro: Elsevier.
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Yenikeyeff, Shamil and Krysiek, Timothy. 2007. “The Battle for the Next Energy Frontier: The Russian Polar Expedition and the Future of Arctic Hydrocarbons”. Oxford Energy Comment. Available at: <http://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Aug2007-TheBattleforthenextenergyfrontier-ShamilYenikeyeff-and-TimothyFentonKrysiek.pdf>. Accessed January 11, 2013.
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