Humanitarian Committees: A Both Frustrating and Enlightening Experience

by Soraya on March 10, 2013

This passed NAIMUN, I delegated in the UN Women committee, which focused on the fight against Human Trafficking. Coming into it, I thought the committee would suffer from too many ‘unsolvable’ problems. I suspected it would end up frustrating me because I thought the lack of disagreement among countries would prevent any heated debate. I was also worried education and health care would be the extent of delegates’ ‘creative’ resolutions and felt that topic’s reliance on long-term solutions would make final decisions feel pending.

After anticipating all of these possible plights, I ended up leaving the committee proven overwhelmingly incorrect. While most countries did agree on finding a solution, Human Trafficking’s large variety of factors allowed for diversity, rather than a repetition, of ideas. Even if education and health care were definitely mentioned as solutions more than once, delegates tailored each to fight specifics of Trafficking (like physical and psychiatric therapy for victims). Although many solutions were, indeed, long term, the committee also took time to discuss possible short-term solutions.

My experience in the committee allowed me to see a new value in humanitarian committees and better understand how they could be approached so that they don’t following their boring stereotype.

The UN Millenium Goal Project designed to fight poverty


The rest of the article is both how to combat the frustrations humanitarian committees present and how to best go about researching and debating them.


“The Unsolvable Problem”Poverty

From poverty, you can trace the roots of poor education, poor health care, gender inequality, violence and drugs. And from either anyone of those problems, you can trace nearly every humanitarian topic discussed in Model United Nations. But as much as you wish it possible, you simply cannot solve the issue of poverty in one committee. That, however, is precisely why my committee was not just helping women but helping women affected by sex trafficking: it’s an issue that can be solved, at least with some skill and patience.

Try focusing on how the affects of those problems are unique to your topic. For example, in sex trafficking, educating boys to respect girls is a very specific aspect of education reform that tailors to the topic’s needs. Instead of just saying ‘improve education’ one could point out that there needs to be an increased attention towards the education of young men and how they see and treat women. Then provide ways in which one could both provide and execute said reforms.

Non-Governmental Organizations  (NGOs)naming one isn’t enough

  •  Many larger NGOs have programs to address specific global issues. For example, Organizations like the Ford and Clinton Foundation both have sections of their website addressing in detail the ways they combat Human Trafficking.
  • While big NGOs like Red Cross and the Human Rights Watch are not bad to include, delegates often abuse this and falsely assume the two organizations will finance every single one of their plans.
  • Chairs really appreciate when you find NGOs who base their work around the issue discussed in committee.
  • Finding local and grassroots NGOs is also wise because they’re more likely to have long-term results and meet the specific criteria of certain regions.
  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to contact NGOs and ask them questions. For my last committee I was actually able to communicate via e-mail with an organization called MARTA who fights human trafficking in Latvia. I took a chance and asked if they could answer some of my questions. Only four days later, I got a response with paragraphs of extremely useful information.
    • If you do this (and you should), just make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to ask for answers you know you can’t find online. Don’t be general about it: the people you’re asking are experts and can help you find the details you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Stopping Repetition

Repetition is definitely not a problem unique to Humanitarian committees, although they definitely suffer more often from it. Nevertheless, I believe the problem is a reflection of poor research. If you’re repeating yours and others plans over and over again, it’s likely you stopped researching after you found that “one” that you think is so brilliant.

  • When researching, ask yourself why present solutions to the problem aren’t working. In what ways could you increase their effectiveness? In what ways could your solutions avoid their mistakes?
  • Write down the ways in which some idealistic solutions are inadequate so when a bunch of delegates reiterate these utopian ideas you’re ready to question their actual potential.
  • Push yourself to be creative when drafting plans and maintain that creativity when in committee. It’s O.K. if you mention a plan in debate that you hadn’t in your position paper. In this way you’ll encourage others to be resourceful and stop repeating their original plans.

Connect to It

One of the things I’ve realized about Humanitarian Committees is simply that you have to care about the issue. It’s unlikely that you’ll do a good job if you could care less if the issue was actually solved.

  • Watch a documentary or movie on the topic: it connects all that you’ve read, all the black and white numbers and data, to real faces.
  • Read a book or narrative about a person affected by the problem. Of course this may be difficult under a time limit, but if you do have the time, this definitely helps you to connect emotionally.
  • Always remember that the problem you’re discussing affects actual people everyday. I bet the issue is more frustrating for them that it is for you (sorry).

After years of not being one of them, I’ve realized that delegates who dedicate themselves to Humanitarian Committees deserve some serious respect. There’s a reason these committees are so frustrating: they are some of the most difficult and complicated topics to solve. But, if you think of these committees as a challenge and approach them in a different manner than you would other committees, they help you develop a unique set of skills that could help you win any committee.

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