Where Did That Come From: The Origin of Model UN Phrases

by lizabell on April 26, 2015

International Court of Justice (ICJ) in session

International Court of Justice (ICJ) in session

This article is for both seasoned veterans and new Model UNers, as it addresses several important terms to recognize in committee. Do you remember at your first conference when you were throw into the mix of international politics? Do you remember when more experienced would throw around fancy words like “sovereignty” and “jurisdiction”? At first you might have been unsure about what they meant, but you eventually were able to understand all the different terms delegates brought up. Hey, you even started using them when you needed to defend your country’s policies! However, do you really know where these terms come from and that even the actual United Nations uses them? Most of these terms can be explained in the context of international law and international treaties. Impress your chair and your fellow delegates when you bring up the context of these terms! Chances are, you may even win a superlative for “Most likely to work in the UN”!

“This resolution will go against the sovereignty of our country…”

The good ol’ sovereignty card is always played at a Model UN conference and rightly so. How did the argument of sovereignty come about? One of the first instances of the practice of sovereignty came up after the Thirty Year’s War in the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty stated, “all electors and princes and states of the Roman Empire shall be established and confirmed in their ancient rights, liberties…” The Peace of Westphalia allowed for the development of states on their own terms. Many legal scholars argue that sovereignty contradicts any gains in international law since international law attempts to limit state policy and behavior. However, it can be beneficial for a state to give up part of its freedom as a trade off or bargaining chip for another state to adhere to some type of international law for the benefit of the international community.

“These are simply recommendations…”

Whenever you are a delegate in a non-Security Council committee, the simple answer to the sovereignty argument is that these operative clauses are just recommendations and your country does not have to abide by them. While under the United Nations Charter, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding. However, it can be questioned if enough resolutions are passed on a particular topic and if a large amount of states agree on the resolution that it can enter into customary international law and be a law that the international community must abide by. Presently, international courts do not use General Assembly resolutions for customary international law, but can examine these resolutions to see if there is some sort of law declaring effect. Legal scholars argue over the legality of General Assembly resolutions depending on their perspective.

“As the Security Council, our resolutions are legally binding…”

Under chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council determines the existence of threats to peace. Article 25 of the UN Charter gives the Security Council authority for legally binding decisions. Article 25 states that members of the UN agree to accept and carry out the decision of the Security Council. Under Chapter VIII, enforcement actions taken by regional organizations cannot occur without the express authorization of the Security Council. The Security Council may also investigate disputes which may lead to international conflict and call upon states to settle their dispute through pacific means. Overall, the Security Council has the authority to address different issues that threaten international peace and security.

 “We believe it in in our jurisdiction to enforce….”

There are different types of jurisdiction states can exercise. These types of jurisdiction focus on laws applied to people, activities, the judicial process, or compliance with different laws in the state. States can exercise their jurisdiction based on different perspectives, such as protective, universality, passive personality, and nationality principles. The protective principle allows a state to exercise its power outside of its jurisdiction when it deals with someone threatening the security of the state or its interests. The universality principle applies to occurrences that are seen as violations against the international community as a whole. The passive personality principle allows a state to exercise jurisdiction because of the nationality of a victim despite where the crime occurs. The nationality principle allows a state to exercise jurisdiction over someone because of the nationality of that person.

“Well we simply signed the convention and did not ratify it…”

Before a treaty is entered into force, states can judge whether they would like to sign or ratify the document. Signing a treaty or convention means that the state intends to agree with the document, but does not mean the state is bound to agree to its terms. When a state ratifies a treaty or convention, the state is officially bound to the document. However, countries have their own process of ratifying international treaties and conventions. For example, the United States must first go through the Senate to ratify treaties before they become ratified on the international level and recognized as law on the national level.

“It is our responsibility to protect and secure the safety of our citizens by any means necessary …”

Responsibility to protect, or R2P is a suggested international norm that proposes sovereignty is not an unconditional right of states. States give up parts of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their citizens from human rights crimes. Under R2P, a state has the responsibility to protect its population, the international community is responsible for helping states protect their population, and in the event a state fails to protect its people, the international community can intervene through measures such as economic sanctions or even military intervention. The use of military intervention can only be utilized by the Security Council as detailed in the UN Charter.

  • Milo Wong

    great article. can we please have an article recap of NYUMUNC and ChoMUN? or someone from the staff to post the results here or on Facebook? thanks.

  • esore

    Others include “Decorum, Delegates!” and “The Chair will highly smile upon…”

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