Commonly referred to as the Legal Committee, the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly is the primary forum for dealing with international legal issues in the U.N. system. The issues debated in this committee range from maritime law to the International Court of Justice. At the 2014 Hofstra University High School Model United Nations Conference, the Legal Committee will debate two particularly pressing and important issues: the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and Security Council reformation.
Drones have become a prominent part of the security and surveillance practices in many states. The United States, for instance, has targeted suspected terrorists. Yet there is much debate regarding the legality and ethics of using drones as a weapon of war. This committee will thus focus on determining and defining the ethical utilization of drones. Delegates will be examining the employment of drones as a means of weaponry and the potential for drones to contribute to additional civilian casualties that increase human suffering and the apparent dehumanization of warfare. Case studies will include the September 2013 NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan that resulted in 15 militant and civilian casualties, Israeli drone strikes as early as the 1980s, and the various uses of drones by the United States in its war on terror. This issue is multi-faceted and will require an understanding of the socio-political implications of the use of drones for the state in which they are deployed. Students will also need to consider the legal and ethical concerns surrounding this new form of warfare.
The second topic is Security Council reform. The Legal Committee can propose changes to the U.N. Charter to revise its structure and procedures and is thus critical to any issue of reform in the U.N. system. While widely debated, no definitive steps have recently been taken to amend the way the Security Council is set up to make it more representative of the world body. One case study for this topic will be the amendment to Article 23 of the Charter which expanded the Security Council from eleven to fifteen members in 1965 and is the only revision to the Council to be implemented since its inception in 1945. A second case study is the thus far unsuccessful proposed G4 reform effort. As it stands, the Security Council, which should be the most decisive international voice, is hampered by the lack of diversity and impermanence of its membership. Delegates will have to address Security Council reform in a way that allows for broader membership, more representativeness, and the maintenance of the Council’s perceived legitimacy without soliciting a veto from the P5.