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The Maastricht Diplomat

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[New York Times] The Human Rights Council - National Sovereignty versus Refugee Rights

In the Human Rights Council, the game is afoot. The ‘game’ however has consistently deviated off-topic. So far, there have been few to no proposals of funding and no concrete ideas for a source of money. The two camps, one side led by the United Kingdom & the United States and the other led by Venezuela & Mexico are engaged in a game of wit and pointing fingers. The US exclaimed that it's unfair that ‘underdeveloped countries’ are pointing fingers at developed countries, while themselves, have participated in straying from the topic at hand. In their attempts to protest issues of mismanagement, illegal trade in guns and narcotics and the exploitation of American resources by ‘underdeveloped countries’, Mexico shot back with one of the finest proclamations of this morning's session:

“If Americans didn’t like cocaine so much then there wouldn’t be a drug trade [from Mexico to the US]”.

Lost for words, the UK stepped in to remind the council that the issue at hand is about funding, asking the question: who has the resources to tackle this crisis responsibly and who simply doesn’t have the resources to do so? The UK proclaimed that we are not only here to point fingers but to practically find a solution to the crisis that is affecting the lives of real people.

Speaking to The New York Times, Mexico & Venezuela expressed concerns about the number of notes that were being passed between Lithuania and the UK in a matter of minutes. Over 20 questionable notes were passed between the two delegations, attempting to brew some sort of settlement or to stall the process of discussions. Being such an obvious gesture, the notes could have simply been used to get under the skin of some of the strong players who were successfully dominating the arguments in the debate, Mexico, Armenia, Libya and Venezuela. It is yet to be seen what these messages will amount to.

As the only two countries to somewhat formally suggest funding proposals, Armenia and Cameroon have been unexpected players in the debate. Cameroon proposed that refugees should be sent back to their countries of origin and that the EU [or high-income countries] must create new funds to provide these refugees with a job back in their home country and further, psychological help. This saw the debate further move in a direction that argued the question of human rights versus national sovereignty. This led both Lithuania and Armenia to vocalise their concerns that their fellow delegates care more about national sovereignty than refugees. In an attempt to bring the debate back to the issue at hand, Armenia proposed that funding should come from developing countries and be given to non-state actors to distribute to refugees.

The game saw its biggest curve-ball at the arrival of France. France arrived with a tunnel-vision attack directed at Venezuela, but Venezuela was not one to take these attacks lying down. Giving as good as they got Venezuela continues to fire back at France with facts and well-formed arguments. It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops over the next few days.

Another interesting dynamic is emerging between Mexico and the UK. In a very typical British fashion, the UK has taken it upon itself to scold and reprimand its fellow delegates if and when they stray from the topic at hand. Their rather odd school teacher complex is different to Mexico’s warm, yet naive, plea for the delegates to try to get along with each other better. This is after all the human rights council where aspirations for compassion and aid lie at the very foundation of why this debate is happening in the first place.

- Kenny Dewitt, New York Times UN correspondent


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