SPECPOL DIVIDED ON POTENTIAL FOR WESTERN INTERVENTION IN SOUTH SUDAN by: Hadeel Eltayeb and Ava Haig

The Special Political and Decolonization committee (SPECPOL) of YMUN XLIII convenes to combat the growing political turmoil in South Sudan, it finds itself divided on how best to enact meaningful change. Historically, western intervention remains a controversial plan of action, but as the situation in South Sudan becomes increasingly concerning,  the United Nations finds itself scrambling for a solution.

In an effort to rekindle the collapsed peace treaty of 2015, South Sudan Transitional Government of National Unity and armed rebel groups signed a ceasefire in Addis Ababa on the 22nd of December in 2017. However, fighting between the two groups the following night in the capital, Juba, resulted in a disappointing conclusion to what the United Nations General Assembly infamously called the Republic’s “last chance” for peace. For the past five years, the nation has been on the brink of famine and the ongoing conflict has left 1.8 million people internally displaced, 4.8 million people in the need of aid, and an estimated 5.1 million to be facing hunger by March 2018.

With these staggering realities in mind, debate ensued. Delegates like Rahul Bhatia, representing the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, remarked that “imperialist western nations should not have a say in how the politics nor the economics of the South Sudanese crisis play out.” He cites Puerto Rico as an example, stating that the United States has “kept Puerto Rico under its thumb for decades” through problematic legislation like the Jones Act of 1920. This legislation, according to Bhatia, is emblematic of the West’s tendency to “create systematic relationships that they can exploit.” “It’s time,” Bhatia says, “for post-colonial nations to stand up against their colonial oppressors.”  

On the contrary, some countries provide a more generous stance when it comes to offering South Sudan humanitarian aid. The delegation of Israel, Zoey Fisher states that“anti-western leadership is not what the United Nations is all about.” Aid and funding, in the eyes of the Israeli government, is a seminal part of rectifying this humanitarian crisis. Her statement underscores the position that many within the committee have taken, while having been recipients of developed nations’ aid. Abigail Mamani, of the Republic of Korea, feels strongly that South Sudan needs assistance. “My nation has faced similar struggles. With nations like the United States’ help, we were able to help our country succeed.” Delegates like that of the Republic of Madagascar’s echo this sentiment, saying that they “know what it is like to receive Western aid.” These experiences are to be trusted, they urge, and reconsidered in order to assist South Sudan as it struggles with internal displacement, famine, and devastating genocide.

There are some delegates, however, who find themselves at a middle ground. Allen Goldin of la República Argentina remarks that while western intervention has never been perfect, intervention in South Sudan will be as perfect as it can get. The difference, he claims, between failed regime changes like Iran’s and potential involvement in South Sudan is that the South Sudanese live under a representative democracy. The conditions are right, he claims, and to waste the opportunity would be a disservice to the South Sudanese people.

As committee draws to a close, the debate remains undecided, but it was apparent that the Republic of Madacargar’s words of keeping the United Nations’ roots as a collaborative body were at the backs of all delegates’ minds. Despite division, the attempt to craft clear and meaningful resolutions was clear through the intense motivation and dedication from all in the room.

Bloc of SPECPOL delegates grapple with question of western intervention as they craft their first working papers.

Bloc of SPECPOL delegates grapple with question of western intervention as they craft their first working papers.