Category: Model United Nations

Germany’s nervous wait

The following article was written for the 2011 Brisbane Model United Nations conference. Please note that the situation described is factual and not based on true events.

New H1N1 virus threatens aviation industry

A 20 year old Caucasian male has collapsed in the departure lounge of Germany’s Frankfurt International Airport displaying flu like symptoms.

According to post 2009 H1N1 protocol, the man (who remains unidentified), has been administered an experimental anti-viral based on the corresponding vaccine.

The man, who remains stable and in quarantine began showing symptoms an hour prior to being hospitalized and reportedly passed out after being stopped by security.

It is unknown whether the patient’s passing out was caused by his symptoms or whether he simply fainted.

Blood samples and symptoms similar to H1N1 indicate it to be an air-born pathogen with a contagious incubation time of 12 hours.

While it has been six hours since the time of his delayed flight, it is unknown how long he had been at the airport prior to the delay.

Germany could have a potential outbreak on its hands, one comparable to or ultimately worse than what the world witnessed during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Frankfurt International Airport services up to 400,000 passengers each day with the most international destinations worldwide.

H1N1, more commonly referred to as ‘swine flu’ is known to spread the same way as the seasonal flu – through coughing, sneezing, talking and touching of infected surfaces.

From 2009 to 2010, the aviation industry implemented tough measures, issuing airport security staff with guidelines on how to test for possible swine flu.

To aid in dealing with the crisis, various government websites were also established.

Many of these websites contained information such as pandemic influenza planning checklists plus guidance on how to conduct proper cleaning within the airline and travel industry.

However, following the swine flu outbreak, airlines suffered severe losses with many people too afraid to travel both domestically and internationally.

The pandemic hit the aviation industry so hard that worldwide airline losses were predicted to total an astounding $9 billion.

At the time, IATA Chief Executive Officer, Giovanni Bisignani announced, “This is the most difficult situation that the industry has faced. Our future depends on a drastic reshaping by partners, governments and industry.”

During the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic, the aviation industry including international travel and trade were greatly affected as it was not prepared for such an extreme international public health emergency.

In such health crises, the International Health Regulations (IHR) is used as a vital mechanism in fighting against the spread of infectious diseases, including air-born pathogens.

As an international legal agreement, the IHR binds 194 countries worldwide including all Member states of WHO.

It aims to assist the international community by preventing and responding to severe public health risks while increasing global public health security.

In accordance with the IHR, contracting states should not interrupt air transport services for health reasons.

In May 2010, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) stated, “Contracting states should first consult with the WHO and health authorities of the State of occurrence of the disease before taking any decision as to the suspension of air transport services.”

Given the size of Frankfurt’s International Airport, a viral outbreak in such a location raises serious concerns both for Germany and the aviation industry.

The possibility of the patient exposing an unknown number of travelers to the disease is likely and could be detrimental if not dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) phases of infection, areas it did infect were no where near as extreme as previous pandemics.

Significant improvements in personal hygiene, sanitation and advancements in general public health have minimized the frequency of pandemics.

Now more than ever, influenza outbreaks have become the key focus of major public health organizations.

In 2010, following the H1N1 outbreak, WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan stated, “Pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike.”

World Health Organization, Director General, Margaret Chan (Copyright Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/Associated Press 2010)

It is clear Germany will need to take stringent action to minimize the effects of this unknown disease.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, emphasized how the H1N1 outbreak was a strong reminder of just how interconnected countries are and that global solidarity was the only way to confront the virus.

“A threat to one country is a threat to all, requiring a collective global response,” Mr. Ban said.

“Our watchword in potential health crises, now and in the future, must be solidarity — a global solidarity.”

While Germany was well prepared and took appropriate measures with the swine flu pandemic in 2009, it is hoped it will now implement these same extensive practices should another outbreak arise from this situation.

Worst case scenario could see the aviation industry take another hard hit and Germany on the brink of global threat.

Only time will tell.

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Slow and steady wins the race

WHO delegates and Directors, Michael Nowland & Lauren Griffin

WHO reaches final resolution first

Right from beginning of this morning’s proceedings, delegates of the World Health Organization were keen to get things underway.

The topic of pharmaceutical companies came into discussion however ended up as a controversial topic with the delegate for Australia pointing out that the use of pharmaceutical companies in developing countries would lead to corruption and bribing.

It was also argued to what extent vaccines could be developed within these pharmaceutical companies.

The WHO was also graced with the presence of China and a delegate who represented the so called ‘African Union’.  Before long it was a case of developing nations against developed nations.

After what felt like a drawn out process of draft resolution after draft resolution a final resolution was passed with Pakistan the only one to vote against the resolution with the UK abstaining.

Pakistan felt that developing countries needs weren’t met while the UK believed the resolution was not thorough enough.

The final resolution recognized the following:

  • Designates this outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern as per Article 12 of the International Health Regulations, and as such recommends that states mobilize their plans for a Phase 6 response;
  • Encourages the involvement of relevant international and non-government organizations in providing greater access to resources and response programs to countries with a lesser capacity at their request;
  • Strongly recommends that states work with aviation authorities to monitor the spread of the influenza through information gathering measures performed in accordance with Article 23 of the IHR and the stipulations of international human rights law

After what has been an exhausting weekend of debating, crisis updates, working papers and drafting numerous amendments, delegates of the WHO should be very proud of their efforts in achieving a diplomatic resolution to this impending crisis.

H1N1 crisis update

Delegate for Japan, Kate Stevenson

WHO Committee – BrizMUN, April 2011

After the World Health Organization received word that the H1N1 virus had moved to a phase 4, delegate for Pakistan, Manisha Singh reinforced how ‘deeply worried’ Pakistan was and urged Germany to heighten border control in quarantining those with flu like symptoms.

“Pakistan is looking to keep the virus out of its country and South-East Asia region and therefore encourages countries to increase their security to help counteract the situation and slow down the spread of the virus,” Ms Singh said.

Pakistan also made clear that in order to deal with the virus; it required assistance from the developed nations such as Japan.

While delegate for Japan, Kate Stevenson agreed aid needed to be distributed to developing countries, she also made the point that anti-viral stockpiles were not sufficient enough to protect all nations should the event result in a global pandemic.

“We encourage developing states such as Pakistan to undertake measures that do not make them wholly dependent on outside providers and to methods such as airport monitoring,” she said.

WHO to find solution to H1N1 pandemic

Delegate for Denmark, Angie Loi

WHO Committee – BrizMUN, April 2011

With a definite crisis on their hands, the honourable delegates of BrizMUN’s World Health Organization (WHO) gathered this morning to discuss how they planned to deal with the H1N1 virus with a confirmed case in Frankfurt’s International Airport.

During opening position statements, countries outlined their specific concerns and highlighted how the current situation should addressed and dealt with.

Delegate for Denmark, Angie Loi emphasized how a proactive stance in relation to influenza pandemics was needed.  “We require early detection, treatment and isolation if we are to contain the virus to minimize the risk of it spreading,” she said.

France also acknowledged how a multilateral response would help bring about a unified approach.

It was also announced that Japan and the United States heavy financial investment with regards to vaccines has also been extremely valuable.

Delegate for Japan, Kate Stevenson discussed that as Japan was affected by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, it would do all it could to prevent another outbreak. “We obviously have a reasonable amount of concern,” she said.

Mexico and the United Kingdom raised the issue of public awareness while others acknowledged the impact current European surveillance system is having on the given crisis.

But Germany who made a late entrance was given the opportunity to express its view and stressed that to avoid another pandemic it would remain active and use all available resources to prevent further spread of the virus.

In the first crisis update, it was revealed that 24 cases had been reported in Frankfurt’s International Airport with all displaying the same symptoms as ‘Patient Zero’ (the man who originally contracted H1N1) with the situation declared a phase 4 influenza pandemic.

It was confirmed that ‘Patient Zero’ is a 20 year old student whose parents are poultry farmers and live two hours outside Frankfurt.

The announcement of crisis update two really got discussion rolling after it was announced that 500 more cases had been reported in various other European airports. Patient Zero was also confirmed dead after a cytokine storm took over his body.

Before long, working papers were well and truly underway with some opposition voiced over the use of antiviral drugs in third world countries.

Not all agreed that the public should be notified of the current situation as it was considered unnecessary to raise panic and alarm.

It was reinforced that cooperation was needed between states within the WHO with access to

Delegates of the WHO committee discuss the H1N1 crisis

resources also required to ensure suitable pandemic preparedness.

Global Unity: We the people have the power

The fourth annual Brisbane Model United Nations Conference (BrizMUN) kicked off yesterday at the University of Queensland in St Lucia with over 250 enthusiastic delegates participating this weekend.

During the opening ceremony, Co Secretary Generals, Sarah Newman and Joshua Sproule took the opportunity to personally welcome delegates to what promises to be an unforgettable weekend of passionate debating.

This year’s theme, ‘Global Unity and Changing the Face of Our World’ aims not only to challenge delegates but also allow them to reflect on various political events and natural disasters that have occurred worldwide.

Three keynote guest speakers addressed attendees during the opening proceedings which included Joseph Yunis, Yassmin Abdel –Magied and Virginia Balmain.

Joseph Yunis, a former refugee from Sudan took the opportunity to share with everyone background information about Sudan’s Nuba Mountains from which he comes from.

As a man who has experienced extreme trauma and unspeakable horrors throughout his life, he emphasised Sudan’s struggles over the past 40 years including ethnic, cultural and religious discrimination, economic crises and ultimate struggle for freedom.

As Sudan continues to face enormous economic, political and social challenges, Joseph offered delegates time to reflect on the privileges they have as individuals with a right to an education.

“Remember, people cannot take your education away from you,” he said.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, founder and President of ‘Youth Without Borders’ inspired delegates by reassuring them that as a generation of young people, making a difference can be achieved through empowering and supporting one another as recently demonstrated in the Middle East.

She reinforced how important it is to have hope humanity in order to bring about change.

“Our generation can do something to make a difference and leave behind a legacy greater than us,” she said.

“Never underestimate the power you can have on a single person’s life. If your time on this earth has affected one individual, you’ve made an impact.”

As a passionate woman, she offered delegates a valuable insight on how the UN came into being and how it has shaped overtime.

She highlighted how Australia seeks to be part of today’s challenges and how young people at BrizMUN will go fourth and impact the world at some point in their life.

“You’ve chosen to be in the groove, the UN groove that is,” she said.

“You have 60 years, only 60 years to contribute to the changing face of the world.”

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Unsigned, unsealed, undelivered

December 2010

A young mother sits on the side of a gravel road clutching her baby in her arms. Her clothes are ragged and torn and she seeks shelter under a ripped tarp, barely sufficient enough to keep out the freezing winds. For three days she has trekked without food. Exhausted, she rests her tender bruised feet. She hopes tomorrow will be a better day.

For those of us fortunate enough to live in the west, it’s hard to imagine a life without food and shelter, let alone the thought of being surrounded by constant violence. While we sit comfortably at home, eating dinner and watching the evening news, we are faced with the grim reality that others are not so lucky.

If you were to travel to the country of Kyrgyzstan a year ago, you would have be greeted by the smiles of locals and surrounded by mountainous terrain full of years of history and culture. Located in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders China in the east and Russia in the north and thrives off agriculture. Although rich in mineral resources, it relies heavily on petroleum imports and remains the second poorest country in the Central Asia region.

The story so far…

What many people are unaware of is the fact that Kyrgyzstan is a country severely affected by ethnic violence. We know the horror stories of Rwanda and Bosnia in the 90s however remain numb to the reality that in the 21st century, these shocking acts continue globally. But the case of Kyrgyzstan is one people know little about. After ethnic violence broke out in the country’s capital earlier this year, it has caused nothing more than devastation and destruction.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital was once a city of wide roads and marble buildings but on April 6 this year, the city erupted in extreme violence after anti-government protester’s seized government buildings including the Bishkek ‘White House’. The protests which were an attempt to deal with government corruption and economic mismanagement resulted in 88 casualties leaving more than 450 people injured, forcing Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to declare a state of emergency.

But Mr Bakiyev’s unpopularity led to his ousting on April 15 where he reportedly fled to Belarus. His absence created a great divide between his supporters and opposes which left ethnic tensions simmering. Within a month, violence and rioting continued after Bakiyev supporters rampaged government buildings in the cities of Jalalabad, Osh and Batkan. What was once a peaceful and secure environment had quickly turned into a hospital emergency room after deaths and injuries skyrocketed.

But the worst was yet to come. On June 9, tensions in Kyrgyzstan exploded after Kyrgyz launched an open attack on the minority Uzbek population. What the United Nations (UN) and the rest of the world now had on its hands was an escalating humanitarian crisis.

The situation which quickly spiraled out of control has questioned Kyrgyzstan’s responsibility to protect its citizens from ‘genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’ as stated in paragraph 138 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document under the section, Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

It is feared up to one million people have been affected by the crisis, making up almost 20 percent of the country’s population. Kyrgyzstan is made up of 70 percent ethic Kyrgyz, 15 percent ethnic Uzbeks and 8 percent Russians. In Osh alone, 1.2 million are ethnic Uzbeks while one million reside in the Jalalabad region.

In June this year, Kyrgyzstan’s acting leader, Roza Otunbayeva confirmed the death toll from ethnic conflict had peaked to 2,000 – 10 times the original estimate of 192. Such intense interethnic fighting has not occurred in Central Asia since the Tajikistan civil war in the early 1990s.

What has been the international community’s response?

The UN and international agencies have associated the atrocity to ‘an alarming rate’ of rape, torture and mass killings of civilians. They have condemned the ethnic violence and urged for its immediate cessation. The UN has labeled the Kyrgyzstan crisis ‘genocide’ of the Uzbek people which has displaced more than 300,000 including women and children, 100,000 of whom have fled to Uzbekistan.

With desperate aid needed, the UN launched an urgent appeal of $US71 million to provide relief for those affected by the ethnic violence. Furthermore, the International Coalition for R2P sent an open letter to the Security Council which was signed by 19 civil society organisations around the globe, urging Council members to take immediate measures to address the ongoing crisis.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Uzbekistan required a separate appeal after tens of thousands fled there to escape the violence. The UN recognised shortages of food, water and electricity in the affected areas, caused by looting and lack of supply which created restrictions on hospitals already low on medical supplies.

John Holmes, who worked as an UN emergency relief coordinator in Kyrgyzstan described the situation as a living nightmare.

“I was so shocked by the level of violence and number of horrific deaths, injuries, sexual violence,” he said. “Widespread arson, looting of property and destruction of infrastructure only made the situation worse.”

Apart from humanitarian aid, the international community’s commitment to end the violence has been minimal. Russia who has close ties with Kyrgyzstan only agreed to deploy just over 100 troops to protect Kyrgyzstan’s airbase but it refused to implement a peacekeeping mission through the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Where to now?

On June 27, Kyrgyzstan’s leaders called for a referendum on a new constitution which would see Ms Otunbayeva retain authority and continue as president until December, 2011. The atmos

An ethnic Uzbek mother holds her son as they wait at the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border 15 km to the south of Osh. Copyright AFP 2010

phere was extremely tense prior to parliamentary elections on October 10 with many fearing ethnic clashes would re-emerge.

A situation report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated while many refugees have returned to Jalalabad, 15, 000 still remain in Uzbekistan refugee camps. There is no doubt the political position has improved and ethnic violence subsided but the situation remains unstable and unsolved with many still suffering. Kyrgyzstan has become another example where the government has failed in its responsibility to protect its citizens. Those responsible face no consequence for their actions while those terrorised continue to live in fear. All they can hope for is a better day.

Someone offer a solution, please

Crisis Council – SydMUN, December 2010

When you hear the words ‘Crisis Council’ you would expect the room to be on fire right from the word ‘go’, but this morninh during the first briefing session., the Crisis Council was off to a slow start. Most of the morning was spent in ‘unmoderated caucus’ time, with the words stability, support and unification flying across the room.

The atmosphere seemed friendly …  a little too friendly in fact. The three superpowers – The United States (U.S.), Russia and China all agreed a solution to stop the violence needed to be implemented. The problem with this is it’s so easy to say you want a ‘peaceful’ resolution but how you get there is a whole other kettle of fish.

The ironic thing was that being groups who want peace, no one wanted to get their hands dirty. The U.S. stated that “while we are committed to diffusing the conflict, we don’t want to mess in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs.” Russia displayed a similar attitude of – “we didn’t send peace keeping troops earlier this year so why would we now?”

So it seemed problem solving was up to the two main Kyrgyz political parties but there was clearly tension in the air. The key proposition suggested was for Kyrgyzstan to introduce a semi-presidential government however the Ata Jhurt political party was not one hundred percent sold on this idea. Their view was that a parliamentary system could not be implemented as it would increase instability plus how can you have a parliamentary system when you don’t have a parliament? Fair call.

The key topic for the morning though was corruption. Former Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev who is known to have ties with Kyrgyzstan’s drug trade refused to comment about any corruption or economic mismanagement. Currently, a quarter of the world’s heroin trade travels through Central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan the main hub for drugs flowing from Afghanistan.

Corruption thrives off Kyrgyzstan’s drug trade

The Ata-Jhurt party who supports Mr Bakiyev said the drug trade was needed to keep the economy running by creating jobs regardless of the number of addicts it also produces. Looks like Kyrgyzstan’s Social Democratic Party has a big mess on their hands.