GARIMA KARIA, THE HINDU (Expository)
BOSTON: “Should we be more afraid of Facebook, or losing state sovereignty?” questions the delegate of Gabon in the opening session of the disarmament and security committee (DISEC) at the 63rd iteration of Harvard National Model United Nations this evening in Boston. As this year’s iteration of the conference comes to order, DISEC delegates have been ardently expressing their convictions and consequent desires to set the committee’s first topic to either the issue of offshore bases or the weaponization of social media.
The committee boasted over twenty speakers in favour of each of the two topics, and when a motion by to close the speaker’s list in order to choose a topic was voted down by more than two-thirds of the committee, it became evident that a budding gridlock in the topic-setting phase of the proceedings could be in effect. With two contentious issues on the table, delegates are eager to have their voices heard before the committee launches into a weekend of deliberation and diplomacy.
Both the Slovenian and Cypriote delegations expressed their intentions to discuss Topic A, offshore bases, because of its applicability to important matters of security and sovereignty. While Cyprus declared that it benefits economically from the bases, it fervently stressed the importance of the “people that are affected by these bases due to insecurity.” Both Germany and Ireland echoed this sentiment. While Germany asked the body if “an online profile is really worth more than a nation’s security,” Ireland took a critical approach in recalling the crucial vestiges of imperialism and nationalism embedded in these bases. According to the US Office of the Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense, the vast majority of offshore bases are set up by developed countries, namely the United States, in developing areas of the world and used primarily for the security benefits of the aforementioned developed states. In acknowledging this ever-present imperialist reality, the Irish delegation implored the committee to recognize the difference between “impact” and “intent” of these bases.
Yemen, a self-proclaimed Arab Spring state, spoke passionately about the role of social media in “transcending many fronts,” particularly in terms of making bottom-up revolutions more accessible to the people. The delegation proclaimed “solidarity can only be achieved through communication,” a sentiment reverberated by the United Kingdom, who reminded the body that “we must not confuse importance with urgency.” A crucial aspect of the issue of weaponization of social media is its heightened use by terrorist groups across the globe. According to the delegation of the United Kingdom, “90% of terrorist organized activity is implemented via social media, including but not limited to the recent activity of both ISIS and Boko Haram.” This aspect of the issue drives the intentions of many DISEC states to set Topic B as the opening topic. Many delegates sympathized with the personal and familial impacts of this topic, primarily the Iranian delegation who called upon the DISEC committee to “save the lives of young people drawn into terrorism” by discussing ways in which the weaponization of social media, as well as its radicalization, can be curtailed by the committee if discussed at haste.
While this ricochet of opinion ensued, delegates came to a consensus and set the topic to the weaponization of social media. As the body launches into its first unmoderated caucus, the world holds its breath in anticipation of the solutions proposed by the delegations this weekend.