SOCHUM: To Military or Not To Military?

Written by Ashley Ng

“Our job is to protect them, not to give them weapons” - Delegate of Philippines

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While discussing how to protect the rights of humanitarian aid workers, the delegates of SOCHUM reached a crossroad in their debate. Some delegates supported military support, which includes training humanitarian aid workers in self defense, providing workers with “non-lethal weapons”, and transporting workers under the guise of a military convoy. Other delegates condemned the use of military intervention as a violation of national sovereignty and suggested that local peacekeeping and law enforcement cooperate with humanitarian aid organizations to implement safety precautions for aid workers. However, the delegates managed to find common ground during committee session two.

The education of humanitarian workers received much support from the committee. In order to ensure, as the Syrian and North Korean delegate stated, “culturally appropriate” behavior of workers, either the humanitarian aid organization or UNESCO should educate workers about the host country’s culture. The delegates of the Botswana and Thailand also advocated for the training of workers in self-defense.

The coordination of security between the host country’s law enforcement and the humanitarian aid organization was also described as crucial to protecting humanitarian aid workers while respecting national sovereignty. Instead of sending a biased third party, such as the military forces of a foreign nation, to intervene or act as the convoy for humanitarian aid workers, the local law enforcement personnel could act as the convoy.

Many SOCHUM delegates have advocated for the use of force in order to ensure the safety of humanitarian aid workers. Whether it be through the training of workers in self-defense or the deployment of armed convoys to protect the workers, SOCHUM is moving towards solutions that react to the high rates of violence against humanitarian aid workers. However, measures targeting the misconduct of the kidnappers and assailants has yet to be brought up. As delegates move towards their draft resolutions, delegates will need to consider how countries can protect humanitarian aid workers by attacking the root of the problem: the perpetrators of violence.