The general topic of MUN Albania 2021 will be “Access to Health”. Throughout the conference, participants will focus on different dimensions of this general topic, based on the mandate and specialization of their committee.
The committees and subtopic will be as follows:
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) / Health and Security
The UNSC is the world’s highest intergovernmental forum for security matters. Since 1946, its ten non-permanent and five permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK and US) have written much of the world’s history. Today, the UNSC prevents conflict where it is sprouting, halts military confrontation where it is ongoing, and brokers peace where open conflict has come to an end. The UNSC is the only UN body whose decisions are binding towards all member states. For its prestige, the UNSC is thought to be the only international body able to produce international law erga omnes.
In the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has put the link between health and security under the public eye: as countries struggle to contain the pandemic, their vulnerability to outside or insider threats greatly increases. While putting health facilities and security forces under great stress, containment measures heavily disrupt the social and economic fabric. Coordination is needed for countries to extirpate the virus durably, lest they face recurring cycles of infection. Conflicts become even more deadly with the pandemic.
The link between health and security, however, goes well beyond the coronavirus. In the 21st century, warfare is increasingly hybrid. Learning from this pandemic, malicious state and non-state actors could adopt new strategies to paralyze countries by attacking their key infrastructures and health facilities. Biological warfare might be explored.
Even more worryingly, orchestrated spread of fake news can be used to propagate unsanitary behaviors among the population, to increase instability within society, and to gain political and strategic leverage. Feelings of dissatisfaction and hopelessness can be inflated enough to trigger civil unrest. As countries are thrown into emergency, constitutional rights are compressed, and authoritarianism thrives.
It is often believed that security is a matter of life and death: once life is assured, security is too. This is a half-truth, as stability does not necessarily translate into security. To be really secure, societies need to be resilient, wealthy and just. They need to have a set of strong institutions that are able to interpret and serve the common good, identified as the pool of adequate responses to the needs of all members of society.
Managing globalized health and security is extremely complex. It requires extraordinary coordination. This is what the UNSC stands for.
World Health Organization (WHO) / Health and Gender
The WHO is the world’s highest intergovernmental forum for public health matters. The WHO gathers and circulates scientific evidence, promotes best practices, fosters coordination among state health agencies, provides technical assistance and distributes international standards and guidelines based on the best available science. If, growing up, you didn’t get smallpox or polio, you should be most grateful to the WHO.
In past months, we have seen that coronavirus does not threaten everyone in the same way. While old people succumb disproportionately to the infection, doctors and nurses are heavily exposed. The homeless, the poor, the discriminated – the impact on them is much more violent. These are the people that – even under normal circumstances – suffer from fragile health, and consequently face lower employability and higher marginalization and mortality.
The same cleavages that, in normal times, divide our societies in privileged and oppressed dig deeper during crises. This is especially true for women: disproportionately present in hospitals, schools and supermarkets, in the cleaning and non-medical care sectors; generally absent in managerial and leadership positions; overly encumbered with the weight of caring for the elder and the young – women are more likely to get the virus, less likely to influence policies about it, and more exposed to the stress and fatigue of juggling between work, a pandemic, and increased family needs. Due to domestic violence, many women who would have otherwise survived the infection by isolating at home, have been and will be killed there by their partners.
While gender is often approached as a moral issue, it is first and foremost a health issue. For many women, gender-based discrimination (GBV) is a matter of life and death. As science is still male-dominated, female health is less researched, female pathologies are less diagnosed, and women-specific life experiences – such as pregnancy, abortion, labor or menstruation – receive less attention compared to those of men, resulting in fewer treatments available and higher costs for women and girls.
If we wish to promote health, we need to understand how social significations – often combining in an intersectional manner – promote or hinder access to health. Arguably, only when women’s bodies will be recognized with the same protection as men’s, will access to health be a right enjoyed by all.
Reviewing the ways in which we understand and use science is complex and long. It requires the best data and expertise. This is what the WHO stands for.