Last week, it finally happened. The UGA Model UN Conference took place on the days of Feb. 5th – 7th and it was amazing. Unfortunately my partner and I did not win an award during this conference and actually only one freshmen from all the competing high schools won an award at all! I was a little disappointed that we didn’t win an award but that did not stop me from having an amazing time at this conference. It was an experience in itself to debate the unusual topics of: prison reform, cigarette smuggling, and the illicit trade and use of legal drugs, which are not usually discussed on an international level, with students around the state that share this interest of Model UN with me. I also got to spend some quality time with my fellow Model UN teammates in the hotel lobby at 2 am and then have to wake up 4 hours later in order to make it to the conference on time. So I’d say overall this conference was a success and I can’t wait till the next one!
(This was the position paper that my partner and I were required to write from Kazakhstan’s point of view in order to inform ourselves on the topics)
Topic I: Medication Fraud and Illicit Use of Legal Drugs
The illicit trade and use of legal drugs and counterfeit medications is not often discussed on a global level as it is usually overshadowed by the sale of illegal drugs and medications. The Republic of Kazakhstan is greatly affected by the sale of counterfeit medications as roughly 30% of all medications in Asia are counterfeit. As well as counterfeit medications, the issue of the illicit use of legal drugs is very prevalent because of high cost of illicit drugs like cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines in Kazakhstan. The cost of these substances severely limits their spread in Kazakhstan. This does, however, open up a larger market for the emergence of homemade products like Desomorphine, which is made from more common codeine medications, or the use of drugs like tropicamide, which is a drug used by opticians to dilate the pupils.
With the illicit use of legal drugs at large on an international level, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was established to address this issue. The creation of the INCB led to the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, which provided the legal basis behind the actions of governments to effectively identify and prevent the dispersion of counterfeit medications and legal drug shipments used for illicit purposes. It is also required under the Convention of 1988 that a report be published that contains recommendations and observations about the weaknesses of the Conventions’ efforts. Since the creation of the INCB, significant advancements has been made to lessen the dispersion of precursors (chemicals uses to create illicit drugs) on an international level; however, the drug problem still poses a very serious threat to well-being of the international community.
Even after all the progress made by the INCB and United Nations to help resolve this problem, the Republic of Kazakhstan still views this issue as a severe threat to the Kazakhstani people and see it vital for international community to increase efforts to effectively intercept and contain counterfeit medications and precursors within their state to bring a halt to the illicit trade of these products overseas.
Topic II: Cigarette Smuggling
Cigarettes are ranked as the most internationally smuggled legal substance, yet surprisingly it receives very little attention from the international community. This multibillion-dollar business is traced back to the roots of corruption and organized crime. In addition to costing the international community approximately 40 billion dollars a year, cigarette smuggling is a huge contributor to the growing threat of cigarettes on public health and well-being. As of now, more than 10% of adults die early deaths from cancer caused by active smoking and it is estimated that one billion people, if not more, could die from tobacco use in the 21st century. The large influx of cigarettes through smuggling is the root of this issue and it is very concerning that some of the biggest culprits of the illicit cigarette trade are actually the cigarette companies themselves. Companies like Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco, and British American Tobacco produce a huge surplus of cigarettes which inevitably leads to the creation of a many billion dollar black market for the product, which in turn funds organized crime and terrorist groups that pose a threat to international security. It is even more shocking that these companies are able to pay off any country that questions their motives in the form of millions of dollars in settlements.
Despite the huge scale of international cigarette smuggling occurring, there has been surprisingly little action taken by the international community to prevent this. The UN has acknowledged it as in issue in the past, as in their prosecution of the Tribert Rujugiro Avabatwa, an African tobacco magnate found to be funding a guerilla insurgency and committing numerous human rights breaches. In 2005, the World Health Organization drafted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a worldwide initiative to curb tobacco use. It was one of the most popular adopted UN initiatives, ratified by 40 different states, but many countries show little concern over the issue and refuse to ratify it, such as the United States. While they have performed a few crackdowns on specific large-scale smuggling operations like this and made feeble attempts to curb global tobacco smuggling, further action is required by the UN to solve this massive problem.
Topic III: Prison Reform
The issue of reforming prison systems is highly complex, as it involves human rights, the conditions of the prisons, health, and many more issues. The nation of Kazakhstan has been a large center for changes in this area, as the country decreased its prison population from over 78,000 prisoners in 2000, to a mere 49,000 in 2014, with only 284 prisoners per prison. Human rights abuses have occurred at some point in nearly every country on earth, and there is no shortage of examples of these. However, it was not until the events of WWI and WWII that international law involving the denial of human rights and political, racial, and religious discrimination came about. For the next several decades, huge changes were made to protect against mistreatment of prisoners and basic human rights, but there were still many breaches of these, including abuses in North Korea, Russia, China, and even in the United States. Today, there is still much need for reform, in areas such as overcrowding, disease, and special populations of prisoners.
As the need for prison reform at the international has risen, the UN has increased their effort to bring to pass these changes by passing several resolutions including the “Compendium of United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice”, passed in 1992, which was updated in 1992 to respond to emerging threats and to stay on top of the ever-changing international community. Within this, four themes for future interventions regarding prison reform were created: prison management, alternative measures and sanctions, social reintegration, and pretrial detention. More recently, the UNODC created the Handbook on Prisoners with Special Needs in 2009, outlining protections and rights for the proper treatment and maintenance of prisoners with a vulnerable status in prison, such as: prisoners with mental health care needs, ethnic and racial minorities and indigenous peoples, prisoners with disabilities, older prisoners, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender prisoners, prisoners with terminal illness, and prisoners under sentence of death. The creation of these many regulations has greatly bettered the global prison situation; but reform is still required in many countries.
The actions of the UN in the past have been highly successful in reforming worldwide prisons; however, the Republic of Kazakhstan believes that prisons should be more secure in order to insure international safety. Not only that, they view prisons as a responsibility of the government, and should thus be handled by the government, instead of being privatized, so that human rights issues may be avoided.