General Assembly Plenary

Dams and Displacement

In a rapidly changing international environment, debates proliferate about a parallel conservation of the world’s precious resource base while meeting the needs of growing populations’ hunger for economic progress. Terms of investment, terms of trade, democratisation, the role of the state, the role of civil society, the obligation to protect threatened ecosystems and preserve Planet Earth for future generations, all are part of a wider context. Any policy on large infrastructure projects – whether for dams, highways, power stations, or other mega-installations – has to be developed in this context.

At the same time, alternative perspectives on human rights and development are being more clearly expressed. The Right to Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1986 argues that ‘development is a comprehensive process aimed at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population…´. Recently, vocal condemnation of the globalisation process, pointing out that too many people are being left behind those few forging ahead, has added support to this call for a better quality of life for all of humanity, not just for some. The UNDP´s Human Development Report 2000 has given us a timely reminder that the rights to security and basic freedoms, and to human development are two sides of the same coin and that when ‘human rights and human development advance together, they reinforce one another.´

Delegates, it is time to address this burning issue of big dams, the gross violations of human rights they cause and most importantly their impact on the environment.

Delegates must be aware of the developmental benefits as well as humanitarian arguments levelled against the building of dams in their countries. Also, essential to this topic is the focus on internally displaced persons who result out of this developmental initiative.


Nuclear Waste Disposal

The increasing use of nuclear energy is becoming a reality – the Russian Federation intends to double its nuclear generating capacity by 2020; China plans nearly a six-fold expansion in capacity by the same date; and India anticipates a ten-fold increase by 2022.

Excellent progress has been made in upgrading safety of nuclear installations and their safety management since the unfortunate events at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl to the extent that in many countries nuclear power stations are now being accepted as familiar industrial facilities.

Yet, at present, France and Russia remain the only countries with a credible Nuclear Waste Management Technology.

With this increasing utilization of nuclear energy comes the increased generation of radioactive waste. The generation of radioactive waste is not a new phenomenon, and the nuclear industry has been managing radioactive waste for over half a century – yet the question continues to be asked by society at large:

Can radioactive waste be managed and disposed of safely?

The concern remains over management of waste arising from normal operations, the ability to safely decommission facilities as well as the safety of disposal. These issues continue to give rise to societal concerns that must be addressed before people at large will feel comfortable with the large scale adoption of nuclear power.

This conference will explore these questions with a view to identifying what needs to be done, at both national and international levels, and discuss key issues like:

International and national perspectives and the Global [Waste] [Nuclear] Safety Regime, Disposal options and their safety, Regulatory control and Communicating Safety.

What have been the successes? What are the failures?

And Most importantly…

Is there a universally correct approach?


Food Crisis

According to the International Monetary Fund, over the past 12 months global food prices have increased on average by more than 40%.

Most experts believe that there is no single driver behind this unprecedented rise in the cost of food articles, but rather that numerous factors threaten the food security and well being of millions of people, particularly the poorest of the poor in the developing world.

Some of the Factors cited by experts include the increased demand for food commodities from developing countries (as a result of population increases and increased consumption of meat), the production of crops for bio-fuels, increased costs of transportation, fuel and fertilizer due to the increasing cost of oil, a weakening U.S. currency which increases the effective cost for commodities purchased with dollars, and recurring natural disasters such as drought and flooding.

But, as a quote lifted from a devastating piece in Asia Times puts— this global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon. With the dollar having lost nearly half its value against the Euro and other currencies in the past five years, central banks and investors are looking for more lucrative places to store their extra cash.

Now speculators have turned their attention to another type of commodity: food. Speculators aren’t dumb — they recognize that increasing demand for grains for both food and biofuel is likely to continue for many years. Parking one’s money in corn or rice futures is a rational financial decision when the value of the previously preferred investment, Treasury Bonds, is likely to slide.

As Jose Graziano of the UNFP states, “This is not a conspiracy theory…. The lack of confidence in the (U.S.) dollar has led investment funds to look for higher returns in commodities…. The crisis is a speculative attack and it will last.”

The question is, Can we get out of this mess? Because…

In the end, it may come down to a decision over what’s more important: providing financial relief to domestic borrowers who have unwisely taken on too much debt, or making it easier for women in average homes to feed their families.


Mridul Kumar Dhaniwala

President – General Assembly ( Plenary)

IHMUN – 2008