Fourth Session - RebelMUN

Fourth Session The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Transcript of Fourth Session - RebelMUN

Fourth Session

The United Nations Educational,

Scientific and Cultural Organization



Welcome Delegates!

Chair Background

Hello and welcome! My name is Phillip Honenberger, and I'm a professional philosopher with

research specializations in philosophy of biology and the history of philosophy since Kant. My

current research focuses on the intertwined histories of biology, anthropology, and philosophy

from roughly 1800 to present. I've published articles on aspects of this history

in HOPOS,Synthese, Studies C, and a variety of other forums.

Since fall 2018, I'm a full-time instructor of philosophy at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas.

Vegas is a crazy town but I'm managing to stay "philosophical" regardless :)

Position papers for this committee will be due to the committee email by April 21st at 11:59

p.m. Late submissions will not be eligible for position paper awards. We are beyond excited to

welcome all of you to RebelMUN IV and can’t wait to start debating!

Best of luck,


[email protected]



Committee Information

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a

specialized agency of the United Nations that seeks to bolster international dialogue and peace

through the broadening of successful educational, scientific, and cultural reforms. Based in Paris,

UNESCO was initially fundamental in restoring cultural sites, artifacts, and community facilities

that were damaged or lost during World War II. Recently, its focus has largely shifted to

progressing the advancement of the Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals and

addressing emerging humanist ethical challenges. UNESCO aims to foster the idea of the

equality of all cultures and the importance of cultural diversity on a global spectrum. It also

emphasizes the necessity of universally accessible education in closing the divide in human

rights and the importance of the freedom of expression and the media in ensuring democratic

societies. Their efforts have included a consortium of programs aimed at eliminating illiteracy,

promoting free education, closing the digital divide, implementing knowledge-sharing programs,

and more. Throughout its history, UNESCO has been criticized by some nations for allegedly

becoming overly politicized and having an anti-western bias, leading some countries, including

the United States in 2018, to withdraw from the committee. However, after over seventy years of

liberation battles, UNESCO has not ceased to pursue its mission to eliminate prejudice,

intolerance and injustice and promote freedom, democracy and international intellectual




Topic A: Protecting Cultural Artifacts in Times of Conflict

Historical Background

The term “cultural artifact” refers to something that is made by man and communicates

the culture of that person or the society in which they live. This can include a myriad of objects,

such as a monument, a religious artifact, a manuscript, or various art pieces, such as sculptures,

tapestries, or paintings. At the onset of war, the safety of cultural artifacts in conflict zones is

endangered by human ignorance, looting, environmental conditions, and purposeful destruction

as a form of propaganda or cultural cleansing. Each cultural artifact holds different values of

importance relative to different groups of people, functioning on one level as a historical record,

on another as a significant aesthetical museum treasure, and on another as something that may

serve a cultural or religious purpose. The protection of these artifacts holds up these different

values and serves to provide justice and wholeness for both these pieces and the communities to

which they belong.

In the midst of WWII, as war ran rampant in countries like France and Italy, the Nazi

party was responsible for looting art and other artifacts from both museums and the Jewish

citizens. Both the Nazis and the

museums were desperately hiding

a vast majority of this art in

underground storage locations,

with many museums creating

maps to inform the allied powers

where the art was being stored

and where their culturally significant monuments and buildings were. The Monuments, Fine Arts



and Archives Program, established by the allied forces and composed of many civilians and art

historians, would become famous for going into these war zones to find and preserve the art both

during the war and afterward. Nevertheless, it is still believed that upwards of 100,000 pieces of

art may still be missing or have been unknowingly destroyed (Bradsher).

The collateral and deliberate damage of cultural sites and artifacts has become nearly as

prevalent in recent years. During the Iraq War, the U.S. forces were responsible for vandalizing

or taking thousands of national artifacts, some dating to ancient middle eastern culture. Many of

these, including around 8,000 artifacts, still remain unaccounted for (Aziz). These pillages ran

parallel to the infamous burnings of the Quran in Afghanistan.

ISIS was the most recent and relevant example of this in countries like Syria, Iraq, and

Libya, notoriously selling art and artifacts to American and later to the black market areas mainly

in Europe to finance their weapons program. Not only did they loot and sell items that were

privately and publicly owned, they also destroyed many of these items, as well as monuments

and culturally significant buildings in the areas they controlled. It is also difficult to determine

how many artifacts and monuments were lost due to outsider bombings and attacks. ISIS’s

destruction of the art, however, is deeply rooted in their salafist ideology. This is why their

concentration has largely focused on mosques and religious works they deem antithetical to their

movement. Mali, is another relevant example of this tragedy, the Mali war bringing about a wide

destruction of monuments, mausoleums, manuscripts, etc.

While the time between WWII and the conflicts we face now have been treated with

numerous international treaties and resolutions, conflicts like the one in Syria prove that the fight

is long from over.



Past UN Action/International Involvement

Following WWII, the United Nations Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural

Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The 1954 Hague Convention) aimed to protect cultural

heritage by “explicitly prohibiting the use of

cultural property which are likely to expose it

to destruction or damage in the event of an

armed conflict,” requiring all “state parties to

refrain from any act of hostility toward such

properties,” and asking states to foster a spirit

of respect for these artifacts within their armed

forces (UNESCO). There was also a specific blue and white symbol created to identify such


The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit

Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property established that no property be

exported during armed conflict and that property that has been must be returned to the place of

origin. However, a large amount of member states have refused to ratify this as they see the

wording as a deterrent for market states.

The second protocol, adopted in 1999, strengthens the rhetoric of the first Hague

Convention and requires the destruction of such property to be criminalized. It also established a

Special Fund for Assistance to countries or groups that need monetary assistance to help preserve

and protect the art, as well as a committee to oversee these measures.

UNESCO has also created a World Heritage Site List, legally protecting landmarks and

areas that have cultural, historical, scientific, or other significance. UNESCO has been criticised



in the past for valuing artifacts and heritage sites in European nations moreso than in other areas

of the world. This is a common cultural occurrence, Europeans themselves historically believing

that other nations don’t have the capacity to appreciate art or preserve it the way they can or do.

This makes it difficult to pass resolutions that value all cultures equally and have substantial

international effect.

Today, most western museums accept that art pieces that were taken in times of conflict

from their home nation should be returned, however there remains a myriad of famous art and

cultural artifacts that have yet to be repatriated to their country of origin. Some countries, such as

Greece against the British museum, have even considered taking legal proceedings against these

museums and the government in which they reside. Some of these cases have been successful,

such as the repatriation of Inca artifacts to Peru from Yale University’s Peabody museum and the

return of some sarcophagi from Israel to Egypt.

The European Union may have the most concrete laws established to combat this issue,

including “the European Union Regulation on the Export of Cultural Goods” and the “Export

control in the European Union Directive on the Return of Cultural Objects,” which both aim to

clarify laws regarding the illegal trafficking of cultural items from one country to another. In the

European states case, this largely occurs between other EU members.

Currently, the Middle Eastern areas ravaged by ISIS and various African nations,

including Mali, Somalia, and Nigeria, are all in a battle to reclaim and protect their culture.

While some, like Nigeria, have so far succeeded in repatriation efforts, these countries have both

environmental and structural struggles that make it difficult to both keep the art in their country

and keep it safe. While almost all of these countries do believe in cultural exchange and the value

of worldwide appreciation of other cultures, the fight for their history is at its peak.



Current Status/Possible Solutions

The question of how to preserve cultural artifacts and monuments takes place on multiple

levels. Not only should resolutions be considered on a political, historical, and legal level, the

topic should be viewed as a deeply ethical one as well. While much of the threat is from

collateral damage, ignorance, or looting, there may often be a precedent for the destruction

rooted in religious or moral beliefs. Furthermore, there is a question as to what level these cases

should be prioritized during conflict. While many during WWII stated that no piece of art was

worth a human life, many lost their lives in the name of protecting them.

In order for the topic to be considered on any of the other levels, however, there almost

certainly needs to be a redefinition of many of the terms involved in protection and repatriation

efforts. Delegates should also consider if there are any better ways for artifacts to be documented

and collected in data forms before and during conflict and if there are better ways to increase

security measures on a national and international level to decrease smuggling.

There must be plans as to how these pieces or places will be protected or stored and

whose duty it must be to account for items. Many art historians have brought up concerns as to

how museums should be involved in this process, both in terms of safely storing, protecting, and

documenting art in host countries of conflict and rightfully and sensitively displaying art in other

nations. Nevertheless, the conversation does not take place between any one or two parties - this

is a conversation that has many actors, including museums, governments and their military,

individuals, and private and public organizations.

Because of the many components contained within this topic, delegates should try to reach

solutions that aim to uphold UNESCO’s mission of cultural equality and historical reverence.



Questions to Consider

1. Does the State have a duty to preserve cultural heritage? What role should the military

play in this? If so, how should they be trained to appreciate and recognize cultural

artifacts? How should these missions be prioritized, relative to their other duties?

2. Does the idea of sovereignty make aerial monitoring for the collection of data off-limits?

Is this considered espionage? Do host countries of conflict have an obligation to try and

collect this type of data?

3. How do we repatriate items that were purchased in good-faith but unknowingly taken in

time of conflict? After generations have passed since being privately take, who should

artifacts be repatriated to?

4. What lessons from WWII can be applied to the current situation in the Middle East and

Africa? How does the non-state actor play in to contemporary resolutions?

5. How should the United Nations criminalize the destruction of art and artifacts? What

legal action and precedents can be redefined and taken to prevent this activity?

6. What ethical issues arise when the destruction of art is based on a religious belief? How

can the United Nations address these concerns?

7. What is the role of a museum in preventing the destruction and promoting the

preservation of art? How can this institution be effectively utilized, and how can they be

monitored and checked to ensure their artworks rightfully belong in their exhibitions?



Works Cited

Bradsher, Greg. “Documenting Nazi Plunder of European Art.” National Archives and Records

Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, Nov. 1997,


Carol A. Roehrenbeck."Repatriation of Cultural Property. Who Owns the Past?" International

Journal of Legal Information. 1 Jul. 2010

Cohan, William (November 17, 2011). "MoMA's Problematic Provenances". Artnews. Retrieved

June 26, 2017.

“Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict: The 1954 Hague Convention and Its Two (1954 and 1999)

Protocols.” YouTube, UNESCO, 14 Nov. 2017,

John Alan Cohan, An Examination of Archaeological Ethics and the Repatriation Movement

Respecting Cultural Property (Part Two), 28 ENVIRONS ENVTL.L.&POL’Y.J. 1, 7


Kanishk Tharoor “Museums and looted art: the ethical dilemma of preserving world cultures”

The Guardian 29 Jun. 2015.

Khalid al-Taie (13 February 2015). "Iraq churches, mosques under ISIS attack". Archived from the original on 19 February 2015.

Shaheen, Kareem. "Outcry over Isis Destruction of Ancient Assyrian Site of Nimrud." The

Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2016. .

Squires, Nick. "Amal Clooney: Greece Has Just Cause to Claim Return of Elgin Marbles." The

Telegraph. N.p., 15 Oct. 2014. Web

Topic B: Preserving Endangered Languages



Historical Background

There are over 6,500 languages in the world today, and half of the world’s population speak one

of the eight that are most common (UNESCO). A language is in danger once it stops being

taught to younger generations, and it is estimated that one endangered language disappears about

every two weeks (Wilford). When a language dies, it has essentially no chance at being revived

again. Most believe that the implications of a lost language, however, brings far more than just a

linguistic dilemma, it also indicates a dissipation of diversity, both on a linguistic and intellectual

realm and a loss of cultural diversity and identity. With the disappearance of a language, comes

the disappearance of stories, customs, cultural knowledge of ecosystems, etc. Some linguists,

moreover, claim that the preservation for languages is a paternalistic pursuit and it is too difficult

to revive languages as they are constantly malleable and too numerous to be equally attended to.

There are many reasons that languages die, the first and foremost being assimilation and

globalization. While historically this has taken place as a forced and often violent process, this

now often can be seen in bilingual cultures, as one language dominates the other in terms of

school, work, media, the marketplace, etc. Many immigrants to western nations also feel



pressured to learn the language most commonly spoken in their country, a lingua franca,

neglecting to pass on their language to their children in order to grant them greater access and

opportunities in that society that they were not afforded. The vast majority of dying languages,

however, are aboriginal languages, many of which have little to no written form, and the effect

that western colonization had and has upon this subject is undeniable.

Some efforts have been successful at restoring or slowing the loss of languages. The only

example of a language that at one point faced extinction in daily life and then amassed millions

of first-language speakers is Hebrew. Other languages that have been revived to different degrees

of extent include Irish, Welsh, Cherokee, and Navajo.

As more people in the aftermath of colonization seek to reclaim their personal heritage

and cultural autonomy, more people have been interested in learning languages of their ancestors

and other regional languages. Entities like UNESCO must be able to create resolutions in order

to preserve these languages before they are unable to.



Past UN Action/International Involvement

The United Nations has taken a number of actions to slow the rate of dying languages.

Some of these include the Declaration of Vienna and Programme of Action (VDPA) in 1993 that

established that people who belong to minority groups are guaranteed the right to speak their

native language. Then, the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity continued to support

endangered languages incorporating them more into education and increasing access to

information about them through the global network. This was the first resolution that outlined the

truly incomparable virtues of the internet when tackling this issue. The 2003 Convention for the

Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage recognized the cultural role that language plays

and aimed to safeguard languages, and many safeguarding measure are adopted under this

doctrine. UNESCO, having a focus on education, has often stressed the vitality of

multilingualism and has aimed to expand their efforts to do this through education and by

adopting the Recommendation on the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal

Access to Cyberspace. In 1996, UNESCO also created the Atlas of World Languages in Danger,

an tool used to display levels of languages in danger in different regions and garner attention

toward them.

On a global level, many countries that at once colonized other people and effectively

jettisoned many of these people’s languages have now turned heel and have tried to restore and

preserve existing languages. Australia is a major example of this, having a National Indigenous

Languages Policy that gives financial support for indigenous languages too be taught in schools.

Many others, such as Haiti, Nigeria, and the U.S., have also utilized arts and storytelling in order

to preserve languages.



Current Status/Possible Resolutions

Language planning essentially refers to the deliberate effort to influence use of language

within a community, and this takes place on a governmental level to some extent in every nation.

Some countries, such as Iran and South Korea, have placed bans on teaching English to students

at a young age. This is under the pretense that it will help preserve culture and is actually a

consideration that must be taken into account when approaching this as an education topic.

Furthermore, the prioritization of languages should also be taken into account when approaching

education, as choosing certain languages, even if they are endangered, can prove to make

education less accessible to more students.

Countries like Singapore and France, have chosen to sustain their languages by creating

laws that ensure certain languages will remain commonly spoken in certain regions or

throughout their entire country. This can apply only to certain aspects of that culture, such as

business, or they can even apply to languages like English must having to be taught as a second

language in schools. While this can be effective at preserving cultural identity through language,

some programs, such as the Speak Mandarin Campaign, have been criticized in the past as being

discriminatory and for regulating media that is not in that language.

Some countries have found that arts can be a very effective way at preserving cultures.

Ethnographic filmmaking has become more popular with the rise of the streaming format

documentary film. Many of these films have the ability to document languages of different

cultures and provide translations for them within the film as subtitles. These, however, face

danger of being inaccurate or dubbed instead. Furthermore, companies like Disney have made

different efforts to create versions of films in different and endangered languages, including a

Cherokee version of 2003 film Finding Nemo and a Hawaiian version of 2016 film Moana.



While it is difficult to find children who speak the language to perform these roles, companies

that create these dubbed versions believe it can be one of the most successful ways to increase

interest, particularly by children, in learning these endangered languages.

Delegates should also consider the effect that public institutions have on the growth of

diverse languages, with most institutions are not at the advantage of minority language speakers.

While it may be expensive to provide translators or translation materials in all environments, this

is something that should be accessible in all situations regardless of class.

Countries with high rates of immigration should also consider the impacts of exclusivity

on these immigrants who often feel the need to learn the language of that country. Countries

should think about how to communicate effectively with these people and provide them with

accessible education and entities without making them feel excluded or segregating them in these


Technology is at the forefront of this argument, and through the dissemination of videos,

tweets, and podcasts, people have become more interested and able to learn other languages.

Artificial Intelligence has also been used to sustain languages, as shown through the Centre of

Excellence and Dynamics of Language and Google’s Opie robot, which will be able to live in a

family environment and do things like play games and share stories. Technology does have its

drawbacks, however, largely due to its inaccessibility for users that speak minority languages.

This may be actually accelerating the rate at which these languages go extinct and translation

services online also are unable to truly convey the nuances of the languages they are translating,

which inevitably transforms and changes the languages themselves.



Questions to Consider

1. What role should the government play in restoring and preserving languages? Should the

United Nations try to combat language planning? Should language laws be implemented

in nations on a regional or global level?

2. How can the United Nations resolve this topic through education? How should these

solutions be tailored to be as inclusive and accessible as possible?

3. How should the United Nations prioritize different languages over others in restorations

efforts? How can UNESCO minimize this prioritization?

4. How can the United Nations help immigrants both adjust and retain the language of their

native country? How can nations give immigrants full accessibility without excluding


5. How can the internet and technology be used to save endangered languages? How can it

be harmful, and how can the UN address these concerns?

6. Are the current frameworks in place enough to address these issues? If not, should we

merely focus on improving these or should nations take a completely new approach?



Works Cited

“Atlas of Languages in Danger,” UNESCO, accessed 31 May 2018,


Castillo , Chang. “Language Preservation: How Countries Preserve Their Language(s) | CCA.”

Chang-Castillo and Associates, 18 Jan. 2019,


Crystal, Language Death, 2000, p. 77; Dalby, Language in Danger: The Loss of Linguistic

Diversity and the Threat to Our Future, 2002, p. 216.

Enrique Uribe-Jongbloed, “Endangered languages: Heritage of humanity in dire need of

protection,” Folios, no. 26 (2007): 66.

Joel Shurkin, “Half The World’s Languages May Be Endangered,” Inside Science, 15 July 2016,

accessed 2 September 2018, https://www.


Peter H. Byers, “If Only We Spoke the Same Language—We Would Have So Much to Discuss,”

American Journal of Human Genetics 78, no. 3 (March 2006): 368.

UNESCO Ad Hoc Expert Group on Endangered Languages, 2003,

/culture/ich/doc/src/00120- EN.pdf

UNESCO, Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 2011,


Wilford, John Noble. “World's Languages Dying Off Rapidly.” The New York Times, The New

York Times, 18 Sept. 2007,