atheena arasoo '20 United Nations Human Rights Council

atheena arasoo '20
United Nations Human Rights Council

Atheena is a sophomore at Harvard studying Social Studies. She hopes to center her academic path around Pacific studies. Part of her motivations to do stem from the fact that she was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and then moved to the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi at the age of eleven. After serving on the Secretariat of WorldMUN last year, Atheena is very excited to return this year to engage with delegates as a chair on a topic that is close to home for her. Along with WorldMUN this year, she will also be at HNMUN-LA in Peru and HNMUN in Boston in early 2019. Beyond Model UN, Atheena loves to dance, spend time at the beach, and test out trendy new restaurants. She looks forward to meeting delegates from all over the world at WorldMUN 2019!

Topic: Climate Change Induced Migration

This committee will focus on the issue of impending large-scale migrations caused by climate change, especially with regards to sea-level rise and increasing natural disasters. This holds particular weight for small island states, which face the risk of permanent loss of their territories, thus facing some of the largest consequences of climate change despite being some of the smallest contributors. Migration is the expected result of the loss of land, but there are many barriers to facilitating this process, which is inherently an international issue. International law has yet to adequately address the intersection between climate and migration which also affects many other areas, including development; national security; and human, indigenous, and cultural rights. The current legal definition of a “refugee” does not quite cover the specific situation of climate induced migrants, and this leaves fuzzy obligations of states and the international community for these people.

Specific issues I would like the committee to discuss include coming up with an appropriate legal definition for these migrants and how to actually facilitate relocation processes. These talks are necessary since this is something already rather inevitable for a number of states and will continue to be a problem for others as sea levels continue to rise. Issues of sovereignty and statelessness are prevalent as citizenship conflicts arise with the integration of a full migrant group into a new host country -- how can migrants maintain a sense of autonomous rights without severely disrupting existing institutions? Climate change puts pressure on the design and implementation of laws, so solutions need to embrace interlinked approaches and be flexible enough to allow for a level of experimentation given a somewhat unprecedented issue.