The following essay was submitted as a position paper for the 41st Yale Model United Nations conference and was selected by the secretariat as an outstanding treatment of the topic. The author is a student at Kingswood Oxford School.
Committee: Advisory Panel on Water Security
Topic: Water Wealth
Nature is an inexorable force. Typhoons, hurricanes and tsunamis (among other water-based forces) have battered the earth from prehistoric times. Perhaps spurred on by climate change—although this claim has not yet been proven decisively—, these occurrences have become even more deadly in recent years. Tsunamis and related events end and disrupt lives, interrupt governments and require vast sums of money for rebuilding and recovery. The difficulty of implementing national warning systems and building codes have blocked progress in preparing for catastrophe. However, international response is usually timely and effective, if not financially responsible; for example, in response to the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the United Nations “helped provide food, medicine, water and sanitation and hygiene assistance,” according to a U.N. report 100 days after the typhoon struck. Furthermore, the U.N. “implemented emergency employment programmes that helped [families] get back on their feet and pumped money into local economies,” said the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines. Russia believes discussing the threat posed by devastating climate events like tsunamis is more pressing than discussing the threat posed by sinking islands due to the former’s immediacy.
Russia is a tsunami-prone nation. The 1952 Severo-Kurilsk tsunami, for example, killed more than 2000 Russians from a local population of 6000. More recently, in 2012, at least 171 people were killed in a “tsunami-like flood” in southern Russia. According to RT.com (formerly Russia Today), this flood was the worst event like it in about 100 years. Although Russia had put in place a flood hazard alarm for these situations, head of Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov noted that “the population was notified [of the flood], but not in a sufficiently thorough way.” This failure did not go unnoticed in Russia, and she participated in the 2014 Tsunami Warning Exercise, which “revealed some technical dysfunctions in the transmission of alerts and showed the need to improve the reliability of communication technologies used to disseminate alert messages,” according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Therefore, Russia has taken steps to protect her citizens against these threats, but more international cohesion and assistance is required.
Russia believes that solutions to mitigate the effects of tsunamis must focus on international collaboration. For example, systems that relay early warnings of floods and tsunamis must be installed throughout the world, in order to allow for a more timely response both by the affected country and by other nations and international organizations. An international commission should be formed, consisting of at-risk countries and experts, to investigate the most effective solutions, both preemptive and reactive. These countries would provide relevant information, such as what consistently goes awry during crises, whether it be architecture or emergency response systems failing. Russia would welcome the input of such a well-qualified commission in regard to building codes and other possible solutions, as well as the cost and feasibility of each idea. As for sinking islands, Russia stresses that any resolution cannot and must not infringe upon the power of a sovereign state. That is, the U.N. may not force an unwilling country to provide land to the government and people of a sinking island; the land in question must be sold willingly. Russia completely supports a humanitarian solution, but when a country sinks and there is no land already allocated for migration, the government must also cease to hold power over these displaced people in order to minimize unrest, and former citizens should become naturalized in another nation.
The safety of a nation’s citizens is of paramount importance, and the above ideas are a few ways to make water-based natural disasters less threatening.