Committee Overview

The United Nations General Assembly Sixth Committee, also known as the Legal Committee, was established in 1947. The Legal Committee is a primary forum that assists the General Assembly in implementing article 13 of the United Nations Charter, which focuses on the development and codification of international law by drafting legal tools and treaties. One early milestone achievement of the committee was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. Furthermore, the Legal Committee is in charge of receiving and reviewing the reports of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and the Strengthening of the Organization, and the International Law Commission. Lastly, the committee promotes the development of international law by discussing the criminal responsibility of officials from the UN mission, the rule of law, and the scope of universal jurisdiction, among many others.

Topic A: Ownership and Possession of Foreign Cultural Artifacts

Throughout history, conquering countries have often looted cultural and historical artifacts to bring home. For example, the Benin Bronzes are thousands of statues that represent the artistic history of the Edo people. However, after British soldiers attacked the region in 1897, these artifacts were taken and distributed across Europe. China, in particular, has sought the return of its artifacts, which are especially popular among private collectors. This practice still continues today, as American soldiers brought back many Iraqi cultural artifacts during the 2003 Iraq War. While this may seem a natural consequence of war, these artifacts are vital for understanding and celebrating a country’s history and traditions. They may also represent an essential part of a culture’s identity. The UN has long debated what to do with previously stolen cultural artifacts. In some cases, countries may return artifacts willingly. In 2009, the US turned stolen artifacts from Peru’s pre-Columbian history. However, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. In 1970, UNESCO established that newly discovered cultural artifacts must remain in the country where they are found. They can only be sent overseas with the country’s express permission. However, the UN has not addressed what to do about already stolen items. In this debate, delegates will determine how to find justice for these cultural artifacts and ensure that everyone has equal access to human history.

Topic B: Regulating Multinational Corporations

Multinational corporations (MNCs) are large businesses operating in numerous countries. Because they operate in different legal jurisdictions, MNCs can be difficult for any one government to regulate. Because MNCs are often large, wealthy corporations, they can easily influence politicians. In Australia, French corporation Nestlé resisted a law that would force it to report on its use of slavery abroad, saying it would add costs for consumers. MNCs also donate to politicians in exchange for more favorable regulations. Sometimes, these donations are legal, but they may also be a sign of corruption. MNCs also minimize their tax bill by moving parts of their business to “tax havens,” or countries that do not force them to pay high taxes. Developing states that need tax revenue suffer the most from tax havens. Environmental regulations are another area in which MNCs often defy regulation. Disasters such as oil spills, illegal waste disposal, and improper mining can have deadly effects in multiple countries. However, these countries may still struggle to hold the MNC responsible. In this committee, delegates will consider the legal solutions that the UN could pursue to hold these MNCs accountable. Only through systems of accountability and responsibility can MNCs become purely beneficial contributors to global prosperity.