Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee

The Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee of the United Nations is tasked with dealing with issues surrounding social, humanitarian and human rights issues from around the world.


chair: emily lang

Hello, everyone! I’m Emily, a junior from Rochester, NY in the Politics Department. At Princeton, I’m the President of the International Relations Council, a member of the MUN Team, and I’ve served on the Secretariat for both PMUNC and PDI. I’m also a freshman orientation leader with the Dialogue and Difference in Action Program, work in the Office of International Programs, and serve as an Advising Fellow with the nonprofit Matriculate. In my free time, you can find me napping in weird places or downing coffee to stay awake. So excited for PMUNC 2019!


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topic a: Foreign ISIS Fighters Detained in Syria

The near destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has left the international community with another pressing matter: what to do with the thousands of foreign ISIS fighters currently detained in Syria. At its height, ISIS recruitment drew citizens as far and varied as the United States, France, Australia, and China. Now, these foreign fighters, along with many of their family members, are imprisoned by the Syrian Democratic Forces with no consensus within the international community on how to deal with them. States’ ability and willingness to prosecute and detain returned ISIS fighters, though, differs drastically. France, for instance, imposes a maximum sentence of twenty years on citizens who join a terrorist group, yet many walk away free or with very light sentences. As a workaround, the French government has been accused of “outsourcing” trials of French jihadists to Iraq, where the death penalty is liberally applied. Besides the moral dilemma of whether or not states should allow extradition to a country with capital punishment, the Iraqi justice system has been criticized by human rights groups for not working off of evidence when dispensing death sentences.

Deciding what to do with the active fighters is not enough – options for the wives and children of jihadist fighters must also be addressed. Though some women were brought to the region by their husbands, others voluntarily traveled to the region seeking ISIS husbands. Their roles also vary: while Salafism constrains many women to the domestic sphere, some joined specialized ISIS units and others were crucial participants in enslaving Yazidi women as sex slaves for jihadist fighters. The children of ISIS foreign fighters also pose a unique challenge. The international community typically views children in conflict as victims rather than perpetrators. However, extremist groups such as ISIS have delicately radicalized and involved children in their mission. The rehabilitative potential of foreign women and children, then, varies greatly. As the international community grapples with the ramifications of foreign ISIS members, they must achieve a delicate balance between constraining jihadi campaigns abroad, protecting against domestic terrorism and internal unrest, and adhering to legal constraints and norms.

topic b: Detention of Uighur Muslims in China 

China currently holds millions of Uighur Muslims in detention centers in Xinjang. As of now, about 1 in 6 adult Uighurs in the Xinjang region have been detained in a Chinese camp, with no sign of a slowdown. While China has denied that these facilities are concentration or reeducation camps, claiming the Uighurs are voluntarily present, Muslim detainees report being tortured by Chinese police and forced to applause the Communist Party. Western researchers and policymakers have called the targeted detention of Muslims a cultural genocide and accused China of building a 21st century gulag. China, though, defends the camps as vital for national security. In recent years, Uighur separatists have carried out a growing number of attacks on the majority Han Chinese. Militant Uighurs in Western China founded the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), widely recognized as a terrorist group (including by the U.S.). ETM allegedly has ties to Osama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda. ETIM is also widely reported to have thousands of jihadists fighters in Syria. From China’s point of view, detention is a necessary counter-terror measure – a practical way of fighting separatism and religious extremism. China has historically gone to great measures to prevent separatist movements from growing, fearing a nationwide splintering should these movements gain traction. Yet, China has also faced a growing pushback from the international community, with Western and Muslim majority countries openly denouncing the camps. In addressing the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs, the international community must balance the blatant human rights violations of the Muslims with China’s sovereignty as a state to deal with separatist movements and groups with documented ties to domestic and international terrorism.