Highly commended

The World Today Published 6 June 2019 Updated 18 June 2019 3 minute READ

Sophie Bearblock, Canford School

The UN Secretary-General’s envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, a member of the judging panel, picked Sophie because her entry was ‘specifically targeted at a very often ignored issue of immigrants. She proposed a multifaced solution from implementing infrastructure, generating awareness of the refugees’ situation, and distributing long-term mental health care. Great analysis with solid examples.’

Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, said: ‘I particularly liked the proposal to provide mental health professionals to work in refugee camps, for a number of reasons. It is an original idea that highlights a big, but neglected problem. The proposal is clearly written and well-researched. And it is practical and plausible - rather than “visionary” but empty.’

The current global population of displaced persons exceeds 65 million. These displaced people endure poverty, are at high risk of exploitation and face the denial of fundamental human rights. If I were secretary-general of the UN for a day, I would attempt to tackle one of the main long-term problems faced by refugees: mental health, writes Sophie Bearblock.
Often in humanitarian crises, the immediate focus is, importantly, on providing food, shelter and medical treatment to those in need. However, camps such as Kutupalong in Bangladesh, Dadaab in Kenya and other large-scale refugee camps, can end up being the refugees’ homes for years and even decades. Unquestionably, the constant fear for your safety, being unsure of where you may be going and distrusting the people around you are detrimental to the mental wellbeing of the inhabitants of these camps. Not only the situation they are now in, but also the traumas they have fled, leave many with mental health issues.
Many first world countries have infrastructure in place to combat mental health problems specifically in asylum seekers, migrants and refugees. However, as seen in Dadaab’s case, it can be years until the camps’ inhabitants make it to these countries and the mental healthcare they offer. At such an unstable and perilous time in their lives, and when the decisions they make matter most for themselves and their families, I believe that the refugees should be in sound mind to make those decisions. While organisations such as the UNHCR and World Health Organization help to ensure that the mental health and psychosocial support provided in humanitarian emergencies is co-ordinated and effective, what happens when 10 years down the line a refugee camp no longer constitutes an emergency?
As such, I propose distributing long-term mental healthcare specialists to some of the world’s largest refugee camps to help in the treatment of the victims of famine, war and other devastating events. The inhabitants of camps such as Dadaab have taken measures into their own hands. Families sometimes chain relatives who are victims of trauma and mental illness in order to keep them safe and stop them wandering.
As UN secretary-general, I would make the spread of awareness of refugees’ situations in places such as Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos (where children as young as 10 are attempting suicide) a priority. Worldwide campaigns to ensure this would be embarked upon by the UN member states in the hope that more funding can be gathered to tackle mental health issues through the growth of awareness.
In my 24 hours I would launch a press campaign to heighten awareness of the lack of mental health support in refugee camps and the UN proposals to change this in the hope that this will galvanise the support of the people and put pressure on country representatives to vote in favour of a bill on this issue.

Elise Medicoff, King’s College School

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, picked out Elise’s entry because, ‘unlike others which show direct links to the Sustainable Development Goals or Youth2030, the author proposed very progressive reforms inside UN bodies. The author directly questions the eligibility of the Permanent Members of the Security Council and calls for change. The worries expressed about how the world’s leading powers will affect the UN based on their national interests are understandable.’

Nearly 75 years ago, the Security Council was established as part of the UN, and was tasked with the maintenance of worldwide peace and security. Since then, the world has experienced an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, and the UNSC can justifiably take some credit in steering the world away from any major conflicts, writes Elise Medicoff.

The five permanent members of the UNSC, who have veto power over all proposed UNSC resolutions, were the victorious great powers in the second world war. This raises the central question: Is the composition of the permanent members fit for purpose to address the peace and security needs of the next 75 years?

The world has changed greatly since the second world war. Western countries’ share of the global population has fallen from 27 per cent to 15 per cent, yet they hold three out of the five seats on the Security Council. Asia represents 58 per cent of the world’s population and yet it only holds two seats, including Russia. Nuclear weapons have also proliferated — nine countries now possess them, four of which are in Asia.

Containing this growing threat is of central concern to the council. The world also faces existential threats from global warming in a situation where the sources and consequences are not well understood and the solutions are cross-border, expensive and contentious.

So, given these facts, my first action as secretary-general would be to recommend recomposing the permanent membership of the UNSC so that the body can continue to address the security challenges of the future. The US, China and Russia would keep their seats, while the British and French seats would be combined into one EU seat and the remaining seat would be allocated to India. The fusion of the European seats allows for the inclusion of Germany, the largest country in Europe and recognises that the postwar concerns about Germany are no longer valid. India should be awarded permanent membership of the UNSC because it is expected to have the largest population in the world by 2022, and is now the world’s largest democracy.

The greatest risk of not restructuring the UNSC is that Asian countries might establish a parallel security organisation that better represents their interests. This would seriously undermine the ability of the UNSC to operate globally. The greatest obstacle to realising these reforms remains the fact that current permanent members have a veto power over membership, so there is a risk that France and the UK might not support a move that diminishes their respective powers. The key here is to appeal to these countries that there is a higher purpose than representing their national interests, and that their individual voices would still be heard through the EU seat.