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Special Political and Decolonization Committee (SPECPOL)

World Model United Nations 2013

Study Guide

Letter from the Secretary General 04
Letter from the Under-Secretary General 05
Letter from the Chair 06

Topic Area A
08 Statement of the Problem
09 History of the Problem
21 Past UN Action
22 Proposed Solutions

Introduction 07
History of the Committee 07

24 Key Actors and Positions
25 Suggestions for Further Research

Topic Area B
26 Statement of the Problem
27 History of the Problem
37 Past UN Actions
39 Proposed Solution
40 Key Actors and Positions
42 Suggestions For Further Research

43 Position Papers
44 Closing Remarks
44 Bibliography
47 Appendix

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Letter from the Secretary-General
Dear Delegates,
It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you to the 22nd session of World Model United
Nations! My name is Charlene Wong, and I am the Secretary-General of WorldMUN 2013.
Within this document you will find the study guide for your committee. The conference
staff for WorldMUN 2013 has been working tirelessly over the past months to provide
you with an unparalleled conference experience, beginning with this guide. Each Head
Chair has researched extensively to provide you with a foundation for each committees
topic areas.
We encourage you to use this study guide as the starting point for your exploration of
your committees topics, and your country or characters policies. The WorldMUN Spirit
invites you to step into the shoes of your country or character, and to immerse yourself in
the committee by researching and developing a full understanding of the issues, perspectives, and possible solutions on the table. We offer several additional resources online,
including our WorldMUN 101 Guide and Rules of Procedure, updated for this year. Both
are available at www.worldmun.org. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to
contact your Head Chair or Under-Secretary-General.
WorldMUN believes that the impact of delegates over the four days of conference goes
far beyond the walls of the committee room. Therefore we are pleased to announce that
resolutions passed at the 2013 conference in this committee will be sent on to the relevant body in the United Nations. Please enjoy reading this study guide, and I look forward
to meeting you in Melbourne in March!
Charlene S. Wong
World Model United Nations 2013

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Letter from the Under-Secretary-General
Dear Delegates,
It is with the greatest pleasure that I welcome you to the General Assembly of the 22nd
World Model United Nations. Over the last few months, we have been earnestly preparing for your rapidly approaching arrival in Melbourne. Your chairs have tirelessly labored
to produce substantive material of the highest quality, which has and, I believe, will continue to distinguish the WorldMUN committee experience as foremost in the world for
rich debate and fecund collaboration.
I am overjoyed and humbled to be your Under-Secretary-General for this years GA, for it
is certainly not one to be missed. For this session, the organ features a compelling mix
of traditional GA mainstays as well as innovative committee experiences that our chairs
have produced to tackle challenging world problems in novel ways. From endangered
languages to urban crowding, a wide spectrum of committee topics has something to
offer for every delegate, and our seven passionate chairs are excited to share their interests with you. These chairs have also dedicated themselves to creating a GA experience
that transcends both the limitations and promises of the large committee sizes, pursuing
a vision in which GA delegates enjoy all the fluid, intimate debate of smaller committees
while gaining the caucusing potential and expansive representation of the GA.
This study guide provides you with an excellent first step to prepare yourself for the first
day of committee. The material here represents what your chair feels are the most important aspects of the topic areas and serves as both an introduction as well as a bridge
to more in-depth research. If ever at a loss for where to start, always turn to the study
guide first. Additionally, there are resources online at our website including our WorldMUN 101 guide and updated Rules of Procedure to prepare you for committee.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or your chair. As a former
WorldMUN chair, I know how much effort is invested into the committee experience by
delegates and chairs alike, and we are all available to help make this conference the best
WorldMUN yet!
Scott Yu
Under-Secretary-General of the General
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Letter from the Chair
Dear Delegates,
It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee of Harvard World Model United Nations 2013! My name is Stewart Pine, and I am lucky
enough to serve as your chair for this conference. I am a junior, studying Chemical and
Physical Biology with a Mathematics secondary. I grew up in Massachusetts, and though
I did not travel far to go to school, I love travel and spent the most recent summer doing
research in Paris. I cannot wait to make my first trip to Australia! I participated in Model
United Nations in High School, and I am very excited for my return this year.
One of the most interesting aspects of SPECPOL is its elasticity with respect to the issues
it can discuss. The topics of this years conference take full advantage of this flexibility.
With the topic of migrant workers rights, you as a delegate will have the opportunity
to help design a system to protect some of the most vulnerable and important peoples
in the world. With the topic of mining rights, you will have to negotiate the tricky world
of geopolitics as you search for ways to protect countries under pressure from private
corporations and other companies alike.
Come prepared for a lively debate! I hope that you will take this opportunity to explore
a viewpoint on the issues that differs from your own. Over the course of debate, make
sure to allow your own views to be challenged. This is an incredible opportunity to meet
new people and make new friends, and I hope that you will take full advantage of it. If
you have any further questions, feel free to send me an e-mail. I look forward to meeting
you in March!
Stewart Pine
World Model United Nations 2013

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creative thinking and enthusiasm, but I am certain

SPECPOL is one of the most interesting General

Assembly Committees simply because of the breadth
of topics about that it can discuss. Though tasked
with many topics involving peacekeeping, territorial
disputes, and issues surrounding outer space, the
title Special Political allows it to address a broad
spectrum of topics that exceeds that of almost any
other committee. The two topics to be discussed at
this years committee certainly take advantage of this
The first topic concerns the protection of migrant
workers. The International Labor Organization
estimates that there are over 85 million migrant
workers in the world today. Typically, these workers
come from impoverished regions of the world
looking for better employment options than can be
found in their home countries. However, it is these
very qualities that make them a very vulnerable
population, and they are often deprived of basic
protections and human rights. Recently, the workers
and the difficulties they face have come into the
international spotlight, highlighting the need to find
a solution.
Equally important is the second topic, which
explores the role of the United Nations in
guaranteeing a countrys sovereignty with respect
to its mineral resources. With the rapid development
of manufacturing, technology, and transportation,






increasingly valuable. As countries and companies

alike seek to develop the shrinking number of mineral
deposits remaining in the world, enormous pressure
is placed on mineral-rich nations. As delegates, you
will have to decide on the role of the United Nations
in ensuring that each nation retains its autonomy to
decide how to develop its natural resources. Solving
these two very different issues will require critical and

that you are all up to the task.

History of the Committee

The United Nations Fourth Committee of the UN
General Assembly deals with a variety of issues, but
most specifically with decolonization and political
issues. The committee has its origins in the Committee
of 24, or the Special Committee on Decolonization,
which was established in 1960 by Resolution 1514
in order to oversee decolonization. An ad-hoc
committee to deal with special political issues, dubbed
the Special Political Committee, was also retained
until 1978. In the 1993, GA Resolution 47/233 was
passed, revising the work of the Fourth Committee
into the body that is currently known as SPECPOL.
This revision merged the Special Political Committee
and the Special Committee on Decolonization into a
single body.
SPECPOL deals with a wide range of topics, and,
because of the ambiguity of the phrase special
political, its issues often overlap with many other
committees and UN bodies. Specifically, SPECPOL
deals with issues pertaining to decolonization and
territorial disputes between different nations or
ethnic groups. Recently, the committee has taken up
the issue of Palestinian independence. The committee
also deals with issues such as outer space and
international peacekeeping efforts, including policies
regarding land mines and other weapons. These
topics often overlap with those dealt with by DISEC
and the Security Council, as well as other General
Assembly bodies, and thus SPECPOL has historically
been able to make recommendations to these bodies
on a great number of issues. Other issues discussed
by the Fourth Committee include the freedom of
information and contributions to the University for
The flexibility of SPECPOL is such that it can
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address a wide variety of issues. This flexibility, along
with the fact that the committee is open to every
single member state of the United Nations, allows
members to choose the issues up for debate based
on the perceived importance of the issue in current
events. For instance, the committee is currently
discussing the viability of nuclear energy sources
after the Fukushima Reactor meltdown of 2011.
Mining rights, one of the two topics to be discussed
at this conference, might not typically be considered
the domain of the Fourth Committee. However,
considering the serious geopolitical consequences
and importance of minerals to a wide variety of global
industries, there is certainly reason for SPECPOL to
bring the topic up for debate.
Currently, the Committee is not allowed to take any
military action or direct the United Nations to sanction
any country. However, owing to its elasticity with
respect to the issues it discusses, SPECPOL can advise
on a wide variety of issues, and can pass resolutions
recommending military action or economic sanctions
if it deems them appropriate. It currently has over
170 items on its agenda, many of which deal with
territorial disputes, peacekeeping, and human rights,
but also many others that were simply deemed of
enough importance to discuss.
The importance of the Fourth Committee in
mediating international political disputes cannot be
understated. Its recommendations and resolutions
are taken into serious consideration by other UN
bodies as well as independent nations. Its broad
inclusion of a wide variety of topics, including those
discussed by other committees as well as those
that are unique to SPECPOL give it credibility and
enhance its advisory role to many other international
organizations and countries. The importance of this
committee for a variety of issues is enormous, and
it has been involved in the resolution of countless
international disputes.

Topic Area A: Exploitation of

Migrant Workers
Statement of the Problem
The growing speed and efficiency of global
transportation has rendered geographic distance
relatively insignificant in the consideration of
employment opportunities. The potential of finding
work abroad has become a serious possibility for
many in search of better options than those available
in their home country. However, the promise of good
employment can lead these often desperate workers
into situations in which they find themselves not
only exploited, but also prevented from returning
home. Without any political power or means of legal
recourse, these workers can do nothing but hope
that their contracts will be honored.
Migration driven by economic incentives is hardly a
new phenomenon. From indentured servitude in the
colonial era to the marked increase in immigration
following World War II, the allure of more prosperous
employment has long been one of the main forces
driving immigration to developed countries. Yet the
opportunity and even desperation that drives these
laborers can leave them vulnerable to exploitation by
those looking for cheap sources of labor.
Abuses of workers, however, are difficult to
identify. Regulation of the recruitment and relocation
of these people is virtually nonexistent, allowing
contracts to be drafted and signed exclusively by
recruitment agencies, without oversight by any third
party. Upon arriving in a new country, workers might
have their passports and other means of identification
stripped by these agencies. The situation is further
exacerbated the precarious status of the workers
within these nations. Typically they are not citizens
and hence have limited political clout, hindering
their ability to organize or effect any sort of political
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Similarly, the ability of the United Nations to act

issues are addressed, migrant workers will continue

on behalf of these workers is sufficiently complicated

to work with fewer rights and decreased protections.

in its own right. The necessity of action on behalf

History of the Problem

of marginalized inhabitants must be tempered with

respect for the sovereignty of a particular nation to
determine its own labor policy and consequently
to address potential weaknesses and oversights of
such a policy. Furthermore, the question of what
specifically constitutes mistreatment of laborers
remains unanswered and presents further difficulties
in instituting any intervention. Finally, while it is
imperative that these issues be addressed, they
must be resolved in such a way as to not discourage
further migration, which has been shown to be
mutually beneficial to both the home country and the
Dubai has, in recent years, been accused of
allowing mistreatment and exploitation of thousands
of workers across many industries. Hopefuls from
India, the Philippines, and Somalia are employed
in the public and private sectors, yet routinely have
had their pay docked or withheld and commonly
are misled about the opportunities that await them
in the city. This situation epitomizes the difficulties
in approaching the problem, for the workers have
often signed contracts, which might have led them
to forfeit many traditional labor rights. Ameliorating
the situation in Dubai requires a new framework
upon which the United Nations can construct an
international labor policy.
Complications thus arise from many different
factors. There is no protocol by which abuses might
be identified, and even current definitions fail to
be broad enough to be evenly applied across many
different industries and nations. A course of action for
addressing these problems once identified is similarly
lacking, both for existing situations of exploitation
as well as for stemming the flow of migrant workers
brought in to countries by various agencies. Until such

Globalization and Foreign Labor

The rapid advance of technology following World
War II spawned a new era of shared information.
This interchange of global ideas, hastened by the
fall of colonialism, rendered geographic distance
inconsequential for many laborers looking to explore
employm ent opportunities.

The rise of working

wages and specialization in developed countries

created a demand for unskilled labor, fostered by
the reluctance of workers within those developed
countries to accept lower wage positions.2 A
large market for unskilled labor was therefore
developing and, coupled with the increasing speed of
transportation, became a very real target for migrant
workers seeking better opportunities abroad.
The post-World War II climate saw many
opportunities for migration. Displaced peoples,
whose livelihoods were destroyed by the war, found
no more opportunities in their home countries and
instead looked abroad. The growing economies of
Western Europe and Australia saw large demand for
unskilled laborers, which were easily filled by hordes
of eager immigrants. Across the world, immigrants
flocked to developed nations experiencing a postwar economic boom, meshing formerly disparate
peoples and cultures. This immigration forged new
connections between countries, allowing new
partnerships and treaties to be signed under the
pretense of allowing speedier immigration. With large
Diasporas now present internationally, the global
exchange of information and traditions between
immigrant groups and natives of the countries in which
they resided expanded. Soon, a global network, built
on the back of technology and migration, connected
geographically distant economies in unprecedented
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Despite the fall of colonialism in the years following

in North America as well. Even during World War

World War II, the colonial powers of Western Europe

II, the United States, which had greatly recovered

were still able to draw upon the millions of unskilled

from the Great Depression, found that there was a

workers in their former colonies to satisfy the need

large demand for labor. In 1942 it began the bracero

for labor in the post-war period of reconstruction3.

program, which recruited workers from Mexico on

Similarly, countries without extensive colonial

a temporary basis to work as tenants on farms.8 The

histories such as Germany instituted guest worker

program was government run, and was in many ways

policies, which allowed workers to come on the basis

similar to those of Europe, for both the Mexican and

of job availability, leaving once employment was no

American governments intended it as a means of

longer available. Similar systems were instituted in

alleviating unemployment in Mexico and satisfying

Belgium and the United Kingdom, encouraging an

the growing demand for labor in the United States.

influx of immigrants from Italy, Turkey, and North

However, in 1954, the government turned over control

Africa. France too saw the arrival of over two million

of the recruitment of braceros to private agencies, in

new workers between the periods of 1945 and 1973,

doing so removing the American government as an

owing largely to increased foreign recruitment of

overseer and protector of the workers rights.9 The

laborers5. These guest worker policies were enacted

workers were now directly subject to their employers

to fill what western European leaders saw as a

wills and subsequently suffered pay cuts and were

temporary demand for labor and were not an attempt

deprived of other privileges and rights normally

to diversify or increase the foreign-born population.

reserved for workers.

Australia experienced a similar increase in

Gradually, both Mexico and the United States

immigration during the postwar period. Launching

grew dependent on this program. For Mexico, it

a campaign to increase immigration as part of a

became the only source of relief of unemployment

new plan for reconstruction that required new labor

in the postwar period, and so recruitment centers

sources, the Australian government signed peace

within Mexico continued to send workers over the

treaties with European nations and relaxed the

border10. Meanwhile, the agricultural sector in the

formerly strict immigration requirements.6 Soon, ex-

United States grew entirely dependent on Mexican

servicemen from Britain and immigrants from Eastern

labor and was no longer sustainable without it. Thus,

Europe took advantage of these opportunities

the program continued, and with it the power of the

swelling the native population by thousands every

employer to dictate the terms and conditions of the

year. The government also took steps to ensure that

workers contracts, free from government oversight.

the immigrants properly acclimated to Australian

This inevitably led to breaches of these contracts,

society, including providing lessons in English and

including docking and failure to pay wages owed. 11

assistance in finding jobs. However, the primary

Global Economic Downturn

objective of these policies was not necessarily to

The 1973 oil crisis had far-reaching consequences for

promote equality, but was more firmly rooted in

countries worldwide, causing a sharp and immediate

assimilation, which regarded non-Anglo-Saxon

decline in the worldwide GDP. Industrialized nations,

values as inferior and promoted Australian superiority

whose economies were most dependent on oil,

over diversity.

suffered the greatest. This upheaval of economic

Great waves of migration began to take place

fortunes also had drastic implications for migration,

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The Bracero Program saw thousands of Mexican immigrants admitted into the United States as seasonal workers on farms.

which had continued steadily throughout the postwar

France, saw this as a threat to their traditional society

period.12 Guest worker policies were brought to a

and culture, and a new debate on the difference

sharp halt throughout Europe, and a global recession

between immigration and citizenship ensued.15

set in.13 Jobs were in short supply, and the demand for

Local opposition to immigration grew, eventually

labor became virtually nonexistent as unemployment

becoming a national issue in many countries as


politicians attempted to use the xenophobia of many

Western Europes thirst for foreign labor ended

abruptly in the mid-70s, causing many governments

native Europeans to migrants for their own political


to cease their foreign labor recruitment and guest

Governments not only closed their doors to

worker programs in favor of sweeping restrictions

further migrant workers but also attempted to create

on immigration. This rapid reversal came during the

an economic and social environment they hoped

oil crisis of the 1970s, which preceded a worldwide

would be inhospitable to migrants, forcing them to

recession, thus ending the prosperous period of

leave and return home. From 1974 onward, France,

recovery following World War II.14 As initial migrant

the Netherlands, Switzerland, and many other

populations became settled, they sent for their

Western European nations all reversed their previous

families to come join them, creating vibrant new

policies of enthusiastically recruiting guest workers

communities across Western Europe. However, this

and instead tried to actively prevent more from

also meant that now, these people required not only

coming.16 New policies were enacted prohibiting the

jobs but also access to housing and education as well.

entrance of family members, shortening the length

Natives in certain countries, such as Germany and

of workers permits, and restricting migrants rights

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and political access.17 European governments refused

the government ensuring that they were responsible

to acknowledge the permanence of the migrant

for the incoming worker.22 Initially, the restrictions

community, continually relying on the false hope that

on the origins of the workers were relatively few,

once the workers permits expired, they would return

and Arab migrants were easily able to find jobs and

back to their home nations. However, they found

citizenship in their host countries. However, the

that the previously established migration patterns

governments grew wary of discontent, fearing that

were extremely difficult to reverse and continued to

these new Arabs would threaten their regimes. They

struggle with the reality of a growing, discontented

accordingly modified the kafala system, making it

immigrant population. Workers, afraid to return

much harder to gain citizenship and, in doing so,

home lest they be denied re-entry later, simply

made labor abuses much more common.23

refused to leave. This, combined with the reunion of

The recession of the 1980s continued these labor

workers families, led to a stable and growing migrant

trends the world over. The Middle East continued to

community in many states that had only hoped for a

be a destination for many economically disadvantaged

temporary one.

peoples looking for employment. The origins of these


The recession continued throughout the 1970s,

migrant workers had accordingly shifted. Initially, a

facilitated by the 1979 Iranian Revolution and

large number of the workers came from Arab nations

subsequent energy crisis. While these recessions

without large oil reserves.24 Gradually, however,

took their toll on the developed nations of the world,

those numbers began to shift. Falling oil prices

they were simultaneously heralding a new period

worldwide curbed the recent prosperity, forcing

of economic growth in the developing world in the

the oil-producing countries to find ways to cut labor

Middle East and in Asia.19 The Middle East, benefiting

costs. The oil-producing countries gave preference to

from higher oil prices, began to rapidly expand its

allowing the entry of migrants from Asian countries

infrastructure, spending money on building cities,

over those from other Arab nations.25 The less-

roads, and other public projects. The subsequent

skilled Asian migrants were both cheaper and easier

labor demand caused a wave of migration from

to manage, as they became subject to many anti-

other, less prosperous Middle Eastern countries such

integration policies that deprived them of workers

as Lebanon, Jordan, and even Sudan, sending many

rights. Disenfranchised and denied citizenship, there

immigrants to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait looking for

was little the workers could do to influence the



The direct result of this sudden boom in immigration

The majority of these workers came from

was the modification of the kafala system, a guest-

Southeast Asia, which itself was undergoing a period

worker program set up in the Middle East in the 1950s,

of economic growth. In 1967, Thailand, Malaysia,

which began as a means of ensuring a stable migrant

Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia formed

worker population. The system was very similar to

the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),

that of many guest workers in Europe, however there

which soon instituted the ASEAN Framework

were several distinguishing features. In particular, for

Agreement on Services. This measure promoted the

entry into a particular country, a migrant needed a

creation of network to allow temporary workers

kafeel, or a sponsor. This sponsor could be a citizen or

from each nation to seek jobs in the service and

a government agency and would sign a contract with

other industries across others members borders. As


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the regions leaders in economic growth, Singapore,

this era. Turks first began arriving in Germany in the

Malaysia, and Thailand found thousands of migrants

1960s and were among the last groups of immigrants

crossing their borders in an attempt to find new

to take advantage of the guest worker policy.

jobs, with a majority coming from Indonesia and the

Yet from the beginning, the German people and

Philippines. 26 Nonetheless, migration in the region

government remained wary of allowing too many

continued unabated, and Japan, South Korea, Hong

workers to come, as they distrusted Turkey as being

Kong, and Taiwan soon became the destination

an Islamic state. This translated into a severe distrust

for large number of labor migrants, as they had

of the Turkish people once they arrived. Immediate

demonstrated stable economic growth, an attractive

problems presented themselves in finding housing for

quality for those seeking employment. Yet again,

the hordes of immigrants that arrived. The temporary

these migrants faced challenges securing rights

housing erected for the workers was of subpar

and protections in their destination countries. In

quality, far below the typical building codes that were

Singapore, for example, the thousands of unskilled

required for housing German natives.29 Problems with

and semi-skilled workers were not offered minimum

poor hygiene, lack of food suitable to the Muslim

wages, and, in many cases, wages varied based on the

diet, and other issues of cultural insensitivity plagued

workers country of origin. Nonetheless, migration

the workers for many years.



continued unabated for the next decade.

Historical Case Study: Turkish Immigrants in Germany

The work itself was equally difficult. The Turks

worked for long hours in unsafe conditions, often

The experience of Turkish immigrants to Germany

separated from German workers physically and

is indicative of many different migrant groups during

through no comprehension of the German language.

Though they are not entirely free from discrimination, today Turks have become an integral part of German culture society.

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Despite this, the Turks continued to outperform their

Democratic Union, which promoted nationalistic

German counterparts, which served both to endear

and anti-immigrant policies, including campaigns

them to the government and earn the distrust and

opposing dual citizenship and allowing migrant

scorn of many natives . Under the contracts they

workers to remain permanently.34 The decades of the

signed upon arrival, they were often only allowed to

1990s and the 2000s brought a sharp increase in the

return to Turkey once a year.

number of supporters of integration policy, coupled


The improvement of working conditions came

with an expansion of Turkish culture as a daily feature

gradually, only after the number of Turks in Germany

of German life.

had become significant enough to operate as a

The Gulf War and Shifting Migration Demographics

politically viable force. Though initially required to

return to Turkey after their two year contracts were
up, most opted to extend their contracts by three
years, owing largely to the lack of opportunities in the
economically stagnant Turkey.31 Steady immigration
continues, allowing family members to join the initial
migrants. By the time t hat the contract extensions
concluded, the workers were well established within
Germany and thus even more reluctant to return
home. Despite the oil crisis that ended most of the
guest worker policies in 1973, Turkish immigration
continued unabated well in the 1980s, mostly
through family reunification. Increasingly frequent
postponements of workers permits expirations

GCC states serve as the destination for millions of migrant workers

dates promoted the permanent settlement of many

looking to find jobs in the rapidly developing gulf region.


Beginning in 1991, the Gulf War wrought a distinctive

Small communities sprung up in cities across the

change to labor migration in the Middle East. After

country, yet despite these advancements, integration

Iraqs invasion of Kuwait in 1990, countries became

and equality remained difficult for the Turks. The

divided along political lines as certain nations, such as

government neither sponsored their residence nor

Jordan and Yemen, overtly supported the invasion,

took steps to ensure that they had equal access to

while others did not. In particular, member states of

resources on par with those of German residents.

the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which included

In fact, the official policy was to continue their

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and several other oil-rich

status as guest workers and encourage their return

nations, heightened their immigration restrictions

to their country of origin, a policy that persisted

against workers from countries supporting the

until the 1990s.32 Similarly, the German people were

invasion, leading to the expulsion of almost 2 million

gripped by xenophobia, claiming that the migrants

Arab workers from GCC states.35 This use of migration

were funneling precious resources away from

policy as a political weapon had consequences for the


migrants, many of whom lost out on wages, savings,


This xenophobia manifested itself in the

political arena in the party platform of the Christian

and other possessions upon their expulsion. 36

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Despite the war, progress continued unabated

which themselves served as potent attractors for

in many oil-rich nations, necessitating a new labor

large numbers of migrant laborers. Yet again, the

force to fill the void left by millions of departing Arab

powerhouse economies of Hong Kong, Singapore,

workers, the majority of whom did not return even

Thailand, Japan, among others, drew many migrant

after the wars end. The Gulf States subsequently

laborers to their borders to fulfill a wide variety of

looked to Southeast Asia to meet the labor demand,

domestic and industrial positions. So great was the

as they were not involved in the geopolitics of

allure to seek employment in these places that by

the region that had led to the previous workers

1997, there were at least 6.5 million foreign workers

expulsion.37 The number of migrants from Indonesia

in seven different Asian countries, including the

and the Philippines, as well as Sri Lanka, India, and

previous four, Malaysia, South Korea, and Hong

Bangladesh to GCC states consequently rose. Their


numbers so rapidly expanded that by 1995, there

The 1997 Asian financial crisis had a severe impact

were as many as 1 million more Asian workers than

on labor migration across the continent, halting

native Arabs in the GCC states, a fact which worried

much of the development that had necessitated the

some nations enough to reconsider their almost

migrant labor in the first place. Beginning in Thailand,

exclusive use of Asia as a labor source. Though the

the crisis enveloped many Asian nations, devaluing

workers were initially thought to be less divisive than

currencies and causing debt to rise. Though the causes

other Arabs, conflicts eventually brewed between the

were uncertain many blamed it on poor lending

migrants and the native populations, as well as with

practices its consequences were immediate. Many

the Arab migrant workers as well. The workers were

of the most robust economies saw an immediate

often subject to mistreatment or, in the case of many

halt in their previously consistent growth rates,

female workers from the Philippines and Indonesia,

causing them to cease many development projects

sexual harassment.39 Such reports were met with

as they prepared for an uncertain financial future.41

differing reactions at home, including banning

Unemployment rates rose universally as governments

migration for Filipina women under the age of 21, and

sought not only to find a solution to the crisis but also

an outright ban by the Indonesian government on

to find some way of dealing with the millions of labor

sending any female domestic workers at all.

migrants who had recently poured in, expecting to


Nonetheless, the worldwide reliance on oil allowed

find employment.42

the prosperity of the GCC to continue unabated into

The problem of migrant workers in Asia became

the 21 century. As oil prices recovered from lows

much politicized, as natives sought to p rotect their

during the Gulf War and a brief period immediately

own employment interests and called for the forced

after, prosperity returned to the region. Development

deportation and repatriation of many labor migrants,

on roads, cities, and other projects continued, the

whom they blamed for the crisis.43 Indeed, the

labor demand ensured a steady flow of immigrants

political pressure was so great that some migrants

from Southeast Asia, who remained enticed by the

actually did get deported, with Malaysia sending

employment opportunities despite the reports of

back over 200,000 Indonesian workers and Thailand

abuse and neglect of workers.

announcing a similar plan for workers from Myanmar


Similarly, the first half of the 1990s saw the

as one component of their Unemployment Relief

continued growth of selected Asian economies,

Scheme. Interestingly, in both of those countries,

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there remained labor shortages in certain industries

made official in 1990 with the Employment of Foreign

that were both low paying and dangerous, and in a

Workers Act, which explicitly guaranteed better wages

similar vein, many domestic workers suffered only

and the freedom to apply for jobs within any sector

pay cuts as opposed to threats of deportation.

to skilled and professional migrant workers. Unskilled


One particular response to the crisis was the call

workers must apply under a completely different visa

for a greater variety of government protections

or pass, which must be renewed after four years

for workers during a period of financial hardship.

and do not allow the workers to be accompanied

Eventually, this spawned a movement dedicated to

by their families. This type of preferential selection

reforming the welfare system in many Asian countries,

based on immigrant skill is common across many

which many migrants hoped would benefit them by

Asian nations, though individual policies do vary.

offering them further protections against abuses.45

Though the system governing the intake of

Since the early 2000s, the global patterns of labor

migrants is rather comprehensive, many countries

migration have stayed relatively the same. In Asia, the

lack specific legislation protecting the rights of

strongest economies of Singapore, Japan, Malaysia,

migrant workers once settled. This was of particular

Hong Kong, and Taiwan continue to be the strongest

interest to labor-exporting countries, which had a

attractors of migrant laborers searching for work. As

far more vested interest in the quality of life of their

the decade has progressed, thousands of migrants per

citizens crossing borders to work than did many of

year have continued to stream into these countries,

the countries that received them. For example, in

swelling local populations and causing tensions

1995, the Filipino government passed the Migrant

between local populations and the arriving workers.

Workers and Overseas Filipino Act, which affirmed

In particular, local governments struggled with how

the commitment of the government to protecting

to govern the incoming populations, including giving

the rights of its workers overseas and established

them access to local resources such as affordable

guidelines for allowing workers to seek employment

housing, education, and medical care. In Singapore,

in another country. Specifically, the act required the

Thailand, and Malaysia, a complex bureaucratic

destination country to have enacted laws ensuring

system arose, giving the government the power to

the protection of workers and the establishment of

decide migration limits and incentives.46

resource centers overseas that could serve Filipinos

The immigrant population in Singapore, for

working there, among other provisions.48

example, is a mix of both Southeast Asian laborers,

A notable outcome of this act was the refocusing of

who are primarily unskilled and occupy the more

the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration,

domestic industrial sectors, other East Asian migrants,

which formerly was responsible for regulating all

and some skilled workers from western nations such

aspect of overseas employment, towards issues

as the United States of America and Australia, who

more related with workers rights overseas.49 The

occupy many managerial and professional positions.

Filipino government was one of the first to become

The official policy of Singapore has been to promote

significantly interested in overseas workers rights,

the immigration of the more skilled workers, while

but soon other nations followed suit. In 2004,

varying the limits set on the number of unskilled

the Indonesian government passed legislation

workers allowed entry into the country based on

establishing education and protection programs for

the current economic situation.47 This policy was

migrant workers, and other nations set up similar

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The Philippines Overseas Employment Agency overseas the registration and orientation of all prospective migrant workers as part of the
countrys measures to protect its citizens working abroad.

agencies to oversee the recruitment and exportation

boasted a labor force composed almost exclusively

of labor to other Southeast Asian countries and the

of foreign workers. Dubai had been growing steadily

Middle East.

since the end of World War II, aided by British

Special Focus on Dubai and the Middle East

exploration for oil in the area. As one of the last regions

The Middle East and the GCC member states,

in the GCC in which oil stores were found, Dubai first

having largely recovered from the Gulf War, once

rose to prominence as a banking and financial center,

again enjoyed relative prosperity from rising oil

controlling the gold trade from India. British banks

prices, and thus renewed their mass recruitment of

took advantage of many of its lax tax policies to

laborers from Southeast Asia. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,

stream capital into the region.51 Simultaneously, the

and the United Arab Emirates were among the chief

government began investing heavily in infrastructure

importers of foreign workers, with workers from

to support a growing metropolis. The implementation

Asian countries comprising more than fifty percent of

of large-scale construction projects for building and

each of those countries labor forces in 2005.50 New

expanding roads, airports, and ports was crucial

sources of labor were found in Bangladesh, India, and

to broadening Dubais role as a center of trade in

even in some African countries.

the Middle East. The discovery of oil in the 1960s

No country in the region had become more

and 1970s injected even more capital into the city52,

dependent on foreign labor than the United Arab

increasing the already rapid pace of its development.

Emirates, and in particular the state of Dubai, which

By the 1990s, Dubai was recognized worldwide as an

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Above: Owing to its explosive growth over the past few decades, Dubai has become a popular destination for migrant workers.
Below: The thousands of migrant workers employed in Dubai often live in camps outside of the city.

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The GCC states have some of the highest proportions of foreign laborers in the workforce in the world.

international center of finance, trade, and tourism.

age at 15, mandated that employers provide financial

Dubais rapid development relied heavily on the

compensation for employees injured in the workplace,

use of foreign labor to build roads, buildings, ports,

and required employers to provide overtime, leave,

and other projects cheaply and efficiently. Thousands

and safety measures to workers, among other

of Arab and later South Asian workers poured in over

provisions.55 However, employers were not required

the years, occupying labor intensive positions as

to provide insurance to employees, and there was

construction and domestic workers. Steadily, Dubai

no recognition of unions or of employee collective

began using almost exclusively foreign labor from

bargaining rights. The U AE also set forth mechanisms

Asian countries, such that in 2005 over 87 percent

for the implementation and interpretation of labor by

of its labor force came from Asia.53 In fact, today,

allowing members of the Ministry of Labor to act as

Dubai counts as much as 85 percent of its population

arbiters in cases involving labor disputes.56 Workers

as foreigners, many of whom came searching for

can file complaints with the Ministry, as which point

jobs among its growing construction and service

it will become a mediator of employer-employee

industries as well as positions as domestic workers.54

negotiations and, if a solution cannot be achieved, an

These workers are predominantly Asian, but in recent


years there has been an increasing number of African

These mechanisms for the protection of workers

workers as well. In contrast to the workers of Western

have faced scrutiny in recent years. Numerous

Europe, however, these contemporary workers often

reports of abuses of migrant labor, including failure

do not bring their families and instead send a portion

to pay wages, inhumane living conditions, and

of the money they earn back to their families in their

extended work hours. Workers complain of having

home countries.

their passports taken from them, and being forced to

Despite the growing numbers of workers living in

live in unsanitary labor camps on the outskirts of the

the country, the UAE passed remarkably few laws

city.57 Oftentimes, the workers claim, they are forced

governing employer responsibilities and labor rights.

to live in rooms with up to 11 other people without

The 1980 Labor Law of the United Arab Emirates was

proper plumbing or air conditioning.58 Many of the

one of the few enacted. It set the minimum working

workers paid recruitment agencies to bring them

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there, claiming to be lured by agents offering double

with many other members of the GCC, the nation

the actual wages and perks such as visits home every

voted in favor of the International Labor Office

year, none of which are actually in the contract they

Convention 189, which standardized protections for


They also complain that the government

domestic workers worldwide.64 The government also

does not actually monitor workplace-related injury,

announced that it was drafting a law to allow the

as is required by law. Finally, none of the protections

formation of labor unions for construction workers,

listed in the 1980 law extend to domestic workers.

though the law remains under review and has not yet


Despite lacking the legal right to organize, workers

been implemented. Despite these advances, critics

have been increasingly expressing their frustration

maintain that existing impediments to collective

towards the countrys labor policies. Workers have

bargaining, worker protections, and employer

staged protests and walked out of their jobs as a

accountability must be addressed.

means of lobbying the government to update labor

The Future of Migrant Labor

laws, but thus far there has been little success.60 The

Recent years have seen a shift in economic power

government response has been mixed. Officials have

away from Western nations such as the United

stated that they are working on developing new labor

States and Western Europe towards more rapidly

laws that are fair to both employers and workers, and

developing nations. This shift in economic importance

they have begun to take action against companies

has significant implications in the form of foreign

convicted of deceiving their workers, including

investment and economic growth, but also for the

limiting their ability to hire any more employees.61

future of migrant labor in these areas. As these

In response to the complaints, the government has

countries grow in population, infrastructure, and

instituted several organs devoted to mediating labor

GDP, they will inevitably be looked to as a potential

disputes and addressing complaints of mistreatment.

destination for workers seeking better opportunities

The Permanent Committee on Labor Affairs, created

than are found in their home countries.

in 2006, resolves cases of unpaid wages and other

Latin America has recently been experiencing a

complaints, and maintains a group of inspectors

marked increase in the number of migrant workers

tasked with determining if the labor camps housing

crossing its borders. The most popular destinations

workers are up to government standards. These

have been Argentina and Venezuela, which counted

measures have met some levels of success, with a

over 1 million foreign workers in 2010, as well as

company being fined almost US$2 million for failing to

countries such as Brazil, which received the largest

pay its workers. However, critics maintain that the

number of migrants from countries outside of

government has been lax to utilize these mechanisms

South America.65 Some of the growth of migrants

to punish companies that infringe on workers rights.

in Brazil can be attributed to its current demand

Specifically, the Human Rights Watch has criticized

for strengthening its infrastructure, in part due

the transparency of these organizations within the

to its playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and

governments, as well as their accessibility to the

the 2016 Summer Olympics. As such, employment

workers, and points to the need for minimum wage

opportunities are expanding and drawing a large

laws and a government-recognized right to protest.63

number of migrants from both neighboring countries

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has

and other continents.66 Yet concerns are already

softened its position on labor rights. In 2011, along

arising over the treatment of these workers, both


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With many job opportunities in construction for events like the coming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, the number of
migrant workers in Brazil is expected to rise.

with respect to working conditions and wages. As

countries to which the workers travel.

Brazil and more broadly become viable destinations

Past UN Action

for migrant workers, they will have to develop means

of addressing these issues.
In addition, countries serving as the sources of
migrant labor are experiencing their own changes.
For instance, in Northern Africa, rising unemployment
rates have driven many residents to seek work
elsewhere. Once settled, the workers send back
remittances, which, due to their volume, have become
very important to the economies of these nations.67
With the onset of the worldwide economic downturn,
these countries remain dependent on remittances
that are shrinking with wages. As such, the future
of labor migration from this region remains unclear,
especially when considering the recent instability
of the region. The solutions that governments and
the United Nations implement to address concerns
surrounding labor migration will undoubtedly have
far-reaching consequences for the people relying on
the money supplied by foreign workers as well as the

From its inception, the United Nations has

recognized the importance of migration and workers
rights and has adopted numerous resolutions and
created various committees to try to find a solution
to the inequitable treatment of migrant workers. The
topic of migrant labor is dealt with almost exclusively
by the International Labor Organization (ILO), which
operates as a UN agency with 185 member states.
Convention 97, drafted in 1949, deals with specific
matters pertinent to labor migration. It calls for
information to be accessible to migrants regarding
labor policies and asserts that migrant laborers
should have access to public labor recruitment
services, healthcare, equal wages, and other benefits
on par with those of local workers. It also specifically
admonishes the promotion of illegal immigration or
Following Convention 97, in 1975, Convention 143
was passed. It dealt primarily with migrants in abusive
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conditions, and called upon members to root out and

nations are primarily those from which immigrants

address causes of illegal migration, which promoted

emigrate, and often are not the destination countries

abuse of migrant workers rights. It called upon states

of migrant workers. Though it is important that the

to provide adequate remuneration and social security

home states of migrant workers acknowledge their

to legal migrant workers. Convention 143 also defined

right to protection and fair treatment, without the

a migrant worker to be one who migrates exclusively

support of developed or developing nations to which

for employment, and not education or other reasons,

these migrants flock, the convention is all but useless.

and asserted that migrant children raised in a country

Weak support among major employment countries

should not be regarded as illegal. Together, these two

is among the biggest issues faced by the United

conventions, 97 and 143, were instrumental in defining

Nations in garnering support for migrant workers.

UN policy towards migrant labor. However, although

The resolutions, while specific and focused, are often

Convention 97 saw some support from developed

unfavorable among employment nations because

nations like the United Kingdom and France, 143 saw

migrant workers serve as cheap labor alternatives.

little by way of support from nations that would likely

Such countries are not particularly eager to forfeit

serve as destinations for migrant workers.

their cheap labor supply. Another impediment to

One of the most important resolutions was the

equality for migrant laborers is illegal immigration,

International Convention on the Protection of the

which is particularly hard to track and exists far

Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their

outside governmental controls. Finally, the conflict

Families in 1990. This convention guarantees that

between local and international law can present an

migrant workers will be afforded the same rights

obstacle to migrant worker rights. Without powerful,

and equal treatment as local workers, regardless of

industrialized nations to support these conventions,

gender, age, or ethnicity. It also attempts to take

they are unlikely to have any great effect.

action by sanctioning states that allow trafficking of

Proposed Solutions

workers and institutions that mislead people about

the opportunities presented by migration. Finally,
it also addresses, albeit briefly, undocumented
workers, saying that their rights must be respected
as well, although the convention acknowledges that
legal migrants are entitled to more rights than those
who are undocumented.
The Convention failed to garner widespread
support in the international community. While it was
drafted and signed in 1990, it only came into effect in
2003, when the minimum of 20 ratifying states was
finally reached. Currently, there are over 60 states that
have signed, ratified, or expressed the intention of
adhering to the protocols set forth in the convention,
and the Committee on Migrant Workers oversees
adherence to this convention. However, these

There has been little in the way of proposed or

implemented solutions to this problem, since the
countries in which solutions must be implemented
are also those countries that benefit the most from
lax migrant labor regulations. However, in recent
years, countries of origin for workers have begun
pressuring the employment nations to take steps to
protect their citizens while working abroad.
In the Philippines, the Overseas Employment
Administration has been made responsible for the
oversight and protection of the thousands of Filipino
migrants working abroad. The economy of the
Philippines, like many source countries for migrant
labor, is dependent on remittances sent home by
these workers. The OEA has been responsible for
cracking down on employment agencies recruiting
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in the Philippines and abroad that have been found

citizens. The system has garnered criticism from those

guilty of abusing migrant workers rights, and seeks

who say that despite its seemingly good intentions, it

to provide a more open and accessible recruitment

is corrupt and forces migrants to pay in order to have

process that protects the workers even while

their paperwork completed.

abroad. Many of the migrant workers coming from

There exists a dichotomy between the countries

the Philippines serve as domestic workers, and so

who send migrant workers and those to which those

the nation worked to draft a convention with the

migrants travel. In order to find a solution that might

International Labor Organization designed to protect

receive support from both types of countries, it is

the rights of domestic workers. The convention, the

essential that both have input. Compromises that

first of its kind, was completed in 2011 and currently

offer protections to workers without making them

has three signatories. In addition, the nation has

less desirable as a source of labor must be found.

been pressuring the governments of many Middle

In addition, it is essential that a body tasked with

Eastern countries, which serve as the destination for

oversight of these migrant workers be put in place.

many Filipino migrant domestic workers, to increase

Currently, there are few bodies to which migrants can

protections. The government has levied its power

turn to lodge complaints, and often they are forced to

as a labor supplier to help ensure fair contracts and

contend with foreign legal systems that do not offer

distribution of wages to its workers.

adequate or fair arbitration in cases of workers rights

Indonesia, another country that sends many

abuse. Establishing a new framework for addressing

immigrants abroad to work as domestic workers,

these issues would be beneficial in establishing a


uniform policy network that migrants worldwide can






promoting the rights of its citizens overseas. It has


made the negotiation of fair contracts for its workers

Questions a Resolution Must Answer


a priority in the near future. Other steps taken to

protect workers have included calling home illegal
migrants from places such as Malaysia. Yet critics
claim that the measures taken thus far are insufficient
and cite the large number of Indonesians currently on
trial or facing the death penalty abroad who were not
offered fair trial. In addition, many are pushing the
government to ratify the recent ILO convention on
the fair treatment of domestic workers.
In Thailand, a system known as National Verification
was created to allow illegal migrant workers the
opportunity to obtain legal status. The program
allowed illegal workers to register for temporary
passports from their home countries, which would
then allow them to become legal workers in Thailand.
Once they have attained legal status, they would be
afforded all of the same rights and privileges as Thai

There are several competing interests at work

in the debate over migrant labor rights, and any
proposed resolution must balance these interests
to create viable solution. First and foremost, the
resolutions must propose a system that will be used
by nations to admit and identify migrant workers:
What criteria must an immigrant fulfill to qualify as a
migrant worker, and what mechanisms are in place to
legally attain that status?
Once the admission qualifications are decided, a
resolution must address the rights to which migrant
workers are entitled: are they the same as those
rights afforded to citizens, or are there limitations?
More importantly, the resolution must define a fair
standard of treatment for migrant workers.
A resolution must also outline the tools available to
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migrant workers that they might use to seek out legal

What qualifies a migrant worker?

aid and report abuses. Should governments have a

To what protections and rights is a migrant

specialized agency that deals specifically with migrant

workers, or some other mechanism of ensuring
their rights are respected? What mechanisms of
oversight should be put in place to monitor migrant
workers rights in various countries? Should it be
the responsibility of the ILO to monitor and address
claims of worker abuse, or should it be given to
another organ? In addition, there should be an
explanation of the measures taken should a country
be convicted of having exploited migrant workers. It
is not necessary to be overly specific, but a general
outline of the processes by which the United Nations
will discourage such exploitation is useful.
Finally, the resolution must address the issue of
recruitment agencies and private contracts. There
must be a framework in place to address agencies
accused of misleading immigrants, and the resolution
must detail what powers are given to nations to
regulate recruitment agencies within their borders.
In addition, under what circumstances can a contract
signed by a migrant worker be nullified? Elucidating
the relationship between contracts and international
law regarding workers will be useful in determining if
exploitation has occurred at all.
There are many other questions that remain
unanswered that might be included in a resolution.
For instance, it might be important to address sharp
cultural or religious differences that could potentially
cause problems during labor negotiations. There
are so many issues to be considered that it can be
daunting to try and find a resolution that provides
every solution, so instead try and pinpoint the most
pertinent issues that can be applied uniformly to all
nations. Specifics are good, but keep in mind that
a resolution might fail if it is too specific and not
applicable enough.
Questions to consider:

worker entitled?
On whom will the responsibility be placed of
addressing workers complaints?





recruitment centers?
Under what conditions can a workers contract
be nullified?

Key Actors and Positions

Much has already been written in this guide about
the importance of the Middle East as a destination
for workers around the globe. Home to millions of
migrant workers, who sometimes outnumber the
native population, the Middle East has already been
implicated in several instances of worker exploitation
and continues to face pressure from various
migrant-sending countries to reform its labor laws.
Complications arise during considerations of what
amounts to cultural differences, such as the supposed
mistreatment of women, and what constitutes
specific and deliberate worker exploitation. The
history surrounding the development of the Middle
East as an international destination for millions of
workers has been more clearly explained in the
section History of the Problem.
The problem essentially splits the world into two
groups: countries that send migrants overseas to
work and the countries that receive them. Typically
the former group is composed of poorer, less
industrialized nations whose economies depend on
the remittances sent home by these workers. They
are also typically the countries spearheading efforts
to institute labor reform and ensure the protection
of their citizens abroad. Yet because they tend to be
poorer and are dependent on these workers, they have
far less power to enact change on an international
scale. The very reasons for which migrants choose to
leave these countries are also responsible for their
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limited influence. They are restricted in their ability to

suggestions for improving the situation of workers

get destination countries such as Singapore, Malaysia,

worldwide. Also important is the media, which by

Australia, and the United Arab Emirates to adhere to

reporting working conditions and experiences can

international conventions addressing migrant labor

help turn the tide of public opinion in favor of reform.


The media is especially important given that the ILO

Opposite the labor sending countries are those

and other international organizations lack the tools

countries that receive the workers. During a period

or the influence to pressure countries into adopting

of rapid expansion or growth, countries without an

laws protecting labor equality.

adequate labor supply find themselves in need of

Suggestions for Further Research

workers, and so migrants are brought in to fill the

void. For these countries, migrant labor acts as a
cheaper alternative to hiring citizens, for migrant
workers are often more willing to accept lower pay
and take on more hazardous jobs. In several cases,
migrant workers are needed to fill positions that are
refused by citizens of a certain countries, as was the
case with fruit pickers and seasonal farm workers in
the United States. Historically, countries such as the
United States and Western Europe have served as the
destinations for millions of laborers and their families,
but the demand has since shifted to countries in the
Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The goals of these countries are often to accelerate
their own growth, and migrant labor often provides a
cheap and effective labor force to do so. Thus, many of
the developed and industrialized nations are hesitant
to adopt conventions and adhere to resolutions that
make employing these laborers more expensive.
Owing to their position as the wealthier and more
influential states, they might not be receptive to
changing existing labor policies. While they might
not be opposed to extending rights to workers, to do
so presents a significant sacrifice, which they might
neither be equipped nor willing to take on.
There are numerous other actors that play
significant roles in the international labor community.
For instance, the International Labor Organization
is instrumental in lobbying for workers rights
and is responsible for publishing reports detailing

It is important to categorize your country based

on whether you are a net exporter or importer of
labor, as this is the single most important factor in
determining your future policy decisions. If you are
a net importer of labor, make sure to find specifics,
including what industries use the most migrant labor,
the origins of the migrant laborers and whether they
tend to stay and create a new life for themselves in
your country or return home after a period of time.
Look at past and present policy regarding migrant
labor and specifically what mechanisms exist to
protect laborers and what rights they are afforded.
If your country is a net exporter of labor, look
into the reasons for which people are choosing to
go abroad to look for work. There may be economic
factors or social or political unrest causing people to
seek employment elsewhere. Especially important is
the dependency of the home country on remittances
sent home by the foreign laborers, as these can
constitute a large proportion of the countrys GDP.
Research the different actions your government
has taken to protect its workers abroad, if any, and
analyze their effectiveness. Finally, it is important to
understand the treatment of workers within your
country as well, including their benefits and rights.
Make sure to identify any international conventions
or resolutions signed or ratified by your country
regarding migrant workers and even labor laws in
A basic knowledge of the history of your country is
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important as well. Look for periods of rapid growth

the search for employment, and so it is essential that

or industrialization, as these will be the times when

countries begin to look for an international standard

migrant labor is likely to be at its peak. Colonialism is

to govern migrant labor. Your research will direct

often a factor in the destination of migrant workers;

your goals when drafting resolutions, and thus it is

if your country was a former colony, try to research

of the utmost importance that you understand what

how many migrants still travel to the former ruling

aspects of migrant labor are advantageous to your


country, as well as the aspects that are harmful. If

Equally important and informative are projections

about the future of development in your country. If
your country is expected to grow steadily within the

you have any questions or need help finding a source,

dont hesitate to contact me via e-mail.

as a destination for laborers, and understanding the

Topic Area B: Foreign Mining


projected growth of these populations will inform

Statement of the Problem

next few years, it is likely that it will continue to serve

your policy decisions.

The International Labor Office will most likely be
the most useful source in finding your countrys policy
regarding migrant workers. Their website contains
numerous reports detailing the treatment of migrant
workers and labor policies in various countries
around the world, categorized both geographically
and by sector of employment. Using these reports,
you can identify the sectors most heavily dependent
on migrant labor. In addition, the World Bank also
drafts many reports detailing the use and distribution
of migrant laborers as part of a countrys workforce.
Non-governmental organizations can also prove
useful during your research. The Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty International often work to represent
workers and lobby governments to change their labor
policies, and so it might be useful to look at reports
and articles from groups such as these. Other groups,
such as the OECD and individual governments will also
contain information on the laws governing migrant
labor within their borders as well as the experiences
of their migrant laborers abroad.
Hopefully, everyone will come with a different story
to tell and different perspectives on the problem and
its solution. With the age of globalization, geographic
location becomes less and less meaningful during

Mineral resources have long been among the

cornerstones of society. Entire time periods such as
the Bronze and Iron Ages speak to the importance
of metals and minerals in the course of human
development. Much like every other non-renewable
resource, the quest for minerals has become much
more competitive in recent years, owing to the
progression of technology and population growth
that have increased demand. As an increasing number
of countries seek to build their infrastructure and
move toward industrialization, the demand for coal,
iron, copper, tin, aluminum, and hundreds of other
minerals swells. Numerous major industries, such
as energy, transportation, and manufacturing of all
kinds, are heavily dependent on the output of such
mines, and thus procuring new sources of minerals
has become very competitive in recent years.
As the worlds non-renewable mineral resources
are stretched thin, any new major deposits
immediately attract attention from multinational
mining corporations and resource-hungry nations
alike, often prompting a flurry of foreign investment.
Procuring incredibly valuable mining rights becomes
an intense competition that can threaten to
overwhelm tinier nations that might not have as much
influence. In particular, the considerations of the
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country seeking to sell the mining rights, such as the

and ensure that no nation succumbs to pressure from

safety of its environment and people, as well as the

outside forces.

use of profits to develop the nations infrastructure,

History of the Problem

might be subordinated to those of the companies

and foreign nations looking to invest.
Many countries have long histories of mining
that date back to the colonial era and even before.
During this time, the empires controlling the colonies
in Africa and Asia gave preferential treatment to
specific companies owned by Europeans, including
royal charters and virtually unchecked authority.
This fostered the development of a large and
powerful private mining sector that continued to
exert its influence long after the colonies received
independence. South Africa, long under British
rule, still struggles with finding a balance between
governmental oversight and the liberal mining
policies of previous decades. Worldwide, BHP Billiton,
Rio Tinto, and Vale represent three of the largest
companies in a US$1 trillion industry, each with its
own diversified interests on several continents.
The enormous influence of the private sector
can overshadow the ability of a nation to regulate
the mining development within its borders. Yet it
is also important to note that oftentimes, foreign
investment through these companies is crucial to
the development of the economies of these nations.
Mongolia serves as a perfect case study: finding
itself blessed with enormous mineral resources and
surrounded by wealthier, larger, and more powerful
countries, it is trying to develop a system that allows
it to balance its own growth with the desires of
various mining companies as well as nations such as
China and Russia, which seek to gain a foothold into
the countrys mining sector. The United Nations must
first decide what role it has to play in the arbitration
of such rights, if any, and then create framework that
can be used to mediate disputes over mining rights
as well as protect the interests of all parties involved

The allure of mineral resources has been

simultaneously a constructive and destructive force
throughout history. The discovery of gold in Australia
and the United States led to the explosive growth
of the city of Melbourne and the admission of the
state of California, respectively, while in South Africa,
the Boer Wars began largely with disputes over the
British annexation of diamond mines. That these
resources have become scarcer in recent years has
only increased their pull. The global mining industry
is currently worth over US$1 trillion, with the top
three companies, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, and Vale,
accounting for over $300 billion alone. The growth of
the mining industry has continued steadily, and with
it the power and influence of such companies. This
has led to a clash between the business interests of
the mining companies and the competing interests of
the state.
A Brief History of Mining
The worlds oldest mine is currently dated at
43,000 years old, and beyond that numerous findings
indicate that mining has been prevalent throughout
a large part of human history. Such is the importance
of these minerals that entire ages are named after
them: the Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages each mark
during which prehistoric humans used the respective
metal to create weapons and tools, and each
advance in material wrought a distinct change on the
course of human development. Evidence of mining
activity over thousands of years old has been found
on every continent except Antarctica, indicating
the importance of the activity and the minerals it
produces for even the earliest of civilizations.
In the past, great empires such as that of the
Egyptians and the Romans engaged in mining
activity, searching for both precious metals such as
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The Romans engaged created some of the largest early mines, such as this gold mine in Romania.

gold and silver as well as tin, lead, copper, and iron.

gold were important as well, both for their scarcity

The Romans developed some of the first large scale

as well as their intrinsic value as a form of currency.

mining techniques as a means of extracting whatever

Later explorations in the New World of North and

resources they could from across the empire.68

South America by Spanish conquistadors arose from

They were among the first to create mineshafts and

the desire to find new stores of gold. Yet the allure

developed methods for getting rid of the water from

of these precious metals led to the imprisonment

mines in addition to hydraulic mining methods that

and destruction of a great many natives at the hands

allowed them to quickly excavate the topsoil.

of these explorers, both through warfare and the

Evidence suggests that mining was practiced in

spread of disease.

India as early as 6000 BC, with the discovery of beads

Mining played a central role in the spread of

and tools made from copper and other metals.69 The

colonialism, for each new territory amounted to

precious metals and materials from these and other

untapped reserves of mineral resources that could

mines found their way to markets as far eastward as

be used to support the growing empires. Africa,

the Middle East, where they were exchanged with

being particularly mineral rich, was long sought

European traders for goods.

after by European nations for its iron, copper, and

The Middle Ages saw a great increase in the

gold mines, which were active long before the

demand for iron and other materials used to make

presence of Europeans on the continent. During the

weapons and armor. The warring states of Europe

19th century, as Europe began to partition Africa,

depended on the minerals to outfit their soldiers,

the mining industry grew steadily, bolstered by

and as such mining grew in importance. Silver and

the arrival of European immigrants looking to take

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Africa is one of the most resource-rich continents, yet it has had trouble utilizing this wealth due to political instability that many claim
is left over from the colonial era.

advantage of colonial mining policies that favored

claim to the mines. The Boer Wars in South Africa

these newcomers over the natives. By the turn of

began as a result of the annexation of diamond and

the century, tin, copper, gold, manganese, iron, and

gold-rich territories by Britain. Throughout Africa,

diamonds were all being exported back to countries

tensions rose over the control of precious minerals.


such as the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Belgium.

Elsewhere, the mining industry was also booming.

The wealth of minerals invited foreign investment

The westward expansion of the United States

into the region as people the world over hoped to

was fueled in large part by the discovery of gold in

grab their share of the wealth. Yet it also invited

California, which drew thousands from the east

conflict, in particular between the colonies and the

hoping to get rich quickly. The enormous growth

natives, who felt slighted and robbed of their rightful

of the regional population spawned the creation of


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cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, and

policy initiatives that aimed to help these countries

contributed to its induction into the union 1850.


improve their financial outlook. In 1992, the World Bank

In South America, the conquistadors quest for

developed a mining-specific strategy for attracting

gold was largely unsuccessful, but nonetheless a

foreign investment, which they had concluded was

flourishing mining industry existed there, primarily

the best way for these nations to modernize their

with the discovery of large silver deposits in Chile and

mining sectors for the international market.76 Integral

Potos, Bolivia.73 Much of the silver was shipped to

to this strategy were reforms that loosened state

Spain, and the stores were largely depleted, leaving

control over the industry, many of which succeeded

the economies of the region struggling to find new

in attracting foreign investment. Yet the autonomy

exports. And in Australia, gold rushes strengthened

relinquished by the governments of many African

the colony of Victoria, dramatically increasing its

states had fiscal and social consequences. Nations no

population and wealth.

longer backed by the wealth of their natural resources

The end of the colonial era heralded a period

of transition for the mining industry worldwide.

saw their currency values decline, which inevitably

led to poverty and widespread social unrest.77

Many of the former empires were unwilling to

In Asia, the period following World War II witnessed

relinquish control of the valuable resources to the

many countries using mining, and coal production

new governments of their former colonies. They had

in particular, as a means of modernization. India,

invested heavily in infrastructure, primarily rail lines

seeking to expand its heavy industry, nationalized

and other systems of transport that would allow the

its coal production quickly after its independence.

easy export of minerals and saw the end of colonialism

In Russia, territorial losses during World War II and

as a potential lost investment. In addition, the colonial

a lack of infrastructure had stunted the nations

mining practices had made it almost impossible for

industrial growth. It began using prisoners to expand

native African mining enterprises to survive, ensuring

its network of mines beyond the Ural Mountains and


that the foreign prospectors had complete control.

into Siberia.78 And in China, which saw a steep increase

The end of colonialism withdrew governmental

in mining and coal production during the Japanese

control of the regions, but ownership of the mining

occupation, the new regime used coal as a means of

companies and systems of distribution remained in

modernizing and rebuilding the nation. Though these

foreign hands. The newly instated governments of

mining industries flourished, with China becoming the

many African states worked immediately to set up

leading coal producer in the world during the 1990s,

nationalized mining corporations that would help

they were plagued by accidents, a lack of worker

bring in revenue and had the potential to employ

safety, and increasing environmental concerns.79


thousands. However, as the governments often

lacked the experience and capital necessary to
establish and maintain these ventures, the mines
performances were poor, and soon the countries fell
into debt.
At this time, the World Bank became heavily
involved in loaning money to these mineral-rich yet
debt-ridden nations and subsequently developed
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The Development of the Private Sector

chartered mining corporations, including the De

Beers group and the British South Africa Company,
which together controlled a large portion of the gold
and diamond trade in southern Africa throughout the
late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The rise
of private mining companies was not limited to Africa,
but occurred in the Dutch Indies, the Caribbean,
Australia, and the Americas.
The transition from public to private mining groups
occurred elsewhere. In Spain, the government had a
presence at the Rio Tinto copper mines since 1724.
Because of mismanagement and political instability,
the mines were eventually sold off to a private group
consisting of banks, railroad companies, and individual
backers in 1873.82 In Brazil, the government began its
mining venture in 1942 in Minais Gerais, mining and
exporting iron. Production grew steadily for many
years, and operations spread outwards to encompass

Cecil Rhodes became one of the most powerful men in mining in

colonial Africa.

Many of the first large-scale mining operations

were initially undertaken directly by the government,
especially during the colonial era. In India, Australia,
and their African colonies, the British Empire held
tight control over mining operations, ensuring that
much of the minerals and the revenue they generated
were sent back to England and leaving relatively little
for the colonists. As the British and other empires
grew, however, the demands of managing the
territories grew too great, and so private companies
were formed and given charters to manage certain
regions. Gold rushes and discoveries of other
precious metals in their African colonies attracted
large numbers of foreigners seeking their fortunes.80
These speculators and prospectors were supported
by the British and other colonial governments, and
given priority during bidding for mining rights.81 These
inequitable practices led to the rise of several major

almost all of Brazil. Vale eventually became a publicly

traded company in 1997, and, during that same year,
a large acquisition of stock by the Brazil Consortium
completed its privatization.83
Large profits encouraged the private companies
to invest heavily in new equipment and more
efficient techniques that increased output. Through
mergers and acquisitions, companies expanded and
diversified into mining various minerals, particularly
during the two World Wars, when materials necessary
for weapons and other instruments of war, such
as iron, were in high demand. Such diversification
necessitated geographic expansion. The Rio Tinto
Company bought the rights to mine copper in
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The Billiton Company,
of the Netherlands, expanded to Indonesia, and
many companies initially based in Australia expanded
their operations to Southeast Asia and Oceania.84
In these new locations, they enjoyed great success,
especially coal mining, which became very profitable
as electricity usage increased.
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As the colonial era ended, however, the companies

continued to grow, especially as smaller companies

faced problems. For years the mining laws of the

were absorbed into just a few, growing conglomerates

empires had supported them and allowed them to

which dominate the market today. The Rio Tinto

hold a monopoly on mineral production. However,

Group enjoyed great success in Rhodesia, but

the end of colonialism meant that new African

eventually sold off its shares in the mines to finance

governments would have the opportunity to rewrite

other purchases. It merged with the Consolidated

the laws so as to favor native businesses. In Zambia,

Zinc Corporation of Australia, which had capital but

the British South Africa Company transferred its

needed the undeveloped assets provided by Rio

mineral rights to the government after independence

Tinto.89 The resulting Rio Tinto Zinc Corporation

in 1964, and then a year later the remnants of the

continued to acquire companies from North America

company merged with the Anglo American plc.85

and Australia and began mining aluminum, borax,

Other companies, such as the diamond giant De

uranium, and coal, among other minerals.90 The

Beers, negotiated new contracts with countries such

Brazilian Company Vale, which was formerly state-

as Angola, Zaire, and Botswana, thus ensuring that

owned, merged with the Brazilian ore industry and

production would continue unabated.

acquired companies in China, Australia and North

The practices of De Beers in the period following

America. It is now the second largest mining company

colonial independence are noteworthy. While the

in the world. The Dutch Company Billiton expanded

founder, Cecil Rhodes, and subsequent leaders of the

its operations to all continents excluding Antarctica

company had enjoyed great freedom to speculate

and began mining bauxite, gold, copper and coal.

and mine where they pleased, the advent of African

In 2001, it merged with the Broken Hill Proprietary

independence hindered future endeavors. As such,

Company of Australia, which itself was a powerful,

the company sought contracts with the states of

diversified company. Today, after several other large

Zaire, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Botswana, as well

acquisitions, BHP Billiton is the largest and most

as others outside of Africa such as Israel, Russia, and

valuable mining company in the world, accounting for

Australia. In Africa, the company bought diamonds

almost 16% of the global market capitalization.91

from within conflict zones and collected fees and

Together, these and other large companies

percentages on every diamond sold.86 When Zaire

wield tremendous economic and political influence.

tried to circumvent these charges by releasing their

As with any large corporation, their presence is

own diamonds at lower costs, De Beers temporarily

simultaneously beneficial to countries, as they can

flooded the market to lower prices, rendering Zaires

provide infrastructure, expertise, and employment

diamonds relatively worthless and forcing them to

in the mining sector much more easily than many

adhere to the companys terms. Other deals saw the

governments. Yet in doing so they effectively take

country of Botswana acquiring 15% of the company

power away from the state and can, as seen in Africa,

in exchange for access to its diamonds, and the

South America, and currently Asia, exert pressure on

company bought almost the entire stock of diamonds

nations to their benefit. This conflict of interests has

in Russia and Israel, thus maintaining its monopoly of

led to struggles for power and control over mining

diamond mining.88

rights between the state and the companies in several


While other companies took similar, albeit less


extreme, measures, the power of the corporations

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states were hardly capable of fully exploiting these
mineral opportunities and thus were forced to allow
many foreigners to enter who could.94 Many of these
foreigners were British, who began to outnumber the
Boers and pose a threat to their views on religion and
slavery. Tensions exploded in 1877, when the British
attempted to annex Transvaal, leading to the First
Boer War, which prevented annexation but did not
BHP Billiton is the worlds largest mining company by market cap

Balancing the Government and the Private Sector:

South Africa
For hundreds of years, South Africa has been
inextricably linked with mining. A land of abundant
mineral resources, the region has produced gold for
hundreds of years, but it was not until the arrival of
the British and the grip of colonialism that the mining
industry truly developed. White foreigners became
dominant in every sector, in particular mining, reaping
large profits and creating a reputation for South
Africa as a literal goldmine waiting to be exploited.
The colonization of South Africa began in 1652
when the Dutch began a colony at present-day Cape
Town, hoping to secure an outpost along a nautical
spice trade route to the Far East.92 The settlement
grew, bolstered by Europeans fleeing religious
persecution and imported slaves. After several
skirmishes in the preceding years, the British captured
the settlement in 1806 and, a little over a decade later,
began promoting the emigration of British people
to the colony, pushing a group of people known
as the Boers northward into unexplored territory.
Though the British continued to annex their claimed
territory, the Boers eventually founded the Orange
Free State in 1854, in north-central South Africa and
the Transvaal Republic further north in 1852.93 In
1866, diamonds were discovered in the Orange Free
State, and later, in 1885, an enormous gold deposit
was found in the Transvaal Republic. The young

deter the British.

After the discovery of gold, Transvaal became a
very wealthy state, and it soon became the largest
gold producer in the world. Expansionist eyes in
British South Africa saw Transvaal as a very valuable
potential addition to the empire, and so expansionists
and imperialists hoping to gain access to the mines
encouraged the annexation of the state.95 Tensions,
already on edge due to the previous war, rose once
again, and in 1899, the Second Boer War broke out.
Britain quickly gained the upper hand, but three years
of guerilla warfare took place before it was declared
the official victor and the two republics were formally
annexed, completing the unification of South Africa.
The war had many implications for the country
as a whole, especially for the mining industry. With
the unification of South Africa complete, British
prospectors came in droves to the Witwatersrand,
the region yielding the largest gold discoveries.96
Even before the war, chartered companies such as
the British South Africa Company began securing
footholds here and in the diamond mines in Kimberly,
in the former Orange Free State. The monopolies
established during this time period, particularly
Cecil Rhodes consolidation of the diamond mining
companies, are notable in that they were largely
encouraged by the government, which essentially
handed control of the region over to the powerful
businessmen such as Rhodes who invested in the
region.97 Though slavery was abolished in 1833, the
now impoverished Boers and the natives went to
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After the discovery of gold there in the late nineteenth century, the Witwatersrand in South Africa became a target for British miners and

work in the mines, settling for low wages and unsafe

the infrastructure of the region, a task normally left

conditions that went unnoticed or ignored by the

strictly to the government.100

government for many years.98

The increasingly complex scene of racial politics

The British South Africa Company became

soon found their way into the mining industry during

particularly important in the following years. After

the Rand Rebellion of 1922, during which white mine

receiving its royal charter in 1889, the company

workers protested and revolted against the mining

was allowed to purchase large amounts of land at

companies after falling gold prices had caused a

a reduced price owing to the support of the British

decrease in wages. The companies responded by


It began investing in mines across South

hiring black mine workers, who were willing to work

Africa and Rhodesia, building a network of highly

for lower pay, but this only further incensed the

profitable ventures that, owing to the tight control

rebels.101 The revolt was eventually put to rest by

it was afforded over the region, was more efficient

the state military, and the government passed laws

than competing mines elsewhere in the world.

favoring white workers in the future.


Though the company became especially famous

The British South Africa Company lost its charter

for Cecil Rhodess diamond monopoly, it enjoyed

in 1923 and eventually dissolved after being forced

success in most ventures. With this acquisition

to sell its mineral rights in Rhodesia to the new

of land, it also began serving other roles, such as

Zambian government. The remnants of the company

constructing rail lines between mines and developing

were merged with several others to become Charter

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Consolidated Ltd, a subsidiary of the current company

pay, forcing the government to try and find a way

Anglo American.

to rectifying these two important but competing


Today, mining corporations still play a significant

role in South African politics and society. South

Venezuela and Nationalization

Africa still holds some of the worlds largest diamond

While South Africa attempted to balance the

and gold reserves, and continues to produce large

private and public interests, Venezuela has taken a

amounts of these and other minerals.103 South

very different approach. The countrys mining history

African mining policy continues to undergo changes,

dates back to the days of Spanish colonization, during

and, though currently it is still firmly entrenched

which time conquistadors began mining for gold to

in the private sector, there have been talks of

send back to Spain. The colonizers did little to expand

nationalization. Recent reforms affording more

the mining industry beyond the search for gold,

rights to mining unions and workers have resulted

silver, and other precious metals. Because Venezuela

in controversy, as mining strikes and revolts have

is typically characterized by its large oil reserves, the

become costly. Certain corporations, such as Anglo

mining industry received little attention for many

American plc, have expressed concerns over these

years, allowing a sizeable private sector to arise,

new reforms and inconsistent government policy,

particularly in coal and iron.

saying that companies are becoming more cautious

However, Venezuelan gold production remains

and less likely to invest in speculation and mine

in the international spotlight owing to recent

development.104 This comes at the same time as

developments in the national gold mining policy.

miners are demanding more protections and better

President Hugo Chavez nationalized the gold mining

The entrance to the Las Cristinas gold mine, which has been the subject of recent talks by the Venezuelan and Chinese governments about
its future development.
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industry in 2012 after nationalizing other industries

For centuries, Mongolia was primarily a nomadic

The process included

society, consisting of tribes of people wandering the

taking over mines owned by private companies such

barren landscape of the Gobi Desert, until Genghis

as the Las Cristinas Mine, one of the largest mines

Khan united the many different tribes and created

in the country.106 The government reported that

a vast empire. It was not to last however, and, after

nationalizing the gold mining industry would help

its fall, Mongolia once again became a place devoid

cut down on smuggling, infringement of workers

of any real cities or entrenched populations. It fell

rights, and environmental damage.

The law also

under the rule of the Qing Dynasty of China, which

required the return of gold in foreign banks to

was ruled by the Manchus.110 During this time, the two

return to Venezuela, as well as the sale of gold to the

populations remained very separate, but the capital


city, now known as Ulaanbaatar, grew considerably,

such as oil and electricity.



This act has generated significant controversy,

due to its location along an important trade route.

resulting in many investors cautioning against future

The rule of the Qing Dynasty lasted until 1911, and,

investment in the country. Several of the companies

after its fall, Mongolia claimed its independence.

from whom mines were nationalized have claimed

This was not immediately recognized, however, as

that doing so constituted a breach of contract.

China claimed ownership of the country, leading to

Rusoro Mining Ltd has asked the World Bank to

a war between Russia and China and occupation of


mediate the dispute and intervene on its behalf.

Mongolia by their forces for several more years.111 In

Meanwhile, Venezuela is in talks to develop the very

1924, Mongolia received international recognition of

first mine over which it took control the Las Cristinas

its independence.

Mine, into one of the worlds largest, with help from

Despite its officially recognized independence,

China. It is too early to tell if the move will ultimately

Mongolia remained under intense pressure and

be beneficial to the Venezuelan economy, which is

influence from its larger, more powerful neighbors.

currently suffering setbacks due to food shortages,

Communism and Stalinist influence took hold,

inflation, and a rising national deficit.109 It does,

becoming powerful enough to ward off the Chinese

however, serve as an example of a radically different

and Japanese influence growing in the east.112 This

approach to the mining industry than that of South

alliance with the Soviet Union continued for decades,


until the fall of the Soviet Republic and subsequently

Mongolia and Present Day

Communism led to the Democratic Revolution in

1990. A constitution was created, and the country
began the transition to a market economy.113
The result of so many years of a nomadic culture
and subsequent influence by its more powerful
neighbors was that the new government had little in
the way of infrastructure or precedent to guide it. With
respect to the economy, Mongolia had been almost
entirely dependent on agriculture and breeding

The Oyu Tolgoi mine has attracted interest from various countries

livestock, which would not be enough to sustain an

and companies, putting Mongolia under intense scrutiny.

independent nation trying to industrialize. The nation

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began mining coal in 1922 near the present-day capital

third of the Oyu Tolgoi mining rights, a mine that is

of Ulaanbaatar, but the industry, shunted from

expected to account for a third of Mongolias GDP

administration to administration, never actually grew

by 2020, and the president has urged a renegotiation

until after the Mongolian Revolution.

In 1996, the

of the contract to allow for greater control by the

country converted to a free-market economy, which

government.121 The rest of the mining rights are

eased price controls and invited foreign investment.

owned by the Ivanhoe Group, of which almost half

It was not until 2001, however, that Mongolia came

is controlled by the Rio Tinto Group. In May of 2012,

into the spotlight, after the discovery of an enormous

the country passed the Strategic Foreign Investment

gold-copper ore deposit at Oyu Tolgoi.115 The mine, one

Law, which gives Parliament the responsibility of

of the largest in the world, attracted the attention of

approving corporate takeovers in industries such

international mining corporations everywhere as well

as mining, significantly compromising the power of

as that of neighboring countries.

companies doing business in the country.122 These



The discovery of Mongolias mineral wealth

has caused an explosion of growth in the mining

measures are very recent, and thus it remains to be

seen whether or not they will be successful.

industry. Minerals account for 80% of its exports,

The future of the mining industry in Mongolia

and investment in its mining sector has made it the

rests on the governments ability to create a policy

worlds fastest growing economy in recent years.117,118

framework that recognizes its dependence on

Estimates place future growth rates at a steady 14%,

foreign investment while preserving its autonomy

meaning that Mongolia is expected to grow rapidly in

and independence from private mining interests. This

the coming years, especially as investment in mines

is made especially difficult given that Mongolia is a

such as Oyu Tolgoi increases. Due to its explosive

smaller, far less populous country than its neighbors.

growth, the country has had to work to develop a

Mongolian people have tended to be nationalistic

national mining policy that can take advantage of the

about their resources, placing them in direct conflict

growth while still assuring that it has control over

with the countrys dependency on foreign investment

resources within its borders. Neighboring countries

to grow. In order to find a solution, it must find a way

such as China and Russia have jockeyed for control

to balance myriad interests, including those of private

of shipping routes on which Mongolia depends to

companies and other nations.

export the coal. China is Mongolias biggest market,

Past UN Actions


consuming many of its mineral resources to fuel its

expanding economy, and foreign investment from all
countries amounts to more than 50% of its GDP.


Initially, the nation sought a mining policy that

was in line with free market capitalism. However, as
the true size of Mongolias mineral resources have
come to light, speculation and attempts by foreign
companies to exert their influence have caused
the nation to revise some policies and institute
a greater degree of governmental oversight of
mining operations. For example, Mongolia owns a

The United Nations has, in the past, made several

attempts to clarify and elucidate the process by
which countries might retain control over their
natural resources after signing contracts with private
companies. However, oftentimes these resolutions
have been contradictory and have done little overall to
present a clear and effective strategy for determining
the rights of nations to regulate the exploitation of
their natural resources.
The first major resolution meant to address the
issue was UN Resolution 626, adopted in December
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1952, which stated that it was the sovereign right of

that the local law of the state should determine it.

nations to be able to use and exploit their natural

This gave significantly more power to the state, which

resources as they saw fit. It also encouraged all

was now free to pay what it thought was a fair price

states to respect this sovereignty and to not act

for nationalized resources.

in any fashion that would threaten it. However,

Some critics have pointed to specific language

just a decade later, this resolution was modified by

within the latter two resolutions as diluting its power.

Resolution 1803, adopted in 1962, which stated that

The use of the word should denotes a suggestion

a nation could act to exploit its natural resources out

rather than a legal obligation. The real power of

of concern for national development and the well

these resolutions, however, was to weaken the

being of the populace. Furthermore, this resolution

power of an international contract, which was no

stated that nationalization was only to be used for

longer legally binding. Theoretically, this might have

security measures of the public interest and that

meant that companies would be subject to the will

contracts with private companies must otherwise be

of the countries. Mineral-rich countries, however, are

honored. This resolution undid much of the power

extremely dependent on foreign investment for their

gained by the state with Resolution 626, but it was the

own development, investment that comes through

first to offer some sort of compensation for private

these contracts. Though the countries were now

companies whose property was to be nationalized.

guaranteed the privilege, at least in the eyes of the

The UN conferred even greater powers of

United Nations, to void these contracts whenever

determination over natural resources to states in

they saw fit, to do so would undoubtedly discourage

1974, beginning with Resolution 3201, Declaration on

future investment. Thus, utilization of the powers

the Establishment of a New International Economic

granted in these resolutions might have resulted in

Order. The resolution included several specific

economic decline and instability, as companies would

mentions of the rights of nations to their natural

no longer view such a country as a good place to do

resources, declaring that it was an unalienable

business. Investors would unlikely be unwilling to do

right of nations to nationalize whatever resources

spend money in a place where they felt they had no

they wished and that no other state could work to


prevent them from exercising this right. In addition,

Thus, these resolutions were not particularly

the resolution provided for restitution for the loss of

effective at determining the rights of states and

natural resources due to occupation, colonialism, and

investors over natural resources. Specifically, they

even apartheid. Such a broad, sweeping resolution

failed to find an equitable solution that tempered the

gave significant power to the nations over the wills of

sovereignty of the state over its own natural resources

the corporations, which were essentially powerless

with contractual obligations that must be honored

to stop the nationalization of privately owned mines.

if the state is to attract foreign investors. Another

The power of the nation was further solidified in July,

glaring omission was any set of guidelines on how

when Resolution 3281 was adopted. This resolution

to intervene if the sovereign rights of a state over its

reaffirmed the right to compensation for companies

natural resources are being hindered in any way. The

that saw their investments in natural resources

resolutions mention that other nations must respect

nationalized. However, the Resolution gave no

the rights of a country to exploit resources within its

guidelines for this compensation, and in fact stated

borders, but, if they do not, there is no framework

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to address how the United Nations might encourage

must be present in order to efficiently and profitably

nations to follow this protocol, or discourage them

run the mining sector, a difficult reality to ensure.

from not respecting these rights.

Increasing government regulation of the mining

Proposed Solutions

industry will inevitably decrease foreign investment,

It is useful to look at past solutions proposed and

utilized by other countries in order to help create a
successful and lasting solution to the mining problem
today. Nationalization, or the assumption of control
by the government, is one potential solution used
in China and Venezuela, and is being discussed as a
proposed solution elsewhere, such as South Africa
and Bolivia. In countries where all or part of the mining
industry is nationalized, governmental oversight
is undoubtedly easier. For instance, with respect
to Chinas coal mining, the government owns the
Shenhua Group, the largest coal producer in the world.
The state manages the mines, the transportation of
the coal, and its use. The government operates this
company much like any other, using it to seek further
investment in mining opportunities abroad, which
sometimes attracts the scrutiny of other nations,
who are wary of letting another government directly
invest in developing their natural resources.
There are benefits and setbacks to this solution.
With a nationalized industry, the state can easily
regulate the use and development of the mining
industry within its borders, ensuring that the needs
of the state come first. Venezuela has stated that it
decided to nationalize its gold industry to prevent
smuggling and cut down on environmental damage,
a direct result of enhanced government scrutiny.
However, there are drawbacks to nationalization that

and the government must be able to run the mines,

so as to guarantee that this does not have a lasting
negative effect on the economy.
Conversely, it is useful to look at the implications
of a system with little to no governmental oversight
or control. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is
one of the most resource-rich nations on the planet,
yet it suffers from civil wars and violence that many
believe is perpetuated by the illegal mineral trade,
which takes revenue away from the government.123
The country has an enormous private mining sector,
with over 25 companies actively mining in 2011.
Though the Congolese government does control
a mining company known as Gcamines and owns
several copper, cobalt, and zinc mines, production
has been limited, and in recent years the company has
undergone privatization of several of its operations
through Chinese and Canadian investment.124
It is hard to differentiate the effects on the
industry caused by lax governmental oversight from
the issues surrounding the violence and instability
in the region. Yet it is important to note that the
DRC has experienced a sharp negative decline in
environmental quality, especially around mining
sites located near national parks. Without effective
regulation of transactions, there are concerns and
allegations that the sale of coltan has been used to
fund the civil war that has claimed thousands of lives

may make it a less attractive option, particularly for

in the country.125 Violations of labor rights are very

smaller nations. First, in order to nationalize a given

common, owing to the inability of the government

section of the mining industry, it is necessary to have

to control mining operations within its borders. Thus,

the infrastructure and capital to properly manage it.

there are problems inherent in a lax system that gives

For countries such as China, this is feasible, but for

almost complete control to the foreign investors as

others such as Mongolia, this would be a very difficult


task. The necessary roads, equipment, and personnel

Any future solution to the problem of balancing

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state and investor goals must recognize the issues

the UN respond if a nation is being pressured to take

inherent in both extreme solutions in order to work

an offer that is not necessarily in its best interest?

toward creating a balanced and fair approach. It

Finally, under what circumstances does the

is essential that new resolutions address the need

mismanagement of mineral wealth override a

to attract foreign investors while still maintaining

countrys sovereignty to exploit its natural resources?

an appreciable amount over control, so that states

For instance, what measures must be taken to ensure

can monitor the production of minerals within their

the well-being of the environment and the labor

borders and ensure that such production is not

force, and, if those measures are not taken, to what

harmful in any unintended ways.

extent can the UN intervene? Note that these are

Questions a Resolution Must Answer


only some of the questions that can be addressed by

First and foremost, a resolution must address the

role of the United Nations in addressing disputes
between private corporations and nations. Currently,
no such definition exists, meaning that all resolutions
of the United Nations occupy an uneasy state of
existence in which no one can be sure of the degree
to which the UN can get involved in international
mining affairs.
After defining a role for the UN to play, the
resolution must elucidate and provide a framework
for reconciling the national interests of a country with
contractual obligations. Under what circumstances
can a nation nullify a contract? Similarly, it is
important that a resolution specifically denote the
rights and privileges of nations in terms of their right
to nationalize mineral resources and the steps that
must be taken to do so.

a given resolution. The topic is so broad and so varied

that every country will have a different vision as to
what should be contained in a resolution.
Questions to consider:
What is the role of the United Nations in
mediating negotiations over mineral rights?
Under what circumstances can a country nullify
a contract made with a private company?
What are the rights and privileges of a country
to exploit their mineral resources?
How can the United Nations encourage the
respect of a nations sovereignty over their
mineral resources?
What are the standards to which nations
will be held regarding the development of
their mineral resources (with respect to the
environment, workers, etc)?

Key Actors and Positions

Equally important is the creation of a system aimed

The mining industry is worth over US$1 trillion

at protecting and promoting these rights once they

worldwide, and as such has attracted the attention

are decided. It is not enough to simply say that the

of many different groups. Some are looking to gain

rights of each nation must be affirmed and respected

control over the dwindling supply of non-renewable

in good faith: such language only serves to weaken

mineral resources, which are important for producing

the power of a resolution. Instead, seek to provide at

energy, manufacturing, and a host of other important

least a general outline of the mechanisms by which


the United Nations plans to hold states accountable.

The two most distinct groups involved in the

For instance, what policies must be in place to ensure

mining sector are the large, private corporations and

that nations respect the sovereignty of others during

the states themselves. The former is composed of

the bidding process for mineral rights? How should

thousands of different companies and conglomerates,

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China has emerged as the worlds largest consumer of coal.

some involved in the mining of a single mineral, but

the privates companies have no use for the minerals

most controlling diversified assets across several

other than to sell them for a profit, developing and

continents. The largest of the companies have

industrialized nations rely on these resources to

already been briefly discussed in History of the

fuel their growing economies. Coal and uranium in

Problem, but because of their size and influence it

particular are important, as they provide energy that

is important to mention them here once again. The

is crucial for industrial nations, as well as the rapidly

Rio Tinto Group, Vale, and BHP Billiton are the three

growing economies of China, India, Russia, Brazil,

largest mining companies in the world by market cap,

and several others. China, as the largest producer

and together they control mines on six continents

and user of coal, has in recent years invested heavily

worth over US$300 billion. These companies

in procuring coal and other mineral energy sources.

seek out contracts that allow them to purchase

The growing scarcity of the resource has pitted these

the development rights of minerals worldwide.

countries against each other in a similar fashion to

Oftentimes, they have more capital, experience, and

the different companies. Yet the competition is not

infrastructure than many nations, and are therefore

limited just to coal. Tin, aluminum, copper, gold,

much more adept and capable of fully developing and

diamonds, and almost every metal with some sort

exploiting a mine to its full potential. As the demand

of industrial or commercial use are sought after by

for resources continues to rise, these companies

industrial nations.

often find themselves bidding on the same mines,

creating a decidedly competitive marketplace.

Conversely, there are mineral rich nations who

are using the abundance of their natural resources

Also prevalent in the mining sector are nations

as a means of industrialization. Several nations,

looking to collect the resources themselves. While

such as South Africa, the Democratic Republic of

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the Congo, Mongolia, and to some extent Australia,

to be effective and companies largely ignore them.

have economies that are heavily dependent on the

Thus, there are several different actors that can be

export of minerals found within their borders. These

found globally in the mining industry, each performing

countries are home to multiple international mining

a different function with their own goals. Such

corporations and are the subject of intense scrutiny

disparate groups, each working towards a different

and influence from other nations seeking to purchase

end, can create a complicated geopolitical landscape

their resources for their own development. The

that itself is an impediment to solving many of the

influence of the various competing interest groups for

problems inherent in the global mining industry.

control of their mineral wealth oftentimes threatens

Suggestions For Further Research

to overwhelm smaller governments, especially if

the economy is completely dependent on foreign
investment and the mining industry. South Africa is
currently trying to reign in a mining sector that was
given many freedoms during its colonial past while
the DRC is having difficulty trying to do the same.
Mongolia, on the other hand, is only in the early stages
of developing its mineral wealth and thus is trying to
avoid a resource-curse that has destabilized the
governments of other natural resource-rich nations.
Finally, there is the role of international bodies. The
United Nations has adopted several resolutions over
the autonomy and sovereignty of a nation to decide
how best to use its mineral rights, detailed in the
section Past UN Actions. However, these have been
largely ineffectual at promoting a fair and balanced
mineral marketplace. Another international agency
often linked with the mining industry is the World
Bank. Through its International Finance Corporation
and other lending branches, the Bank regularly funds
mining development projects by providing money
to states or insuring existing projects. This can often
be instrumental in providing the necessary capital to
begin a new project. However, critics have argued that
the World Bank has funded various mining projects
that have had negative effects on local populations
and the environment in Africa, South America, and
Asia. The Bank does have a series of guidelines on
how mines and similar projects should be managed,
but critics say that oftentimes these are too general

First and foremost, try to find a history of mining

within your country, if there is one. Look into what
minerals were mined, when mining began, and how
it developed alongside the government. If your
country was a former colony, research how the
government promoted the mining industry, and how
the industry changed after the end of colonialism.
There is undoubtedly a lot of history to be found for
most countries, and it will be your job to distill that
information into the most relevant and useful pieces
that will guide your countrys goals in developing a
new resolution.
Specifically, look at your country in terms of
the different roles laid out in the Key Actors and
Positions section detailed above. If your country
is particularly mineral rich, what are its policies
regarding foreign investment? How has it dealt with
international pressure from countries and private
companies in the past, and what changes have been
made to its policy framework? If your country is not
particularly mineral rich, it is important to investigate
its key mineral imports and their sources. In what
resources is your country most interested, and for
what are they used? Knowing the role of mining in
your countrys economy is important for creating an
effective resolution.
Finally, research how mining might have affected
other aspects of your countrys society, economy,
and history. The effect of mining ventures on the
environment, labor rights, civil unrest, international
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relations, and poverty reduction are important

my best to clear up any confusion related to the

characteristics to consider when drafting a resolution

issues, position papers, or anything else in general.

about mining rights. It is not simple to classify events

If you are having trouble finding a source, I can try

as simply having been caused by mining, so look for

and offer suggestions or alternatives. Definitely read

the positive and negative consequences of mining in

the study guide thoroughly as well, as there might

your countrys history. Knowing the potential effects

be information pertinent to your specific country or

of mining can help when creating standards to which

a source that could serve you well in your research.

countries must be held.

Most of all: be creative. You never know what you

Together, the UN and the World Bank have put

together many different reports highlighting the role
of mining in many developing countries, especially
in Africa. While by no means comprehensive, these

might uncover, so do not be afraid to do a little


Position Papers

reports are effective at looking at the current

The position papers will serve primarily to establish

position of mining as a product of history and other

the general attitudes and viewpoints of your country

factors. They should be a good starting point for

towards the issues raised in this committee. They

your research. If you are looking for raw data on

do not need to address all of the questions raised in

what types of mineral resources are produced in your

the section Questions a Resolution Must Answer.

country, the United States Geological Survey puts out

Rather, the position papers should serve as an

a yearly report that gives a detailed analysis of the

introduction to the policies and goals of your country.

top producers of almost every mineral resource in the

With respect to the first issue, the topic of migrant

world, including production statistics.

workers rights, the position paper should establish

If you have access to databases such as JSTOR,

basic information such as whether your country is

there are academic papers that can be very useful,

an importer or exporter of workers, and the steps

especially when researching the history of mining

already taken to protect migrant workers rights and

in your country. Also useful are articles in a wide

any planned future actions. Make sure to give a brief

variety of newspapers and magazines that can be

history of your country and migrant labor, noting

found free online, which often illustrate the situation

such things as a colonial past, which might clarify

with background information. For some countries,

your position on labor rights for migrant workers.

especially smaller nations that might not have as

For the second issue surrounding mining rights,

much of a history of mining, look for data on imports

make sure to clarify your nations relationship with

that might give an indication as to what resources

mining. For instance, does your nation control mineral

are most important. Data on imports and exports

deposits, and if so what kinds? Knowing the role of

is useful in general for determining the markets on

mining in the economy is important, as it speaks to the

which mineral exporting nations are reliant and which

dependence of a country on the minerals it exports

countries are reliant on importing minerals.

and the willingness of companies to do business

There is an absolutely massive amount of

information to be found, and it can sometimes get

there. If your country has nationalized any aspect of

the mining industry, it should be noted here.

confusing. If you have any further questions, do

The position papers are not meant to be a

not hesitate to contact me through e-mail. I will do

comprehensive overview, but as stated previously,

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merely an introduction. They should be short and
concise, but after reading them there should be no
doubt as to where your country stands on either of
the issues.
Your position paper should be two pages doublespaced in total and include material from both topic
areas. Please email these to the committee email
account by March 1, 2013.

Closing Remarks
I am very excited to be chairing this committee,
and I am sure that the conference will be spectacular.
Make sure to read the study guide thoroughly,
as it contains a

lot of information pertinent to

all delegations and will probably answer a lot of

questions about the topics. It should serve as a
complement to your own research. The issues are
serious and I expect everyone will work hard to have
a productive committee session.
That being said, I hope you look at this conference,
and in particular SPECPOL, as a wonderful opportunity
to meet new people and make new friends. My
goal is to have a committee in which everyone feels
comfortable participating and is unafraid to have
their voice heard. Most of all, I want everyone to have
fun. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free
to contact me. In the meantime, I wish you all best
of luck with your research, and I cannot wait to meet
you all in March!

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Australia, Australian National University, http://

Durand, Jorge. The Bracero Program (1942-1964) a
critical appraisal, Migracin y Desarrollo (9), pp. 34



Ibid., pp. 36
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international migration: lessons learned, Research
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r4d/PDF/Outputs/MigrationGlobPov/BP17.pdf, pp. 8



The Guest-Worker in Western Europe - An Obituary, pp.




Migration to Europe since 1945: its history and its

lessons, pp. 25


The Guest-Worker in Western Europe - An Obituary, pp.

Ibid., pp. 765





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Magnet Societies: Immigration in postwar Germany
and the United States, http://www.ilo.org/public/
pdf, pp. 11
The impact of financial crises on international
migration: lessons learned, pp. 12
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and labour markets in the GCC countries: national
patterns and trends, Global Governance, London
School of Economics, March 2011, http://www2.
documents/Baldwin-Edwards,%20Martin.pdf, pp. 36
Labour immigration and labour markets in the GCC
countries: national patterns and trends, pp. 37
Thiollet, Helene. Migration as Diplomacy: Labor
Migrants, Refugees, and Arab Regional Politics in the
Oil-Rich Countries, International Labor and Working
Class History, 79, Spring 2011, http://oxpo.politics.
OXPO_10_11c_Thiollet.pdf, pp. 6


Labour immigration and labour markets in the GCC

countries: national patterns and trends, pp. 37


Migration as Diplomacy: Labor Migrants, Refugees,

and Arab Regional Politics in the Oil-Rich Countries,
pp. 7






Kaur, Amarjit. On the move: international migration

in southeast Asia since the 1980s, History Compass,
doi/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2007.00393.x/full, pp. 303
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Ally, Russell. War and Gold-The Bank of England, the

London Gold Market and South Africas Gold, 191419, Journal of Southern African Studies, June 1991,
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Christopher, A.J. Patterns of British Overseas Investment

in Land, 1885-1913, Transactions of the Institute of British
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97 Phimister, I. R. Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand, Journal
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98 Krikler, Jeremy. Women, Violence and the Rand Revolt of
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99 Patterns of British Overseas Investment in Land, 18851913, pp. 462
100 Rhodes, Rhodesia and the Rand pp. 84
101 Women, Violence, and the Rand Revolt of 1922 pp. 349
102 Discover our History
103 In the Pits, The Economist, http://www.economist.com/
104 Ibid.
105 Mozee, Carla. Venezuela considers nationalization of
gold mines: reports, Market Watch: The Wall Street
106 Crooks, Nathan, and Pons, Corina Rodriguez. Chavez
preparing government takeover of Venezuelas gold
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Venezuela considers nationalization of gold mines:

108 Jamasmie Cecilia. Rusoro asks World Bank to arbitrate
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109 Kraul, Chris. Economists see painful cuts coming for
Venezuela, Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.
110 Narangoa, Li. Mongolia and Preventive Diplomacy:
Haunted by History and Becoming Cosmopolitan,
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111 Ibid., pp. 362
112 Ibid., pp. 363
113 Ibid., pp. 364
114 Wacaster, Susan. Mongolia, 2011 Minerals Yearbook,
United States Geological Survey, http://minerals.usgs.gov/
minerals/pubs/country/2011/myb3-2011-mg.pdf, pp. 18.1
115 David, Grainger. The Great Mongolian Gold Rush,
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116 Beeche, Hannah. Hesitant Steppes, Time, http://www.
117 Mongolia pp. 18.1
118 Mcnamara, William. Boom in Mongolia deflates after
deal that started it is threatened, New York Times
119 Mine, all mine, The Economist, http://www.economist.
120 Brooke, James. Mining brings the Gobi Desert to life,
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121 Hesitant Steppes
122 Boom in Mongolia deflates after deal that started it is
123 Digging for Victory, The Economist, http://www.
124 York, Jeffrey. Anvil Acquisition helps Minmetals turn

the corner in the Congo, The Globe and Mail, http://


Coltan, the blood mineral of Congo, France 24, http://


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