ICJ: International Court of Justice

Topic A: Spratly Islands Dispute (Advisory Opinion)

The Spratly Islands are a group of islands, islets, shoals, and cays, along with more than 100 reefs in the South China Sea. Fourteen disputed islands have been claimed by multiple countries, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, as each has used military force to occupy some part of the islands. The Spratly Islands are so heavily contested because they hold many economic resources and strategic advantages. The islands hold one of the world’s largest reserves of oil and natural gas and are also one of the most productive areas for the fishing industry, accounting for 14% of the world’s total catch in 2010. It also offers access to one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and any country whose claims are recognized could get an extended continental shelf, giving them more access to the waters surrounding the islands. Since the 19th century, Chinese fishermen have used the Spratly Islands, and when the Republic of China was first formed in 1912, they issued a statement that the Spratly Islands were under the jurisdiction of the Hainan Province. The Republic of China re-claimed the islands from Japan after World War II, but after the former evacuated to Taiwan in 1950, their presence in the islands diminished. Though the People’s Republic of China (PRC) defined its territorial waters as inclusive of the Spratly Islands, in 1978, President Marcos of the Philippines announced claims to the islands. Since then, there have been several skirmishes between the PRC and the Philippines over the islands, most recently with the former installing rocket launchers on disputed Fiery Rock Reef and threatening war if the Philippines drilled for oil in the islands. Given the rising tension between these two states and the international desire for stability in the South China Sea, the ICJ will take up this case as an advisory opinion, during which delegates will be able to closely examine the legal justification, if any, for each country’s investment in the islands.

Topic B: Space Resources (Advisory Opinion)

With the rise of private space exploration, there is a growing need to define who owns the rights to space resources. In 1967, the vast majority of UN member states agreed on the Outer Space Treaty, which states that no nation may make territorial claims to celestial bodies and that the development of those bodies must be in the entire world's interest. However, space exploration has changed radically since that treaty was signed. The United States, a leading country in space exploration, passed the Space Act in 2015, opening the way for private companies to begin exploiting space resources. Although the Space Act reaffirmed that the US was not making any claim to any celestial body, the prospect of private companies operating in space raises the difficult question of who is permitted to exploit and develop resources in space. The United States has effectively opened Pandora's box when it comes to space resource exploitation. Now the world looks to the ICJ to answer these important questions about the final frontier of human exploration and who, if anyone, should be permitted to it's wealth and resources.

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