Category Archives: UNSA

When the Curtain Falls

By Marie Peffenköver

It is not only since yesterday that the world is facing crises and upheavals. However, although scholars speak about a decrease in the number of conflicts and military interventions since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, one cannot get rid of the impression that the International Community never had to focus on so many trouble spots at the same time. Daesh, refugees coming to Europe, conflicts among the EU member states, radical Islamist groups in African and Asia, economic ups and downs on every continent, climate change – the new millennium has just begun and yet it would require a wand to solve all these problems sustainably.

At the Dutch Invitational Model United Nations (DIMUN) in Leiden 2016 on 16 January, the simulation tackled these crises respectively.  With students coming from all over the Netherlands, albeit Utrecht, Nijmegen, Maastricht or Leiden itself, various different viewpoints and experiences added up to some fruitful debates which were ended successfully with the adoption of three resolutions in total. The two crises committees proved to be productive in another manner: With three Heads of States killed, the Delegate of Bangladesh kidnapped and the assassination of their chair at the end, both sub-committees can claim the highest death rate of the entire conference.

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All participants of DiMUN 2016

Facing Terror: The “What-if” Question

I personally must say that the crisis sub-committee of the South-Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) surprised me the most. Not only was it way less formal than I had expected from my first MUN conference with merely nine people present (including the chair); also, the discussion highlighted the problems in establishing cooperation against terrorism in a fictive world where there are no rules and even the killing of Heads of States is allowed (indeed, it is highly encouraged).

Both crisis committees were dealing with the same situation: The “What-if” question. What would you do if on 10 July 2017 Europe would be shaken by various terrorist attacks in Berlin and Frankfurt, with six suicide bombers in Rome, while the high number of refugees from the Middle East where warfare is still continuing are equally pressurizing the states to react? How would the United Nations react? And, over all, could they do something?

Although all states expressed the mutual will to find a communitarian solution and to collaborate in any possible way, a satisfying answer proved hard to be formulated. What would you do if you were a Head of State of an Asian country, being faced with these major crises? Close your borders as the Head of Sri Lanka proposed? “This is not going to work”, was the quick answer of the Afghan Delegate. Sent troops to fight Daesh? But what if your country is directly located at the epicentre of the terrorists’ actions? As the Delegate of Iran explained, “ISIS is right on our doorsteps and an excessive amount of troops will not be sufficient to solve the problem”.

The Craft of Warfare

Similar hard choices were to be faced by the students who represented the states in the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, called DiSec. Here, to me it was most interesting to see how the group dynamics and the size of a group can influence the structure and content of a discussion in a fundamental way. Whereas in the crisis committee the debate began rather moderate (before the shouting and killing started after the lunch break), in DiSec, the chairs’ question “Are there any countries that wish to speak?” was answered by almost everyone raising their placards, sometimes truly battling about who is allowed to speak now. As a press person, this change of pace was a true challenge, but the new dynamism also offered a completely new insight: Namely that the proverb “to write one’s fingers to the bones” can really have a literal meaning.

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The DISEC Committee in action

DiSec had a very special approach to their topic of combatting piracy on the sea: the employment of Private Military Corporations (PMCs) was highly debated. PMCs are private firms offering security services and military capabilities as well as consultation for everyone who can pay enough present a special danger to the stabilization of war-shaken regions. With them lacking any political affiliation and hence loyalty, the craft of warfare becomes driven away from the monopoly of the state, giving war a new ugly and uncontrollable face of civilian violence.

Discussions regularly arise – and have also arisen during DIMUN – as the UN are employing PMCs as well, arguing that due to the ill-equipment of international troops and a lack of experience, the contracting of PMCs presents to be alternativeless. Struggling to formulate a resolution both allowing action against piracy and circumvent the use of PMCs, debates in the DiSec committee became very intense.

Additionally the talks gathered pace when one student from Leiden slipped into the role of a BBC reporter who had just found out that the Dutch gas and oil giant Shell was employing pirates to destroy the oil riffs of its competitors. Although the chairs had to pressurize the Delegates a bit to agree on the amendments and to bring the debates to an end, a Resolution was passed which also established regional taskforce as local solution (to know more, check out our article “The Shadow of the Seas”).

The Challenge of Women’s Rights in Saudi-Arabia

I found my last visit in the UN Council on Human Rights (UNCHR) the most interesting, although time allowed me to only witness the last 45 minutes of discussion. Yet, the committee had already agreed on a Draft Resolution and was in the middle of discussing several amendments when I entered the room.

The topic of the UNCHR was both old and new: Old, because it is generally known that women are extremely limited in their rights (they are, for example, not even allowed to leave their house without a male guard). New, because the message that women could vote for the first time in December 2015 presented an entirely new background for the Delegates of the UNCHR: How could the UN help the desert monarchy in promoting women’s rights?

The final adaption of the Resolution which established – inter alia – an international organization to serve as a platform to inform women about their rights revealed a (in my opinion) major flaw in the voting procedure of the UN. With a two-thirds majority, the Resolution passed. However, the states that heavily opposed the Resolution where the very ones which are seen to be the main infringers of human rights: Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon and Iran.

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The UNHRC

Useful? “This Resolution reads like a Wikipedia entry”, was the criticism explained by the Delegate of Iran. “This is nonsense” were the harsh words of the guy representing Sudan.

Unfortunately, I did not have the time to visit the Committee on Special Politics and Decolonization (SpecPol) where the topic of PMCs was further discussed. Hopefully I will be able to do so next year.

For those of you who never participated in a MUN, I can only recommend it. Although I have not been a delegate myself, standing up in front of people, pretending to be the important and distinguished Delegate of a state, writing or blocking amendments is a lot of fun (and, yes, a bit nerdy as well).

PS: Even if you are not participating in the next DIMUN – make sure you visit the beautiful city of Leiden!

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The inner city of Leiden at night

Behind a Thousand Veils

By Marie Peffenköver

In the desert state Saudi-Arabia, a traditional Islamic monarchy at the Persian Gulf, women have ever since been “chameleons” – they remain almost invisible, adapted to their social circumstances and hidden by their society behind a thousand veils. With only very limited rights to even leave their home (only with a male guard), the prohibition to work without their husband’s allowance and the subordination of females to their male relatives in all social, economic and political matters, the Gulf Kingdom has attracted great criticism from Western human right associations.

Especially the justification of these limitations on women’s rights by Saudi-Arabian leaders who refer to the Islamic law, the “Sharia”,  the teachings of the prophet Mohammed (“hadith”) and the Quran, the Islam’s central scripture, has led to what Samuel Huntington once called a “clash of different civilizations”, of different moral concepts and religious attributes. Thereby, the traditional Islamic states who embrace the so-called Wahhabism, a strict interpretation of Islam, feel to be flooded by the interference of Western values and culture into their own outlines of living. Consequently, reaching international agreements in this regard is a tough business, keeping the United Nations busy with bargaining about any possible improvements.

For this reasons the UN’s Council on Human Rights (UNCHR) has scheduled a meeting to discuss this topic with the international plenary, aiming at issuing a Resolution that ameliorates the status of women within the Saudi-Arabian state.

Although a decisive breakthrough in this regard is highly unlikely, the member States of the UNCHR have designed a Draft Resolution which, if it becomes passed in its entirety, can mean a significant step towards a freer and more just Saudi Kingdom.

At the centre of Resolution 60/251 lies the creation of a new institution to “protect Human Rights, particularly women’s rights, in Saudi-Arabia” (Article 2). This institutions is supposed to be supported by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to regard the improvement of the women’s situation on a regular basis (Article 1) as well as the launch of the position of an Ombudsman to provide a forum of interaction where women can be informed about their rights (Article 2c). Additionally, states such as the Netherlands and Sweden have tabled the open access of the Internet for women to, as the Swedish Delegate put it, “offer them an opportunity to encounter the values and culture of the Western world”.

Needless to say that these propositions faced a number of criticisms. While the Delegate of Saudi-Arabia itself expressed Saudi-Arabia concerns about the content that young women might be confronted with on the Internet, the Delegate of Iran found direct words to voice his scepticism regarding the proposed institution on women’s rights. “It looks like a Wikipedia entry”, he explained and added that the Draft Resolution would “leave lots of questions but offer only few answers”.

Caution is as well advocated when scrutinizing the coercive force of the resolution at stake. As the Delegate of the Netherlands put it, “how shall we [the UN] punish non-compliance on the side of Saudi-Arabia?” This statement appears to be even more accurate considering the rather moderate success of previous Human Right Resolutions on the behalf of women’s rights in the Gulf state.

Moreover, although the majority of the Draft Resolution’s Articles were accepted with a huge majority (eight countries in favour, four countries against), also the majority of them (especially Articles 1, 2 and 8) could only be passed against the resistance of Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Thailand and Lebanon – the very states who are seen as the core causes of infringements to women’s rights.

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In December 2015, Saudi women were allowed to vote for the first time, causing the so-called “spring for women”

Although the global media reported in December 2015 that Saudi-Arabian women were now allowed to vote and to register for being voted for the first time in History, one needs to be cautious whether this proclaimed “spring for women” will present a long-lasting and sustainable breakthrough. This, however, is highly unlikely given the result of the UNCHR’s meeting. Rather, women in Saudi-Arabia might continue to hide behind a thousand veils – the chameleon is likely to re-take its previous colour of oppression.

The shadow of the Seas

By Marie Peffenköver

Although piracy is an old and well-known concept with pirates even entering the entertainment sector since the famous success of “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Captain Hook”, the organized and violent use of coercive force with which piracy boats have started to attack the shores of the Asian-African region has increased significantly since the new millennium. The Forbes magazine even estimated that robberies caused by piracy are responsible for about a fifth of economic damages that have been reported by the Eastern-African regions.

Various measures by Western and African countries that are designed to ban the problem were not able to set a decisive and ultimate sign against the buccaneers. The most famous operation, the European Union’s “Mission Atlanta” (2012) has managed to decrease the number of robberies; yet, scholars have criticized this success of not being sustainable in the long-term.
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The problem of international piracy has worsened since the millennium.

Thus, the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament and Security (DiSec) has met in an extraordinary session today to create a mutual response against the ongoing assaults along the African-Asian coastlines. Especially the employment of Private Military Corporations (PMCs), private firms and security companies that provide military assistance independent of any political affiliation, are at the core of the debate. While some states highlight the UN’s necessity and alternativeless to hire PMCs as international security programmes are low-equipped and have proven ineffective in previous crises, fierce opponents to the privatization and marketization of military capabilities, namely the Lebanese Republic and Nigeria, believe that “the state should maintain a monopoly in violence”.

However, an agreement on alternatives is heavily disputed. The idea of launching an international taskforce which is supposed to operate at the Eastern-African coast and, as the Delegate of the South-African Republic elaborated, shall specialize in traineeships and information-sharing with a regionally-integrated mandate, has met equal resistance.

Opponents such as Russia, China and the Sudan have uttered the concern on the effects on state sovereignty which will be undermined by establishing international action on the territory of the respective countries without a proper UN mandate. Additionally, the Djibouti Code of Conduct has given the Delegates much content for discussions.

The Djibouti Code of Conduct is an international agreement signed by Djibouti, Maldives, Somalia, , Egypt, Eritrea, , Mozambique, , Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates which aims at increasing regional maritime security by launching common operations or exchanging law official enforcements.  Central to this document is the UN’s confession to stick to international law while only intervening into local collisions in the face of an infringement of these common rules. Hence, without a mandate by the UN Security Council on communitarian intervention into the enclaves concerned, united action token would move within the grey zone of international law.

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The Delegates of Nigeria (left) and Australia (right) discuss the Draft Resolution

Yet, as “the Djibouti Code of conduct only concentrates on the continent of Africa”, as pointed out by the Delegate of Italy, an operation along the Asian coasts might well be covered by the accord.

Shortly after the lunch break, however, negotiations have reached a breakthrough: The states present were able to agree on a Draft Resolution which assigns the UN the mandate to raise a “Regional Task Force for the Monitoring of Organized Crime in Piracy” (Article 7), launches the so-called “SHIP approach”, i.e. regional security by humanitarian aid, information sharing and the use of PMCs (Article 4) and allows the UN to act within the territory of the Gulf or Arden, the Cost of West Africa, the Coast of East Africa and the Strait of Malacca. The Djibouti Code of Conduct has explicitly been incorporated into the document as one of its irrefutable pillars (Article 6).

These fruitful discussions were yet disrupted by breaking news provided by a BBC reporter who revealed recent findings that the Royal Dutch Company Shell, an international giant in gas and oil distribution, has hired pirates along the Eastern-African coast deliberately to endanger its competitor’s oil riffs. Although some accusations to the Netherlands to investigate this occurrence have induced the Kingdom to assure that it would “take full responsibilities for recent actions if they are proven to be true” caused a short deviation from the actual gist of the debate, the Italian Delegate hinted to the tabled Draft Resolution as a document which “has been designed to tackle such issues together with the International Maritime Bureau (IMO) to fight such events. This is a resolution which should have been passed already”, he added.

The current Draft Resolution has great chances to pass with a huge majority as estimation suggests a two-thirds approval.

Although debates are still going on, the ball has started rolling. Now, the hope remains that, this time, it will bring the solution sought.

 

In the face of terror

By Marie Peffenköver

After the severe terrorist attacks in the inner city of Berlin and on the World Bank in Frankfurt in Germany yesterday, 10 July 2016 which were followed by six suicide bombers’ attacks in Rome, the International Community is shaken by the repercussions of these events: With varying opinions the extent to which  the Member States’ reaction to the refugee crisis that reached its peak in October 2015 is to blame for this lack of internal security in the EU, a significant re-awakening of right-wing nationalism throughout Europe and flows of refugees continuing from the crisis regions in the Middle East, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has gathered today in an urgent session to react to the situation. The discussion centres around two core questions of how to cope with the new pressurizing refugee crisis while counteracting to the Islamic State (in Arabian: “Daesh”) in an effective way.

However, although all members of the SAARC are heavily impacted on by the current situation with especially Iran, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan being located at the epicentre of the conflict, the debate is heated up and the negotiations arduous as the perspectives about how to take actions vary widely. Thein Sein, the Head of State of the Republic of Myanmar, sees the responsibility for establishing an effective response at the core of the strongest and most developed countries, respectively.

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The discussions are heating up

Currently, the proposition of the Head of State of India, Nerenda Modi, to launch a taskforce to manage the refugee situation and to fight back Daesh, has gained a lot of approval. Yet, although all member countries have expressed their support for such an operation, tensions have arisen between the Delegates of India and Myanmar about the exact amount of military capabilities that are going to be provided by the SAARC’s members.

Moli has already confirmed the contribution of soldiers and the acceptance of a significant number of refugees, while simultaneously providing financial support. However, Sein has attacked this proposal as being too small. With this amount of contributions, the Head of State explained that this accounts for “a minuscule amount of India’s entire army – a ridiculous number”.

Additionally, the Head of State of the Maldives, Abdulla Yaameen, has voiced scepticism about whether the power of Daesh can be diminished through military means alone. “ISIS is right on our doorsteps”, the Delegate cautioned, “and an excessive amount of troops will not be sufficient to solve the problem.”

Next to the pressure imposed upon the SAARC by Daesh, the movements of territorially displaced persons have given the Heads of States lots of concerns. As all Asian states are in deep economic crisis and face refugee problems and internal violence themselves, the Member States feel not prepared enough to face this situation. Protectionist measures such as the closure of borders as proposed by the Delegate of Sri Lanka have already been rejected by Afghanistan as “simply not feasible”.

Nevertheless, the foundation-stone for the SAARC’s taskforce has already been laid: Although the mandate will still be subject to further intense discussions, the political will to mobilize the Asian countries’ forces has been set at the heart of the Directive. Whether this will be sufficient to at least lessen the consequences of the current crises remains to be seen. Yet, the Asian countries have just offered an effort to stabilize the region of the Middle East, to step back from their role as a side player in world politics and to provide the world with a new spark of hope. And this is very much needed right now.

Background: After several terrorist attacks overall in Europe, tensions all over the world   have heated up. In Berlin, this even led to violent riots.

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Background: After several terrorist attacks overall in Europe, tensions all over the world   have heated up. In Berlin, this even led to violent riots.

Five arguments why you should join an MUN right now

By Leon Heckmann

HamMUN 2015 was my second MUN after EuroMUN in Maastricht this year and once again it was a blast. For all those who have never been to a Model United Nations or think about attending one, here are five facts to convince you that MUN is a great concept:

  1. You take the role of a country’s (or political parties) delegate to an international body and simulate international negotiating and decision-making. This will not only provide you with information on the forum itself and the topics you will be discussing, but gives you a first-hand experience of a diplomat/delegate’s work in a fun and beginner-friendly environment.

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  2. MUN is a great opportunity to practice and enhance you public speaking and debating skills. This goes both for beginners and MUN-veterans: While for the former MUN is the perfect staging to train your rhetorical skills by representing a country’s specific interests on a topic, for the latter it can become a real rhetorical contest between the best speakers, with the prospect of the best or distinguished delegate award.
  3. However, MUN conferences are not simply a rhetorical context between individual speakers. Rather, it is all about teamwork and finding collective solutions to common problems: Without actively engaging in collaborative negotiation and resolution drafting, no MUN delegate will be successful. More specifically, key is to find allies and partners inside your committee who share a common stance with you, in order to strengthen your bargaining power collectively. It goes without saying that such teamwork and leadership skills will be more than useful in your academic and later also professional careers.
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  4. MUN conferences are also predestined to meet lots of new people and, in fact, make new friends. Especially in the smaller committees (>30 delegates) you will get to know everyone quite well during the 3-4 days conferences, simply because you will be debating, drafting and working together intensively throughout this time. Committee session normally start at 9 in the morning and the last ones may well continue until 7 pm, followed by the obligatory social few hours later (see point 5).  Moreover, the MUN community is a truly global one: You will get to know delegates from many different countries, from different cultural and educational backgrounds. It’s also more than likely that you will meet people again at other conferences throughout the world – be it as delegate, chair, or even board member of a Model United Nations. The word is that after the third consecutive conference, it is officially considered “MUN addiction”.
  5. Last but definitely not least, MUN conferences are simply a lot of fun. That is, in addition to the committee sessions, due to the social programme (which, when optional, you should book in any case): The conference hosts will provide you with parties, pub crawls and the obligatory Delegate’s Ball as highlight every evening of the conference. This gives you the opportunity to get a grasp of the conference’s host city and country and to relax a bit from university. Rumor has it that socials have also been used by some delegates for extended unmods or “bilateral negotiations”… But moreover, the socials will also test your ability to work under aggravated conditions: You will most likely need to recover a few nights’ sleep after a MUN conference.
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UNSA Delegation present and dancing!

By Alice Nesselrode

4 days of debating, getting into the role of a country’s delegate and writing your own history in international relations – that could be a summary for basically any MUN. HamMUN 2015 however was more than that. The conference which happened in the beginning of December offered for many Maastricht students also a very welcomed break from university, a little recreation before the exams of period 2 would start.

However, the 48 delegates from Maastricht were not only looking forward to the discussions in the 18 committees, no – also Hamburg’s famous night life surely posed a point of attraction to many! In a city with not only de Alla and de Feestfabrik, but many more places being still open after 2 am, every night owl finds what he or she is looking for.

UNSA Maastricht showed engagement everywhere. Be it through the 8 awards that were won (2 best delegates, 4 distinguished delegates, 1 honorable mention and 1 best position paper) or by being the craziest dancers on the dance floor, chanting “UNSA! UNSA!”, our delegation was very obviously present and showed motivation and enthusiasm.

But let’s start from the beginning.

After a long bus ride from Maastricht we finally arrived in Hamburg about 3 hours before the official Opening Ceremony. The last position papers were quickly finished, some people already started exploring the city, and then the conference already started off with warm welcoming words from the three secretary generals of HamMUN 2015 as well as one of the founders of HamMUN and other guest speakers. After that the first session was scheduled, in which the committees decided on rather procedural facts, received some more information and held the first opening speeches.

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For the evening, a pub crawl was organised, however the UNSA delegation decided to stay at the restaurant “Hans im Glück”, where the evening faded out with a good burger and the one or other cocktail.

Friday morning started -in typical MUN-manner- off early. A whole day of debates was awaiting everyone, but with the enthusiasm and power we all still had at that point conclusions and common ground was found quickly. Two committees, namely the Security Council Single Delegation and NATO, managed to adopt a resolution paper on the first topic and could move on to the next opening speeches. In the last hours, it was however more the thought of what would follow in the evening what kept most delegates in shape: A neon-party was planned for all 550-600 delegates. The party was a complete success, with many faces glowing in the dark, good music and a very present UNSA Maastricht delegation on the dancefloor. Only point of criticism would be the price of the drinks, which was unreasonably high (3.50€ for a small beer, really?).

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The next morning came too soon, and only with huge amounts of coffee and an Aspirin for the biggest party animals here and there fruitful debates slowly evolved again. The HamMUN press team was considerate enough to postpone the beginning of debates by some minutes through a video “live” set-up, which gave a broad overview over what had happened in the committees so far. The insight into the gossip box, which could be filled by any delegate, even managed to create some smiles on the tired faces. Now, also most other committees came to consensus and managed to write resolutions. In the evening then it was time to get out the fancy smoking and the most beautiful dress and prepare for the Delegate’s Dance: the traditional ball, which ironically took place at not such a fancy place- namely in a side street of the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s famous party district. Despite the dodgy neighborhood the party was a complete success, and honestly- who can say of himself that he walked the Reeperbahn in a ball dress or a smoking? The HamMUN people can now.

Unfortunately, there was no more open bar as it was the case the years before, however everyone got 6 coins for at least some drinks to start off the evening, which already brought many to the dance floor. Rumor has it that some UNSA delegates simply seized the occasion of the close Reeperbahn to get a cheap deal on Tequila shots.

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The Tequila shots may probably also be a reason why the next morning should maybe not be described in too much detail. Even though the debates fortunately only started at 10 am after another video by the Press team, many committees faced a well-known problem on the last day: Due to the absence of some delegates, the quorum could not be reached in every committee, causing a postponement of discussions. However, after finally enough of the missing delegates found their way to the halls of the University of Hamburg where the conference took place, the moderated caucusing, the lobbying in an unmod, the raising of placards and the final votes on working papers, amendments and draft resolutions could finally proceed and all committees came to good solutions. Sadly, UNSA Maastricht had to leave the Closing Ceremony a bit earlier, but at least the reason for that was the bus waiting to take us back home. The trip back gave everyone enough time to come to the awful realization: Another MUN has ended, Post-MUN-depressions are about to hit and in a few hours, the bitter reality of close exams and papers will have to be faced. As a delegate of the Security Council expressed it in astonishment: “Apparently, life at home still goes on while we’re at MUN”

HamMUN 2015 can be definitely considered a success, not only judging by all the awards that were won by the UNSA delegation but also by the happy faces, new friendships and professional experience gained by everyone!

Stay tuned for a fiel report by one of our team members, who will tell you more about his MUN personal experience!

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