Nationalism is defined as an ideology based on the premise that an individual’s loyalty and devotion to a nation-state surpasses other individual or group interests. In the past 15-20 years, the world has seen a large number of nationalist and extremist movements come into being, but these are by no means a new phenomenon. Early nationalists got their inspiration from the French Revolution in 1789 – which was in turn inspired by the American Revolution a decade earlier – and for the next 200 years, nationalism would both bring states together and tear them apart at the seams. For example, nationalism was the driving force behind the unification of several states in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, including Italy and Germany, but it was also in part responsible for the First and Second World War.
It is the responsibility of the Special Political Committee to address the growing number and prominence of nationalist movements in the past decade, which seem to be driving the global political climate to the extremes. Populist sentiments ran strong prior to both the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU and the United States’ election of Donald Trump, and can be said to have substantially contributed to those outcomes. Many European countries have seen a surge in exclusionary, nativist sentiments, electing representatives who shared similar beliefs, and demonstrating a sometimes violent hostility toward immigrants and others seen as “foreign” or “other.” Non-state actors have even incorporated these ideologies, with the Islamic State founding itself with the mission of eradicating dissimilar peoples. For many of these nations, these concepts are seen as a source of unity, strength, and even as a form of defense. For others, however, it is seen as a danger to the most fundamental democratic processes, creating an unstable political environment. States are faced with deciding whether or not rising nationalism is cause for concern, or whether it is simply a return to a nation-state with a strong sense of unity and an ability to protect itself.
Regardless of how each nation views the recent rise of nationalism, SpecPol should first consider how and why these movements develop. Simply put, under what circumstances do nationalist and populist movements develop and come to prominence? Many modern nationalist leaders run their administrations and campaigns on issues such as trade, economic issues, immigration, and anti-globalization policies. Therefore, can the effects of political extremism be alleviated in a more indirect manner by making changes in other areas? What can be done to curb the violence and instability that has accompanied the rise of nationalism?