Lucinda Regan gives (simulated) international politics a go by participating in UON’s inaugural Model United Nations.
Over the weekend, the United Nations Society (UNS) held UON’s inaugural Model United Nations. The UNS was started in 2015 by Albina Kartavtseva, a PhD student with a passion for (and a degree in) politics. The United Nations Model is designed to simulate the processes of the real UN committee conferences, where students are able to use and learn public speaking, diplomacy and debating skills in order to come to a resolution (hopefully) for real world issues. The issues at hand may relate to security, human rights, economics, the environment, and more.
As a delegate, I was able to choose any of the 193 countries in the UN to represent and a committee, either United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) or the United Nations Security Council. UNESCO’s agenda was to find a resolution to minimise harm and abuse to women and children in armed conflict, and the agenda for the Security Council was to create a resolution road map for the Syria Crisis. I chose to represent Canada, focusing on UNESCO’s agenda. Due to the smaller size of the event all delegates, regardless of committee chosen, collaborated to resolve both issues.
In order to have fulfilling and engaging debates, it was very important to have researched your country’s position on the agendas at hand, to fuel energetic rebuttals and question the other delegates’ stances, ready to catch even the most knowledgeable off guard.
When Albina began her PhD at UON we had no United Nations Society and had never run a Model UN conference before. “It was quite logical to establish a UN society and organise a Model UN,” Albina said. And also is a good way to provide all students the opportunity to participate. Through her experience from participating in eight Models, Albina wanted to see the same knowledge and skills imparted upon this Model’s participants.
As part of the program, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to have diplomats and members of the United Nations provide workshops and talks about their experience working locally and internationally. During the opening ceremony, the director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Graham Brewer, spoke of the importance of meeting the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2015 to 2030.
Brewer highlighted the importance of a harmonious relationship with our international neighbours and the environment. His experience working in industrial design gave him the insight to look into resilience building and disaster risk reduction for developing nations in areas at higher risk of natural disaster with minimal infrastructure. His opening speech gave guidance on which goals to prioritise in regards to these aspects.
After the first session of debate, director of the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), an independent NGO, Patrick Earle, spoke of his program’s goals to advance human rights and empower our society with quality education and training in order to build the skills for individual human rights defenders and community advocates.
A delegate for the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), Sara Rayment, spoke about diplomacy in international trade. The resolution can depend on the delegate chosen and the relationship between the countries on the day, so outcomes can be quite unpredictable. UNCITRAL works to minimise military action or gunboat diplomacy, and works to maximise fairness, particularly for less powerful countries as globalisation has magnified poverty in the developing nations who can be taken advantage of in international trade.
In the UN Women workshop speaker Sherrill Whittington implored that gender equality is essential for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, particularly if we are to begin meeting any of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
During the drafting of the resolutions, diplomacy and compromise became very important. Voting and arguing how your country would have done so, despite whether you agree yourself, was as difficult as it was important in order to gain the diplomacy skills on offer.
For UNESCO’s agenda, we were fortunate enough to come to a resolution, some of us having to let go of resolution points dear to our country’s policy through compromise. Due to the veto powers of the United Nations Security Council, we were unable to come to a diplomatic resolution for the Syria crisis. Despite that, the discussions were colourful, and filled with more knowledge than I could take in over a single weekend.
To participate in Model UN, you need no prior experience – I certainly didn’t! All you need to do is “give it a shot”, according to Albina. A basic read up of world news and the rules and procedures prepares even the most inexperienced participants. More involvement will mean more Model United Nations conferences will happen. The bigger the conference, the better.
Feature Image: Screenshot from Peter Wu, changes made.