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JUNE 2004

Finding Agreement Without Conflict: 2300 Students at UNA-USA’s Model U.N. Conference (Part I)
by Dorothy Davis

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U. N., impeccably dressed in a dark suit and tie, was surprisingly frank when asked his opinion. “Change is important.” He regarded his interviewer with the clear, confident gaze typical of royalty. “Saudi Arabia must recognize the fact that we’re becoming too one-sided. We focus too much on oil, ignoring the fact that 70 percent of our poor people live in rural areas, and this leads to social unrest. We should be more balanced in our views.” Politely excusing himself, the youthful ambassador dashed off with his advisors and fellow delegates to a Security Council meeting.

The sandy-haired, athletic looking ambassador from Qatar also spoke with impressive self-assurance. “Qatar is trying to change its political system from a monarchy to a constitutional monarchy,” he said. When asked if his view of the U. N. had altered during the months since his ambassadorial appointment he said, “I look at the U. N. from a different perspective. Before I thought it was this thing controlled by the U. S., and now I see that it’s all these countries talking about political issues and figuring out ways to resolve their problems.”

Three young lady ambassadors from France, beautifully attired in their flowing traditional Muslim dresses, had also learned some things. “Our views [about the U. N.] have opened up a lot,” said one, as the others nodded, “We know exactly more of what they do.” Then they hurried off to the General Assembly to discuss narcotic drugs and to the Security Council to discuss its future.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador actually came from Off-Site Educational Services, Outreach House 1, in Ridgewood, Queens; Qatar’s ambassador from Darien High School in Connecticut; France’s ambassadors from Al-Ghazaly High School in Teaneck, New Jersey.

They were among the more than 2,300 middle and high school students from 135 public and private schools in New York City, fourteen other states and five countries who attended the 5th Annual United Nations Association of the United States of America Model United Nations in New York City, an event sponsored by the Global Classrooms program of the UNA-USA. It was held at the Jacob Javits Center and at U. N. Headquarters recently. All of the students had prepared for this “big event” for months, either after school or in classes during the day. They had researched their assigned country, and studied diplomatic skills such as public speaking, leadership, negotiation, higher order thinking, consensus building, rules of order and problem solving.

The UNA-USA Model U. N. Conference, though a simulation, is real world, hands on and exciting. The problems discussed, in the fields of peacekeeping, sustainable development and human rights, are on the current U. N. agenda.

At a General Assembly session on torture, for example, visited during a tour led by Brigette Iarrusso, Project Manager of Global Classrooms, New York City, three ambassadors gave brief speeches. They did so only after waving their white placards in hopes of being chosen by the chairperson from a sea of similarly waving white placards.

The ambassador from Pakistan (from Brooklyn Technical High School) said, “Torture is one of the worst violations of human rights. Pakistan denounces it. Due to conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, people of Kashmir are victims of torture.” She called for a referendum among its citizens as the only remedy.

The Croatian ambassador (from Long Island City High School) said, “Starting in 1984 following the death of Yugoslavian President Tito, Serbia and Croatia have been at war. Torture is not an everyday war tactic, but a crime against humanity. Croatia does not accept torture for any reasons, whether for national security or any other.”

The ambassador from the Dominican Republic (from ASHS at Bronx Regional) said, “Our people have suffered the fate of torture under the Trujillo regime. Thousands were victims. Later under Duarte our people were victims again, tortured until they renounced their revolutionary ideals.”

The meeting then voted in favor of a motion on the floor calling for five minutes of un-moderated caucus. The delegates met in informal groups and held spirited discussions on draft resolutions and other issues.

The goal of each two-day meeting, Iarrusso said, is to hammer out one or two resolutions, which are approved by voting. These are solutions to the global problems discussed. They are posted on the UNA-USA website (www.unausamun.org) and presented to the United Nations itself. Ambassador Stuart W. Holliday, the Ambassador and Alternate United States Representative to the United Nations, in his remarks at the opening ceremony, encouraged the student ambassadors to pursue a career in public service. He also said, referring to the dire need for humanitarian aid in Sudan, “An issue has to have support. You can make a difference to these people. They are depending on you.” Through their published resolutions, the Model U. N. ambassadors can make a difference in the world.

Although Model UN has been around since 1945 it was only after Ambassador William H. Luers became President of UNA-USA in 1999 that it grew from an extra-curricular activity for mainly private schools to being part of the curriculum for urban public schools, especially those in the inner city. After he and his board concluded that education was their most important project, Amb. Luers appointed Dr. Lucia Rodriguez as Vice President for Education, and under her guidance, the Global Classrooms program was begun.

Teachers at the conference werej enthusiastic about the Global Classrooms program.#

July issue: Part II.



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