U.N.derstanding Diplomacy

University of Alberta Model United Nations Takes DC

by JENNIFER HA

From Friday, November 10th to Sunday, November 13, 2016, the University of Alberta’s Model United Nations team attended the National Model United Nations conference held in Washington, D.C. Over a thousand students from eighty different universities throughout the world were at the conference. University of Alberta Model United Nations was the only Canadian delegation in attendance.

Participation in National Model United Conferences have typically been offered only as a formal University course, AUPOL248/348: Model United Nations. However, students who attended the conference in New York in the 2016 Winter Term found the experience so valuable that they decided to organize a student group dedicated to Model United Nations. University of Alberta Model United Nations is a Student Union recognized student group and its two executives, Lauren Grosky, a third year Political Studies student at Augustana, and Travis Dueck, a fifth year Political Science student at North Campus, have worked with faculty advisor Dr. Sandra Rein to arrange this year’s trip in Washington, D.C.

At the conference, a total of ten University of Alberta students, four of whom being Augustana students, represented the Republic of Cameroon in five different United Nations committees. As one of these students, I was on the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, which has been working to protect refugees and preserve their rights since 1950. My partner and I prepared for the conference with many late nights researching Cameroon’s history, economics, and culture as well as its internal and international politics. As the National Model United Conference is a simulation of the real United Nations, participants have to understand the entirety of a nation’s identity in order to stay in the nation’s character the entire time.

The expectations for the participants are high; from 5pm on Friday to 5pm on Sunday, the conference expects students to remain in the character of their delegation, working on diplomatic relations with others and generating solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. Whether I was discussing the economic potentials that refugee workers can have on host families or reflecting on the U.S. elections, I was expected to approach the conversation as a delegate from Cameroon rather than Jennifer Ha of Camrose, AB.

Considering Cameroon’s position in the global “hierarchy” as a developing country, I had to be mindful of everything I said and represented. It also meant that I had to politely ask to talk to some of my peers if they were allied nations, such as Senegal, or stronger world powers, such as Canada or the United States. It also meant that I had to be cold or even hostile to those with whom Cameroon did not have good relations, such as China.

Each committee studied different topics related to global governance. My committee was assigned to explore alternatives to refugee camps.  Over seventy nations focused on this topic, working collaboratively with one another to find different solutions and put together a resolution the entire community could agree on. By Sunday afternoon, the committee had produced nine draft resolutions, eight of which, including the one Cameroon authored, passed during voting procedure. From setting the agenda of discussion in the committee to the solemn voting procedure, the Model United Nations conference was an intense, immersive affair.

University of Alberta Model United Nations walked away from the conference with three awards. The entire delegation was recognized as an Honourable Delegation, putting the team at the top 25% of the entire conference, for its diplomatic behaviour and adherence to character. The delegation in the International Atomic Energy Agency was selected by their peers as Distinguished Delegates for their remarkable presence in their committee. My partner and I were honoured to receive an award for Outstanding Position Paper in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees committee. The University of Alberta has only received an Outstanding Position Paper Award, which recognizes exceptional research and writing done in preparation for the conference, two other times in the history of its participation in Model United Nations conferences.

For students who are interested, the National Model United Nations course will be running again in the Winter 2018 term.

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