IHS hosts AISD students for day-long Model UN conference
Thu, March 7, 2013
Students in the UN Environmental Program in discussion
The Institute for Historical Studies welcomed a group of over 100 middle and high school students from all over Austin for a one day Model UN conference. Students and teachers from the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) directed the Model United Nations for junior high schoolers in Austin (MUNJA). Students from five different local middle schools participated: Small, O’Henry, Kealing, Fulmore and Lavernia.
This Model UN conference was a great opportunity to include middle and high school students in this year’s “Rethinking Diplomacy” theme. Jeremi Suri, Professor of History at UT and the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, gave the keynote address and discussed the important role of the United Nations in creating a foundation for “global governance” in the world today. Further, he outlined the three major areas in which the United Nations has made a difference in global affairs: in preventing major wars, in protecting human rights, and in supporting research and activities to address issues of global health.
Mr. Cody Moody, the Model UN teacher sponsor from LASA, said: “I always emphasize to the students the importance of Model UN in the day and age that we live in today. They need to learn about diplomacy and a whole range of world issues. Their future careers will be oriented towards thinking globally and multilaterally and, in this increasingly multipolar world, they need a curriculum and an education that positions them for that. Model UN is the perfect vehicle to teach that lesson.”
In addition to learning about the broad role of the United Nations, students learned important skills and lessons through their participation in the Model UN. Each student was assigned a country to represent and a committee on which they served. They researched the geographic, political, and economic history of their country and learned about the role of their countries in international affairs. Students submitted position papers outlining their country’s official views on these issues in order to prepare for their committee assignments. Each student served on one of three committees: the General Assembly, the UN Security Council, or the UN Environmental Program.
Students on the General Assembly discussed issues related to humanitarian and relief assistance while students serving on the Security Council debated responses to the situation in Northern Mali and the Syrian Civil War. Students working with the UN Environmental Program addressed the impact of the environment on public health in urban areas and the sustainability of the world’s energy sources. In the final exercise of the day, each committee addressed a late breaking crisis topic: eco-terrorists threatening to blow up gas pipelines worldwide, Iran spreading a previously unknown deadly virus (“Bieber Fever”), and a new terrorist group, the Deadlocks, kidnapped dreadlock wearers worldwide and held them for ransom.
MUNJA saw Garrison filled with remarkable energy, enthusiasm and expertise from the LASA high school leaders and the middle school participants. Thomas Massad, the LASA senior who served as the Secretary-General for this year’s Model UN at UT, commented: “It was exciting to watch such articulate, driven students begin to explore global issues through this Model UN.”
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