VicMUN 2016: Students come together for annual Model UN conference

Photo by Spencer Pickles

Students discuss issues such as climate change and armed conflicts in Africa at the VicMUN conference Oct. 21–23. Photo by Spencer Pickles

From Oct. 21–23, UVic hosted VicMUN 2016, the tenth annual Model United Nations conference. The largest of its kind, it hosted a record 175 delegates from high schools and universities from across Vancouver Island.

The conference covered special topics within three mock groups: the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, and the General Assembly. Student delegates grappled with the theme of social, political, and economic protection of vulnerable peoples through global unity. The main goal of Michaela DeLong, Secretary General of the conference, was to educate students in representing a country as a delegate rather than themselves and make them aware of global issues.

“Focusing on global unity is a really great way to bring everyone together in this conference, and bring high school students into being global citizens and being aware of how we can all come together to face these issues,” said DeLong.

Throughout the weekend, each committee was tasked with special topics, including looking at how climate change affects agricultural areas and how to protect west African children in armed conflicts. In solving these issues, delegates had to come to a resolution using the correct terminology and proceedings that would occur in real U.N. conferences.

In addition to national delegation, some students were assigned to the International Press Corps, which reported on how each country was handling the special topics presented to each of the three committees. The press corps also reported on special emergency situations thrown at committees, such as the fictionalized threat of radiological dispersal bombs aimed at South Korea. All the reports were posted on the VicMUN website to keep other countries informed while they worked to resolve the conflict.

The process allowed delegates to work through issues cooperatively as well as consider the how protection of vulnerable people, such as indigenous populations, affects their own country.

“We’re very excited to have [the human rights of indigenous peoples] on the table,” said the Human Rights Council’s Chinese delegate. “Although China does not have indigenous people, we have many groups with distinct cultural identities. We are working on a solution that will surely impress you all.”

For many delegates, this was their first conference, though DeLong stressed that, more than anything, it should be a learning experience.

“As a club, we really want to focus on diplomacy and cooperation rather than causing conflict and spitting rhetoric,” said DeLong.

Cindy Holder, one of the keynote speakers for the weekend and professor of Philosophy at UVic, spoke to the crowd about human rights in the context of vulnerable individuals, as well as the larger global community.

“There’s something about humanity, and just the fact of humanity, that compels a response,” said Holder to the delegates. ”The fact you even decided to come here today and participate in this exercise is actually a very impressive thing.”

More information about this year’s Victoria Model UN conference can be found online at munclub.wordpress.com.

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