School students at Regent University London’s first Model United Nations conference.
Regent’s University London has completed its first Model United Nations Conference [5-6 July 2014], welcoming 50 students aged 14-18 from local and regional schools to take part in organised debates and review current global challenges, ranging from ISIS in Iraq, through to women’s rights and children in armed conflict.
Working as groups divided into General Assembly, Human Rights Council, and the Security Council, the students represented different countries and were provided with ‘real-time’ updates on conflicts and developing situations across the globe, all of which impacted discussions and priorities during realistic UN-styled ‘caucuses’ (assemblies).
Daniel Chipping (age 15) from Radnor House School, an Independent school in Middlesex, said: “I represented France in the General Assembly where we focussed on women and their security. This included looking to pass a resolution to help women lead peaceful lives in the face of sex trafficking and other gender-related issues.
“I’ve been to two Model UN conferences before, but this one has given us the most freedom to discuss our opinions. I’ve never really covered human rights previously and it’s been very interesting to see global events unfolding and hear other people’s points of view.”
Lydia and Marian Durkin, 17 year-old twins studying at St Marylebone School, a state school in Westminster, represented Russia and China respectively on the Security Council and demonstrated a keen, in-character, political eye on ISIS in Iraq.
“Russia’s perspective is that we don’t like rebels. We’ll make a move to contain or eliminate the ISIS presence in Iraq, but our motivations are largely economic. We don’t want to lose our connections in the Middle East, which would happen if there was an ISIS takeover.”
“China is not driven by human rights concerns, but we also dislike rebels. We tend to support Russia’s foreign policy decisions, although we don’t want to get involved with intervention. It’s very tricky representing another country’s opinion rather than your own, but I’ve really enjoyed my first Model UN conference.”
The Security Council group ultimately decided to invoke Chapter VII and intervene militarily in Iraq to suppress ISIS.
While young people are often criticised for apathy and a lack of political interest, the students worked hard through the weekend while receiving guidance from Regent’s University London’s own Model UN staff and students, who have been participating in similar conferences across the world for the last nine years.
Carina Jurs, a Regent’s University London graduate in BA (Hons) Management, Marketing and International Relations, returned from her home in Norway to chair the General Assembly and share her experience of Model UN events.
“I was first encouraged to take part in Model UN in 2012 and was terrified because I didn’t really have an interest in politics.
“However, we went on to represent Cuba on the Human Rights Council at Model UN in New York last year and, while immersed in the human rights of refugees, I discovered a real passion for wanting to make the world a better place.
“I believe young people don’t necessarily realise how they are personally affected by what organisations such as the UN do. Without passion you’re not going to do much with your life and I highly encourage people to get involved with initiatives like Model UN.”
School teachers in attendance were similarly impressed with the Model UN event’s activity and ambitions. Charles Hanen, Head of Politics at St Marylebone School, commented:
“We want to equip students with knowledge about the international community and help them learn new skills before they go on to university or into employment.
“The Model UN is a great opportunity for those looking to develop an active interest in politics. We’re delighted Regent’s University London has helped bring our students here to mix with people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and countries.”
Looking ahead it is hoped this latest Model UN conference will be the first of many as Regent’s University London seeks to establish itself as a leading international facilitator for these events.
Sabrina White, Lecturer in International Relations and Regent University London’s Model UN coordinator, said:
“I’m thrilled the University’s first on-campus conference has proved such a success. You quickly get a sense of the energy and excitement as students speak about issues that really matter.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in politics as a teenager as it all felt quite overwhelming and hopeless. I took part in my first Model UN conference aged 13 and it helped me understand the importance of getting people engaged as global citizens and arguing from a position which is not necessarily your own.
“Model UN changes students’ perceptions of the world and give them a much greater understanding than any textbook can. We’re already looking forward to holding our next conference in February 2015.”