Friday, August 10, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Connecting With My Peers

By Takhmina Nasimova 

Takhmina is a Summer 2018 Program Assistant for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. She is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, with a concentration in International Economics and Minor in Russian Studies.

Many ask me what it is like to be part of the Model United Nations, I always reply, “the Model United Nations is the conference that everyone must participate in at least once in their lifetime. The Model United Nations Conference helps young students to develop essential skills to succeed in life as well as to become active citizens of their country.” 

I immigrated to the United States together with my family when I was fourteen, a dangerous age when everything catches my attention and interest. At this point of life, it is important to be surrounded with right people and stay away from all the wrong temptations. Luckily, one of the teachers at my high school has started an International Studies Club that caught my attention. Already, at age fourteen I was into politics and international affairs due to its influence on my family’s and mine life. 

Way before moving to the United States my family was forced to leave our home country Tajikistan due to Civil War and move to Uzbekistan. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Political discussions would take place every family dinner since some of our relatives were still in Tajikistan. Questions like “How did international community react on the issue of Civil War in Tajikistan,” or “Who provided aid to Tajikistan…” would be asked constantly in our household and inspired me to become an advocate for human rights at the same time a representative of all people that are influenced by wars, natural disasters and epidemics. 

Back to my high school teacher, she did a great job of gathering all the students in an International Studies Club and introducing us with great activities such as the Model United Nations.  Some people say that the Model United Nations Conference is an unnecessary extracurricular activity that wastes students’ time.  However, I strongly disagree because I believe that the Model United Nations clubs and conferences help students to develop the skills that are often missed or replaced at public and private schools. For instance, during the club meetings, we would practice several skills and prepare for the conference. One of the most important skills that I learned during these club meetings are public speaking, negotiation and networking. It used to be extremely hard for me to participate in class discussions or accept others opinion on certain issues. But participating in different activities with my peers during the club meetings helped me to develop effective speaking, networking and negotiation skills.  

At my first conference, everything I learned during my club meetings helped me to network with different delegates, negotiate with nonnegotiable and stubborn delegates and be confidence to speak in front of the audience. Some may say that MUN is just a simulation of the UN committee and bodies; in my opinion, MUN is more than a simulation.  The Model United Nations is the whole new level of education that teaches young students about diplomacy and the importance of the international relations. In order to represent a country, students need to research and get to know the country’s policies, relations, priorities, and restrictions in the most accurate way. The Model United Nations was a first formal conference I attended. It was very intense but at the same time very effective in helping me to develop skills including leadership, teamwork, public speaking, negotiation, and writing.

After graduated from high school, I went to community college for my Associate Degree where with my professor’s help I was able to establish International Studies Club and even add the Model United Nations Conference at one of the political science course’s curriculum. In this course, we learned the international affairs concepts from textbooks but practiced the skills through participating at the International Model United Nations. I was assigned as the head of delegation because of my excellency in leadership and networking that I was trained in previous years of participation at the MUN Conferences. During the international conference, my delegation and I have met many different students from all over the world who were passionate about internal affairs of their countries and international affairs. By the end of the conference, my delegation was awarded distinguished delegates. 

I am thankful for my high school teacher for introducing me to such life changing conference -- MUN. Today, I feel honored to be part of the UNA-NCA GCDC as Program Assistant and work on designing and improving the curriculum for the middle and high school students. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Gaining a Different Perspective

By Megha Thomas 

Megha is a Summer 2018 Youth Intern for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. She is a rising junior at Princeton Day School in New Jersey. She co-founded a club called Light-A-Mind, which is dedicated to increasing children’s access to education, and is an active member of her school's Model UN club.


After stumbling through my very first Model UN simulation at Princeton Day School in freshman year, I was convinced that Model UN was not for me. However, the Secretariat decided to give me a shot, and today, I could not be more grateful for that opportunity: the opportunity to learn, speak, and grow as a global citizen. 


Model UN quite literally opened my eyes to a multitude of perspectives that I never knew existed. First off, through Model UN, I have gained an inside perspective to the United Nations and seen General Assembly and Specialized Committees in action. Through moderated and unmoderated caucuses, question-and-answer sessions, and presentations, I have had the opportunity to listen and speak on numerous topics while stepping into a change-maker’s shoes and making changes of my own inside a committee session. 


Since my freshman year, I have attended 5 national and international conferences and have had a completely different experience in every one. Representing different countries have opened my eyes to what other countries around the globe think about real world issues, not just the United States’ stance. Although I may never again use my research on the number of refugees Iceland accepts annually or Algeria’s issues with food security, writing position papers and participating in committee sessions have made me a more educated, global citizen, and I definitely have a variety of fun facts to choose from when conversing on modern-day issues. 


Finally, and probably the most important, I have acquired an external perspective of how one person, or a group of people, can make changes to the world. Learning more about the Sustainable Development Goals and pressing worldwide issues has fueled my desire to brainstorm creative solutions and help those in need. This aspect of Model UN may not happen inside a conference room, but its roots and inspiration lie there. 


While Model UN may come off as a lot of debating, it truly is a team sport. Working together is crucial in Model UN and often turns into the best aspect of any conference. Forming blocs and alliances are often the foundations of friendship for me in any conference, and negotiating and compromising on solutions is the heart of the sport. Ultimately, Model UN has taught me about community, whether that be my PDS MUN team, the delegates in my committees, or our global community. Communities work together. 


The biggest piece of advice I can give to any first-timer in Model UN is to put yourself out there and take risks. It may seem intimidating to speak in front of a hundred people or make a controversial stance on an issue, but these steps help fuel your ideas to be out-of-the-box and original, along with making yourself stand out to other delegates. Truly, taking risks in Model UN ends up being like an experiment and helps you to believe in yourself. 


Model UN has made me stressed while writing clauses and scrambling to turn in a resolution paper on time, but it is also one of the most thrilling experiences for any globally-interested citizen; it’s never too late to start! I am truly grateful for every bloc, friendship, and committee session I have had in Model UN. Model UN has made me confident, a leader, and someone I am proud of.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Analysis: Trump, AMLO, & Immigration

By: Sara McNaughton, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

Migration is currently on the forefront of nearly every global leader’s mind. It was a topic President Trump promised to be tough on during his campaign, and since his election, it has caused a strain on the United States-Mexico relationship. The U.S. is one of many countries facing an influx of immigrants and refugees knocking on its door hoping to escape the conflict and war in their home countries.

Countries are addressing migration at a domestic level through varying means, the most popular of which appears to be nationalist policies that leave migrants uncertain of their future. Progress is indeed being made on an international level in an attempt to normalize how the world manages migration. In December, The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) will be ratified by all 193 UN member nations, minus the United States, displaying the ability to “[overcome] ‘mistrust’ and ‘difficult’ issues to draw up the first-ever migration pact.”

In the U.S., there is a growing negative rhetoric towards immigrants, particularly from Mexico, that has its roots in President Trump’s 2016 ‘America First’ campaign. Now, a year and a half into his tenure, Trump has been struggling to get a win in regards to immigration: he cannot obtain his desired funding from Congress for his wall (that he claimed during his campaign Mexico would pay for) and he implemented a controversial policy that separated thousands of children from their parents. He needs a break, and with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, he may have just received it.

In Mexico, citizens are fed up with the status quo. President Enrique Peña Nieto has been unsuccessful in improving issues such as a low GDP, poor wages, violence, and corruption during his tenure. What made AMLO stand out in the 2018 elections is, unlike the other candidates, he recognized the current system is not working and as a result is leaving people behind. He ran on a platform that encouraged bottom-up growth starting with the poor, and foreign policy that entails mutual respect between Mexico and the United States. His new approach to Mexican politics caused Mexico to experience the largest voter turnout in recent history, signaling that they are ready for change.

AMLO’s bottom up view of tackling economic growth and violence and corruption in Mexico is what appealed most to Mexicans. By changing the status quo for the lower class, creating more job opportunities and job training, increasing wages along the border, and providing more scholarships for youth, he will prompt change in two key areas. First, violence and corruption. With more opportunities for youth, they will be less likely to get involved with the cartels. The population is already becoming more organized and with improved social policies, they will continue to expect more transparency from the government. Second, economic opportunity. AMLO’s proposed policy changes will encourage more youth to reach for higher education and increase job opportunities. With a stronger working force, Mexico will become more attractive for international investment, fueling increased economic growth.

If López Obrador’s domestic agenda proves successful, there will be ripple effects on immigration. When combined, the improvement of the previous two points -violence and corruption and economic opportunity- will actually compliment Donald Trump’s immigration goals. Contradictory to the beliefs of the U.S. president, immigration is driven by need. When violence is present and economic opportunities are absent, a sustainable life remains unachievable. But when these issues are addressed, immigration will decrease. Through improving domestic conditions for Mexicans, it is AMLO’s hope “that Mexicans can work and be happy where they were born, where their family is, where their customs and their cultures are." If United States were to agree to the GMC, they would have the ability to combat domestic issues in Mexico at the same time. The agreement outlines provisions for timely and proper education for migrants and refugees. In addition, it aims to increase migrants’ “positive and profound contributions to economic and social development in their host societies and to global wealth.” These provisions equip migrants with the necessary skills to contribute to economic and social growth in the area in which they are living temporarily, but they will also take those skills back home. Their friends, neighbors, and family can then learn from them, increasing their contribution to domestic conditions from the bottom, up.

AMLO was extremely critical of Trump on his campaign trail and expects a U.S.-Mexico relationship based on mutual respect. Trump sent out a tweet congratulating AMLO after the election, showing signs of hope that this is a real possibility. Despite having ideologically opposite views, the two leaders share a common goal: decrease Mexican immigration to the U.S. AMLO has shown that he will be acting in the best interest of the average Mexican and will not tolerate exploitation. This puts him in a good spot to negotiate with Trump. If AMLO can show Trump that he is working on making the social and economic conditions in Mexico favorable for Mexicans to stay and live, then he will be in a position to ask the U.S. leader for something in return. Urging the U.S. to join the rest of the UN members in ratifying the DCM would seem like a reasonable ask for both sides. In which case, AMLO can ensure that Mexicans who continue to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. are treated fairly, and that their rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected. The agreement would not only warrant the prevention of human rights abuses to migrants, but would also provide support, additional resources, and multilateral funding to the host country, a factor that should be appealing to the U.S.

December 2018 will be a telling month for immigration. UNA-NCA President, Stephen F. Moseley said in a statement last week that “UNA-NCA gives special emphasis to the values of human rights for all, especially as we approach the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 2018.” On that special day, the GCM will be formally adopted in Morocco. When this occurs, AMLO will be in the middle of his second week as the President of Mexico, as he takes power on December 1st. December 10th will also be the one year and one week mark of the U.S. resigning from GCM discussions. There is a lot to come in December, while the U.S. unfortunately remains on the sidelines once again. If in fact AMLO is the answer to improving livelihood in Mexico, he has the potential to decrease immigration to the U.S. and urge Trump to engage in the global effort laid out in the GCM, we can only wait and see.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Connect With New Friends and Solve Issues Quickly

By Jackson Malmgren 

Jackson is a Summer 2018 Program Assistant for the UNA-NCA Global Classrooms DC program. He is an undergraduate at American University majoring in international relations, and will focus on foreign policy. He brings with him five years of Model UN experience.


Model UN, much like the real United Nations, revolves around diplomacy. Diplomacy encompasses so many life skills, including creative thinking, problem solving, and negotiation, that cannot simply be taught in school. In elementary school, teachers encourage creativity and want students to ask why, but as kids get older, the curiosity fades. Model UN teaches kids to ask questions again. When representing a country, it’s not enough to say “we support refugees” or “we oppose nuclear weapons,” you have to ask why your country believes this. Trying to answer one question leads to more questions, more information about the topic, and a greater understanding of the country, its opinions, and the issue itself. 


I had a tough time getting used to this, I liked facts to be plain and simple and tell me exactly what I needed. During my first conference in my sophomore year of high school, I represented New Zealand on the United Nations Environmental Programme on the topic of deforestation in the Amazon. It is very difficult to find information on a topic that is half a world away, and I realized that I have to ask a lot of questions before I can truly understand an opinion. 


Each Model UN committee focuses on a general problem and gives delegates free reign to explore solutions. From combating money laundering in Europe to arms trafficking in Central America, Model UN encourages delegates to break down massive issues into dozens of smaller, solvable problems. Slowly, one by one, delegates discuss with each other potential solutions for each of the small problems. After analyzing all sides, groups begin to put pen to paper and craft elaborate, creative solutions to all aspects of a central issue. There are always going to be problems in life; Model UN gives people the skills to solve them. 


Two years later, I represented Ukraine on the Security Council. This placed me at a huge disadvantage, as this was at the height of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. Facing an adversary with a veto power, I focused on solutions that many other members were sympathetic to and would put Russia on the defensive end if they chose to move forward with plans of their own. A lot of analysis went into these solutions, we chose to host Syrian peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan because of similar cultural values, precedent, and neutrality. 


However, not everyone is going to agree on solutions to problems, or even that there is a problem at all. At this point, delegates negotiate with the goal of finding a solution acceptable by all sides. Sometimes these negotiations are successful, other times it simply does not work out and a new group emerges. In some cases, there is a limit to how many written resolutions there can be, and you negotiate with the other side usually late into the night, line by line, to weave together a cohesive resolution. 


In order to try out for my college’s Model UN team, I needed to participate in a practice simulation. I was given Japan in a General Assembly focusing on the North Korean nuclear crisis. While a great position, it meant that I would likely be following in the footsteps of other larger countries, something that I resolved not to do. While I stuck with my traditional allies, the US and South Korea, I talked with several southeast Asian countries and recruited a few to join our bloc. Because I was the one making connections with them, they wound up backing many of my ideas. This elevated me to a position where I could negotiate as a major player with the other big countries. 


Diplomacy is not about beating the other side, but painting an accurate picture of your country’s hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, goals, culture, and overarching beliefs. Diplomacy is working with people representing literally every part of the world to find a solution to a problem that seems impossible. But like Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it is done.” 


While I’m proud of my Model UN work, I’m even more thankful that it translated over into other aspects of my life. Model UN has given me newfound respect when I travel abroad and has undoubtedly propelled me forward in my international relations major. Model UN has helped me connect with new friends and solve issues quickly. 


There are other aspects about Model UN that are important; knowing how to speak on your feet, conduct extensive research, and defend your ideas are all worthwhile skills to learn for anyone in any field. However, in the end, the various diplomatic skills I have developed through Model UN are some of the most versatile and useful abilities I have. I would not be the person I am today without the Model UN experiences that have shaped me.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

UNMIL’s Success in Liberia

By: Bonnie Worstell, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On Tuesday July 17, the Better World Campaign held a celebration at Rayburn House Office Building called “From Fear to Freedom: Celebrating UN Peacekeeping Successes in West Africa” to applaud the impact of the United Nations’ efforts in West Africa. Although the current U.S. administration has expressed distaste for the UN and has favored a policy of retrenchment, the president’s proposed budget cut of 30% directed towards international affairs was rejected by Congress. The event showcased the many accomplishments of the UN in Liberia, demonstrating that UN peacekeeping is worth investing in.

After 15 long years of building peace in a nation torn apart by two vicious civil wars, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) successfully completed its mandate on March 30, 2018. During its mandate, UNMIL worked alongside the Liberian government to improve and strengthen institutions to establish long-term stability. Some of the efforts initiated included the revamping of the Liberian National Police (LNP), assisting with the conduction of democratic elections, and addressing the Ebola crisis. 

A reliable, trustworthy national police force is a key institution, but the LNP were completely dysfunctional at the inception of UNMIL in October 2003. Their success was hindered by the seizure of police stations by rebel groups, rampant corruption stemming from bribery necessitated by a lack of salary from the government, as well as a lack of resources, training, and equipment. UNMIL began by launching the largest UN Peacekeeping disarmament campaign in history, resulting in the disarmament of 100,000 former combatants. Next, UNMIL, alongside the U.S. and Sweden, then successfully re-trained the LNP, ultimately reversing its bad reputation for corruption. Due to budgetary constraints, the force is seriously undermanned. However, as Liberia recovers economically, its capacity to grow the numbers of the LNP will expand.

Another key institution of long-lasting stability is democratic elections. UNMIL assisted Liberia’s government in conducting democratic elections by registering over 1.3 million voters and stationing peacekeepers at election sites to protect voters from election-related violence. The first election in 2005 resulted in the appointment of the first female head of state in the African continent’s history, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In the next elections, occurring in 2011 and 2017, UNMIL was far less involved in efforts to transition the responsibility onto the Liberian government. As a result, in January 2018, the nation saw its first successful transition of peace when George Weah replaced Sirleaf.

In 2014-2015 Ebola swept through western Africa, causing a health crisis that infected 28,000 and killed 11,000. UNMIL played a critical role in the immediate response as other international agencies mobilized, coordinating with the Liberian government to release an awareness campaign, increasing logistical effectiveness for testing and diagnosing victims, obtaining the necessary equipment, and training volunteers. The U.S. also played a vital role: the state established three diagnostic laboratories, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) contributed Ebola prevention kits to be distributed, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted in the necessary task of assisting in safe burials to those who had succumbed to this deadly illness. Despite the tragedy causing numerous deaths and a wave of international panic, the response brought robust investment into Liberia’s public health infrastructure, increasing Liberia’s future capacity to deal with potential future health crises.

Liberia still has many obstacles to overcome including increasing their low human development index score, building much-needed infrastructure, addressing ongoing gender violence and discrimination, and recovering from their general lack of resources. However, making these improvements will be much more possible in a time of peace than a time of conflict. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will take the lead on assisting the ongoing work in Liberia. They intend to aid the new president’s goals of investing in “agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology.” Weah also intends to focus on poverty reduction during his time in office. Despite the difficulties Liberia must yet address, the future is quite promising. Liberia has yielded many “firsts,” and has exceeded expectations in so many vital areas. With aid from the UN agencies such as UNDP and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and the promise of sustained peace, there is nothing Liberia cannot accomplish.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Monsoons and Myanmar: A Race Against Time



By: Bonnie Worstell and Sara McNaughton, UNA-NCA Program Assistants

Yet another day passes, and the current administration has failed to verbally acknowledge an extremely important human rights issue. This drove Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and the Senate Human Rights Caucus to hold a panel on International Refugee Day, June 20th, 2018, to highlight the issues surrounding the Rohingya crisis.

The Rohingya, a small Muslim minority population located in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, are one of the most repressed people in the world today. The Burmese government has systematically driven the Rohingya out of Rakhine State, which has been their home for centuries. As the government refuses to grant them citizenship and the accompanying rights due to them by the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, the Rohingya consequently remain stateless. Although violence against the Rohingya has been constant during the last few decades, it has escalated significantly in the past few years. This violence includes the targeted killing, torture, and burning of entire Rohingya villages. Rohingya women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender based violence, including rape intended to destroy reproductive systems and instill terror. Additionally, Rohingya are denied their ability to self-identify as Burmese since the government alleges that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In retaliation to government violence and oppression, a small group of ill-equipped Rohingya formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa). Arsa’s largest operation to date occurred on August 25, 2017 at a police station, resulting in the death of 12 Burmese officers. The security force’s counterinsurgency responded with disproportionate force, driving out an estimated 700,000 Rohingya from Myanmar and murdering 7,000 more.

In collaboration with several UN agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Bangladesh has been host to a bulk of the Rohingya refugees by setting up temporary facilities to receive, register, and distribute aid to refugees. Bangladesh has made significant sacrifices to accommodate the refugees, allotting a few thousand acres of land dedicated to temporary housing. Additionally, as monsoon season approaches, there is an enormous risk to ill-equipped shelters, especially those in more vulnerable locations.

Jana Mason, panelist from UNHCR, emphasized that the approach to the Rohingya crisis must be two dimensional: first, the immediate needs of refugees must be fulfilled in Bangladesh. Second, it must be realized that their return will take time. Therefore, the establishment of long term investment into economic, social, and cultural needs, in both Bangladesh and in the Rakhine State, is vital to the Rohingya’s lasting well-being.

On June 6th, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNHCR, and the Burmese government agreed upon a Memorandum of Understanding defining the desired end to be the return of Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine state. The means of implementing the conditions necessary for a safe and voluntary return is dependent on the coordination between the government and UN humanitarian agencies. Currently, according to a report by Refugees International, the “lack of clarity in coordination structure and lines of accountability among UN agencies has led to inconsistencies and delays in the provision of humanitarian services on the ground.” This coordination issue must be amended before moving forward, thus UN agencies are currently working on defining clearer leadership roles within their organizations.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also given the Burmese government a deadline of July 27 to respond to allegations of crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, argues that since the refugees have been pushed into Bangladesh, a member of the ICC, the ICC will have jurisdiction over Myanmar, despite the fact that it is not a member.

The government of Bangladesh deserves international recognition and praise for providing Rohingya refugees a place to flee. But, despite its merits, the Bangladesh government has adversely effected the situation by their failure to recognize Rohingya as refugees, and denying them rights to justice, education, health services, and freedom of movement. Due to the lengthy process of creating the proper conditions in Myanmar for the Rohingya’s return, it is probable that they will remain in Bangladesh long term. Therefore, it is important for UN Agencies, member states, and donors to pressure the Bangladesh government to grant the Rohingya refugee status so that long-term refugee programs such as education and job skills workshops can be implemented. Then when the time comes to return, they will be able to reintegrate into society. Additionally, they must pressure the government to remove bureaucratic barriers that make obtaining project approvals, visas for aid workers, and registration for NGOs complex and prolonged. The elimination of these barriers will result in a more efficient and timely response.

The most pressing issue of the moment is the quickly approaching, unforgiving monsoon season in Bangladesh. Moderate rains have already caused temporary housing to collapse, resulting in a few deaths. Since the government has restricted durable material usage in building shelters, refugees have been given additional tarp and bamboo, but that alone is not enough to withstand the fury of monsoon season. Ultimately, coordination and bureaucratic issues need to be resolved so aid workers can get the Rohingya to higher ground and help build stronger shelters.

The recent U.S. involvement has been underwhelming. Aligning with the “America First” policy, the current administration has ceased to make any kind of comment regarding the Rohingya crisis. By pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, U.S. global leadership continues to diminish with the loss of our voice on a key global stage.

We want to thank the panelists and hosts who organized the International Refugee Day Congressional briefing. In the midst of silence and lack of leadership coming from the current administration, your work needed now more than ever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Human Rights in Cameroon - A Call to Action


By: Sara McNaughton and Bonnie Worstell, UNA-NCA Program Assistants

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a briefing in the afternoon of Friday, June 15th, led by Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA) along with a panel of experts, concerning human rights abuses and the presence of Boko Haram in Cameroon.

Cameroon is actively involved in a vicious cycle of violence involving the Francophone government against the marginalized Anglophone minority. The government limits access to the internet (thus restricting freedom of expression), represses peaceful protesters, and carries out despicable human rights violations including, but not limited to: arbitrary arrests, unjust trials, kidnappings, scorched earth tactics, extreme torture, and murder. The separatists’ response has been similarly violent. Amnesty International reported on various attacks by separatists on teachers, students, security forces, and others who show sympathy to the government.

President Paul Biya, along with his Francophone government, has led Cameroon since 1982. Biya eliminated term limits in 2008 and is up for re-election in 2018. He demonstrates tendencies of an authoritarian leader and the upcoming elections are predicted to be manipulated and non-legitimate, with opposition parties facing repression and even jail time. Due to these circumstances, it is highly probable that Biya will come out victorious in the election and continue current trends of violence and repression. The uncertainty for the future in a post-Biya Cameroon troubles the international community, as he turned 85 earlier this year. Biya’s extended and personalized regime created a nation characterized by conflict and weak institutions. Therefore, it is unlikely that the government will be able to handle a peaceful transition of power.

Another concern for the panelists is the threat of a terrorist organization, Boko Haram, in the northern part of Cameroon. Terrorist organizations are like a virus: they will find the weak spot to attack and spread their influence. Violence coming from both the government and the separatists alike, poor and unequal governance, corruption, and decentralization create conditions for terrorism to flourish, thus driving many to join Boko Haram because they see it as their lone solution.

Cameroon is a vital partner in United States defense operations in efforts against regional terrorism and extremism, and therefore the U.S. has a vested interest for diplomatic intervention in the budding crisis in Cameroon. Congress must emit a clear signal that the current relationship between the two nations may be re-examined if the issues in Cameroon persist. The U.S. must use its influence to promote democratic values and freedoms such as freedom of speech, press, and assembly by encouraging, supporting, and holding Cameroon’s government accountable to holding legitimate elections this October.

Dr. Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group supplied potential key policy recommendations for the situation in Cameroon. He highlighted the necessity for a credible investigation into all claims emerging from the conflict to be conducted by an independent organization such as the United Nations. Additionally, Mr. Akwei from Amnesty International recommended that Congress should request U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) release the report of the investigation they conducted regarding allegations of secret torture orchestrated by US-trained Cameroonian forces. Government officials have been reluctant to engage in dialogue with Anglophone separatists, denying propositions from peaceful leaders and even jailing them as a silencing tactic. The Trump administration must pressure Cameroon to limit the expenditure of lethal force, abolish arbitrary arrests, and partake in reconciliation with the opposition with the help of an independent mediator.

Assuring legitimate elections in October remains one of the most vital solutions to decreasing tensions in Cameroon. If the government continues to hold power illegitimately, marginalization will persist, possibly resulting in further extremism and increased tensions.

The continued issues with Boko Haram in the North cannot be ignored. The U.S. should support de-radicalization programs for members of Boko Haram who wish to disband from the organization and reintegrate into society.

Currently, the UN has several agencies active in Cameroon working on various projects. The UN Refugee Agency is providing relief items to those affected, legal assistance, shelter materials, and sanitation facilities. The Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs is working on a mapping project to track elections, conflict, and refugees. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women is supporting Women Cohesion Spaces that “provide safe spaces where women refugees and survivors [of Boko Haram] can access a package of services, including psychological treatment and economic assistance” according to the agency. Increased U.S. Congressional support of the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation of human rights abuses in Cameroon would heighten the UN’s pressure on Cameroon’s government and the separatists to engage in dialogue, as well as appoint a moderator.

Overall, U.S. citizens have an important responsibility to advocate for Congressional involvement in Cameroon. Having a clear indication that constituents are in favor of intervention is essential in eliciting a congressional response. Like panelist Mr. Temin said, “constituents are what make congress move and make congress work.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Networking & Advocacy

By Thomas Liu
Finalist for the 2018 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
12th Grader at Langley High School in McLean, VA

This year, my five-year long Model UN career ended. As the new secretariat of Langley High School’s MUN team was elected, the seniors officially said goodbye one last time. As I sat and reflected on my MUN memories, I asked myself the essential questions: why I do MUN and what does MUN mean to me?

As an immigrant, when I first arrived in the United States in 8th Grade, I was a shy student without any confidence. During middle school MUN, I was left alone, I always sat in the back of the committee, speaking only once or twice throughout the whole conference. However, when I tried out for Langley’s nationally ranked Model UN team, still as a shy freshman, the senior officers gave me a chance and invited me to attend VAMUN hosted by the University of Virginia. That was my first out of twenty-six MUN conferences that I attended with Langley MUN.

Other than the irreplaceable friends and family that I’ve made within Langley MUN, Model UN thought me two major lessons: Networking & Advocacy.

Networking is an essential element in MUN and in real life. I first got involved with GCDC by accident, through an online post recruiting volunteers for the 2016 Spring Conference. Fortunately, I served as the Vice Chair of the Security Council Committee as the only high school student staff. Then, I found myself attending UNA-USA’s annual conference and became a member of our local UNA-NCA chapter. Without the mentorship and encouragement of Mr. Ed Elmendorf and without the networking skills that I have learned through MUN, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Through my networking and my introduction to UNA-NCA, I am now a member of the UNA- NCA Sustainable Development Committee and a staunch advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From leading and speaking at the first Congressional event on the SDGs broadcasted nationwide last summer to help organize DC’s premier diplomatic forum on the SDGs, I have fully utilized skill-sets which I have picked up from MUN and implementing them in a real-life situation, advocating for the SDGs. Model UN to me isn’t about winning gavels, it’s about making friends, networking, and advocacy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Skills I Could Never Acquire Anywhere Else

By Lars Greenlee
Finalist for the 2018 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
8th Grader at Frost Middle School in Fairfax County

Model United Nations represents bringing people together from different backgrounds, and grants the opportunity to discuss and learn about current worldwide issues and to develop life skills. MUN has shaped me into a better person. During committee, I have learned valuable life skills that make me a more prominent individual. Before Model UN, I did not worry about politics or the UN, but since I have attended every conference available to me, I have learned more about the world.

In the past, I’ve often read about current world issues, but I felt like I couldn’t voice my thoughts or that my thoughts would be pertinent to those around me. Model UN has changed my perceptions: I can discuss and learn about global policies that I am unable to obtain anywhere else. I can now watch the news and have an understanding of what is occurring in the world. Because of MUN, I have gained knowledge of countries and how they interact with each other. When a conflict in the world happens, I know where to research, how to learn more about the problem, and think of a possible solution. I also understand the hard work and dedication it takes to be a UN representative.

Model UN is the most important academic and extracurricular activity to me. It has taught me skills I could never acquire anywhere else, and I have learned to hone my reading, writing, and research skills. I have gained better speaking skills and have less fear of standing up in front of people in committee. I know many people who were afraid to speak in front of people, but after a year of MUN, they are speaking during almost every opportunity available. Also in committee, I have gained and developed leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork skills. I have even been tasked to argue a point I may not believe in. Being able to negotiate is another important technique I have developed from Model United Nations. Being able to work with two ideas and put them together into one is very crucial. One of the most important concepts I have learned throughout MUN, though, is to listen to other people. Sometimes listening to others’ ideas is more critical in committee than stating your own opinions. I used to be the person who always talked first, but now I realize that it is beneficial to listen to others and not speak all the time. All of the experiences during Model UN has allowed me to develop  into a better person.

Model United Nations is changing my life for the better. I have a preeminent understanding of the world and cultures around me. I have developed some of the most important skills in life. I can discuss topics I enjoy during committee. I have learned to listen and negotiate with people. Model United Nations means to me the ability to  learn about the world while also developing necessary social skills.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Enlightened to Pressing Issues

By Dana Jammoul
Finalist for the 2018 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
11th Grader from the Lebanese American University Delegation

Life is all about experiences. Each person with the life he or she was given can choose to add value to this life or to live without a purpose. We must learn to appreciate each opportunity given to us and explore it and learn from it as much as we can.

Signing up to participate in the Model UN was definitely the opportunity that allowed me to explore my capabilities. It was the knife that cut into a box of talents I had in me that I thought I never had. Week after week I would wait for each training session eagerly. The lovely spirit the trainers had added to their solid and fruitful material was enlightening. From the issues they were tackling, I learned about the importance of respecting the rules and procedures of every place I would later walk into, listening to others’ ideas rather than opposing them, as well as public speaking tips that will carry on with me in every speech I make.

The stage that impacted me the most in this whole experience was during the two weeks in which we had to prepare for the final conference. Throughout those weeks, my entire state of mind shifted in a way it hadn’t before. I was enlightened to pressing issues depicting a threat to our world as well as policies and terminologies I hadn’t been exposed to before. Model UN showed me how ignorant I was, and that created an appetite for information as I found joy in researching. I would sometimes get carried away with all the knowledge I was gaining.

The day I was finally done with researching, I flipped into the pages I had printed and smiled at all the information present that had already been imprinted in the back of my brain. The day I walked into the final conference, I walked up with a smile and excitement. My most important goal was to solve the problem we were given in our background guides, and with that ideology was I able to offer the best version of myself.

All in all, Model UN gave me skills I will carry on with me later on in life whether it was in school, college, or my future career. I shall never forget all the amazing memories I went through when I was once an 11th grader participating in an amazing experience known as the Model UN.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Why MUN Matters: We Are a Global Family

By Ahmad Bromund
Finalist for the 2018 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
9th Grader from Muslim Community School/Alim Academy in Maryland

“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations.” Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan made this statement to the United Nations in his millennium message nearly two decades ago, and it still rings true today. In a world where people are judged and divided by religion, culture, race, and socioeconomic status, partaking in Model United Nations (MUN) has taught me the importance of working together as one society for the greater good of mankind.

MUN is an excellent program in which students have the opportunity to explore ideas and solutions for today’s most pressing issues, as well as develop exceptional speaking, debating, and researching skills. MUN also teaches principles of diplomacy, leadership, and critical thinking. In the three MUN conferences I have attended, I have learned that in order to be a strong speaker and debater, I must first be a strong listener. The only way a group of problem-solvers and critical thinkers can be productive is to listen to others’ ideas and have an open mind. Going into a setting such as MUN with this mindset of listening, opposed to just hearing, opens the door to greater possibilities.

In the three years I have been involved with MUN, my understanding of global thinking and sense of community has expanded exponentially. Throughout my MUN journey, I have been particularly inspired by a quote from former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “As the young leaders of tomorrow, you have the passion and energy and commitment to make a difference.

What I’d like to really urge you do is to have a global vision. Go beyond your country; go beyond your national boundaries. We are very fortunate to live in a country such as the United States. In this country, we have extreme comforts and privileges, which can cause our working minds to become constricted. Participating in MUN has expanded my mind and vision from a personal scale to a global scale. It’s not all about me and those in my sphere anymore; I must think about my fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world, for we are a global family.

For example, I had never heard of the crisis in the Sahel and Chad Basin until MUN this year, and now I have the chance to study and analyze the causes and solutions for this crisis. I love how MUN brings the world closer together, showing me that I, along with my peers can have a positive impact on this world, because everyone deserves basic human rights.

The MUN body represents striving for our peace and unification. At the conferences, dividing lines become a blur. Differences are put aside and minds start to work together in harmony, to solve a problem, that none of us can solve alone. We work with fellow diplomats of different races, religions, and backgrounds, and we respect them for who they are and what they believe. We learn to put our differences aside and focus on solidarity, so we can all work and strive for peace together. We become many minds put together, working with one another as one powerful force. Then hand in hand, as one entity with one goal, we will all work to bring issues to rest, one by one.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Why MUN Matters: Inspires to Make a Difference

By Queen Balina
2018 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
8th Grader from Cabin John Middle School in Maryland

Model United Nations means many things to me. Yes, it may be a club, an activity, a pastime, but it means so much more as well. The world, as we all know, is not perfect, and it may never be. But Model UN dares me to imagine what a perfect world would look like. We not only learn about the global and local issues being faced today, but also how these issues could affect humanity in the future.

When attending a Model UN conference, I am challenged to reach logical and possible solutions to difficult questions. Participating in Model UN gives us an opportunity to try and fix the world that we will someday be leading, and allows us to use our creativity as an advantage, an untried angle, a new approach to seemingly unsolvable problems.

By solving the problems of today, we are becoming the leaders of tomorrow. One more child, inspired by what they have learned, is one more child, working to change the world as we know it. By getting involved now, more can be accomplished to solve the problems that humanity currently faces.

I am more aware of what goes on around me when in Model UN, and how these problems affect not only me, but the global community as a whole. It is difficult not to be impacted by Model UN, because it is meant to change students and their perception of the world around them. Model UN inspires me to make a difference, even if only in just one single way. Like many other students in Model UN, I learn about how to speak in public, and how to communicate with others.

I also learn about the world as a whole – Model UN has changed me into a global citizen. I am not just concerned about issues, but actively working to solve the problems I see in my community. I have been transformed into a student who is willing to solve problems, willing to compromise, and willing to speak up for my beliefs.

In a way, my life and other students’ lives are changed, because we go from simply seeing the world’s problems to wanting to fix them. Model United Nations is not just a club. Not just an activity. Not just a pastime. To me, it is an experience. It is an inspiration.

Model United Nations makes us strive to change the world, because it is our world. And tomorrow, we will be its leaders.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What to Expect from the UNA-NCA Young Professionals Career Dinner



By Tselmegtsetseg Tsetsendelger, Director of Communications, UNA-NCA Young Professionals Program

Are you interested in learning more about careers in the international field? How to enter the field, what to look out for, and what to expect? I was in the same position in the fall of 2015 and wanted to expand my understanding of how to initiate a career in international development with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. I attended the 2015 Fall UNA-NCA Young Professionals’ Career Dinner reception at the United Nations Foundation and participated in the dinner focusing on Sustainable Development. At my dinner was a USAID representative and a CEO of an implementing partner organization. Not only did I benefit from hearing their stories, I had the opportunity to ask questions about career opportunities and how to make myself standout. The most helpful information I received was participants’ and dinner speakers’ views on where the field was going and what I should expect not just in the next year, but the next 5 and 10 years. Inspired by my experience, I decided to join the UNA-NCA as a volunteer and support the dinners as I continued with my career.

UNA-NCA YP board members continue to hear participants’ anecdotes about the many benefits of the career dinners. These positive outcomes range from establishing lifelong friendships with other attendees to connecting with keynote and dinner speakers for career advice on topics such as passing a Foreign Service Test. Receiving this feedback gives us pride in our program and continues to drive us to reach out to the most relevant speakers in international development and related fields.


The next career dinner will be held on Saturday, April 14th, 2018. It will start with a reception at the United Nations Foundation, with keynote speaker Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini. The reception is a networking opportunity for the participants to meet with those who may not be at their specific dinner. As any networking event, we always recommend that all out participants and speakers bring lots of business cards. Following the reception, the dinner topics will be called out for the participants to either leave the United Nations Foundation to a dinner host’s home or to go into their appropriate dinner topic rooms at the UNF. This year we are excited to have five dinner topics. We always recommend that the participants bring their questions to these dinners as they are the best chance to get any and all of them answered!

We are really excited for this year’s career dinner, if you decide to join us please register here.


Monday, February 12, 2018

The Dowry System in India


By: Yi Ren


In many countries, including China – where I grew up – bride price is very common. This tradition has been criticized in the modern era because many believe it frames women as commodities that can be traded. However, it leaves me with a mindset that marrying a daughter is analogous to bestowing. To my surprise, the situation is opposite in India where I recently completed a research project on the issue. It is common that the bridegroom’s family demand so much dowry from the bride’s family that the bride would suffer both physical and mental torture if her family is not able to meet the demands. Both dowry and bride price were practiced in India; however, dowry gradually became more prevalent.

Originally, the dowry was recognized as a token, a present to a daughter given by her family, or a guarantee of security and dignity for daughters in marriage often in the form of cash, jewelry, and gifts. Nevertheless, the dowry today is no longer a gift but a demand – a kind of capital which generates a parasitic economy of males living off ransom or surplus generated from the girl.

The demand for dowry brings in its wake torture, brutalization, and eventual murder in the form of burnings, electric shocks, or torture. In 1995, the National Crime Bureau of the Government of India reported about 6,000 dowry deaths per year, which was widely believed to be an underestimate. Unofficial estimates put the number of deaths at 25,000 women per year, with many more left maimed and scarred as a result of attempts on their lives.

Faced with the prospect of providing a dowry, women are often forced into prostitution or fall victim to sex trafficking. New forms of bonded labor are being institutionalized where women work for at least three years as capital labor to earn their dowry. There are even girls who are hypothecated to earn money as a sex worker for the marriage of siblings.

Dowry payment and harassment have long been prohibited under specific Indian laws, including the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 followed by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code and section 113B of the Evidence Act. In reality, however, the laws are ineffective due to women’s reluctance to use the criminal law and the inefficiency of the police and the courts. Lacking witness and evidence present additional challenges.

In many places in India, daughters have no inheritance rights or have less rights than sons. Therefore, it is believed that the practice of dowry serves as compensation for inheritance inequality. While their still exists inheritance equality issues, India has made recent progress in lieu of February 2nd Supreme Court ruling which addresses the imbalance.

According to Dr. Sarasu Esther Thomas of the National Law School of India University, the dowry system arose from the historic normative that Indian women were often unemployed and considered family burdens. Sadly, today, even a woman with a stable income still requires a significant dowry.
Apart from cultural practice, the economic factor is the primary driver of the dowry tradition. To change the current situation, empowering women economically is key in addition to strengthening their legal protection and raising the awareness of the harmful impacts of the dowry system. When women can contribute significantly to families economically, the subordinate status in marriage will change gradually and the justification for the dowry system will be weakened.

There are many people and organizations in India working to help women face dowry harassment. The Courts of Women is providing victims a platform to speak out on their personal experiences and stories with an aim to educate the public, raise awareness, record human rights violations, and give voice to marginalized women. Sharana, a local NGO, is offering small scale loan assistance and vocational training to provide women with the necessary skills to start their own business, generate income, and become autonomous. Similarly, NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning is an incubator for Indian women entrepreneurs, providing business training and financial support.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The goal ranges from addressing macro issues like equal access to political representation to micro issues such as the just treatment of women within a family. The dowry system in India, which hurts women physically and mentally, must and will be changed.

Yi Ren was a former Program Assistant at UNA-NCA and is a current M.A. candidate at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The content of this blog was inspired by her recent trip to India where she conducted a research project.