Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Why MUN Matters - "The Most Rewarding Activity That I Have Ever Done"

By Susie Wang

Susie is a full-time graduate student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She is now participating in an exchange program with the University of Sydney this fall to advance her professional knowledge in the Asia-Pacific region. Originally from Wuhan, China, Susie has had seven years of Model UN experience.

My teacher Mr. Ding introduced Model UN to me when I was a freshman in high school. Growing up in China, I did not care much about politics and barely knew anything related to international affairs. I just regarded Model UN as a good opportunity for me to improve my language skills and would like to challenge myself because it requires the participants to negotiate, give speeches, and write papers in English.

My first MUN conference was held here in Washington, D.C. At that time, I was intimidated by those American students. Although I never considered myself as a shy kid that is not willing to speak in public, it was still challenging for me to engage in the meeting because I did not really understand the language and all of the other delegates looked taller and stronger than me. I ended up skipping most of the sessions and having pizzas with my Chinese friends. As a little girl, who only craved for pizzas, I could never imagine that I would become a graduate student studying in the school that is located in downtown D.C. with a major of international affairs. I became who I am because of MUN.

When I went back to China after my first and embarrassing MUN conference, I decided to participate in several MUN conferences in China and started to introduce this activity to some of my classmates. As the leader of the MUN team in our school, I designed and facilitated MUN workshops to help the kids to get a better understanding about the MUN rules and procedures, as well as world affairs. I even wrote letters to their parents explaining how MUN can benefit their kids. I continued my cause of promoting MUN when I was in college and I started to go to those regional and national conferences where I met students from all around the country.

MUN turned out to be the most rewarding activity that I have ever done. Since I would regard each time representing a nation the chance to speak for the country after solitary researching, pondering and discussing, my participation into each conference would start at several weeks before the real meeting, if not immediately after the topic being revealed to us. Only with weeks of retrieving and studying as many important documents regarding the conference topic as I could reach would I be ensured a positive possibility of good performance. In addition to personal preparation, capacities of communication and teamwork were also indispensable, as the realization of the maximum common interests among the bloc could only achieve after bloc members working out a proper Draft Resolution and a satisfying plan to lobby the Draft Resolution together, and fulfilling a successful debate with the competing bloc. Throughout times of UN conferences, I did hone myself greatly in those abilities and being a leader more often than not in the blocs I belonged to, I also developed my leadership greatly.

On top of the development of my abilities, I received remarkable exposure to various topics relating to international relations, such as economic development, international security, environment protection, as well as disarmament. When preparing the meetings for those topics, I cultivated in myself a passion in international relations through the process of studying the international hot topics and of figuring out my thinking of solutions. In most of my attempts, I would apply the liberalism believing that the international community could keep an order in the constraints and coordination regarding international organizations and international laws, and states could coordinate their conflicts through channels including institutional arrangements, social interactions, trades, and contracts.

The past efforts to establish international organizations and norms have contributed to today's relatively orderly and peaceful situation: we can work together to face global problems. Being convinced of the significance of international organizations, I was looking forward to making my contributions to the cause. That is why I decided to study International Affairs in graduate school, regardless of the fact that it is such an unpopular major among my Chinese peers. MUN not only helped me to find the direction of my life but also shaped my personality. It encouraged me to not just be satisfied with what I got, but to care about the suffering of mankind. It inspired me to be kind, patient, and respect the opponent since I need to work with people from different backgrounds and with different interests all the time. I also got a lot of close friends, because MUN allowed me to meet people who are also interested in international affairs, public speaking, debates, and English (as a second language).

Now, I worked as a program assistant at Global Classroom DC, my team and I are working to design curriculums and workshops that introduce global issues and MUN to middle school and high school students. I am so excited to continue to be an advocator and educator for MUN and international affairs, and I firmly believe that it is beneficial to all.

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.