Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why MUN Matters: We Can Shake the World

By Fatemeh Naghavinia
2019 Student Secretary-General of the Spring Model UN Conference
9th Grader from Muslim Community School/Alim Academy

The struggle for justice often is the distinction between morality and immorality. Model United Nations, a learning experience in which students role-play delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees, is truly an opportunity for us youth to step up, take responsibility for the world’s issues, and put them to rest, one by one.

An important aspect of being involved in MUN is how it facilitates research and teamwork skills, along with the aptitude of public speaking. Researching for MUN has taught me two fundamental lessons: to not position myself along one ideology and to act as an open-minded, global citizen when presented with unfamiliar views on certain issues. MUN has taught me that I don’t need to only support the “marketable” opinion to be able to solve a problem; creativity and open-mindedness serve as a segue to successful diplomacy. Speaking as a delegate in MUN has also served as an outlet for me to lay out my ideas and opinions to a broader audience, as well as advance my public speaking skills.

The blessing of having MUN as a platform for everyone from every race and every religion to be able to freely express their opinions is an esteemed privilege. Children have often been disciplined to remain within their inner circles and seldom associate themselves with those from different backgrounds—this dissociation has bred the seeds of systemized discrimination and prejudice in our communities. MUN is able to extinguish the stigma of that mentality, and equipped me with a mentality to consider one’s personality and views from the inside, rather than what society paints them as.

I—as a hijabi, Iranian-American Muslim—have always been encouraged to express my thoughts and opinions, and to never be afraid to stand up for what I believe in. MUN nurtures that sense of responsibility, and encourages me to not only educate myself about ongoing problems, but also to work as a delegate in a communal force aimed at advocating for the silenced.

MUN truly serves as an opportunity to prove to adults that although we—the youth—have our flaws, our strengths are prominent as well. MUN has nurtured and grown those strengths, and given me the voice and mentality I have today. Many of us are driven to create equality between races and religions, but seldom find the willpower or the platform to do so. It was MUN that gave me the confidence to speak out, to voice my opinions and concerns to the world, to believe that I can, and WE CAN shake the world.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Model UN Conferences - A Path for An Equal Global Education

by Aika Okishige
Global Classrooms DC Program Assistant

On April 26, 2019, I assisted in organizing the 15th Global Classrooms DC Spring Model UN Conference. During a Model UN Conference, students act as delegates of countries in the United Nations and debate on topics through different agencies and committees of the real UN.

For the event this year, students were able to discuss five topics and corresponding committees: 
Ending Modern Slavery (International Organization for Migration) 
Creating Youth Employment Opportunities (International Labour Conference) 
Promoting Women in Peace and Security (UN Development Programme)
Developing Better Responses to Natural Disasters (UN Environment Programme)
Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UN Security Council)

During the conference, I observed how students prepared for the conference and how they approached international issues. What impressed me the most was how many of them confidently spoke on their own ideas in front of other students from different schools during the structured debates, how they negotiated with other students to act as supporters and authors for their idea, and how they intelligently debated with other students. 

It can be difficult for students to speak in front of others that they met just that day, critique their ideas, and work together to come up with solutions, all while adhering to a country’s background and policy other than the United States. However, they were able to debate issues in depth and drafted resolutions which are applicable to other countries and clearly stated how the resolutions are effective in improving the world.

Before getting involved in this conference, I thought global education generally requires mastering another language and understanding a different culture by living in foreign countries to develop global citizens. Therefore, middle- and upper-class students with the most access to resources are able to receive a global education; but as a result, global education is not for all students. 

However, since helping to organize this event, I realize that global education has more learning options other than language acquisition and going abroad. This Model UN Conference is an example of extremely effective global education. By engaging in Model UN Conferences, students can develop various skills, such as critical thinking, negotiation, and public speaking. These skills are essential elements to become an active global citizen. 

Moreover, Model UN Conferences are open to all students to provide opportunities to develop these skills in classrooms. In Japan, where I am originally from, Model UN Conferences are primarily for university students and a few high school students. Middle school students and primary school students usually do not have opportunities to participate in Model UN Conferences. Unlike Japan, American students have more opportunities to develop global awareness from a younger age. The earlier students have opportunities to be globally aware, the more they can develop their skills and abilities, which are required to be an active global citizen. 

By organizing this event, I understand that global education can be achieved not only by actually going abroad, but also by discussing in depth what is happening in the current world in classrooms. 

Furthermore, in this globalized world, global education should be available for all students from different backgrounds. Model UN Conferences trigger any students’ interests in different countries and allow them to think about how they can become agents to improve the world. I believe that is one of the essential goals of global education and the first step of being a good global citizen.