Yale International Relations Association members this weekend hosted the largest Model United Nations conference ever hosted at Yale. High school delegates represented ambassadors from specific countries and worked to find solutions to current issues facing the international community.
The conference boasted 1,140 delegates from 63 high schools around the world and featured speakers such as UN General Assembly President Julian Hunte, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Negroponte, and author and NBC News UN correspondent Linda Fasulo.
Yale Model United Nations, or YMUN, Secretary General Sadiq Abdulla ’05 said one of YMUN’s goals is to teach students who do not otherwise learn about the United Nations in their schools about diplomacy.
“Diplomacy is something that I’ve noticed is not taught in all high schools,” Abdulla said. “In today’s world where conflicts are a dime a dozen, I think it’s very important that high school students who are the youth of today and the leaders of tomorrow have some background and some education in diplomacy.”
Abdulla said this year’s conference included students from Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco and Canada. He said many international students learn about the United Nations in their schools.
“We wanted to increase the diversity of the conference by not only allowing the delegates from the United States to meet other people and find out their opinions, but to let students who are primarily from the United States and not exposed to [international perspectives] to know that other opinions in the world exist in terms of the way people think of the United Nations and the way people think of the United States,” Abdulla said.
YMUN Director General Caitlin Dean ’05 said the simulation is meant to resemble a real UN experience as closely as possible. YMUN staff woke all delegates after curfew Friday night so they could resolve a “midnight crisis.”
Meredith McCoy, a high school student from Litchfield, Conn., said she was a member of the simulated United States National Security Council. McCoy said members of her committee debated the issue — a hypothetical crisis involving terrorism and the assassination of a world leader — from 1 a.m. until 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning.
“They knocked on our doors, told us we had five minutes to be in proper dress, and then we loaded a bus to the Omni Hotel,” McCoy said. “Once there, we were ushered in a serious manner to the separate rooms for each committee, and there we were presented with our crisis.”
Dean said she participated in a YMUN conference as a high school student.
“Last night, I was watching the delegates coming out of committee and remembering all the excitement and the magic that comes from this because we give them these crises to deal with and everything becomes really realistic, and that’s what we strive for,” Dean said. “Now I’m recreating that magic I once felt.”
Hunte discussed the role of the United Nations in today’s world at YMUN opening ceremonies Thursday evening and at a Silliman College Master’s Tea Thursday afternoon. Negroponte and Fasulo also had speaking engagements at Yale Friday.
During YMUN opening ceremonies, Hunte commended Model United Nations organizations around the world for teaching negotiating and leadership skills that will benefit future leaders.
“It is noteworthy that even in troubling times, when the relevance of the United Nations was being called into question, Model United Nations were being organized and conducted,” Hunte said.
At Thursday’s Master’s Tea, Hunte, who is from St. Lucia, said he believes the current structure of the United Nations is conducive to a balance of power.
“I think that one vote per country in terms of its sovereignty has worked,” Hunte said. “It has created a balance, and larger countries do get together on a vote as do developing countries. The system has evolved to where there is a give and take, and that allows for the balance to manifest itself.”
Hunte said that although many former colonies have achieved national independence, economic imbalances still affect the relationships between former colonies and colonial powers. Hunte said the differences between rich and poor nations have been confounded by globalization and trade organizations, which marginalize countries, particularly in the developing world.
“Poverty worldwide, the burden which falls equally on our most vulnerable groups — children, women, the elderly — is the seed of instability, hatred and conflict,” Hunte said.
Abdulla said YMUN planning and organization took place over a 10-month period preceding the conference. Abdulla said a total of 10 YMUN Secretariat members organized the conference, and approximately 130 undergraduates worked on the YMUN staff, leading committee meetings for the high school students over the weekend.