UD hosts inaugural high school Model United Nations Conference
2:23 p.m., March 5, 2013--The delegates of HenMUN I, the inaugural Model United Nations Conference at the University of Delaware, had a busy weekend. By Sunday afternoon, major world capitals had been bombed, leaders kidnapped, diplomats executed, nuclear warfare waged, vaccines globalized and hostage situations resolved.
Over 350 high school students acted as delegates from around the world in a mock United Nations session from Friday, March 1, to Sunday, March 3, on the UD campus.
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The conference consisted of 16 committees, ranging from the United Nations Human Rights Council to a futuristic European Union set in 2020. Each delegate was assigned a country and placed in a committee where they spent the weekend debating and reacting to the world’s real and hypothetical issues.
“It’s a great learning experience for the high school students,” said Max Kramer, an Honors Program senior majoring in political science and economics and the secretary general of HenMUN I. “The conference gives them a chance to refine their debating and negotiation skills and to practice their leadership skills.”
Big things happening
HenMUN I resulted from close to two years of planning and began as a text message. Kramer was looking for ways to make a difference and implored his friends to come meet him with a succinct plea -- “Big things happening.”
Kramer and six friends -- UD students Patrick O’Gorman, Phil Livingston, Christie Gidumal, Trey Taraila, Gabi Schwartz and Alex Bahary -- began the massive undertaking of organizing the University’s first Model United Nations Conference.
The group of students, who would become the secretariat of HenMUN I, recruited 125 UD students to facilitate the conference and confirmed the attendance of 17 high schools.
“For us, it was a great experience learning how to put this all together and we are hoping it’s something that we can do again in the future,” said Kramer.
HenMUN I was sponsored by the Honors Program, the Department of Political Science and International Relations, the School of Public Policy and Administration, the Center for Community Research and Service, the Office of the Provost, and the Institute for Global Studies.
A weekend to remember
The opening ceremony on Friday night set the tone for the weekend. As hundreds of students and staff dressed in Western business apparel packed Mitchell Hall, music blasted through the speakers. The ceremony included a letter from Vice President Joe Biden, a performance by the Deltones and a keynote speech by Ralph Begleiter, director of UD’s Center for Political Communication.
The committee meetings included both intense political discussion and surprises.
For example, the Historical General Assembly Committee went back in time to 1979 during the Iranian revolution.
“Throughout the conference, we gave them different crisis situations,” said UD junior Kyla Alterman, who served as the chair of the Historical General Assembly of 1979. “These situations, such as a hostage crisis, could have different outcomes depending on the committee’s decisions.”
To mimic the unpredictability of real-world politics, delegates never knew what they would face next. At midnight, delegates from three committees were woken up and escorted out of their hotel rooms to deal with emerging crises.
The United Nations Security Council faced the killing of South Korean diplomats while the Historic United Nations Security Council set in 1994 confronted the beginning of genocide in Rwanda. The U.S. National Security Council also faced a midnight crisis, learning of a plot to let loose a biochemical weapon right after Sept. 11, 2001.
While the weekend focused around mock committee meetings, the schedule was punctuated with several social events for the delegates.
“I had a really fun weekend,” said Justin McCartney, a sophomore from Salesianum School in Wilmington, Del., who added, “The delegate dance was great and I met a lot of new people.”
In addition to a delegate dance, participants could also attend an ice cream social and network with hundreds of other students they would otherwise never meet.
Katie Mackenzie, a junior international relations major, volunteered to work on the Special Political and Decolonization Committee helping delegates explore the issue of international cyber security.
“It’s really important for high school kids to look at issues with an international view these days,” said Mackenzie. “I also think it was important for the UD students to get involved this weekend because we are still young and know how to relate to the participants.”
“The weekend was really fun because the kids ended up being really engaged,” she said.
By the time closing ceremonies strolled around on Sunday afternoon, the model United Nations hadn’t rid the world of starvation and conflict, but participants were able to make a difference over the course of the weekend.
Through fundraising efforts, the HenMUN I participants raised over $1,500 for CARE International, an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty.
Article by Kelley Bregenzer
Photos by Doug Baker