The third annual Cornell Model United Nations Conference kicked off last night with opening ceremonies held in Statler Hall. The conference, which runs through Sunday morning, will feature debate in simulated committee sessions of the United Nations and other international organizations.
More than 400 high school students from around the United States and Canada will participate in the conference this year, where they will debate issues ranging from land mines and bioterrorism to Taiwanese independence and beyond.
Students in the Cornell International Affairs Society plan and run the conference each year, facilitating debate in the committee sessions.
This year, the conference includes mock sessions of the U.N.’s Disarmament and International Security, Social Humanitarian and Cultural and Legal committees. Smaller groups of students will debate in meetings of the U.N. Security Council, Chinese Politburo, Hellenic League, International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Iraqi Governing Council.
The visiting students will act as delegates representing more than 60 U.N. member nations. After members of CIAS welcomed the delegates to the conference and to Cornell, Miriam Hughes, deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations, delivered the keynote address. She spoke about American involvement in the U.N. and the U.N.’s involvement in international concerns. She also addressed elections in the Middle East, proliferation of nuclear weapons, the growing AIDS crisis and the genocide committed in Sudan.
“We’re facing problems that cross borders,” Hughes said. “This is the challenge of your generation.”
Hughes also discussed the recent controversies that have afflicted the U.N. “The UN has come to a crossroad, or, as Secretary General Kofi Annan has said, ‘we are at a fork in the road.'”
Hughes addressed the Oil-for-Food scandal, the allegations of sexual abuse on peacekeeping missions and the membership of rogue regimes on key committees concerned with human rights. Despite recent problems, Hughes emphasized that “mobilizing a consensus to uphold civilized standards and take action when necessary is at the heart of the U.N.’s purpose.”
In addition to debating timely issues in committee sessions, delegates will explore Cornell, attend admissions information sessions, and take campus tours.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to expand what I know about the ICJ and about the United Nations in general,” said Adena Hefets, president of Commack High School’s Model U.N. club.
Dan Tevet ’06, a member of CIAS and chair of the Committee on Disarmament and International Security, agreed that the experience is beneficial to all involved.
“The conference gives students a great exposure not only to the workings of the United Nations, but also to foreign policy in general,” Tevet said. “High school students as well as college students can learn a lot about the positions of different nations.”
Archived article by Josh Goldman
Sun Staff Writer