March 13, 2011

High Schoolers Gather for Model U.N.

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Attracting more than 600 high school students from as far as Puerto Rico, South Africa and India, the Cornell International Affairs Society hosted its annual Cornell Model United Nations Conference this weekend. Acting as specific global leaders and national governments, Model U.N. delegates debated solutions to current political issues and historical conflicts.  Participants in the conference, representing 118 countries, were split into three large-body committees and eight specialized committees.While other international Model U.N. conferences focus primarily on the General Assembly and larger U.N. committees, CMUNC reflects an American movement toward more crisis-focused Model U.N. conferences.CMUNC incorporated seven crisis committees, said Ankur Bajaj ’13, president of CIAS. The committees ranged from the 1970 Arab League Summit to President  Barack Obama’s National Security Council. In the NSC, Bajaj represented Obama, and delegates responded as national political figures, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. They discussed the U.S. role in recent crises, including biological weapons in Libya and the Japanese tsunami and its subsequent nuclear crisis. “We’re currently at a crossroads on what we’re going to do about the situation in Libya,” said Ethan Lowens, a delegate from Trinity School in New York City. “I’m interested to see what our real-life counterparts will do with the situation.”Rachel Bolton, a delegate from a high school in South Africa, said the structure at CMUNC allowed for more delegate involvement in the running of meetings in comparison to other South African conferences she has attended.“It is far more satisfying [at Cornell] in that regard,” Bolton said. “I think giving that responsibility to the delegate of the council makes us take more responsibility for what we’re saying.”Students who participate in Model U.N. come away with more than a broader global perspective, Bajaj said.

“The skills you learn here in leadership, decision making and public speaking are translatable across all professions,” he said.Some members of CIAS attended CMUNC in high school.  “My CMUNC experience was my first exposure to any college, so when it came time to apply for colleges, Cornell seemed like an obvious choice,” said Mike Cretz, Secretary General of CMUNC.Bajaj also said his experience with Model U.N. shaped his personal development.“I started out as a freshman [in high school] being so scared, not having any charisma, and having very little presence, and now I am vice president of the organization,” he said. Bajaj said he hoped to expand Model U.N.’s reach on campus. “I think the institution of Model U.N. is something that should be recognized more so by the University, because it really does promote the essence of what this University was founded upon — any person, any study.”

Original Author: Christa Nianiatus