Two Pace University students put Model United Nations (MUN) lessons into action at the UN Diplomatic Conference for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) this summer, participating in a special internship arranged by the Pace New York Model UN program.
Shant Alexander ‘14 and Cyrus Ghazanfar ‘14 worked with the media team of Control Arms, a coalition of nonprofits, charities, advocacy groups and faith institutions campaigning for a strong and robust treaty regulating the trade in conventional weapons. Control Arms seeks to ban the transfer of arms to states and armed groups that abuse human rights and commit war crimes.
The Pace students found themselves in the middle of a developing international news story when the Control Arms media team supported a high profile investigation on a network of Russian gun runners. Blowing the whistle on illicit arms dealing in Mauritius, the team exposed the involvement of associates of the notorious ‘merchant of death’ Viktor Bout. (Bout is currently in federal prison just blocks from Pace’s downtown campus). The story was covered by CNN, The New York Times and numerous other top news outlets.
“Cyrus and I were dealt some of the most exciting tasks that were given out to interns,” said Shant, a junior political science major. “Almost everything I did can be traced back to MUN. Without taking part in the ATT simulation at the 2012 National Model UN conference in New York, the talks would have just been another headline on my news alerts.”
Control Arms staff told Pace that Cyrus, a junior economics and political science double major, and Shant played a significant role in the campaign, monitoring media coverage, organizing press conferences, translating and managing logistics.
“Shant showed the openness and curiosity needed to operate in an international and complex environment,” Louis Belanger, Humanitarian Media Officer at Oxfam International (a Control Arms coalition member) told Pace. “It was a stressful time and Shant kept his cool with his legendary demeanor, good humor and professionalism.”
“Cyrus was always ready to help and enthusiastic about the cause, using his linguistic and organisational skills to truly become a member of the media team, ” continued Belanger. “Cyrus was always keen to help and curious to know more about the complex political developments of the Arms Trade Treaty talks.”
The ATT conference ended inconclusively, with consensus blocked by the US, China, Russia and a small group of authoritarian states. However, campaigners believe the draft treaty text, though not perfect, represents a major step forward in controlling the international arms trade, currently less regulated that the global market in bananas.
Matthew Bolton, Pace New York’s Model UN faculty advisor, was also involved in the ATT conference, assisting Control Arms’ information and analysis team. He has conducted extensive research on humanitarian efforts to mitigate and control the impact of conventional weapons such as landmines, cluster munitions, small arms and military robots. During the conference he wrote analysis of the ATT process for the online Comment and Editorial section of Global Policy.
“We want Pace students to have a civic education in global citizenship. The participation of our students in the Arms Trade Treaty conference shows how Model UN at Pace provides excellent preparation in the research, communication, organizational, and diplomatic skills necessary for a vocation in international affairs,” said Dr. Bolton, assistant professor of political science. “Model UN offers students experiential education in practical policymaking to prepare them for careers in a rapidly globalizing world.”
Located only two express subway stops from the iconic United Nations complex on the East River, Pace University’s New York City Model UN program has a 60-year history of excellence in regional, national and international conferences. Model UN at Pace is uniquely integrated into the Political Science curriculum within the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences and aims to encourage students to develop wisdom, knowledge and skills for global citizenship.