Leveraging its convenient location just two express subway stops from the United Nations complex on the East River, Pace University’s New York City Model UN program has engaged in several efforts this semester to connect its students to global policymaking processes in the city.
“Engaging in Model United Nations simulations prepares students for working in the global policymaking arena through hands-on training in diplomacy, research, public speaking and writing,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Pace New York City Model UN faculty advisor.
“However, the weakness or risk of Model UN is that participants fixate on the intricacies of the simulation itself, losing sight of its purpose — to raise awareness of global issues and the international institutions set up to manage them. At Pace we are trying to give students direct interaction with actual policymaking.”
This semester, the Model UN class has hosted guest speakers from the NGO and UN community to provide students access to firsthand knowledge of ongoing efforts to make the world a safer, more humane and peaceful place.
On 26 November, Cris Stephen, Political Affairs Officer for Syria for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Kaoruki Seki, Humanitarian Policy Officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spoke to the class about their experience working for the UN and offered advice on how undergraduates can think about and prepare for global vocations. They encouraged students to learn languages, cultivate their writing and project management skills and attend to self-care and personal reflection to prepare for careers in international institutions. But for Stephen and Seki, a strong sense of vision, principle and determination were crucial in their work.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Seki told students, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt.
Earlier in the semester, Allison Pytlak, Campaign and Communications Coordinator at Control Arms, an NGO coalition campaigning for a “bulletproof” Arms Trade Treaty, spoke to Model UN students about the challenges and possibilities of civil society advocacy campaigns. She explained the ways in which NGOs and faith groups had influenced international regulations on landmines, cluster munitions, tobacco control, the rights of persons with disabilities and the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Model UN conferences are often very state-centric simulations; Pytlak’s perspective was a useful corrective to this bias, showing how civil society, the media, religious leaders and social movements often have considerable influence.
“In most Model UN conferences we attend, we do not see firsthand an NGO lobbying for their cause or standing in as a delegate for the General Assembly,” said Elena Marmo ’15, Pace Model UN head delegate who is also head of the the New York City campus chapter of Amnesty International, a Control Arms coalition member. “Allison Pytlak’s presentation enabled me to recognize that NGOs have a stake in global policymaking.”
Last year, the Amnesty chapter at Pace won an award for “Best New Organization on Campus.” This semester, the chapter hosted two Write for Rights events, with students writing letters to governments to “show solidarity with those suffering human rights abuses.”
“Write for Rights really opened my eyes to how much effect non governmental groups and global citizens have on international relations,” said Marmo. “Working with Amnesty has helped me understand the role of non-violent resistance in international affairs.”
Pace’s New York City Model UN program has an ongoing partnership with Control Arms, in which now four Model UN students have served as interns with the coalition. In July, Cyrus Ghazanfar ’14 and Shant Alexander ’14 supported Control Arms’ media team during the Arms Trade Treaty Diplomatic Conference at the UN.
“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,” Louis Belanger, Humanitarian Media Officer at Oxfam International (a Control Arms coalition member) told Pace. “Cyrus was always keen to help and curious to know more about the complex political developments of the Arms Trade Treaty talks.”
“Shant stepped into a challenging environment as an intern for the coalition during the July Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty,” said Emma Ensign, Control Arms Administrator. “He hit the ground running immediately and truly added value to campaign initiatives and Control Arms’ media work. His creativity and willingness to go above and beyond was an asset to our work in July.”
Alexander continued to work with Control Arms this semester, joined by Model UN Head Delegate Katie James ’14, as the debate about an Arms Trade Treaty moved to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, October to November 2012. James monitored the proceedings and assisted Control Arms with grant writing.
“Katie’s meeting notes allowed coalition members around the world to be informed of current activities and her logistics support really helped us be a cohesive team,” said Ensign. “She brought great ideas and experience to the table for our development needs and continues to be a great asset for our fundraising strategies.”
In October, Control Arms was among 30 civil society organizations that gathered at the UN Church Center for a Humanitarian Disarmament Summit, where participants discussed ways to develop systems, programs, norms, institutions and treaties with the “objective of protecting civilians from the harmful effects of armed violence.” Pace Model UN student John Ciccarelli ’15 worked as a Control Arms intern for the conference.
“While supporting event operations for the Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Summit, John displayed quick thinking and an ability to assist a global audience of campaigners in a wide variety of ways,” said Ensign. “His logistical support directly contributed to the success of the Summit.”
Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, the primary organizer of the Summit told Pace that its Model UN students had played an important role in the conference.
“The students who attended the Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Summit were very carefully selected as this was a civil society gathering and we wanted students who understood the different arms issues that we work on and the kind of advocacy that we do,” said Wareham. “We were pleased that the participating students were able to contribute to this brainstorming with their ideas and hope they will commit to taking action in their future careers.”
Ciccarelli was joined by former Model UN delegate Cassandra Stimpson ’13, who was an intern for Human Rights Watch. One of the outcomes of the Summit was an invigorated effort to advocate for global regulation of robotic weapons, particularly ‘Killer Robots’ that could make decisions about killings independent of human involvement. Based on her work at the Summit, Stimpson was invited to provide perspective on youth and student outreach in an organizational meeting of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) in New York later that week.
“During the Humanitarian Disarmament Summit, I was reporting on a group about campaigning for issues outside established institutions,” said Stimpson. “I was able to not only better learn during this segment, but contribute to a group that included a UN ambassador and leaders of worldwide NGOs, understanding the drawbacks and also necessity of institutions like the UN.”
Stimpson drew on the lessons she has learned in securing additional internships.
“During my interview with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, I relied on knowledge from Model UN,” said Stimpson. “Now when I get to meet human rights leaders and ambassadors, I am better able to recognize constraints they face and positions of what they are able to accomplish via certain routes.”
Stimpson is also among several Pace Model UN students — including current head delegate Katie James and former head delegate Krupa Patel ’12 – who have worked as interns and volunteers with the humanitarian organization GOAL.
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, skills and community for global citizenship and vocation.