Field Trip to Community in Costa Rica Puts Model UN Discussions of Human Rights in Perspective

Pace University New York City Model United Nations students watch a presentation by members of the La Carpio community, dramatizing their migration from Nicaragua, at the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. March 2013.

Pace University New York City Model United Nations students watch a presentation by members of the La Carpio community, dramatizing their migration from Nicaragua, at the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. March 2013.

Before participating in the 2013 University for Peace Model United Nations Conference in Costa Rica, UPeace faculty gave Pace University New York City Model UN students a three-day training in contemporary human rights issues. This included a trip to the Nicaraguan migrant neighborhood La Carpio on the outskirts of the capital San Jose, which was an enlightening experience for me.

Having watched many documentaries about poverty and structural violence, I had prepared myself for our trip by expecting the stereotypical image of poverty that is depicted in documentaries and advertisements for charities and humanitarian organizations. When we arrived, I was a bit taken aback by the community because it changed the way I view poverty.

From my visit to La Carpio I now understand that poverty is not only defined by the poorest of the poor or by a baseline. Instead, poverty has many levels, tiers, and complex intricacies. As Dr. Emily Welty, Pace University New York City’s director of peace and justice studies, helped me understand, we should not define poverty as those who do not have what “we” have. In understanding poverty, we must recognize that people in different areas of the world need different things and that there is no single standard for evaluating poverty.

Aside from this theoretical insight, I also found that the trip to La Carpio helped put the many topics we often discuss in Model UN into perspective. A difficulty of the Model UN simulation is that participants do not always feel connected to the topics. Without this, it is easy to forget the reality of them.

The trip to La Carpio helped me understand the gravity and humanity of all the topics we discuss in committee on a personal level. While sitting in a committee room it is easy to debate over semantics and lose sight of the actual issue. When confronted with the reality of poverty I was reminded that the issues concerning international institutions affect real people every day.

To learn more about Pace University’s participation in the Human Rights Council simulation at the UN University for Peace, click here. To read more about Pace University’s participation in the UPeace conference, including other committees such as the UN Women and the Security Council, click here.

– Elena Marmo ’15, Pace University New York City Model UN head delegate.

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About Matthew Bolton

I am assistant professor of Political Science at Pace University and author of Foreign Aid and Landmine Clearance.
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