The Role of Pace Model UN Students in Advocacy at the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations

“Arms control and disarmament are urgently imperative…the heart of the most vital challenge to the international order.”
Benjamin B. Ferencz, prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and former Pace University adjunct professor of international law.

As the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) passed the United Nations General Assembly this summer, with 155 Member States in favor, three against and 23 abstentions, Pace students, many of the Model UNers, were watching from the gallery, reflecting on the culmination of their advocacy work with the global civil society campaign Control Arms.

“I really appreciated their enthusiasm and genuine interest in what we do and the goal that we were working toward,” said Allison Pytlak, Campaign Manager of Control Arms. “It kept everything fresh and sometimes, helped us to see the ATT and the coalition through new eyes.”

Six Pace students — Gillian Ashdown ’15, Shant Alexander ’14, John Ciccarelli ’15, Cyrus Ghazanfar ’14, Katie James ’14, and Amanda Orcutt ’13 (five of them current or former Model UN participants, including a head delegate) — have assisted Control Arms with press relations, social media, logistics and notetaking here in New York over the last year, particularly during the July 2012 and March 2013 Diplomatic Conferences as well as the October 2013 UN General Assembly First Committee meetings.

“No task was too small or too big – everyone realized that this was an ‘all hands on deck’ situation and their willingness to take on anything was very much appreciated by the whole team,” said Pytlak. “I hope that they enjoyed their experiences with us and learned a lot in the process. Thank you to all interns and volunteers from Pace.”

Pace New York Model UN students Cyrus Ghazanfar '14 (front row, far left) and Shant Alexander '14 (front row, third from right) with campaigners for the Control Arms coalition outside the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly. Used with permission.

Pace New York Model UN students Cyrus Ghazanfar ’14 (front row, far left) and Shant Alexander ’14 (front row, third from right) with campaigners for the Control Arms coalition outside the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly. Used with permission.

Joing Control Arms as summer interns for Control Arms in July 2012, Model UN students 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 2012 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.”

Shant and Cyrus 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. (meanwhile, Bout was in a 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.”

Shant continued to work with Control Arms throughout the school year and was joined by Model UN head delegate Katie James ’14 in October 2012, as the ATT debate moved to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. Katie 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  continues to be a great asset for our fundraising strategies. We knew that we could trust her implicitly with anything we asked and she would deliver on it, and
she always made an effort to talk to campaigners and get to know them.”

Katie’s work for Control Arms was highlighted in a profile by the Pace Pulse online newsletter in February this year.

During the Fall 2012 semester, Pytlak came to Pace University New York City’s Model UN class 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.

“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.”

Pytlak recently returned to Pace’s Downtown Campus this fall to present at an event on international careers organized by the Political Science Department and Career Services.

Cassandra at Humanitarian Disarmament Summit

Pace Model UN Student Cassandra Stimpson ’13 (with laptop) records brainstorming sessions of advocacy experts and camapaigners at the Humanitarian Disarmament Summit hosted by Human Rights Watch in New York City, October 2012. Photo (c) Mary Wareham, 21 October 2012.

In October 2012, 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 students John Ciccarelli ’15 and Cassandra Stimpson ’13 interned for the Summit.

Cassandra and Shant assisted with the Summit when it returned to New York in October 2013.

“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 Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, the primary organizer of the Summit. “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.”

John, Katie and Shant all returned to Control Arms for the final push for the Arms Trade Treaty at the March 2013 Final Diplomatic Conference, joined by Amanda and Gillian.

“Gillian and Amanda were energetic and friendly and always willing to do anything
we asked of them,” said Ensign. “While I specifically brought them on to help the media team with general administrative things, they were so helpful and enthusiastic that we ended up giving them substantive media tasks as well.”

“John Ciccarelli was just wonderful, he was always so sweet and positive and lovely to be around,” said Ensign. “He particularly shone while helping us with several big events that we held–which was really important because those were some of the most important moments for us to be able to engage with and liaise with states in more informal and relaxed settings.”

Pace University New York City students John Ciccarelli (left), Amanda Orcutt '13 (second from left) and Gillian Ashdown with Djimon Hounsou (second from right), two-time Academy Award-nominated actor and Oxfam Ambassador, at a meeting of campaigners and diplomats working on the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York.
Pace University New York City students John Ciccarelli (left), Amanda Orcutt ’13 (second from left) and Gillian Ashdown with Djimon Hounsou (second from right), two-time Academy Award-nominated actor and Oxfam Ambassador, at a meeting of campaigners and diplomats working on the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York.

The Pace students had the opportunity to meet campaigners, humanitarian workers, diplomats and journalists from all over the world, as well as several celebrities, such as Academy Award-winning actor Djimon Hounsou and the marathon runner Julius Arile.

“I think of Shant as one of the core Control Arms team now, and had forgotten that he was an intern. He integrated really well into the team, and brought great creativity and ideas to our digital work in particular,” said Anna McDonald, Head of Arms Control for Oxfam. “He should feel proud of how this contribution really helped our work!”

Beyond those who have interned directly with Control Arms, many additional Pace students have attended campaign advocacy events or tweeted campaign messages, catching the attention of the student newspaper, the Pace Press, which featured the effort on its front page.

“All of our Pace interns were really willing to do anything we asked them to without complaint,” said Ensign. “They weren’t entitled or expecting to be given ‘better’ jobs–they clearly recognized that every single task is important in such a frenetic and intense environment, which is often a difficult thing for people to recognize.”

Model UN faculty advisor Dr. Bolton also published several articles about the structure of the campaign, the breakdown in negotiations in July, the role of African states and the relation of the ATT to new technologies.

Dr. Matthew Bolton (right), Pace University New York City Model UN faculty advisor, examines draft of the Arms Trade Treaty during the Diplomatic Conference at the UN in July 2012.

Dr. Matthew Bolton (right), Pace University New York City Model UN faculty advisor, examines draft of the Arms Trade Treaty during the Diplomatic Conference at the UN in July 2012.

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.

“The Arms Trade Treaty made history, setting new ground rules about human rights and humanitarian law in international relations. Pace students helped make it happen,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Pace New York City Model UN faculty advisor, who was also involved in Control Arms’ advocacy effort, supporting its information and analysis team. “That many of them had been involved in Model UN demonstrates how it can prepare students for the global policymaking arena.”

During the 2012/2013 academic year, Pace students received numerous awards for their participation in Model UN conferences at the University of Pennsylvania, the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica and the UN building in New York.

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.

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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One Response to The Role of Pace Model UN Students in Advocacy at the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations

  1. Lillian James says:

    Dr. Bolton,
    This is very impressive!!!these student worked very hard as did you!! As a parent of one of your students; my heart filled thank you!! You have guided these students in the right direction. Your hard work shows in them!!!!
    Thank you,
    Lillian James

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