Pace Students Experience Global Policymaking in Geneva

Pace University NYC Model United Nations students at the UN in Geneva for the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland.

Ten Pace University Model United Nations students participated in the Geneva International Model UN (GIMUN) conference, 24 to 29 March 2018, simulating processes of global policymaking at the UN Palais des Nations, home to the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

“GIMUN was a great learning and professional experience for me,” said Sheyda Aliyeva ’18, who represented Azerbaijan as an observer state in a simulation of the Arab League. She participated in discussions regarding prevention of terrorist financing and engaging in economic cooperation to diversify economies reliant on oil. “I felt very immersed in diplomacy, activism, and peace while spending time at the UN in Geneva.”

Pace University NYC Model UN student Sheyda Aliyeva ’18 (left), representing Azerbaijan at the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

GIMUN drew students from around the world countries to the UN’s facilities in Geneva, the former headquarters of the League of Nations. They played the role of diplomats in global committees, commissions and council, representing the interests and policies of a member state or organization assigned to them. All of this makes excellent preparation for public policy research and advocacy.

Pace University NYC Model UN student Meaghan Duffy ’19 at the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland.

“Model UN has immensely improved my public speaking, research and writing skills,” said Meaghan Duffy ’19, who, representing Thailand, was one of five Pace students placed in a simulation of policymaking in UN Women, discussing issues of girls education and ending violence against women in armed conflict. “I learned the importance of language in diplomatic relations. When professionals get lazy with their language, diplomatic relationships can be tarnished, making their policies unsuccessful.”

Pace University NYC Model UN Head Delegate Dorin Khoiee-Abbasi (center) representing Afghanistan in a simulation of UN Women during the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

Dorin Khoiee-Abbasi, one of Pace University’s Head Delegates had similar reflections on her experience representing Afghanistan in the same committee: “Specificity of language is crucial when formally and informally communicating in diplomatic negotiations.” Read more of Dorin’s reflections here.

Alyssa Curran ’21, who represented Nicaragua, said the experience “was a unique opportunity to discuss international policy at an international forum.” Read more of Alyssa’s reflections here.

Pace University NYC Model UN students (left to right) Alyssa Curran ’21, Silvia Dominguez ’21 and Elizaveta “Lisa” Smirnova ’18 exploring Geneva before the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland.

The students had the opportunity to meet and listen to policymakers, diplomats and advocates working in “international Geneva.” GIMUN arranged for panelists to speak to committees and Pace arranged for the Pace Model UN students to speak with staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Development Law Organization (IDLO), International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC) and Article 36.

Pace University NYC Model UN students at the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference at the UN Office in Geneva. Left to right: Alyssa Curran ’21, Elizaveta “Lisa” Smirnova ’18, Silvia Dominguez ’21, Meaghan Duffy ’19, Dorin Khoiee-Abbasi ’18 and Nigina Khaitova ’18.

Meeting these “highly-experienced … workers who helped me understand the real work of the international organizations,” said Elizaveta “Lisa” Smirnova ’18, who represented Switzerland in the UN Women simulation. “By being exposed to the international world, I became more confident in pursuing my goal to work in the international human rights organizations. ”

To read here more of Lisa’s reflection.

The Geneva Model UN conference is unusually complex as it is bilingual – with simultaneous interpretation between English and French – and has students representing journalists, which add extra layers of depth to the educational experience.

Pace University NYC Model UN students Mary-Lynn Hearn ’19, Nigina Khaitova ’18 and Elizaveta “Lisa” Smirnova ’18 explore the city of Geneva before the 2018 Geneva International Model UN (GIMUN) conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

Unlike other Model UN conferences, it has students playing the role of Ambassadors who oversee and coordinate the work of other students across multiple committees. Head Delegate Mary-Lynn Hearn ’19 had the opportunity to simulate the role of Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, making statements in multiple committees. She coordinated particularly closely with her fellow Head Delegate Nigina Khaitova ’18, who was representing China in the UN Women simulation.

“The position of ambassador is very different from the position of delegate in both the preparation and the conference,” said Mary-Lynn. “The position of ambassador manages and does their best to make sure that all of the representatives of their country are on policy and put their agenda first. Instead of focusing on one committee and two topics, I had to research all six committees and 11 topics.”

To read here more of Mary-Lynn’s reflections on this complex task.

Pace University NYC Model UN Head Delegate Mary-Lynn Hearn ’19 outside the UN Office in Geneva during the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

Pace students also learned from their exposure to the everyday life of the UN in Geneva. They ate lunch in the cafeteria alongside diplomats and UN staff. They visited the Conference on Disarmament, where they watched diplomats in session discussing international security issues in the grand former League of Nations Council Room, under gigantic 1936 sepia murals by José Maria Sert.

Silvia Dominguez ’21 (representing El Salvador) and Seneca Forch ’20 (representing Slovenia) simulated discussions in the Human Rights Council across the hallway from where the real body actually meets.

“Visiting the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room filled me with a sense of hope for our world,” said Silvia, reflecting on visiting the Human Rights Council. “It really helped me to put into perspective what I want to do in my future.”

Pace University Model UN student Silvia Dominguez ’21 representing El Salvador in a simulation of the Human Rights Council during the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

Discussing the rights of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and the importance of protecting human rights in counterterrorism policy “jolted a new drive and perspective in my aspirations to pursue law and diplomacy,” said Seneca. Read more of his reflections here.

Incoming Pace University NYC Model UN Head Delegate Seneca Forch ’20 (right), representing Slovenia in a simulation of the Human Rights Council at the 2018 Geneva International Model UN conference in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

In a simulation of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Joseph Colella ’19, a Head Delegate, represented India in discussions of the role of youth in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and establishing an international response system for natural disasters.

“I am very proud of how our students not only represented their country assignments well in the Geneva simulations, but also demonstrated the intellect and sophistication of Pace students,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Model UN advisor for Pace University NYC’s Political Science department. “Pace is emerging as a stellar place to learn how to engage in global policymaking as a diplomat, advocate or activists.”

Photo courtesy of GIMUN.

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 65-year history of excellence in regional, national and international conferences. Model UN at Pace is a class, 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 vocation and citizenship.

Pace’s involvement in Model UN is indicative of the university’s broader engagement with the UN. Notably, Pace students and faculty participated in the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  In the last few years, students and faculty have  also worked closely, particularly with civil society, in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Commission on the Status of Women, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN General Assembly First CommitteeConvention on Certain Conventional Weapons and Arms Trade Treaty. In 2016, Pace University was featured in a report by then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, recognizing its “growing role in disarmament education.”

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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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