Pace University Demonstrate the Agency of “Small” States at 2018 National Model UN New York

Pace University New York City Model UN students visiting the United Nations Headquarters at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York.

Pace University students representing Rwanda, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea at the 2018 National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in New York City showed how supposedly “small” countries play a crucial role in global policymaking.

Pace students received 11 awards,  placing them fifth, in terms of awards received, out of the more than 100 higher education institutions participating in the NMUN NY Conference A, 18-22 March. Pace New York City student delegations representing the Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea both received “Honorable Mention” awards. The Pace Pleasantville program received a “Distinguished Delegation” award for representing Rwanda, plus seven Outstanding Position Paper awards and an “Outstanding Delegate in Committee” award.

Pace University NYC students show off the awards they received at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York City.

“All countries, no matter the size of their population or territory, are fundamentally sovereign in the UN system and have voice and vote in global decisionmaking,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, Pace NYC Model UN faculty adviser. “The so-called ‘superpowers’ and ‘great powers’ are outnumbered in the General Assembly. As a result, supposedly ‘small’ states can have tremendous impact on international policymaking through working together, making partnerships with civil society and focusing on specific issues of concern.”

Aya Taqi ’22 (left) and Sarah Khanfar ’21 (right), representing Papua New Guinea at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York.

The right to self-determination, including people typically ignored by global politics, was one of the key topics of discussion in the simulation of the UN General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Issues), in which Aya Taqi ’22 and Sarah Khanfar ’21 represented Papua New Guinea.

“Representing a country I had little knowledge about to begin with, provided a much more intriguing experience as I had to push myself to learn as much as I could,” said Sarah. “Working on resolutions and negotiating with other delegates gave us the opportunity to feel what it is like to work as a diplomat.”

Read here Aya’s reflections on how excited she was to share the research she and Sarah did with the rest of her committee .

Disarmament, particularly of nuclear weapons, is a key concern for smaller countries in the UN system that rely on multilateral cooperation and international law to guarantee their security, rather than large military forces. The people and environment of the Marshall Islands has suffered the devastating impact of US nuclear and chemical weapons testing, as well as unexploded ordnance left from WWII.

Katherine Ketterer (left) and Nicolas Iniguez, representing the Republic of the Marshall Islands at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York City.

Nicolas Iniguez ’20 and Katherine Ketterer ’21 represented the Marshall Islands in a simulation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, focusing particularly on the need to provide protection and assistance to victims.

“We worked with more than twenty delegations in creating a draft resolution that, in my opinion, was one of the most comprehensive and ambitious of the committee,” said Nicolas. “The last day was definitely the most nail-biting moment, as my partner and I found ourselves in a mad dash to finish the working paper draft for the committee’s approval. The end result was a success for we managed passed our draft resolution with a majority vote.”

Read here more of Nicolas’ reflections on his experience of Model UN as akin to sailing “a giant tidal wave.” Read Katherine’s here on how we can “create meaningful solutions to the world’s biggest problems.”

Carissa Veltri ’20 (right) with Vanessa Ramirez ’20 (left), representing the Republic of the Marshall Islands in a simulation of the UN General Assembly First Committee at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York City.

In a simulation of the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security, Vanessa Ramirez ’20 and Carissa Veltri ’20 represented the Marshall Islands in discussions of cybersecurity, counter-terrorism and stemming the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW).

“I loved being able to be in a committee full of students eager to discover how to better address the challenges of counter-terrorism,” said Vanessa. “I was in awe of how students from all over the world communicated their ideas. It was an inspiring and motivating experience that I feel honored to have been part of.”

Read here Carissa’s reflection on how Model UN is “unlike any other class.”

Pace University NYC students in the UN General Assembly Room during the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York.

“The most difficult thing was to stay in my role. I constantly asked ‘What would the real diplomats from Papua New Guinea do?'” said Lilit Andriasian ’19, who with Kevin Prunty ’22 represented Papua New Guinea in the First Committee. “I learned to listen more and try to see the world through another view.”

Pacific island states have played a pivotal role in pushing the international community to act on environmental protection and sustainable development. The livelihoods of communities in the Marshall Islands, for example, are threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change. Indeed, many diplomats from Pacific island states insist that while some may see their countries as “small”, they actual span thousands of square kilometers of ocean, giving them stewardship of large areas of the world’s marine environments.

In a simulation of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), Sydney Korman ’21 who, with Emma Gallais-Pradal ’21, represented Papua New Guinea.

“I quickly realized the delegates interest of larger, more wealthy nations such as Germany had a very different outlook than those from small island nations,” said Emma Gallais-Pradal. ““I learned that fostering alliances with nations that share similar interest was essential to making progress.”

Emma and Sydney they found that they could find agency through preparation,  diplomatic skills and working with others.

“I had participated in Model UN in high school but soon learned that collegiate Model UN is very different,” said Sydney. “On the first night of the conference I was hesitant to raise my placard and be put on the speakers list, but I remembered what we had practiced and did it anyway. This put me into ‘character’ and allowed me to be focused right from the start. As the week went on I realized how prepared I was because of all of the work we had done in and out of class.”

Pace University NYC student Curtis Robinson ’19 representing Marshall Islands in the UN General Assembly Room during 2018 National Model UN conference in New York.

Curtis Robinson ’19 and Victorya Hernandez ’19 also participated in the UNEA simulation, representing the Marshall Islands in discussions on conserving ecosystems in urban areas, empowering youth for sustainable development and the impact of pollution on marine life.

“Taking Model UN for the second time enabled me to develop nuances in my ways of thought — when you practice something many times, you develop new ways of accomplishing the same tasks,” said Curtis.

Aleena Raza ’20 (right) and Alexis Gonzalez ’21 (left), representing the Republic of the Marshall Islands in a simulation of the International Organization for Migration at the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York City.

Students in other committees addressed environment and sustainability concerns from other angles. Aleena Raza ’20 and Alexis Gonzalez ’21 represented the Marshall Islands in a simulation of discussions about climate migration in the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“My experience with Model UN was challenging, and I wouldn’t have been able to succeed without my partner,” said Alexis. “I think that having a great partner helped make the process of Model UN less daunting because I wasn’t facing it alone. I think that’s kind of the point of the UN, you have to face problems but you’re not facing them alone.”

Read here Aleena’s reflections on taking the agency of Pacific island states seriously.

Also in the IOM committee was Natalia Villarreal ’21, who represented Papua New Guinea — read her reflections here on why Model UN “exceeded my expectations.”

Joseph Colella ’19, Pace University NYC Model UN Head Delegate, and David Sharif ’19 in the UN General Assembly Room during the 2018 National Model UN conference in New York.

David Sharif ’19 successfully applied to work as a Rapporteur in IOM on the Dias staff. To learn more about how this enhanced his “leadership skills”, read his reflections here.

In the UN General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial) Ivan Cody ’18 and Natalie Chevalier ’18 represented Papua New Guinea in sustainability in urban development and the potential of sustainable tourism for eradicating poverty.

“Model UN was truly an eye opening experience, one that I will never forget. It opened my eyes to the inner workings of the United Nations, international relations and diplomacy” said Ivan. “Our resolution focused on  creating sustainable infrastructure in developing nations to enable the eventual creation of Smart Cities.”

“Pace students showed how preparation, strategic thinking and skill can empower those often disregarded by the international system,” said Dr. Matthew Bolton, faculty adviser to the Pace NYC Model UN program. In supporting the students he was aided by Dr. Kiku Huckle of the Political Science department and four student Head Delegates: Joseph Colella ’19, Mary-Lynn Hearn ’19, Nigina Khaitova ’18 and Dorin Khoiee-Abbasi ’18.

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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