Twenty Saint Mary’s students are spending the rest of March in New York, representing Kuwait at the 2019 National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference.
The group has done extensive research and feels well prepared for the conference, which has gotten so large it’s now two events attracting more than 5,500 students from some 200 universities around the world. The SMU group departs Halifax on Saturday, March 23.
Saint Mary’s typically does very well in the annual competition, having earned Distinguished Delegation Awards numerous times in the 12 prior years it has participated. This year’s group has four returning students and they’re determined to win the top honour, the Outstanding Delegation Award, says Alyssa Frampton, a 4th year Political Science major from Newfoundland who is president of SMU’s Model UN Society.
The SMU advantage is Dr. Marc Doucet’s Model United Nations course, which ensures that students have ample time to do their research and preparation. They learn to draft resolutions, write position papers and speeches, and learn as much as they can about their country and the topics they’ll encounter on their Model UN committees. SMU students will be involved in 10 different mock UN committees this year, even the Security Council.
“What’s really interesting with this particular conference is that the topics for each of the committees are topics that are actually being discussed at the UN currently. So these are not made up topics, they’re based on the work that the UN is doing,” says Dr. Doucet, adding that some topics can be quite technical.
Student Bethany Smith and her partner were tasked with researching three pressing environmental issues: addressing marine plastic litter and microplastics; preventing and reducing air pollution to improve air quality globally; and promoting responsible disposal of electronics and hazardous waste. Hannah Shuttleworth and Yankun Li are working on climate change topics; they say it is an interesting challenge to consider environmental policy through the lens of a country that is highly dependent on oil production.
All of the topics require knowledge of the current situation in Kuwait and globally, UN initiatives underway, and an understanding of how Kuwait and its allies are expected to address the issues in the future. Students will have a chance to pose questions to actual Kuwaiti diplomats during a mission briefing with them, which is sure to be a highlight of the week in New York.
Smith says she’s used to representing Saint Mary’s as a varsity athlete, but this will be her first time representing SMU academically – and in an international arena. “This conference holds an incredibly exciting opportunity to interact and compete with other universities across North America, which is appealing as both a student and an athlete,” she says.
Over the years, Saint Mary’s students have represented a variety of countries such as Bulgaria, Chad, Cameroon, Columbia, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland and Syria.
“This experience is good for students to step out of their comfort zone and apply practical knowledge in a different setting from regular classes,” says student Rebecca Yorke. “The Model UN class has definitely challenged me and has been an unforgettable experience so far.”
Submitted by Marla Cranston, Faculty of Arts