By: Samantha Tristen
Politics. It’s all around us, in the media, in literature, in language, in everything we do. In fact, with the accessibility of information, it seems impossible to escape from it.
And yet, as a child, there is little opportunity to engage in politics. You are too young to vote, study law or global relations, and working in politics seems intangible. Abelard remedies this with its Model United Nations club, providing its grade 11 and 12 students with the unique opportunity to attend the National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) every second March.
In Autumn, Mr. Blair – Abelard’s classics, politics, English, and philosophy teacher, and devoted organizer of the Model UN club – announced that we would be representing Liechtenstein at NHSMUN in March. After doing our studies, we learned that Liechtenstein is a small, yet extraordinarily interesting country; it is a mere 160 square kilometres, yet is ranked second in terms of GDP per capita in the world. Furthermore, despite its petiteness, it is an active member within both the UN and Europe (although ineligible to join the European Union, due to its size). We became extremely well-acquainted with this European principality, even learning small yet riveting facts. For example, we learned that Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan are the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world.
Next, Mr. Blair helped us write our position papers, comprehensive research projects that discuss Liechtenstein’s stance on our topic, the history and current status of the issue, and the initiatives Liechtenstein has taken to resolve the topic. The topics covered many types of issues–social, health, environmental, and economic. Mr. Blair especially wanted us to be well-acquainted with the proposed actions and solutions for our topics, so we could be active participants and accurately represent Liechtenstein in New York.
After half a year of our weekly club meeting, we were off to midtown Manhattan for the conference. When we arrived at the Hilton, our small group felt even smaller amongst the 3,800 students participating in the conference, the largest attendance number in all 41 years of NSHMUN.
That evening came the opening ceremony. We managed to find splendid seats in the large, crowded ballroom, and were welcomed to the 41st NHSMUN conference. A few hours later, our committee sessions commenced.
Speaking on behalf on all Abelardians who attended the conference, the sessions were a fantastic experience. Much like Liechtenstein in the real UN, Abelard was a small, but active participant in the Model UN. Many of us were sponsor of resolutions (many of which were passed!), signatories for amendments, speakers during moderated caucuses, and professional and well-behaved delegates. We even got a special mention for our efficiency as pages.
On the other hand, it was frustrating to work with certain delegations. We all found an unfortunate commonality within the conference: many delegations failed to realistically represent their countries, but rather voiced opinions of developed countries, just using the names of their delegation. It was especially disheartening to notice how inactive the Canadian delegation was throughout the conference. However, everyone shared stories of working with the most responsible and professional participants, and being active and assiduous delegates themselves.
The conference concluded in the United Nations General Assembly itself. The waiting period was brutal; the weather was brumal, the ground, sodden. However, this was rendered insignificant upon entering the UN General Assembly. We were struck with a small stroke of misfortune when the school immediately in front of us filled up the last seats on the ground floor of the General Assembly. This, however, meant we would be in the balcony seats, and we obtained a coveted spot in the centre of the first-row balcony. The closing ceremony featured summaries of the activity in each committee, and speeches by various speakers. The one part that moved many of us was the letter Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, wrote to the participants of NHSMUN 2015. Although he undoubtedly writes a nearly identical letter each year, we Abelardians were profoundly moved when he spoke that many future great world leaders were listening to his speech right now. Shortly after, the motion to close NHSMUN 2015 was passed, concluding our six-month journey to prepare for this moment.
Ms. Rossinsky, who accompanied us on the trip, ensured that we had a good experience in New York, both inside and outside the conference. She organized excursions to celebrated attractions in the Big Apple, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Met, as well as a walk all the way from our midtown hotel along Broadway to our restaurant in Greenwich Village, stopping by such distinguished chapters of New York’s attraction, including the Strand bookstore and the M&M store.
To those of you reading this who have not participated in the Model UN club, you may be under the impression that it is a great opportunity for people aspiring careers in law, international relations, or politics. This is an absolute truth, but is, by no means, the limit. The conference is also an opportune time to exercise one’s leadership and co-operation skills, practice public speaking and negotiation, gain first-hand insight into the mechanics of one of the most important political entities in today’s world, and meet new people. To junior or future Abelardians who are reading this, I strongly encourage you to take up this fantastic opportunity (and I wasn’t even instructed to write that!). To all those who participated this year, you should be immensely proud of yourselves for making us such a laudable delegation. I like to think that the prince of Liechtenstein, if he had seen us represent his country, would be tremendously proud of us.