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How do international policy decisions get made on a global stage? And how do you prepare for a career in politics and diplomacy? If debate and research are your passions, then Model UN is the place for you. The CGA Model UN club helps students take the next step from their global classroom to a global forum of discussion on important world issues.
Model UN is a popular activity for those interested in learning more about how the UN operates. Hundreds of thousands of students worldwide take part every year at all educational levels. Many of today’s leaders in law, government, business and the arts – including at the UN itself – participated in Model UNs as students.
Meet some graduates of the Model UN programme here.
The program also helps build and maintain strong links between the UN and Model UN participants across the globe. It does that through guides and workshops, which teach students how to make their simulations more accurate. Students also learn by visiting Model UN conferences and sharing firsthand knowledge of what the actual UN is like. They are also encouraged to take real action to support UN values and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The program is not limited to the UN alone, though. It also encompasses other international bodies, like the EU and NATO, and nation states and their policies. Students role-play as representatives of an assigned country and committee and then become part of cabinets that debate on opposing sides of an issue.
CGA Model UN is led by Audrey Damon-Wynne. She was awarded a grant from the U.S. State Department to develop an international student exchange program, with the goals of promoting mutual cultural understanding and immersion. Over five years the program impacted more than 100 students and 25 teachers. She also launched, developed, and led a Model U.N. program in Madison, Wisconsin, which grew over 20 years to an award-winning club with 75 students participating annually in as many as four international level conferences. Audrey is a College Board-certified AP instructor with over 20 years of high school teaching experience. She holds both a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Social Sciences, and her honors include both a Fulbright Fellowship as well as a Fulbright Distinguished Teaching award.
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Initially, club time is used to learn about the UN and its committees and sub-committees. The next step is to learn about Model UN and how to prepare for conferences. This includes a lot of research work on countries and topics, learning about parliamentary procedure and writing resolutions. Students really drill down to granular details to make sure they are ready for the next stage of the process. One the research is complete, members have to submit position papers for conferences.
Students then move on to public speaking and begin debating on issues during each session. Members are all assigned to a Security Council nation to represent, and then debate on a topic that they agree upon. Students then give opening speeches, in which they preview their nation's position on how to solve the problem.
The ultimate goal of a conference is to pass a resolution and get other delegates to sign these resolutions. Club members also learn the diplomatic tactics needed to get resolutions passed.
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Due to Covid the nature of conferences has changed a lot. Most of the events are held virtually, but Audrey hopes that club members will soon to get to attend an in-person event. One advantage of having virtual events, Audrey mentions, is that more students are able to attend more events as there is no constraints of distance any more.
From May 28-30, 2021, students attended NAIMUN SEA III - a virtual United Nations simulation for delegates in Southeast Asia organized by the Georgetown University International Relations Association. The North American Invitation Model United Nations (NAIMUN) is one of the oldest UN simulations where delegates negotiate across four committees on a variety of pressing issues. This year’s issues were:
Besides the simulations, delegates also participate in a variety of live workshops on crisis management and critical diplomacy techniques.
These conferences help students put all that they learn through club into action. It also provides an incredible global platform to meet other delegates and expand their worldview while honing their debating and research skills.
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Model UN offers a lot of benefits while teaching important life skills to club members. Club members will master their public speaking and debating skills. It really builds confidence in participants.
Students will also gain a deeper appreciation for the nuances of human perspective and learn how to critically analyse, but also justify, parallel viewpoints on the world’s most topical issues. “Model UN really forces a student to put themselves in the shoes of another nation, with another culture with completely different perspectives,” says Audrey.
The club also helps students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills by participating in debates. Students also hone their research and writing skills through all the work required to prepare for each club meeting. All these skills are highly-valued by college admissions officers.
Audrey also highlights that students form life-long friendships through the club that span the globe. It seems to be the natural extension for CGA students who are already part of a global classroom. The issues tackled through the club force students to think about difficult current event topics that might not be discussed amongst families and friends.
The topics also help expand a student’s knowledge outside the classroom. A lot of international curricula does not cover current events, says Audrey, and this is a great way to inform students about it. “Model UN helps young students become peacekeepers in the long run,” says Audrey and that is probably one of the most important things in today’s political landscape.
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All you have to do is fill out a form and you will be on your way. The club runs year-round and meets once a week.