Students get crash course in politicking for upcoming Model U.N. competition

By NATASHA LEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 10, 2009

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — It was a meeting of the minds Thursday as future delegates and civic leaders argued ways to dissolve terrorist factions in Asia, discussed infighting in the Congo and debated Russian expansionism during a Model United Nations workshop at Kubasaki High School.

The mock caucus was to prepare students from Kubasaki and Kadena high schools for the Far East Model United Nations Conference to be held in March at Nile C. Kinnick High School in Yokosuka, Japan.

Fashioned after the United Nations, the Model U.N. calls for students to play delegates of representative countries that tackle some of the world’s major international conflicts in hopes of achieving resolution.

The program is offered as an after-school club at both high schools.

Reaching an understanding isn’t always easy, but the process teaches students that diplomacy isn’t a competition, said Lynn Lund, the club leader at Kadena High School.

"The idea is to build a consensus," Lund said. "It doesn’t always happen, which sounds like failure — but it’s a real-world issue that we don’t always come up with a solution, but we continue to work toward one."

During Thursday’s workshop, Kubasaki High School students represented Saudi Arabia and Kadena High School students represented the Russian Federation at a simulated Security Council meeting.

To prepare, students spend hours researching their country’s interests and stances on such topics as the environment, human rights and the economy. Each student is required to write a position paper on his or her country. And weekly club meetings consist of research assignments, debates and practice sessions.

It’s intense, but exciting, said Joshua Jones, 17, a Kubasaki senior.

Like most of Thursday’s participants, Jones is a political and world affairs enthusiast, a news junkie who likes a good debate.

"If you don’t enjoy stuff like that, or like history, you don’t join [Model U.N.]," he said. "It gets the young people aware of what is going on in the world and the need for us to be more aware."

Jones said he’s learned about the hypocrisy of nations, but also about compromise and quick thinking — skills that will surely come in handy when he runs for senator, his career aspiration.

"You really learn to speak on your feet and defend yourself and keep up your reputation when people try to doubt it," Jones said.

During the caucus, Jones and his fellow Saudi Arabia delegates agreed with their Russian Federation counterparts to create a global agency to combat terrorist strikes in their regions. However, it would hinge on assuring the Russians they would receive help in eliminating terrorist ties and al-Qaida influence in Chechnya.

Russian Federation delegate Bianca Malin, 17, of Kadena, said reaching the agreement was a confidence boost in her group’s abilities to debate and persuade.

Malin said Thursday’s practice gave her a chance to get into character, since one of the challenges in Model U.N. is arguing a country’s position even when she does not necessarily agree.

"It’s like playing dress-up for an hour," she said. "You have to put aside your own views and think from a different perspective," she said.

Ultimately, Model U.N. shows students the complexity of foreign relations and a greater understanding of how the U.N. operates and a sensitivity to different values, said Megan Youness, Kubasaki club leader.

"It’s not as simple as it seems, because everyone has different values, and the students get to see that — to see the difficulties and the challenges," Youness said.

Students representing delegates from Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation type up a resolution Thursday after reaching an agreement on combating terrorism in Asia. From left: Kubasaki students: Christopher Ayalin, Morgan Rowley, Joshua Jones, Scott Wood, and Kadena students Bianca Malin and Camille Alvia.

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