From the 26th to the 30th of August I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the third Rotaract Global Model United Nations, held in Belgrade, Serbia, and attended by some of the most inspiring, and influential young people I have ever met.
The Model United Nations is a concept that walks in the shadow of the actual UN, and provides young people with the opportunity to see how the UN works and actually experience it for themselves, what this means is that once accepted as a delegate, you will be assigned a country and a council; Human Rights, Legal, Security etc, and then the debate subjects.It is with this new information that you have to read that countries policies, brush up on your knowledge of flags and the globe and prepare yourself to represent that country for the next four days inside the conference.
I was assigned to represent Cuba, to be in the Human Rights Council and to learn Cuba’s policies towards the refugee crisis and then about Privacy on the internet... Yes, it was an ‘eyebrow-raising’ moment for myself too. So I had two weeks to learn everything I possibly could about Cuba, their history, their government, the international relationships and their people. My research was vast, I contacted a Cuban magazine (in Spanish!), watched documentaries, read books, spoke at a Winchester Rotary meeting and asked for any advice from any Rotarians who had been and of course, emailed the British Ambassador to Cuba, Tim Cole, who gave me excellent advice and was very helpful.
The preparation stage had ended, and I prepared to board the flight to Serbia, arriving at our hotel and meeting other delegates. Everyone opened with the same questions ‘Who are you? Where are you from? and who are you representing?’ In the first hour, I met a Brit who had China, A Serbian representing France, A Mexican looking out for the USA and Venezuela getting spoken for by Lebanese! It’s fair to say the mixture of the group was amazing, not just in terms of countries representing inside the debates but from where people were really from. The organisers counted over 35 different nationalities in one room at one time, and these are all young people from all walks of life coming together to actually discuss some of the most important current issues in the world. Of course, these were also young people who know (and need!) to have a good time too, but the responsibility of the participation was felt by everyone, not only because the UN would be actually reading our Solution papers, but also because what we were discussing in our groups were real issues, some of them costing hundreds and thousands of real lives, and for the first time, at least in my view, a group of young people have been actually sat down and asked for solutions to these problems. Young people who have great ideas were given a voice, and a powerful voice, and I think that was felt by everyone in just the first session, and it certainly carried on far beyond the end of the conference.
The conference itself was essentially a conference for young people, held by young people, and it worked perfectly. Each council was well represented, and all discussions and debates were enriching and genuinely impacting. When discussing the Refugee crisis, our group was actually taken to one of the camps in central Serbia, and to see the people there, these people who we had just been discussing earlier that day, became so real. Only a few times in my whole life have I been as silent as I was there, in absolute disbelief of the nature of what I was seeing. In our second session, a young lady from Columbia, currently working in the Lebanese Embassy spoke to us, and explained the refugee crisis from a point most of us couldn’t even comprehend, 2.7 million refugees at their borders, who can’t come in because their country thrives from tourist economy, if they lose that they lose their country. And in the UK, we were upset because, I quote‘…British summer holiday plans in ruin’. It really puts a new perspective on a situation.
The great thing was, we weren’t just pulling out facts and figures, our direction was towards solutions and every single person in our room spoke about how to help these people (Okay, admittedly, there were a few who very much ‘in character’ of certain countries, may not have expressed such constructive solutions, but once they stepped out of their roles in the coffee break, the real discussions were had!) We spoke of ways countries could work together, how collaboration was key and what we can do in our own home countries when we got back.
Overall, it was the most influential and inspirational experiences I have had, I made lasting friendships with people from other sides of the globe, I learnt a lot about myself and I realised the potential this can have on changing the way young people view the world, and on the way they are views by it.
Towards the end of the conference, the man who was behind just about everything, Adrian, spoke to our group and showed his passion towards getting young people together to address important issues, his enthusiasm and genuinebelief that we can make a difference was clear, and he told us of his plan to use the MUNs to develop an organisation of young diplomats, who will come together on issues and get the voice of young people actually heard. This is what we hope to do now, to continue working with each other, travelling to visit projects and conferences and making sure we have a platform to discuss, debate and solve the problems we are affected by.
Thank you so much for the experience MUN Team, Rotaract, Winchester Rotary and many others.
And well done to everyone that took part.
This was also turned into a guest blog thanks to RotaryBlogger;
Guest Blogger – Luke Addison | Rotary Blogger