The Grade 11 students of Lindsay Place High School learned the value of diplomacy, negotiation and forming alliances two weeks ago as 200 of them participated in the school’s annual model United Nations event.
After a brief pot-luck kickoff on a Monday afternoon (Feb. 25), where the games of forming alliances were already beginning, the students grouped into 47 representing countries started their true simulation three days later with debates on two current world topics: women and refugees’ rights in developing countries as well as the proliferation of small arms internationally. The next day, they tackled atomic energy as a tool to combat climate change.
To introduce this last topic was Lac St. Louis MP Francis Scarpallegia. In a 15-minute speech, he addressed the upcoming challenge of overcoming shortages of energy sources and the place nuclear power would play in this problematic.
For two days, the students got a real taste of world politics on the gymnasium floor as they wrote U.N. resolutions in the way that they’re written in real life with different clauses, obtaining sponsors, signatories and creating alliances to negotiate how they were going to pass their resolutions.
“It makes them think critically. It also makes them think outside of the West Island and outside of their own little bubble. Doing so, they gain an appreciation of how bureaucracy works and how you have to be able to be open to other people. You have to be able to listen, convince and use diplomacy. Solving your problems is not just bullying through something but listening to others, incorporating your ideas,” said main organizer and contemporary world issues professor Alexandra Caden.
The workload for the students had begun way before the end of February. Students had been assigned their team and country in October and had begun researching their country’s profile and positions on various world issues. The students were only advised of the official topics in January. The event involved more than just students and professors this year as representatives of the community and the school board sat in as judges.
Seventeen-year-old Jeff Moore was in a team of five representing Iran. He claims he learned a lot about world issues such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster about which he didn’t know the specifics and women’s’ rights in Iran. Most importantly, he learned some basics of debating.
“It’s always better to be prepared. No matter what you do, you have to know. You also have to research your opponents so that you know what they’re going to say. You have to know what’s already happened so that you can make plans to change that and rebut,” he said.