The UN Delegates of Syria and Israel were kidnapped. The UN Delegate of Iran ripped a resolution and stormed out of a debate. And Vladimir Putin was convicted of war crimes.
This was not a scene from a movie, but the actual events that took place during the annual Lebanese Model UN (LebMUN) conference, organized by American Community School teachers and students, and held at the American University of Beirut, on January 29-31.
It was a weekend full of drama, tension, and emergency resolutions – and plenty of learning experiences and personal growth.
Welcome to LebMUN – the annual conference which simulates the work of the United Nations, from the passage of resolutions, to debates, to court trials. In its thirteenth edition, LebMUN brought together about 160 local participants, mostly from ACS, in addition to students from Sagesse High School, the Rafic Hariri High School, and the Houssam Eddine Hariri School.
Students debated complex topics such as cyber terrorism, human and organ trafficking and the crisis in Yemen, and many more.
They researched their topics rigorously and argued their points, while following the rules of diplomatic conduct and open-mindedness.
Just like in the adult version of the UN, resolutions were passed, while others were shelved or could not garner consensus. Some went to the General Assembly, while others were debated in councils.
Of course, LebMUN had its own Secretary General: student Rhian D., a 12th grader in the honors program who has participated in LebMUN for four consecutive years.
Resolutions against cyber terrorism, capital punishment and organ trafficking were passed by the General Assembly. Meanwhile, the Economic and Social Council passed resolutions against human trafficking and in support of empowering women; while the Security Council passed one to de-escalate the conflict in Yemen and the Central African Republic. Finally, the International Criminal Court found Vladimir Putin guilty of war crimes in the 1999 Chechnya war.
ACS ninth grader Liana S., in her first year as a member of the International Criminal Court, was a member of the prosecution. “I feel like we presented a really strong case for the prosecution,” she said. “I really enjoyed being part of the court because it is different than the other councils; there is much more debate. I felt more like a lawyer.” Her team was able to convince the 10 judges that Putin was guilty of war crimes; however he was found not guilty of crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity.
Regardless of which council students were in or what country they represented, it was a huge learning experience for all in regards to political awareness, current events, and leadership skills. Many of the learning experiences arose from the numerous challenges students constantly faced. One of the biggest challenges for the students was separating their own personal opinions from those of the countries they represented.
“In MUN, the students don’t represent themselves, they represent the interests of each nation,” said Rima Zein, a history teacher at ACS and the director of MUN.
Delegates were tasked with the responsibility of constructing arguments that were in the best interests of the country they represented, putting aside their own personal beliefs. “It was incredibly challenging to let go of my own beliefs,” said eighth grader Jana H., the delegate of Oman in the General Assembly. “I really had to research and understand the interests of Oman.”
Jana aced the challenge head on and was the main “Submitter” on a resolution regarding organ trafficking. While she fought hard, and was able to get numerous signatories, the resolution did not pass. However, her hard work did not go unnoticed, and she was awarded honorable mention for best delegate, the only middle school student to receive the honor. “It was my first time here, but it definitely won’t be my last MUN,” she said. “I had a really great time. It required lots of effort and really was a challenge, but I enjoyed all of it.”
Despite being fully prepared, students were thrown some curveballs to test their flexibility and their abilities of thinking on their toes. For instance, the actions of the Iranian delegate and the kidnapping of the Syrian and Israeli delegates forced students to draft emergency resolutions and call for various councils to meet and address these hostile actions.
In her opening keynote address, Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, praised students for diving into the world of global politics and attempting to resolve real issues our world faces today. “The most important thing is to have courage and principles,” Kaag told the students. “You must research your case thoroughly, understand the implications of your idea and then take responsibility, even in the event that things go wrong.”
It was evident that students took this to heart as this incredible learning experience proceeded over the weekend.
Closing speaker Professor Samira Ibrahim Islam; a Saudi pharmacology researcher and the first woman in Saudi Arabia to earn a PhD, said that seeing the hard work and commitment of these students gave her hope for the next generation. “So much has been achieved but there is still a lot to be done,” she said. “It is clear that the students in attendance at LebMUN 2016 are preparing themselves to take on the challenges we face in order to achieve global stability.”