(This conference recap article was provided by Edith Lee, Director General of MUNCH)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted its fifteenth session of its high school Model United Nations conference on March 20-22, 2015. The largest to date, MUNCH XV brought over 400 students from 28 high schools to UNC. Across ten committees, including General Assemblies, specialized bodies, and historical crisis simulations, MUNCH XV was supported by 50 staff members, who skillfully facilitated debate, responded to crises, and planned events for delegates before and during the weekend.
Opening ceremonies featured Dr. David Gray, international security expert and former foreign service officer for the U.S Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and United Nations. Dr. Gray highlighted the most pressing issues currently challenging the international community today– such as the ongoing situations in Yemen, Ukraine, and Nigeria. He also gave his insights on rising problems, from the shift of power from the west to the east, the challenges of resource inequality and sustainability, and the impact of climate change. He concluded with a discussion on potential solutions for now and for the future.
Encouraged by Dr. Gray’s words, delegates started their weekend of by discussing a variety of geopolitical issues in General Assembly committees. In the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), delegates drafted legislation regarding insurgent immigration, ethnic conflict in the Central African Republic, and militarization of the arctic. Meanwhile, Special Political and Decolonization Committee (SPECPOL) discussed space weaponization and colonization, and faced crisis of migrant worker protests, pressuring delegates to swift action on issues of migrant workers’ rights. In the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM), delegates spearheaded resolutions to provide accessible medical care, housing, and educational programs to internally displaced people, and they responded to Syrian protests and dealt with the imposing threats of terrorist groups.
Debate was equally intense and solutions similarly creative in specialized body committees. The United Nations Environment Programme Committee (UNEP) fostered South-South Cooperation in a new resolution, addressed the problem of managing hazardous waste with a two-tiered international framework on waste reduction, whilst a tenuous compromise was reached over precious Arctic resources. In the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), engaged in a lengthy and meaningful debate over currency manipulation and quantitative easing, and passed landmark legislation to reform the International Monetary Fund. In the WHO committee, delegates discussed the topics of healthcare and sanitation for internally displaced persons, women’s access to health care, and the issue of Ebola and other infectious diseases. They responded to the crisis of a Syrian refugee camp struck by the bubonic plague, and worked closely to have two journalists released from an unfair Ebola quarantine using the power of social media.
In addition, MUNCH XV featured a Pirates of the Caribbean crisis committee, during which the Brethren Court worked together to ensure that the Pirates’ way of life was not threatened by the oppressive British Empire. The pirates tamed the Kraken to help them undermine the British East India Trading Company’s attempts to shut piracy down. On the other side of the historical crisis world, the War of 1812 came to life in the form of a Joint Crisis Committee, with the United States Cabinet and the British Parliament on either side. The Americans saw the rise of a radical young Andrew Jackson, whilst the British Parliament faced a war on two fronts against both France and America. Both sides had their own triumphs, with the American victory over the British in the battle of Chapel Hill, and the French surrender to Britain. Finally, in MUNCH’s first-ever Press Corps committee, delegates served as actual journalists–reporting, recording, and Tweeting the occurrences of the conference. The delegates not only responded to news, but also had the opportunity to affect committee debate themselves with influential articles and Tweets.
Over the course of the weekend, students were challenged to discuss issues of international peace, settle historical disputes, and address the biggest financial, health, and legal issues facing the world today. Through the debate, amendments, and endless notes, delegates forged new friendships, with bonding over board games during the delegate social, extensive use of Twitter, and a promposal between Iceland and Lebanon in SPECPOL.
In the end, the following delegations were recognized for their exceptional performance:
Enloe High School for Best Large Delegation
Greenville High School for Outstanding Large Delegation
Cedar Ridge High School for Best Small Delegation
Salem Academy for Outstanding Small Delegation
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