From November 6th-9th 2014, delegates from all over the world flocked to Montréal, Canada to participate at the Secondary Schools’ United Nations Symposium (SSUNS). SSUNS is one of the premier conferences for high school delegates in North America, run by undergraduate students at McGill University. This year, SSUNS strived to empower delegates with its annual theme: “Dare to Challenge, Drive the Change.” Over the past 22 years, SSUNS has provided delegates with an excellent Model United Nations experience – from the seasoned veteran to the total beginner. With a massive range of 24 committees, there was something for everyone at SSUNS 2014.
This year, delegates traveled from all corners of the globe. The majority of delegates were from Canadian or American schools, but some delegates travelled as far as Nigeria to attend the conference. The conference began with a keynote speech from Patrick Sciarratta, the Executive Director of the Friendship Ambassadors Fund (FAF). Mr. Sciarratta challenged delegates to “fail magnificently” and inspired everyone in the room with his stories, which included an encounter with Emma Watson. Every year, SSUNS partners with a charity for the duration of the conference. This year, SSUNS joined forces with UNICEF. Over the duration of the conference, delegates raised $2500, which was 2.5 times the original goal! Delegates also had the chance to interact with many non-profit organizations, educational institutions, outreach programs, and volunteer opportunities at the SSUNS Walkway. The Walkway acted as a way for delegates to learn how to apply their discussions and ideas in committee session to the real world. Delegates were also treated to tours of the McGill, a vibrant campus in the beautiful city of Montréal.
There was a wide breadth of committees for all delegates to discover their potential. Delegates were challenged with resolving pressing issues from the past, present, and future. General Assemblies included the Millennium Summit of 2000, Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). ECOSOCS included the Convention to Combat Desertification, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Commission on the Status of Women in 2015, and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The crises and specialized agencies at SSUNS were very plentiful and challenged delegates to critically think and to act quickly. Specialized agencies ranged from the classic United Nations Humans Rights Council to the futuristic 2040 Peak Oil Crisis, and, for the business-savy, the Amazon Board of Directors. As an homage to the French heritage of Montréal, delegates also had the opportunity to participate in a bilingual committee that simulated De Gaulle’s Council of Ministers in 1958. This year’s crisis committees combined a mixture of historical, literary, and current issues. As per SSUNS tradition, crises included both the United Nations Security Council and Ad-Hoc committee. Committees also brought delegates back in time – as far back as the Mughal Empire, or even within the past decade with the Joint Crisis Ukraine Orange Revolution and Iraq 2003. Book lovers also enjoyed a joint literary committee featuring the classics 1984 and Brave New World.
When delegates weren’t busy lobbying or passing resolutions, there was certainly a lot to do in Montreal. Delegates who were bold enough to brave the chilly Montréal weather were treated to tours of the beautiful McGill campus. There was also an information session with admissions officers for prospective students. Staff can only hope that everyone took advantage of being in Montreal and tried some of the world-class poutine and smoked meats! As per conference tradition, delegates were treated to a delegate dance on Saturday night with the theme ‘Nuit Blanche.’ With the help of the DJ, everyone was dancing the night away. The secretariat also had a strong social media presence throughout the weekend with many scavenger hunts (usually involving some sort of selfie). To keep the SSUNS memories alive throughout the year, delegates were able to purchase SSUNS merchandise at the Delegate Resource Centre.
After an intense weekend of debating, broadening our horizons and making new friends, SSUNS 2014 had to come to a close. In terms of the awards policy at SSUNS, things are run a little differently than at other conferences. Instead of the typical Best Delegate, Outstanding Delegate and Honourable Mention, SSUNS borrows from the legacy of famous Canadians to create a new award scheme. Delegates receive a gavel with the Nellie McLung Award for Advocacy, Lester B. Pearson Award for Peacemaking and the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Award for Diplomacy. The Book Award is a book pertaining to the topic discussed in committee that is granted to a delegate who embodies the spirit of Model United Nations. There are Honourable Mentions prizes given out as well. Through speeches made at closing ceremonies, it was evident that the Secretariat became so close through their year of hard work and dedication to the SSUNS mission. A huge thank you goes out to everyone involved in SSUNS 2014 for making it a memorable and inspiring conference!
Best Large Delegation: Upper Canada College
Best Small Delegation: Bayview Glen
Those interested in learning more about SSUNS 2015 can find more information here.