By Naomi Richards, Teacher of History at The International School and MUN Lead
Turn on the news, and the United Nations will feature in several headlines. Fuel prices, food shortages, the earthquake in Afghanistan. Now more than ever, it seems that the United Nations has a vital role to play. Now more than ever, it is important that students know about the UN and what it does.
Eight students from The International School and Years 7-11 took part in a multi-committee conference at Tudor Hall School near Banbury. Between them, they represented Brazil, Nigeria, Japan and the United States, and they debated some hefty issues. Should prisoners be granted the same level of healthcare as everyone else? What is the future for the environment in terms of sustainable transport and methods to revive extinct species? Is it truly acceptable that any citizen should have the right to carry a gun for self-defence? At the end of the first session, I asked them how it was going. Lewis looked particularly thoughtful. “The most challenging thing I’ve done this morning is to represent the USA. I am trying to persuade European countries that guns aren’t that bad. They are not convinced.” By lunchtime, his resolution to allow for increased gun ownership had been defeated, but he remained cheerful. Kathi had some words of wisdom. “Nobody remembers the failures, only the successes. Keep going!”
It was clear by lunchtime, that alliances were being forged amongst the students. The mood was very good humoured, as everyone gathered together for the General Assembly meeting. There was a crisis to discuss: Venezuela was threatening to unleash a biological weapon in Paris in response to insulting comments about Venezuelan chocolate from countries including France. Instantly, everyone was galvanised. Venezuela was demanding not only an apology but a commitment from all countries to sell Venezuelan chocolate. A spirited debate on the question of free speech ensued. Esther was particularly eloquent on the subject, and was certainly winning the argument. Venezuela’s motion to force an apology and impose a clause about all countries committing to sell Venezuelan chocolate was defeated, but there were smiles all round and all agreed it had been a wonderful session.
At the closing ceremony, some wonderful and unexpected surprises. Natalia, our youngest and least experienced delegate from Year 7, won the award for best delegate on her committee. She is now the proud owner of a rather lovely wooden gavel. I hope she goes on to chair a debate in future, and put the gavel to good use. Five other students: Kathi, Esther, Leo, Lewis and Guven also won certificates of commendation. It was a wonderful end to a fantastic day.