On November 19, 2010, Fairfield University’s Model United Nations (UN) club held its 7th Annual High School Conference. Over 200 high school students from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York attended the all-day event.
The students were assigned to 1 of 3 committees and a country to represent for the conference, a simulation of the official UN General Assembly. In preparation, students researched their country’s culture, economics, history, geography, and politics. At the conference, participants acted as delegates for their respective countries, debating and negotiating on the best course of action for a specific international concern.
This year’s committees were:
- The Human Rights Committee researched Uganda’s usage of child soldiers, which violates fundamental child rights. The high school students grappled with multiple challenges such as presenting ideas on prevention and reclamation.
- The Disarmament and Security Committee handled the conflict in India and Pakistan. The students debated on different methods of reaching a treaty to end the threat of a nuclear war.
- The Peace Building Committee discussed the conflict of unification or separation between Northern and Southern Sudan.
The opening ceremony began at 9 a.m. with Weronika Pleban introducing Dr. Philip Eliasoph, Professor of Visual and Performing Arts, who delivered the welcome address. Dr. Eliasoph discussed the importance of global citizenship, the central theme of this year’s Model UN conference, inspiring students to take interest and become engaged in the world. Quoting Sir Francis Bacon who once said, “Knowledge is power,” Dr. Eliasoph stressed that it is the duty of each individual to arm themselves with knowledge so that they can be prepared to take active roles on the global stage.
Conference keynote speaker David Sacco, a civil engineer with TPA Design Group in New Haven, Connecticut, reinforced the importance of global awareness and engagement. Sacco served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon and worked extensively in northern Sri Lanka with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). One of the most important lessons that he learned was the significance of gaining knowledge by listening and paying attention to the people you are helping. “Find out as much as you can from them,” said Sacco. “Find out what they want for themselves, and then let them lead you to the solutions.”
Students who attended the Fairfield Model UN conference embodied the values that the speakers discussed. The high school students researched and formulated their own opinions on topics they were assigned.
“By hosting a Model UN conference,” said Weronika Pleban ’11, Secretary General of High School Conference, “we hope that the students take advantage of this opportunity to develop a stronger sense of self, gain more confidence, and speak intellectually about a topic that they examined.”
Throughout the afternoon of November 19th, the three committees disbursed across campus – in the Oak Room, Library, and Gonzaga Hall – and passionately defended their viewpoints that were clearly well-supported and researched. The debates drove the point home that problem-solving involved a combination of research, discussion, and passion. Being knowledgeable about an issue is the primary – and foundational – building block of being a global citizen.
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