A model for Lebanon
April 20, 2010—
Close to 1,300 students from 125 high schools across Lebanon gathered to complete a season of simulating international diplomats as part of the popular AL WALID GC-LAU Model United Nations program, held on the weekend of April 10 and 11, at LAU’s Beirut and Byblos campuses.
For seven weeks, the high school students, coached by LAU student trainers, spent their Saturday mornings learning about current events, public speaking and communication, and representing the various member countries of the United Nations.
“We’ve created a global classroom where students step into the shoes of ambassadors, and they discuss issues like HIV and blood diamonds,” says Elie Samia, director of the Guidance Office at the Byblos campus and LAU MUN program director. “They develop responsibility and leadership skills — It’s amazing,” he adds.
During the final conference held on the weekend, students debated topics such as Security Council reform, protection of pharmaceuticals, the employment and education of women, and the situation in Afghanistan.
Debating Security Council reform, the MUN representative of Jordan declared that the use of veto power is “like a cage used by the five permanent members.” In a crowded classroom, students took 30-second turns arguing their countries’ positions.
LAU student Rindala Mikhael, LAU MUN director of training, started in the program as a high school student. She recalls, “At first, I didn’t think I could do it, [especially] when you hear the concept — representing a country and speaking in front of 100 people.” Today, Mikhael, a third-year political science and international affairs student, is considering a career in diplomacy.
Shiraz El-Adam, a first-year LAU business student, says she actually chose to study at LAU because of its MUN program — the only one in the Middle East. Speaking of her own experience as a high school student and those she now trains, she said, “I love how organized it is and how a student’s confidence develops.”
With high school students coming together from all regions throughout Lebanon, Samia hopes the program can be a way of “bridging gaps in our deeply divided country.”
The “Global Village” activity held on the Byblos campus in the evening of April 10 was just one sign of how the program united students from different backgrounds. Dressed in the national costumes of their represented countries, students celebrated diversity, enjoying some traditional food, music and dance.
Hope for tomorrow
On April 11, a closing ceremony was held at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, during which awards were distributed. Students waited eagerly to hear the names of their high schools announced.
LAU President Joseph Jabbra and the Minister of Tourism Fady Abboud spoke at the event, which was also attended by numerous ambassadors in Lebanon. The speakers described the students as “the future of the country.”
“It’s up to the new generation to change things,” said Minister Abboud, as he discussed the need for these future diplomats to address corruption and the regional, tribal and sectarian divisions in Lebanon.
As the awards were announced, the groups of students seated together from the various high schools leapt up from their seats as they heard the names of the countries they represented. Many of them telephoned their families from the auditorium upon hearing they had won.
Today, Model United Nations conferences are held in more than 50 countries across the world.
Other stories in: Outreach and Civic Engagement Office.