LAU hosts GCI MUN event in New York
Hundreds of youngsters from across the world gather at the UN headquarters under the leadership of LAU.
A crowd of 1,700 high-school students from 92 schools in the U.S., Italy, Taiwan, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Uzbekistan, Spain, Turkey, Lebanon, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Jamaica, and Panama among other nations, gathered earlier this month for the closing of the 2017 Global Classrooms International (GCI) Model United Nations (MUN) conference in New York.
Operated by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), the GCI Model UN is a simulation of the UN General Assembly and other multilateral bodies in which students step into the shoes of ambassadors to debate the globe’s most pressing affairs. While similar developments take place in school systems worldwide, in 2016, the Lebanese American University (LAU), a partner of UNA-USA, took over the Model UN simulation in New York.
“As our leaders of tomorrow, this is the perfect occasion to entrust you with the quest for a more expansive declaration,” said President & CEO of the international manufacturing company INDEVCO Group, Nemat Frem, during his keynote address, encouraging the young attendees to work toward “a universal declaration of human purpose.”
Public Relations coordinator Anthony Akoury, 22, has been involved in MUN events for the past four years. “Other than tackling global solutions, we’re building a culture of new global leaders, and shaping them to become leaders on their own,” said Akoury, who graduated from LAU in 2016. “I always come back because of the thrill of thinking of a better future.”
From crafting speeches, preparing draft resolutions, negotiating with allies or adversaries to resolving conflicts in line with the conference’s rules of procedure, the emerging leaders got a taste of diplomacy in action, debating, at times, particularly difficult topics such as health coverage for all and the Effect of Terrorism on Human Rights.
Finance student at LAU Chaperon Wadih Khnaizir, 21, has been part of the MUN adventure for the past six years. This year, he was especially drawn to the discussions that took place during the Human Rights committee that tackled the refugee crisis, principally the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
With that same commitment to MUN, director general Freddy Mourad, a current graduate student in international affairs said he loved talking about building bridges rather than barriers.
During a special video address, newly appointed UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance of creating a compassionate and peaceful world. Between 2005 and 2015, Guterres served as head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a decade that saw the conflict in Syria trigger the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Meanwhile, Radia Funna from the UN Innovation Unit shared a particularly positive observation: “Think about this: more people can contribute more to the world, in less time, less effort, and at less cost than at any other time.”
As in an actual UN convention, conclusions of the three-day gathering were announced at the General Assembly. Students were rewarded in a number of categories including 16 Secretary-General Awards, 74 Diplomacy Awards, 16 Position Paper Awards, and the prestigious Best Delegation Award, granted to a school from the United Kingdom. According to Elie Samia, LAU’s assistant vice president for Outreach and Civic Engagement, “The MUN conference is a new type of learning for impactful content. Many people mistake MUN for developing communication skills,” he said, “but we’re talking about content, decision making, and intense topics.”
Matilde Gori, from Milan, Italy, who attended as part of the World Bank committee, found her first experience of the conference to be an enlightening journey. “We talked about financial stability in low income countries, and the conference went well,” she said, adding, “I learned how the big organizations work, but more importantly how people have the power to shape a better future.”