By: Campbell Erickson
In late February, students from around the world were finishing up their position papers and making sure their suits and dresses were crisp. These students (and hopefully future diplomats) were preparing for the first session of the North American Invitational Model United Nations tournament. Held by Georgetown University, NAIMUN is one of the largest high school Model United Nations (Model UN) events in the world, holding committees for almost 3,000 high schoolers from around the world.
Model UN is an international circuit of clubs and tournaments that engage high school and college students in real-world debate around international issues. Model UN requires students research current or historical international issues, specifically pertaining to an assigned nation or individual. Students learn the art of writing political position papers (which are submitted for awards), the complexities of UN-style parliamentary procedure, and, most notably, students who participate in Model UN are taught, through trial and error, to write fully-developed UN resolutions within their committees - some of which have the complexities of legitimate UN resolutions.
My school, Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, took our annual trip to NAIMUN this year. I was placed in the committee of SPECPOL, the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, with the topics of “Drug Trade in West Africa” and “The Legality of Ongoing Drone Strikes in International Law”. Other topics included in the 39 individual committee sessions were “The Disarmament of Space” in the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), “Nuclear Safety and Security” in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and “Rising Ocean Levels” in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Debate was lively during NAIMUN. In our SPECOL committee, we passed five resolutions focusing on regional drug decriminalization in West Africa and the implementation of drug surveillance models that already have been proven relatively successful in Central-Southern Africa. In an effort to curb ongoing trafficking in the waterways of Western Africa, our committee called upon the United Nations Security Council to create a West African Maritime Defense Force, in an effort to train military forces operating in West African waters and support communication between governing forces.
Also, in discussions around the legality of ongoing drone strikes, we called for the creation of an international legislative body to review drone strike cases and begin to set a precedent for legality that could be used in the future by courts to determine whether or not certain drone strikes or military operations with unmanned aerial vehicles in sovereign nations were legal.
In a time of U.S. isolationism in a globalizing world and general mistrust in the ability of the United Nations to create long-standing impact on issues of international consequence, high school and college engagement with the concept and practice of the United Nations is more dire than ever before. After seeing so many high schoolers participate in debate and discussion around nuanced and complicated issues, I left NAIMUN with confidence in the future. When hundreds of teenagers, who are so often mistook for being tech-obsessed and ignorant of current events, can come together to engage in detailed debate around some of the most complex international issues and crisis, it is a hopeful sign that in future years, these curious and motivated young people will move into areas of foreign service and help to maintain a more peaceful, stable, and just future for all.
Campbell Erickson a senior at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. He is passionate about rethinking the way policy is created and the nature in which social entrepreneurship is practiced. He is a big believer in the power of authentic leadership, feedback-driven organizations, and the art of listening. He will be attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017. He is the founder and executive director of A Youth Mind.