by Carol Lim –
In the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters, over 2,300 high school delegates from all around the world, alongside over 100 staff members, gathered as Secretary General, Liz Alarcon, began addressing the crowd. Welcoming the delegates, Her Excellency shared her experience in Costa Rica and how her volunteer work changed her life. She stressed the “return of humanity” in solving world problems and how delegates should focus not on just the statistics, but the people behind the statistics.
Kathy B. Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation, then graced the stage. Recognized as Newsweek magazine as one of the “150 Women Who Shake the World”, Calvin emphasized that we need to act on what we see, instead of simply just talking about it. She then introduced Ambassador Jeffery DeLauentis, the Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs.
DeLauentis applauded the delegates in attendance, saying that Model UN not only informs youth about various global issues, but also acts as a “vehicle for future leaders to explore the truth.” He pointed out that there are many issues left unresolved, including diseases such as polio, and urged the audience to attempt to solve them. Describing diplomacy as a “multi-dimensional chess,” he reminded the delegates to respect the different perspectives when debating. While such a process may be hard, DeLauentis nevertheless described his diplomatic career as an “adventure of a lifetime.”
One point that was constantly re-emphasized throughout the opening ceremonies was the crucial need of involving our youth in international affairs. An inspiring video featuring the first-ever U.S. Youth Observer to the UN, Brooke Loughrin, highlighted that even low-level participation from youth is crucial. Previously a participant of Model UN, Brooke shares that she continues to practice the same critical thinking skills she has learnt. This experience as a youth observer has also helped her revise her view of the UN. Instead of being a static and bureaucratic organization, the UN has been increasing youth participation over the years and reaching out to different sectors like businesses and non-profits for collaborative efforts.
Finally, our keynote speaker, Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, then spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Model UN he said, presents the opportunity to look at pressing challenges and find collective responses. Looking past 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), he urged everyone in the room to come up with new goals to address the many pressing problems that still exist. He also encouraged the use of new media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to engage the youth and spread the values of the UN to a wider audience.