April 22, 2022

By Sarmat Chowdhury, Manager of Global Education

On April 7th, Global Classrooms DC (GCDC), the flagship education program of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) held the 18th Annual Spring Model United Nations Conference in partnership with the U.S. State Department – IO Bureau, and its new co-host, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP). For the past decade, GCDC has been partnering with the IO Bureau to host the Spring Conference as part of the culmination of the year-round curriculum work for both the GCDC Community schools, and for Model UN clubs across the region to participate in.

This year marked the return of the GCDC Spring conference returning to an in-person format after a two-year hiatus, and the first time that USIP has joined to co-host the event. The conference was held at USIP headquarters, a building designed to allow for a culture of peace to flourish. Students were able to return to an in-person conference, where they were able to adopt a nation and within 6 committees, debate the issues global issues of the day with other delegates from across the region.

The Opening Ceremonies commenced with the GCDC Spring 2022 Secretary General, Ms. Grace Volchok, a sophomore student from Richard Montgomery High School. She welcomed delegates and guests to the conference and recounted her own time as a delegate prior to the pandemic lockdown and told delegates that while this may be the first time some of them were participating at a physical conference for the first time, that there was no need to be nervous. “…when you go to committee, I want you to do three things. Relax and trust yourself, listen to each other, and most importantly, of course, have fun.” With a great opening message, Secretary General Volchok introduced the pre-recorded remarks from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Secretary of State Blinken welcomed the students to the conference and noted that what the students were doing was a momentous occasion to mark. “And ultimately, that may be the most important thing that Model UN teaches you – how to build relationships across nationalities, cultures and perspectives, and how to work with people you don’t always agree with – in service of a common goal.” Paula Boland, President of UNA-NCA, then discussed the importance of the conference, and thanked the staff, volunteers, partners, sponsors and donors for working to ensure that the GCDC Spring Model UN Conference was able to return to an in-person format. She then went on to introduce the Welcome Keynote from Ambassador George Moose, Chair of the Board of Directors, for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

In a truly welcoming address, Ambassador Moose recounted his own days in Model United Nations, as well as his work with the United Nations System from his time as a diplomat with the U.S. State Department. He talked to the attendees about the work of USIP: “USIP works in a unique way, incorporating both “think” and “do” into our approach. We conduct research and thought analysis on issues of peace and conflict. We then apply that knowledge on the ground in conflict zones, assessing what works and what doesn’t. We then share our experience and our knowledge with others, notably including U.S. policy makers.” He also left the attendees with a reminder about the value of the United Nations: “What the UN offers above all is a place and a space where international actors, both governmental and non-governmental, can come together to deliberate on the global problems that confront us, and devise plans and strategies for how we can address them. But while the UN is a place where governments and others can come together to address and solve problems, it is also a political arena where states do battle over their competing international interests, ideologies, and visions.” Once he completed his remarks, he was able to introduce his colleague Ambassador Michele J. Sison, the current Assistant Secretary of State for the International Organization Bureau at the State Department, who also added her words of encouragement and talked about her own time in Model UN, and how being a student in Prince George’s County Public Schools and Model UN also helped shape her interest in diplomacy and global affairs. Finally, Manager of Global Education Sarmat Chowdhury expressed his passion and excitement for Model UN, and reminded delegates to have fun, and to make some new friends throughout the day.

There were 6 committees offered during the conference – students were representing countries in the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) where they were discussing Ecosystem Restoration, or Migrant Access to Global Humanitarian Aid in the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) tackled Racial Issues when Combatting Poverty, and the simulation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) utilized the tripartite system while addressing The Global Call for Action for a Human-Centered Recovery. Finally, delegates were debating on Protecting Civilians Against Armed Conflict in the United Nations Security Council, one of the flagship committees at the conference. Once their chairs called them to order, the delegates were able to deliver their opening speeches, and began debating the topics that they had spent weeks researching and preparing for. Eventually, after several hours of productive debate (and a break for lunch in the Great Hall of USIP) delegates were able to form their blocs and present their draft resolutions, with the each working paper creating policy proposals that worked to ensure the mitigation of their topics.

The Closing Ceremonies of the conference was kicked off by the Manager of Global Education Sarmat Chowdhury, who congratulated delegates on their hard work and debate skills that they had displayed at the conference. He commended them on their great work, and most importantly, on the fact that they all had a great time at the conference. He then introduced the closing speaker, Ms. Cynthia Yue, the 10th UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations. Cynthia, an accomplished Model UN delegate herself and a senior at the George Washington University, talked to the delegates about her work at the UN and across the country on pressing issues that affect youth. “I have seen how global issues that the UN is trying to address the affect the people in my community. […] We are the generation that is tackling those issues, starting today.” With her inspiring words, Sarmat Chowdhury and Secretary General Volchok returned to the podium to thank her for her great remarks, and to also begin the Awards portion of the ceremony. The overall Research Award and Best Middle School Award went to North Bethesda Middle School, and the Best High School Award went to Richard Montgomery High School.

Without our amazing partners and sponsors, volunteers and staff, this conference would not have been feasible, and we send them a tremendous thank you to all who made it possible! The Spring GCDC Conference was a culmination of the year-long curriculum for students who are interested in learning more about their local and global communities GCDC develops a curriculum that incorporates Model United Nations topics and mini-simulations to nurture diverse perspectives, promote understanding of the UN system and its associated agencies, and encourage students to interact with people of various backgrounds, with the support of its partners. Middle and high schools from throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia use the curriculum to enable the students to become more active and participate in their global communities.

The Global Classrooms DC Fall Model UN Training Conference is implemented by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, which is a chapter of UNA-USA. Each fall, GCDC also hosts a training Model UN conference. You can find more information here.

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