By Sarah Basham, GCDC Development Assistant
On November 18th, Global Classrooms DC (GCDC), the flagship education program of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA), held its annual Fall Model UN Training Conference in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). GCDC has been partnering with PAHO, the Latin American branch of the World Health Organization, for 18 years. Each fall, we host a training conference to introduce students in the DMV area to Model United Nations, where they adopt a nation and debate pressing global issues with other delegates.
Due to ongoing restrictions and concerns about the COVID-19 virus, this conference was held virtually.
The day began with opening ceremonies where Senior Global Education Manager Jaiya Lalla opened with brief remarks expressing her excitement for the 136 students and 12 schools that were able to attend the conference in the virtual format. For many of these 5th through 12th graders, this was their first model UN experience. Paula Boland, President of UNA-NCA, then discussed the importance of this conference and global education, especially with the unique challenges the world continues to face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s keynote speaker was Tara Shivafard, a Political Science and Law Plus student at Brock University and founder of JUST(US)ICE. In a moving keynote address, Tara shared how her Model UN journey empowered her to advocate for the SDGs. She also emphasized the urgency of increasing the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines for individuals and countries across the globe.
There were three General Assembly Committees focusing on the topic, “The Lasting Effects of the Pandemic”, while the UN Security Council Crisis Committee focused on a fictional Vaccine Hostage Situation. Delegates began by delivering speeches about their nations’ experiences with the pandemic and its impact on their respective countries. Soon, they began holding unmoderated caucuses, an informal period where each delegation strives to find common ground and form blocs with other like-minded nations. Eventually, after several hours of productive debate and writing across the conference, the country blocs completed their working papers, each containing specific, creative policy proposals to ensure fair and efficient distributions of affordable medicines.
Committee 1 was made up of 41 delegates representing countries in the WHO. The Committee put together two working papers. Working paper 1.1 titled “Spread the Vax, Not the Virus,” focused on the equitable distribution of vaccines. It was passed with one amendment. The second working paper aimed at helping the world purchase vaccines with an apt title of “World Regional Distribution of Vaccines”. This was passed as a resolution with four amendments.
Committee 2 had 46 students develop three working papers. Working paper 1.1 focused on “Vaccine Distribution and Pandemic Protocols.” Delegates listed four main actions, including combating misinformation, encouraging country-to-country support, encouraging medical workers to travel, and encouraging frequent communication. This working paper was passed by committee into Draft Resolution A.1. Working paper 1.2 focused on “Helpful Aid to Struggling Countries to End Pandemic And Prepare For Future Ones.” where delegates resolved to partner with the World Bank, endorsed the allocation of funds to WHO, and invited the help of COVAX in vaccine distribution. However, this working paper did not pass.
Committee 3 had 44 students. They developed four working papers. In working paper 1.1, delegates encouraged vaccine donations and even distribution. Delegates also invited other delegations to donate vaccines and encouraged increased vaccination. Working paper 1.2 focused on “Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution.” Working Paper 1.3 was titled “Covid Resolution” where students suggested an emphasis on new healthcare jobs, condemned sanctions hindering vaccine distribution and called upon the creation of a new covid group. Working Paper 1.4 was on “Swift Resolution to the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic” where delegates encouraged higher-income countries to donate more vaccines. Working paper 1.3 was passed into a resolution.
For the second year, GCDC hosted a crisis committee. The crisis committee served as a training session for seasoned Model UN delegates who had experience at at least three prior Model UN conferences, but limited crisis committee experience. This year, five students represented China, India, Niger, Kenya, and the United Kingdom in a fictional vaccine hoarding scenario. Throughout the session, delegates became familiar with the fast-paced nature of crisis committees and writing directives, or shorter versions of typical resolutions. They developed three directives that encouraged lowered prices of vaccines through the release of all vaccine formulas and a global fund for vaccine production and distribution. Another directive included a price cap on vaccines, allowance of Pfizer’s liability shield, and prevention of a 20-year patent and was also passed.
Without our amazing sponsors, volunteers, and staff, this conference would not have been possible, so we would like to send a huge thank you to all who made this event such a success! The Fall Training Conference is part of a year-long curriculum for students who want to learn more about their global and local communities. With the collaboration of its partners, GCDC creates a curriculum that uses Model United Nations topics and mini-simulations to cultivate diverse perspectives, promote understanding of the UN system and its related agencies, and encourage students to interact with others from diverse backgrounds. The curriculum is used by middle schools and high schools from across DC, Maryland, and Virginia as an opportunity for students to become more active local and global citizens.
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 spring, GCDC also hosts a competitive Model UN conference. You can find out more information here.