April 23, 2021
By Nicole Herman, Spring 2021 Program Assistant

On April 16th and 17th, 2021, 131 students, 22 educators, and 37 volunteers gathered for the first virtual spring and 17th annual Global Classrooms DC Spring Model UN Conference in partnership with the U.S. Department of State. The COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent the eager delegates from participating from their homes in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Venezuela.

The conference welcomed students grades 5 through 12 to discuss pressing global issues as delegates representing countries from around the world. Just as they would in person, the delegates debated, worked together, and proposed solutions in the five committees:
  • Migration & Mobility - International Organization of Migration
  • Safety & Health at Work - International Labour Organization
  • The Impacts of Climate and Air Quality on Diverse Communities - United Nations Environment Programme
  • The UN at 75 - the Future of UN Peacekeeping - United Nations Security Council
  • Combat Religious Discrimination - United Nations Human Rights Council.

blinkenThe conference was opened by U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, who encouraged the delegates and “tomorrow’s leaders” to use their conference experience to learn how to reduce conflict, build cooperation, and solve problems. Deputy Assistant Secretary Jane Rhee also offered insight into the history and reminded attendees of the importance of the United Nations and the impacts of its diplomats.

rheeThe State Department representatives were also joined by remarks from Paula Boland, President of UNA-NCA, and keynote speaker Dustin Liu, the 9th U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. Paula expressed thanks to the UNA-NCA community, partners, and sponsors for their help in raising awareness, promoting the vital work of the UN, and building a strong UN-US partnership through their collaboration with the conference and delegates. She acknowledged the difficult year of 2020 and called for delegates to use their skills to address current and future challenges.

liuDustin Liu activated the young audience by describing the significance of being a part of the generation that implements the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, focuses on fundamental human rights, and 75 years after the beginning of the United Nations - builds a world that they want to live in. He called upon the delegates to practice, collaborate, and construct through critical thinking and imagination societies that have the capacity to be equal and inclusive. Liu connected the delegates to the realities they face today and pushed them to utilize their skills to step up to the challenge and change the world for the better.

shawLastly, the conference opening held remarks from Eden Shaw, who was selected as the 2021 GCDC Student Secretary-General. An impressive 6th grader from Cabin John Middle School, Eden motivated the delegates to step up and facilitate change through innovative solutions to issues of gender inequality, inequalities based on race and religion, malnutrition, poverty, forced migration, and climate change. She emphasized that Model UN is not about argumentation, but rather collaboration. Eden ended her remarks by opening up the committee sessions.

With that, the delegates were off to their Zoom rooms, where they kicked off committee session 1. The ILO, IOM, and UNEP committees were welcomed by remarks from UN experts including Steve Moody, Director, Office of International Labor Affairs; Luca Dall'Oglio, Chief of Mission of the IOM; and Hilary French, Programme Officer at UNEP. During the session, delegates started off by stating their country’s positions in their committees and debated possible solutions to important international issues. By the end of Session 1, delegates began forming country blocs and drafting resolutions.

paperIn Session 2, which took place on April 17th, the student delegates primarily continued working with others to draft resolutions that outlined their ideas and solutions to solve their committees' respective challenges. Many Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs, who are college students and professionals with extensive Model UN experience, shared their positive feedback on students; the Chairs and Vice-Chairs were extremely impressed by the students' preparation and the quality of their performance. Throughout both days of the conference, educators, sponsors, and guests were also welcomed to witness students in action.

This year’s Open House took place prior to Opening Ceremonies. UNA-NCA President Paula Boland greeted the guests and Senior Global Education Manager Jaiya Lalla shared this year's program highlights and thanked this year's conference sponsors and partners. GCDC would like to express its gratitude to Stephen F. Moseley, Robert Schott of AIRSCHOTT, Billie Ann Day, Roger Griffis, Amb. Don Bliss, and Rajesh Gupta who donated through the GCDC Support a Delegate program for their generous support!

GCDC also partnered with UN agencies to bring students a tangible learning experience for the Spring 2021 Conference. For the 2020-2021 school year, GCDC partnered with the International Organization for Migration to sponsor a full curriculum unit and conference topic on the issue of migration and mobility, with a focus on COVID-19. GCDC also partnered with the International Labour Organization to sponsor a unit, and the conference delegates talked about safety and health at work, focusing on changes to work brought on by the pandemic. Last but not least, GCDC worked with the UN Environment Programme to cover the impacts of climate and air quality on diverse communities.

guterresThe closing ceremony included a guest appearance from António Guterres (right), the UN Secretary-General. He expressed gratitude for the rising generation’s ability to address the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, gender inequality, and climate change. The ceremony closed with awards announced by each committee’s volunteers.

In its 17th year and despite the pandemic, the GCDC Model UN Conference continued to provide opportunities for young students across the DMV and around the world to fully immerse in global education, discussing some of the world’s most pressing international issues. Delegates from diverse backgrounds had the chance to learn from the top U.S. Diplomat and other leaders in the field of foreign affairs and in turn apply this knowledge to their virtual debates throughout the weekend. Their performance as diplomats was skillful, intellectual, and inspiring.

Thank you to the dedicated committee chairs and vice-chairs, educators, and other volunteers for taking part in this virtual conference that gave the next generation the ability to refine their skills to soon become the leaders we look up to.

To our keynote speakers - thank you for your time and wisdom and a very special thank you to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs for the continued support throughout the years, even through a global pandemic!

Lastly, the UNA-NCA would like to thank Stephen F. Moseley, Robert Schott of AIRSCHOTT, Billie Ann Day, Roger Griffis, Amb. Don Bliss, Rajesh Gupta, and our other Support A Delegate donors. A huge thank you to UNA-NCA and GCDC Staff, Program Assistants, and volunteers – the GCDC Spring 2021 Model UN Conference was an incredible success and would not have been possible without your diligence!

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