United Nations debuts at GW

United Nations representatives assembled in Funger Hall Friday for a three-day conference. But these members wore awkward-looking suits and few spoke the language of the countries they represented. Was it a sign of a disintegrating U.N.?

Just the opposite.

GW’s International Affairs Society and Elliott School of International Affairs hosted their first Washington Area Model United Nations Conference for more than 100 high school students.

“This is the start of something big at GW,” said GW senior Scott Fagan, secretary general of the conference. “Our traveling team has always proven that we deserve to be one of the top five college Model U.N. teams, but we couldn’t become a hub until we held a high school conference, which leads to holding a college conference.”

The opening ceremony was held in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the State Department, with remarks by Associate Dean of the Elliott School Edward McCord and Ambassador Edward Gnehm, director general of the Foreign Service and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

About 90 IAS members prepared briefing packets for countries, created conflict scenarios, and acted as chairs of committees and parliamentarians.

“We were throwing so much stuff at them, the kids loved it,” GW senior James Healy said.

While Model U.N. conferences at schools such as Yale and Harvard universities contain more than 300 students per committee, GW’s conference allowed committees as small as 12.

Asheesh Misra, advisor at Oakton High School in Fairfax, Va., said the small size of the conference “turned out to be a blessing” because the students were not as intimidated to talk.

In the room that housed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 15 students debated the fate of refugees and political structures of the existing countries in the Balkans.

“The only weapon we have against intolerance is education,” said the Russian student delegate, who wore a purple Hawaiian shirt and had sunglasses perched on his head.

But the 15 year olds and 16 year olds were careful with the roles their countries would play in maintaining peace.

“Make sure it doesn’t seem like we’re forcing our rules on them,” one student reminded the group.

GW sophomore McKenzie Moore, who worked on the Model U.N. crisis staff, said she thinks the conference helped train the students for future endeavors.

“It will help them in college and even Model U.N. in the future,” Moore said. “It gave them a good overview of how the U.N. runs. The conference made me feel like I put a little fire under them.”

Fagan said IAS wants to expand the conference next year. IAS held its first middle school conference 2 years ago, which only 20 students attended.

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