The GW International Affairs Society hosted 450 high school students from around the world this weekend for the Washington Area Model United Nations conference. The weekend-long event featured debates about international policy and crisis simulations to mock an actual U.N. meeting.
This is the third consecutive year GW has hosted the event.
GW students acted as secretary general, undersecretaries and other U.N. leaders while high school students represented member countries drafting resolutions dealing with international law.
The conference began Friday afternoon with sessions lasting all day Saturday through Sunday morning, with a dance for the high school students in J Street Saturday night.
The WAMUNC has unique features not found in many high school conferences, said freshman Nina Kundra, a member of the crisis staff of the U.N.’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for the conference. Many universities that host conferences usually hold committee sessions in local hotels where students stay. But GW incorporated the campus by using academic buildings to house the committee sessions, Kundra said.
The conference was run completely by GW students.
GW student Scott Fagan began the WAMUNC three years ago and served as the conference’s first secretary general.
Junior Cristina Kaku, the secretary general for this year’s conference, became involved in the WAMUNC when she was a freshman. That year she was a vice chair, and became an under secretary-general for specialized agencies last year before becoming the secretary general this year.
“To be secretary-general is an interesting thing,” she said. “I’m technically responsible for everything, but my tasks consist of not only actually preparing things for the conference but also delegating tasks to others.”
As a member of the crisis staff of OSCE, a European-based organization of states, Kundra kept delegates on their toes by throwing them fastball questions about terrorism and other problems they would have to solve.
The State Department’s Dean Acheson Auditorium hosted the conference’s opening ceremonies.
Many of the GW students running the event participated in Model U.N.
conferences in the past.
“Model U.N. is important for students for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it helps them to develop skills in life,” Kaku said. “It helps them gain knowledge about international relations.”
Other GW students said the event highlighted international awareness.
“It gets the kids emotionally aware, they start thinking globally about the issues,” said freshman Andrew Herron, who acted as the press secretary for the U.N.’s Organization of African Unity.
Many of the high school students who participated said they enjoyed the conference.
“While the conference differed from others we have gone to, I thought this was a nice one,” said Jessica De La Esprella, who is from Barranquilla, Colombia. “The delegates were very well prepared.”
The GW students who ran the conference said they became involved with the program for various reasons.
“I became involved with WAMUNC because of my membership in the IAS and because I did model U.N. in high school,” Herron said. “I am really interested in the issues of Africa, which was another reason I wanted to be involved.”
Kundra said the WAMUNC is a fairly young conference, and organizers are learning more and making revisions each year.
“We are getting better and better with each year,” she said.
Some of the high school students said they noticed the difference between the WAMUNC and other conferences they have attended.
“Where I come from, the conferences are much more formal,” said Jeremy Haynes, a high school senior from Houston. “Here is it very lenient, but we have debated some good topics.”
Many universities including the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Princeton universities have hosted model U.N. conferences for high school students for more than 20 years. Kundra said GW and the IAS hope that the WAMUNC will someday be as well-established as others.