The Vancouver Sun
Monday, March 12, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
From Botswana to the Bahamas, more than 2,000 aspiring diplomats from around the world have begun streaming into Vancouver to take part in this week’s 2012 World Model United Nations Conference.
They will be asked to represent the views and interests of a country other than their home state and debate issues like the European debt crisis, the global water supply and Israel and Palestine.
“I want to learn what I can’t learn in school and I wanted to go to other cities to see more people from all over the world,” said Taiwanese delegate Kuan Wen (Kyan) Lai. The 19-year-old from the city of Kaohisung’s team is representing the much smaller island nation of Grenada at the conference.
The University of B.C. is hosting the conference in partnership with Harvard, with most events being held at the convention centre from March 11 to 15. Delegates form committees and working groups that mimic the actual international organization and spend time learning the ins and outs of crafting UN policy.
“It’s a platform for me to learn about world issues and international issues and also get perspectives from people from different countries,” said 21-year-old Kenyan delegate Gertrude Chelimo. “We want to be diplomats in the future so we’re training ourselves.”
Chelimo is part of a group of international relations students from Nairobi’s United States International University. Chelimo is representing the Caribbean nation of Barbados while classmate Amin Muhammed, 22, was assigned Angola, a country much closer to home.
“I think beyond everything else what unites us is that we are human and we come here to discuss the issues that affect all of us – so that is very important to me,” Muhammed said. “Since I am in development studies it is a proud thing to get to meet new people and to discuss ideas and solutions to the problems we are facing. “Plus it’s a new city – everything is different from home.”
The inspired young leaders hailing from 60 different countries and 270 universities will also find time to “work the room” and hobnob at receptions like their professional counterparts.
The annual conference – started by Harvard students in 1991 – travels to a new city each year and this week’s event marks the first time it has come to Canada.
Vancouver lost out to Singapore in its bid to host the conference last year, but original bid co-organizers Nick Zarzycki and Kenneth Chan said they learned from the process and secure this year’s conference.
Tonight’s opening ceremonies will feature keynote speeches from the UN’s outreach czar Maher Nasser and Jeremy Kinsman, one of Canada’s most experienced diplomats and the former Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/World+Model+Conference+opens+Vancouver/6285285/story.html#ixzz1ovGeYcqj