SMU Model UN

Ten students in SMU’s Model United Nations program participated in the World Model U.N. 2009 Conference in March in The Hague, Netherlands. The SMU delegation was assigned to represent the Vatican at the conference, where students from more than 40 countries debated and discussed world issues facing the U.N. system.

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Making global connections

An update from Adriana, a political science major who served on the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee:

Committee Session III, Symposium on International Criminal Law: Arriving 10 minutes early to committee, we were greeted with the surprise that all major blocs have submitted working papers, which are soon to be presented.

I was very surprised by this, to say the least. I had expected at least half of this session to be devoted entirely to debating the various key points of each bloc. What I did not realize was that at World MUN, there is a distinction between working papers and draft resolutions.

Working papers are created and submitted early into the conference – precisely, what I expected we would do orally. They would be presented, and each bloc would then have the ideas of the others on paper. From there, most of the real work, collaboration and multilateralism would ensue through caucusing, not oral debate. Then, the result of this, which I expected to see in working papers, would actually be presented as draft resolutions.

With this realization, I felt empowered to go caucus and advance the opinions of the Holy See in various blocs, which I noted favored a strong humanitarian and socially just perspective. The most efficient way I could think to do this was to gather our most important points, which we would like to see included in whatever resolution passed, and go talk to the above-mentioned blocs.

Here are the essential substantive clauses that we wrote:

The Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee of the General Assembly:

1. Further emphasizes the necessity of promoting and effectively enacting the policy of family reunification for the successful integration of the migrant individual.

2. Urges the incorporation of the migrant person into the host country’s education system via long- and short-term cultural and language exchange programs to supplement general education.

3. Deplores any discriminatory behavior, most especially violent hostility, against the migrant person based on religious differences. Inalienable and basic human rights must always be upheld regardless of religious backgrounds.

4. Encourages transparency throughout the legal process of migration for the ease of both the migrant and host country.

5. Draws attention to the importance of positive media portrayal to combat some xenophobic European mentality.

Initially, we worked with Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Monaco, Japan and Switzerland. From there, various blocs expressed their agreement with our position and interest in working together. We began to collaborate with the Latin American and Asian blocs most strongly.

It was a productive day of cooperation and revision. I was surprised that debate over strengths and weaknesses of working papers is existent but minimal. Most of the collaboration is done in unmoderated caucuses.

SMU goals

During lunch, after a very interesting learning experience in Model U.N. strategy in committee, I had the opportunity to engage in another sort of scintillating activity: a great conversation with an admirable person.

Katie and I had lunch together, and we talked a lot about SMU, what it has to offer, and the best ways to take advantage of that. Getting advice from an accomplished senior was so interesting and helpful, especially her help in prioritizing extra-curricular activities and classes. That conversation with Katie, like many others that I had with members of our Model UN team throughout the trip, really deepened my thinking about my academic and general college experience at SMU. It challenged me to chase after my dreams and to never forget the occasion that we have these years and at this school for success.

International criminal law

Since we only had one committee session today, the conference organized various talks and symposiums throughout the afternoon. Nicola, Katie, Professor Brown and I chose to attend the Symposium on International Criminal Law. Four speakers attended, and each was asked to either validate or negate a controversial statement about international law.

The first speaker, Hans Bevers, the legal prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, defended the statement “President Bashir of Sudan should be tried by the International Criminal Court regardless of political consequences.” The ICC only follows factual and judicial considerations. Political considerations belong to political entities.

Next, Michail Wladimiroff, an international criminal lawyer, asserted that theoretically the statement that “the guilt of the accused before an international tribunal is already presumed before the actual trial has started” is false. De jure, a person is innocent until proved guilty in a court of law. However, de facto, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are difficult to negate or to maintain innocence toward.

Following Mr. Wladimiroff was Greg Frederik Harhoff, a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He ardently defended the statement that “International Criminal Tribunals shorten the conflict reconciliation process” by establishing facts and establishing the guilt of the accused, thereby providing closure for victims and a path to justice and peace. Though rather idealistic, it was very hopeful to hear an actual judge from a criminal tribunal defend its worth and effectiveness.

I addressed a question to Mr. Harhoff, asking, “To what extent, if any, does the precedent of past decisions in international criminal tribunals have a role in international law or future criminal tribunals?” His answer was vague; yet, interesting.

Finally, a professor of international criminal law at Radboud University Nijmegan, Yeo Buruma, responded to the statement that “Terrorism should be primarily dealt with by international tribunals instead of national courts.”

The Symposium was very thought-provoking, and it was interesting to hear each speaker rhetorically defend his position. Furthermore, the questions posed exposed areas of international law and jurisprudence that I had no previous experience with. Finally, simply being in an auditorium with gentlemen who shaped the evolving face of international criminal law was a thrilling experience that was hard to wrap my mind around.

“Drinks with Delegates”

Without a doubt the most exciting part of the day was, nevertheless, “Drinks with Delegates.” Most delegations, upon registering for the conference, also entered a drawing where 100 people would be chosen to go to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and meet and chat with the “corps diplomatique of an official UN city.” Luckily, I was one of the 100 chosen to attend this event. And what an event it was!

After passing a rather stringent security into the Ministry, we entered a large conference room with various tables set up, each topped with at least 3 flags of different nations. The diplomats were instructed to stand next to the table with their flag displayed. The delegates would then know which tables to approach.

It was so overwhelming! I had butterflies in my stomach, as I prepared to enter the large hall. I was thrilled with the idea of meeting men and women of such influence in the world of international politics, a world that I cannot wait to enter!

I met diplomats from Suriname, Bulgaria, Hungary, Belgium, Mexico, The Netherlands, Morocco and much more. It was such a surreal experience to have conversation in French, English and Spanish about the current status of the international scene and various countries’ specific concerns. We also talked about the various positions available in the embassies throughout the world and the benefits and challenges to such a life.

In one such personal conversation, the ambassador from Mexico to Den Haag mentioned that he had worked in Washington, D.C., some years ago. At that moment, I remembered that my great uncle had worked in the Mexican embassy in DC some years ago as well. And, of course, lo and behold, Mr. Ambassador knew my uncle perfectly well. They had worked together in Washington. What a small world! I love coincidences like that that remind us that we are all somehow connected.

The atmosphere was personal and comfortable, with an undertone of understanding that what the men and women in that room do today, we look forward to doing in the future. It was almost a sort of camaraderie, with a great teamwork spirit.

Committee dinner

In that same spirit, I headed out to the next event of the evening: Committee Dinner. In my entire Model UN experience, I had never heard of Committee Dinners, but I was immediately struck with the ingenious idea. It can be difficult to form substantive friendships with the people in your committee because there is, often, no time to just talk. There are social events, but those do not necessarily promote deep conversation about one’s background. In such a diverse setting, this was an even more relevant idea.

I enjoyed a scintillating conversation with three girls from Germany and two from Belgium. It was so interesting to hear Europeans distinguish between the cultures of the EU nations. I enjoyed the typical Dutch food and the lively conversation.

Overall, this was an excellent day, replete with academic, cultural and social novelties. Much like every day of the trip, I felt, even as it was happening, that I was being enriched in so many ways!

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