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.

Model U.N. in photos

See a slideshow of the SMU team’s trip to the Netherlands.

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A great end to a great trip

An update from Kathleen, an international studies major who served on the Model U.N. Disarmament and Security Committee:

Today was our final day in The Netherlands, and I am definitely not ready to leave. I had a fantastic day, though … we got to go to the Peace Palace as well as see the World Peace Flame, the ICC and the Queen’s Palace.

It is just inspiring being in the presence of all of these things. Spending time in a place where people are changing the world every day is incredible.

I also finally got my ballet fix. As someone who dances for hours every day, I was definitely going through withdrawal, and tonight a fellow ballet lover and I got to see a local company performing some local choreography. This was the perfect end to an absolutely awesome week. The choreography was innovative, and it was interesting to see how contemporary works are developing in other countries.

As we were packing up before our final night out in The Hague, we reminisced about this and past conferences.

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Closing ceremonies

An update from Kathleen, an international studies major who served on the Model U.N. Disarmament and Security Committee:

Kathleen1.JPG Today was the final official conference day. We went to have falafel for lunch, which was AMAZING, and inspired us to plan a falafel-making experiment as soon as we return to Dallas!Just another reason I could call this city home – politics, law and falafel.

The closing ceremonies were kind of sad; as it came to me that this was my last MUN conference. I realized that I would be graduating and my long-lived MUN career was coming to an end.

Overall the quality of the conference was fantastic. I had an amazing time and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to come here!

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An exercise in compromise

candid.jpgAn update from Katie, a Spanish major who served on the Model U.N. Legal Committee:

On Day Four, the delegates of the legal committee continued to debate a resolution about criminal accountability of UN officials on peacekeeping missions abroad. Today I spent most of my committee time in the back of the auditorium for unmoderated caucusing and tried to help merge existing blocs of nations into one larger coalition.

Whereas the beginning of the week went by at a fairly slow pace (discussing ideas and concerns of particular countries), today blocs scrambled to merge ideas with other groups so as to create one larger draft resolution for all delegates to consider.

Our group merged with Asian/EU nations, but unfortunately we lost many of the creative and innovative policy details specific to our coalition in the process of negotiation and accommodation. Consequently, the new resolution that was created looked strikingly similar to a resolution created by the actual UN in 2006.

Though I was disappointed at first, many bloc members from my original coalition fought to incorporate some of our inventive policies that address jurisdictional gaps and encourage justice-promoting policies in host nations.

The resulting product was not quite what we wanted, but I think the process was instructive. Like the real UN, our actions are constrained by the policy goals of a number of countries, and enacting moderate, incremental changes to the legal structure of the UN is a realistic objective. The solution is imperfect, but it is a decisive action that promotes a stronger international legal framework.

By the end of the morning, our working resolution, which now had the support of assorted Latin American, African, and Asian states, was up against two other major blocs. In the end, our resolution was tabled, probably because it was submitted later than the other two and we had little time for debating any of the resolutions, let alone the last to come up in moderate caucus.

Again, this is likely a more realistic simulation of how policies are passed in UN bodies. Ideally, groups would have ample time to craft comprehensive resolutions that address concerns more fully. Practically speaking, other factors come into play – relative power of nations, time constraints, public policy disputes, tiredness after debating an issue for so long, and the eventual desire for any kind of resolution that provides a satisfactory, if not exemplary, solution to an international issue.

Katie.jpegAfternoon in Amsterdam

After committee, we ventured to Amsterdam with the other delegates. Everyone dressed in orange to commemorate Queen’s Day (even though it’s actually not for another month); needless to say, the image of a couple thousand tourists in orange proved quite amusing.

Because we spent Saturday in Amsterdam visiting cultural sites and museums, we spent the (rainy) afternoon meandering around town. Initially, we boarded a boat that snaked through the city’s canals and let us tour the major sections of the city on water and observe classic Dutch architecture.

Although Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is home to various architectural influences, it still retains the charm of small Dutch cities. The winding waterways, flowerbeds and greenbelts, and red roof buildings and narrow buildings from the 17th-century co-exist with Renaissance and Gothic-inspired architecture, and modern influences and design.

We got off the boat at the city center and decided to spend the afternoon walking the main streets, doing a bit of window shopping and people watching, and chatting in a Dutch cafe while sampling local specialties (pancakes and baked goods). This excursion provided us the opportunity to unwind in typical Dutch fashion by sitting with locals and drinking coffee. People go to read, write, talk with friends – similar to the US tradition, but here the atmosphere is more relaxed and people spend hours relaxing, working, or escaping the rain and chilly weather.

Club night

Later we visited the flower market as we made our way to Melkweg (Milky Way), the location of the WorldMUN club/dance night. Melkweg is a Dutch cultural center run by a nonprofit organization that houses various spaces for film, theater, and music. This venue served as the location of our dance, but in a section directly next door, Peter, Bjorn and John (a famous Swedish band) were giving a concert.

Nightlife in Europe is quite different than the typical SMU scene. More techno is played, and the DJs were careful to play a lot of international music to cater to the diverse audience. Also the delegates, though they are formal and serious in committee, are quite a lively group after hours and not at all inhibited when it comes to moving on the dance floor. Tonight’s social event was also a great way to solidify the alliances and bonds made with different delegates so that we can still influence the vote to take place in the morning, which is quickly approaching …

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Grocery shopping in the Netherlands

An update from Jessica, an international studies major who served on the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee:

Today we all had to gear up for another full day of committee sessions. We have been pretty creative with our food and lunches, trying to save money by packing lunches from things we get from the market down the street.

Our efforts are complicated by the fact that our hotel rooms are sans refrigerators and the fact we are never quite sure what we are buying from the store since we can’t read Dutch. This has resulted in some yummy finds as well as some questionable decisions.

My room – Chey, Mahan, and I – is currently living off of banana-nutella sandwiches, non-refrigerated yogurt that is delicious, soy chocolate milk, which is equally delicious, cheese and crackers, fruit, and our most delicious find (thank you, Mahooney) – WAFFLES. Mahan found these amazing sugar waffles at the grocery store that will definitely be in my top five things I will miss from Holland.

Things we have learned from our Dutch grocery shopping – you cannot, in fact, leave salami on the windowsill, regardless of the outside temperature, if your room becomes a sauna in the afternoon when the sun shines in. Also, bananas in the Netherlands are kind of exotic – I gather this from how the price is at least triple what it is in the States. Other food discoveries: The Turkish pizzas from the store across the street are cheap, but there is a good chance they will upset your stomach.

Chinese food is even more questionable. A few of us ventured into Chinatown and were very excited we found a decent-looking restaurant. I was so hungry when I started eating my rice and chicken with peanut sauce – it tasted delicious. Only when I came out of starving mode did I begin to realize that our food was actually kind of gross. The Dutch do know how to do street fries, though. As well as street waffles, WHICH HAVE CARAMEL INSIDE. Very, very yummy.

Cheyenne1.JPG
Busy in committee

Today our committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) was very busy. We had about seven or eight working papers on the floor, and everyone was busy trying to combine their papers and begin working on draft resolutions.

Adi and I were busy making sure our voice (the Holy See’s) was heard and our ideas were being included. The cool thing about being the voice of the Vatican is that everyone seems to want to hear what we have to say. I was worried in the beginning that we would feel irrelevant since we were representing a body with observer status only, but we have been very active and have expressed our opinions to almost everyone in our committee.

Our chair even made a comment to Adi about how impressed they were about how involved we were in our committee. It’s nice to know the chair noticed our efforts! Unfortunately I don’t think we will get to our second topic regarding human rights in Tibet. Since I am really interested in that topic I was a little bummed we wouldn’t get to it, but our current topic has been really interesting as well.

Delegate dinner!

After committee sessions today we had our group SMU dinner at an Indonesian restaurant close to our hotel. It was nice getting to eat with everyone and have a really delicious meal. You can only have PB&J for so long. We can definitely put this restaurant on our list of good food experiences :)

Tomorrow I am looking forward to spending the afternoon and evening in Amsterdam.

Nicola1.JPGWe had a really good time when we went last Saturday seeing the Anne Frank museum and the Van Gogh museum. I love how Amsterdam is dominated by pedestrians and bikers – it makes walking around an adventure in itself. JAMsterdam, here we come!

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Seeking solutions for victims of terror attacks

Mahan.jpg An update from Mahan, an international studies major who served on the Model U.N. Disarmament and Security Committee:

Wednesday was another full day of committee session. Everyone is beginning to submit their draft resolutions and editions of working papers for review before they submit them as draft resolutions.

So far we have been caucusing with the Latin American block, but Argentina submitted a very unimpressive working paper that did not include any points we made during previous sessions. However, Bolivia was working with some others, including Peru, and produced a comprehensive working paper that the Holy See could agree with.

The whole time so far we have been pushing for clauses and measures that address victims’ post-terrorist attack guidance and counseling. The Holy See firmly believes that in order to break the cycle of violence, hatred, and resentment, the victims must be rehabilitated, supported (financially and spiritually), and counseled. Another main point we fought for was reintegration of the separatist group back into society with political representation through elections.

The Arab League surprisingly was very gung-ho about reintegration, which was good for the Holy See. Turkey was against this in the draft resolution we were working on with Canada, so that took a while to hammer out. The African block put out a draft resolution that included DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration), which was also good for the Holy See.

We were fortunate enough to handwrite a few clauses about victim counseling in two different draft resolutions, which was a huge deal. It was great how much speaking power we had in caucuses. Literally, we would say, “The Holy See has a statement,” and the whole group would stop and listen. Overall it was a good day of committee.

Lessons on nuclear weapons

The in-conference visit was absolutely fantastic! Ambassador Richard W. Butler came to DISEC to speak about non-proliferation. He had four main points:

1. As long as nukes exist, they will be used.
2. Any use of them would be catastrophic.
3. As long as nukes exist, they will proliferate.
4. Nukes are unusable (mutually assured destruction).

His main points to eliminate nukes were:

1. International control over nuke test cycle.
2. No weapons-grade material to be made ever again.
3. Dismantle all weapons
4. Renew START 1 and bring limits down by 50%.

He has helped to establish globalzero.org, which advocates a plan for a global agreement by 2010 to eliminate all nukes and create a legal instrument for implementation. He was a wonderfully brilliant man who was very down to earth. He spoke freely about the importance of ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program remains civil, and said that it is ridiculous that the international community turns a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear program.

Salsa night in The Hague

The day went very well. Although the evening’s social event, Cabaret night, seemed like a good idea, it turned out to be a bit of a flop. It was very high school dance-ish. So a few of us had a wander around The Hague and found a bar that had a weekly Salsa night. We had a great time salsa dancing and watching the locals dance as well.

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Building alliances

An update from Cheyenne, a public policy major who served on the Model U.N. Special Political Committee:

I wake up tired. Tram it to committee. Glad we have already set the agenda so today we can begin debate. Today is only a half day of committee, so just have the morning to attempt to change the world.

Finding allies in committee

In our committee, country blocks start to form. Nicola and I had decided we would not align ourselves completely with one block, but work closely with the EU block and Latin American block, as this is what the Vatican tends to do in real life. We start to send letters to countries with large Catholic populations.

I think other delegates are surprised the Holy See is actually represented in the UN, and present at WMUN. Some delegates even ask us what the Holy See stands for. We start to build alliances with the smaller countries first because honestly, these delegates are less neurotic and more friendly. I’m sure real diplomats work this way!

The morning session goes by quickly. We get on the speaker list, but so does the entire committee, so we know the likelihood of us actually getting our chance to speak via speaker’s list is slim. Our best bet is getting recognized in an un-moderated caucus. This is where physical strength comes in. We practice extending our arms in record time to make sure our placard is first in the air.

Afternoon in The Hague

We didn’t make it on the list to any of the criminal court visits this week, and the In-Conference activities planned for the day don’t really consist of things I am interested in. Jessica and I go back to the hotel to have lunch. Another yummy pb&j, a granola bar, chocolate milk and some cashews. After lunch Jessica and I take advantage of the afternoon and walk around the city. We enjoy all the little shops, buy some postcards for friends, and idolize the European style and furniture design. The city has a lot of character to it, and bicycles everywhere! I’m still surprised how ethnically diverse it is. I keep comparing it to Copenhagen, except Copenhagen is defiantly not this diverse.

We come back to the Ibis and freshen up before dinner. Tonight each committee is having a special dinner. I part ways with Jessica, and Nicola and I walk to the SPECPOL restaurant, Rootz, very close to our hotel. Rootz is in an old building that looks like a tavern. We get lucky and they forget to ask us for the 12.5 Euro, so we end up eating for free. However, we are more excited about the fact that Rootz is set up buffet style. Unlimited food! So long pb&j!

There are only a few bar tables set up and we grab one quickly. We meet two girls from Germany who are representing Vietnam and they sit with us. Nicola and I load our plates. Since we have only been in committee for a day and a half, it is still hard to recognize everyone. We do spot one guy we sat next to the first day and he joins our group. Nicola meets a really fun girl, Gaby, and she joins us as well. We all end up talking about our home countries and what we like the most about our countries.

Then the topic turns to the number of languages we all know. Nicola and I sit there feeling lame, being the Americans who only know English. Most of the others at the table know at least three languages, one guy even knows seven.

Rocking our world

Tonight is the social event “Rock Your WorldMUN.” We didn’t have the orange party package bands that permitted us to enter all the social events, but those sitting with us convinced us we should try and just use our WorldMUN ID badges to get it. We figured the worst they can do is say no. It’s worth a shot.

The event is at Paard van Troje, or the Trojan Horse. It’s in walking distance to our hotel. Apparently it’s a famous rock venue for all of the Netherlands. We get in with success. An all-girl rock band is playing on stage when we walk in. They are actually pretty good. The next band to play is an all-guy rock band. I was hoping the girl-power music would last all night. In the next room there was a dj playing European techno music. Nicola, Gaby and I have a great time dancing till the early morning. A full day of committee awaits tomorrow!

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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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At work on free trade

Edwin.jpgAn update from Edwin, an economics major who served on the Model U.N. World Trade Organization Committee:

Edwin1.JPGOur first day in committee, we began quickly with our business. I was very excited to hear other people’s perspectives on the topics of free trade, even if they completely differed from mine. We ended up setting the topic to “Topic B: Barriers to Free Trade.”

Agriculture subsidies were the main topic of the day. Venezuela took a hard-line stance and declared that there would be no trade with the U.S. or E.U. if the subsidies were not eliminated or reduced. Moderated caucus after unmoderated caucus went back and forth over subsidies and their importance in free trade as well as how they affect developing nations.

Working papers 1, 2, 3

After lunch we received our first working paper. The main points, headed by Indonesia, were keeping some barriers for Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) in order to insulate themselves from the current economic crisis, and trading off tariff reductions for direct investment in infrastructure and aid.

Working paper 1.2 was really vague and poorly written. It called for nations to adhere to World Trade Organization (WTO) standards, give more time to developing nations and flexibility, as well as eliminate the excuse of the current global economic crisis as a crutch for barriers. My objections to this paper are that it doesn’t address the specifics necessary to facilitate free trade. Also, who will carry out sanctions if countries don’t adhere to the WTO?

Working paper 1.3 was the best developed of all three. It was written by the U.S., U.K., Malta, Czech Rep., France and Sweden. It called for a $15 billion reduction in subsidies for greater access to markets in LDC’s. The E.U. promised an 80% reduction in farm subsidies and 60% reduction in tariffs as well as a continuation of the Doha Rounds.

Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS) was mentioned, and it was an issue we as the Holy See pressed for so that developing countries would not be jeopardized or penalized by intellectual property rights adherences.

The day ended there, and working paper 1.4 and 1.5 would be introduced the next day. That night nothing much went on – I pretty much found some dinner and passed out from being tired.

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Voice of the Vatican

Andres.jpgAn update from Andres, a senior geology and finance major who served on the Model U.N. World Trade Organization Committee:

Andres1.JPGToday was finally it. The first day of the 2009 Harvard WorldMun Conference. Everyone in our group got up early, and donning our business attire, we joined the 2,500 other students from all over the world to make it to our committee rooms by 8 a.m. for roll call.

On the tram ride over to the conference hall, I remember seeing WorldMun Conference delegates by the hundreds. All you had to do was look at them – the bright orange conference bags, the nametags, the look on their faces that they might have stayed too long at last night’s social event (despite the fact that it was soo worth it). The look said it all – I am a Model United Nations Delegate.

Under any normal circumstances, people tell you their names first, then where they are from, then where they go to school. But this was WorldMun, and the icebreaking question was, “What country are you representing?”

I am not sure what my fellow delegates were expecting as a response, but I quickly came to the conclusion that: the Vatican, the Holy See, the Papal States and/or Heaven, totally came out of left field. Once things began to click, this would then be followed by, “Southern METHODIST University … are you even Catholic?” By this point, I would answer, “Yes and yes,” at which point the people would just smile and accept this as a strange coincidence.

Representing the Vatican in committee and beyond

Edwin and I were the two SMU delegates in the World Trade Organization at the conference. Once committee began, the speaker’s list was up, and we somehow managed to make it up there right off the bat and to put in the Papal point of view on the issues at hand. The first being, “Barriers to Free Trade” and the second being, “Regional Trade Agreements and Globalization.”

Things went smoothly in committee that day, and we would spend most of the day discussing which topic would be discussed, which, after a long-fought argument, finally ended up being “Barriers to Free Trade.”

Representing the Vatican was a challenge – time in committee was almost too easy, as the Holy See had chosen the role of an “Observer state” and forsaken its right to vote, in a wish to be non-political. However, outside of the committee room it was an almost constant challenge.

I say this because I would learn that the Vatican is very misunderstood, and I would even go as far to say that in general, most people are very ignorant about what Catholics and Catholicism are all about. This was made even more difficult by the Pope’s recent visit to Angola and the very unpopular message that he delivered there.

So even though I never would have imagined it, the first day of committee would set the precedent for the conference of being more about my standing up for my Church outside of committee than defending its positions in committee.

Party at the Global Village

However, the day didn’t end with just a committee session. The Harvard kids putting on the conference are pretty bright, and they balanced the work with the play, and each night there would be a social event to get to hang out with people from the conference, and also get to experience a little Netherlands nightlife.

As today was the first real day of the conference, they wanted to start off with a strong social event that would really serve as an icebreaker for all 2,500 students attending the conference. Tonight’s event was called Global Village, and it was an opportunity for everyone to represent their countries.

Many delegations had booths or tables at which you could try a typical food or beverage of that country, and just get to meet some people from all over. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly because the level of excitement was just off the charts. The Mexicans would start singing … only to have the Panamanians sing louder. Then the Greeks would try to sing louder, but then the Panamanians would show them what was what.

Meanwhile, the Indians were painting henna all over people, the Aussies were eating all of their own food, and then the Koreans stared offering canned cockroaches … which, smell and taste just as pleasant as it sounds.

All in all, it was just three stories of food, music, and an international good time.

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