By Leila Hassan1
On 8 January of this year, the Ferney-Voltaire International Model United Nations (FerMUN) held its fourth annual conference at the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in collaboration with WMO. This year’s conference included a special focus on climate change. Months of preparation led up to this three-day event – one of an estimated 400 Model UN conferences held annually worldwide – and some 550 students and 50 teachers from 30 schools and 12 countries participated.
Managing all of these well-groomed student delegates proved complicated, but despite the chaos the first day was a time for intense lobbying and the forming of alliances. Model UN conferences can follow different formats, but they all focus on diplomatic role-playing to give students an opportunity to explore how intergovernmental negotiations work. For this year’s FerMUN event, the students were assigned to nine committees:
Committee GA 1 on Climate and Water debated:
• How to secure coastal areas from severe storms and tsunamis and organize an efficient emergency communication system to inform threatened populations.
• The issue of the melting of the ice sheets in the Arctic Ocean and rising sea levels: consequences on ecosystems and on local human communities.
• Assessment of global water resources. The lack of a comprehensive assessment of global water supply and demand, the development of water redistribution systems for human consumption and irrigation.
Committee GA 2 on Climate and Health debated:
• The issue of the rise of waterborne diseases due to climate change.
• The effects of global warming on human health.
• The issues of water and ozone depletion leading to human health problems.
Committee GA 3 on Climate Change and Agriculture debated:
• New agricultural regions such as Greenland and Siberia: development of new crops in areas affected by climate change.
• The proposition to use run-off water by collecting rain water in cities.
• Increase of desertification with the loss of arable land.
Committee GA 4 on the Disarmament Committee debated:
• The impact of weapon development and war on the environment.
• Land claims in the Arctic: states and aboriginal people.
• National claims to the North West and North East Passages/International waterways.
The Special Committee for Politics and Decolonization debated:
• The threat of rogue nations or terrorist groups in possession of nuclear weapons.
• Climate change awareness raising and knowledge amongst young people.
The Human Rights Council debated:
• Whether climate refugees should be considered as a new category by the UNHRC?
• CCTV surveillance in cities.
• Surveillance of the global flow of information.
The Security Council debated:
• Conflict over water control in the Middle-East.
• The resolution of the conflict in Syria.
The G20 Economic Committee debated:
• The negative economic impacts of global warming.
• The development of efficient desalination technologies as a source of fresh water.
• The relocation of telecommunication infrastructures vulnerable to weather disasters.
The FerMUN 2014 Forum on Child Online Protection debated:
• The impact of developing standard processes for handling user generated content (social networks, mobile phones and interactive media policies).
• The impact of the development of e-financial transactions on youth online safety.
• The impact of online behavior on good digital citizens (gaming, hacking, illegal downloading).
• Issues pertaining to grooming and online bullying.
The United Nations Office in Geneva hosted the FerMUN 2014 opening ceremony. Conference Secretary-General Juliana Rademaker reminded the audience that “global warming is our issue: this challenge concerns us all, particularly the younger generation which builds tomorrow’s world.” She stated that the conference would be an eye-opener and would “make us think about concrete solutions to change our way of life.”
Each committee had an average of six resolutions on which to vote by the last day, when the General Assembly would meet! On the final day, controlling the length of debates on each resolution in the General Assembly proved challenging, but by 3:30 pm everyone was preparing for the closing ceremony. ITU Director General Hamadoun Touré joined the ceremony by Skype from his home in Mali, and the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, sent a video message. Mr.
Alhendawi told the audience, “We always have a Plan B, but we don’t have a Planet B.” FerMUN delegates were excited and thrilled to hear that selected resolutions from their debates would be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by Dr Touré.
Today’s youths are tomorrow’s leaders. We have to start taking issues into our own hands and, as Dr Touré said, “just go and do it.”
Engaging Youth on Global Climate Issues – Model UN
Conference hosted by ITU, 8 - 10 January 2014. - ©ITU/J.M. Planche