After 15 weeks of studying the United Nations and skills to help them excel at a Model UN, 15 students from our town headed the Model UN Conference as delegates.!
The conference was held at another Peace Corps Volunteer’s site. It’s a small town, located in the beautiful Mid-Atlas Mountains. We chose this town because the volunteer’s counterparts were soooooo enthusiastic to host such an event. It’s probably one of the biggest things to happen in this town in a long time.
This small town also has a lot of smaller villages surrounding it, which means there are a lot of students that come here to go to high school (there usually aren’t high schools in villages), meaning they have pretty a big boarding facility for those students – enough to hold all 100+ of us coming to the conference. Since this conference was held during the winter break, the school was empty and the administration allowed us to use the classrooms, the kitchen, and the boarding facilities. So this is where we held our conference and where we slept and ate…at the high school. I assure you, this is totally normal for Morocco.
Now, for the actual conference itself. We had 7 committees; all of which addressed two topics each during the conference – which were as follows:
-ISIS, and how to combat it
-Improving economic equality for women
-Terrorist groups and the threat they pose to global security, special focus on ISIS
UN Human Rights Council
-Freedom of expression in electronic spaces
-Addressing police brutality across the world
UN High Committee on Refugees
-Crisis of Syrian Refugees as they Cross European Borders
-Fears in countries receiving refugees regarding Islamic extremism
-Right of refugee children to access education
-Gender equality in education/ need to improve girls’ access to education, especially in developing countries
Disarmament and International Security
-Limiting the dangers of nuclear proliferation around the world
-Illegal small arms trade
Special Political and Decolonization Committee
-The most recent Palestinian Intifada and the follow-up Human Rights Watch report condemning Israel’s actions as war crimes
-Situation of human rights in the shadow of the Syrian crisis
All students were given their country assignment, committee assignment, and the topics to be discussed before arriving to the conference. They also were required to write and submit position papers, prior to the conference.
Although I didn’t understand anything they were saying during the conference, I was totally blown away by the professionalism by these students in committee sessions. Not only did every one behave – they were prepared, informed; they worked together; they gave their speeches with confidence. When I think back at our students’ first practice speeches in class, it was amazing how much they improved. They took this so seriously.
We also had no idea how the dress code would go. We were all surprised the first day when we saw some of the boys come out with suits…and ties! Most of these participants don’t have a lot of money. Many had never been more than maybe 20 kilometers from their home before; this was a big deal for many. A really defining and touching moment was a line of boys in front of the dorms, on the first morning, and one of the male PCVs tying their ties, checking their buttons, etc. That look of confidence when, one by one, they were checked by the volunteer, ready to head to their classroom…it was precious.
While the main event was the committee sessions – they had to do something in the evenings. We had scheduled activities – like a culture night to talk about their towns and a talent show. And then the unscheduled activities – like impromptu Dance Parties! I swear, if there’s a musical instrument within a kilometer of Moroccans, they’ll find it and circles of singing and dancing will erupt!
We also had a Midnight Crisis meeting. Apparently, this is pretty common in US Model UNs?! It was meant to simulate an actual crisis event. A group of us woke up all the students at 3 a.m. and told them that there was an emergency meeting – they’ll find out more when they get into their groups. Because getting up in the middle of the night was bad enough – we made it a fun crisis: animals were revolting against the humans and our earth-destroying ways and were taking over the world! Despite the novelty of something different and a fun topic, I don’t think anyone had fun during this. Note the PJs and the blankets, hats and gloves, sour faces. When the committee chairs were reading the scenario, they had a hard time not laughing. And then to all the planners’ surprise, all the delegates took it completely seriously. They discussed, then drafted and passed their resolutions with amazing speed. And then just as quick to go back to sleep….teenagers.
I unfortunately missed the last day of the conference, which was the awards and the closing ceremonies, but many of my students won Best Delegate for their committees and Best Position Paper. I’m super proud of them; and trust me, they were glowing at this conference and still…they keep talking about how much fun it was!
Additionally, a photographer volunteered to document the conference and produce a short film, which can be found here: