Daily Archives: December 2, 2010

How Middle Schoolers Can (and are!) Changing the World!

On November 20th we hosted our annual Middle School Model United Nations conference at Northeastern University. This event was exciting for all of us because we had been preparing for months and finally our hard work paid off.  We had 250 bright-eyed and energetic middle school students from across the greater Boston area show up early Saturday morning, in order to represent over 50 different nations and debating topics such as the Illicit Drug Trade, Fishing, the Crisis in Haiti, Migrant Workers and Environmentally Displaced People.  Students represented their countries in 5 different committees: the Economic and Social Council, Food and Agriculture Organization, Security Council, Human Rights Council and General Assembly.

The opening ceremony featured a speech from the president of Northeastern’s Engineers without Borders chapter, Matt Walsh. His speech was utterly funny and enjoyable, particularly for the students. He spoke about his travels in South Africa and East Asia and he also gave light to Adam Sandler’s charitable side with a story about how Sandler bought four $200,000 cars for some of his costars in a recent film. The latter, Walsh stated, fazed him because he said with $200,000 Engineers without Borders could have dug 20 wells and provided clean water for over 8,000 people.

After the opening ceremony the students were promptly directed towards their respective committees, where they began an arduous debate session until lunch time. At 11:30, the Security Council got a very suitable guest speaker, Mr. Elie Lafortune who is currently a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Lafortune spoke to the delegates of the Security Council about the current crisis in Haiti and gave them a brief history lesson about Haiti’s unstable past. Soon after, the committees adjourned and the students headed off to a lunch of salad and pizza.

As soon as lunch ended, the committees went back in for a second session that consisted mostly of unmoderated caucuses in order to get a head start on their resolutions. The committees felt the pressure to get voting on resolutions done, but rose gallantly to the challenge.  The ECOSOC approved a resolution which called for enhanced surveillance on illicit drug traders as well as for more rehabilitation centers, while in the Security Council delegations came to agreement regarding the need for more financial aid to be distributed in order to provide water, medication, security and many other basic needs that the Haitian people need.

During the closing ceremonies, awards were given out for best delegations and best position papers in each committee.  Honorable mentions were given out for public speaking and negotiation. Though really, we wished we could have given awards to ALL of the students for their astute arguments and keen participation.  It was so rewarding to see how creative the students got in pursuing their assigned country’s best interests and in working towards a better world.

I know we were thoroughly impressed – 11 and 12 year olds expertly debating drugs, migrants and natural disaster relief is quite stunning!  This experience was thrilling for many of us interns because some of us had never staffed a Model UN Conference for this young of students before.  There is nothing quite like experiential based education, especially when it comes to complex global affairs.

If these students are coming up with viable solutions to the world’s most pressing issues now, imagine what is possible once they enter the global stage as politicians, community activists and diplomats!


PS.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Check out the photos below!

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Steps to a Mine-Free World

On August 1st 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in the making since February 2007, finally came into effect. The pact was officially created in February of 2010 when the countries of Moldova and Burkina Faso ratified the convention to complete the needed thirty ratifications. The international convention bans the production, use and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

The Convention requires, among other things, that signatory countries must not only disarm and destroy all existent cluster munitions, but also provide medical and psychological care for the victims of these weapons. They need to clearly mark and to their best attempts remove all mines from known areas where cluster munitions may have been distributed. In addition, they should fund risk education so civilians will know how to handle and keep their distance from the weapons.

Cluster bombs often hold up to hundreds of explosive submunitions that are intended to detonate upon impact. The bombs are typically fired from the ground or dropped by air and erupt to cover expansive areas sometimes as large as several football fields. However, cluster bombs are known to have a high initial failure rate so that the submunitions do not detonate immediately. This leaves them volatile threats for decades to come. Mines can remain active for up to 50 years and can be very difficult to clear. In addition they are not precision guided so there is no way to predict that they will stay in the strategic area that they were fired, often encroaching into civilian territory.

Landmines are especially dangerous for children, who may be too young to heed the posted warnings or who may curiously explore the fatal areas. Children are also less able to recover from the injuries from these submunitions because they are not yet fully developed.

Cluster bombs are intended for military purposes, yet according to UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) 98% of the victims are civilians. These weapons have killed over 10,000 civilians world wide, of which 40% are children.

Currently, 107 states have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, demonstrating the overwhelming support to solve the landmine issue and the success of multi-country collaboration. The participating countries and organizations have successfully illuminated the broader harm of these weapons beyond the use of military personnel.