Blog Archives

Motion to Reflect: 2012 Model UN Summer Institute Session 1 Recap

As temperatures rose in New England last week, 44 middle and high school students convened in the air conditioned classrooms of the Harvard Business School for a week of intensive global diplomacy training at the UNA-GB’s Model United Nations Summer Institute.  These budding global leaders chose to trade in traditional camp activities like archery, swimming and horse-back riding in order to debate, negotiate, and create resolutions to the world’s most pressing issues, honing the skills they will need as global citizens and leaders in the 21st century.

The students kicked off the week with ice breakers and activities geared towards understanding the UN and learning about the complexities of human rights law.  These activities taught the students effective debate skills, such as listening to each other and learning to respect and draw attention from the other delegates during the simulations. Throughout the week, students were introduced to international relations and critical 21st century skills like negotiation, public speaking and problem-solving through the lens of Model United Nations curriculum and simulations focused on terrorism and Human Rights. They had the unique opportunity to learn about the UN’s parliamentary procedure, formal debate vocabulary and how to complete high-level research through actual simulated debate and role play.

For the full simulation on Friday, the students teamed up in pairs to represent a UN member state in the General Assembly, allowing them the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of UN delegates and present their country’s position on conflict diamonds.  This involved significant group work and alliance building among countries in order to come up with possible solutions. These solutions were translated into UN resolutions that were then debated and voted on by all countries. 

In order to create a resolution, the students had to recognize and understand the complexity of each global issue and they had to take into account the various economic and political implications a resolution would have on different countries. They also had to reach a compromise amid widely conflicting country interests, from Zimbabwe to the UK to China.

The dedication, seriousness and excitement exhibited by the students throughout the week was impressive and inspiring to all staff and adults in attendance.  It was a real treat to see how realistic and impressive the debates were, and how the youth, no matter their age, were cooperative, motivated and committed to crafting feasible resolutions to modern day global challenges of terrorism and conflict diamonds.

We want to thank all of these future global leaders for giving up a week of their summer vacation to tackle the world’s pressing global challenges and to learn critical 21st century skills, all while having fun and building valuable friendships.  We hope to see some familiar faces next summer and at the Model UN programs during the year!

Stay tuned for student testimonies and additional feedback from the second session, to be held from July 9-July 13, serving 45 more young global advocates!

– Julia Kuperminc and Catherine Schrage

United Nations Day 2011: In Everyone’s Interest

Each year on October 24 we honor the the day in 1945 when the United Nations Charter came into effect. Each UN Day, throughout the globe, the efforts of the United Nations are recognized and celebrated.

This year, marking the 66th anniversary of the UN, the theme for UN Day is: “UN Day: In Everyone’s Interest.” The United Nations delivers everything from: peace and democracy with over 120,000 troops and personnel deployed to 15 peacekeeping missions; as well as, promoting human rights; to building economic prosperity; and, advancing global health.

Here at UNA-GB we too celebrate this special day each year. This year, beginning on Monday of next week we have several events you can attend to show your support for the important global organization. On October 24, UNA-GB will hold a UN Day Celebration and Model UN Simulation at the Massachusetts State House.  The event will begin with UNA-GB raising the UN Flag at Boston City Hall  to fly over Boston for the week and will read the City of Boston’s UN Day Proclamation, signed by Mayor Menino. Next, 100 Boston area middle and high school students and additional guests will head over to the Massachusetts State House for a Model UN simulation.  The students will step into ambassadors’ shoes from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, China and Russia to debate the pervasive problem of gender inequality globally, and answer the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?
Carol Fulp, 2011 Massachusetts UN Day Chair; SVP of Brand Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility, John Hancock Financial; and US Representative to the 65th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (appointed by President Obama in Fall 2010) will give opening remarks at the Simulation and Governor Deval Patrick has been invited to read his 2011 UN Day Massachusetts proclamation.

You can also show your support on the 24th by heading into one of the award winning local bakery Sweet Cupcakes and purchase a specially made UN Day cupcake at one of Sweet’s four locations around Boston: Back Bay, 49 Massachusetts Ave; 225 Newbury Street; Harvard Square: Zero Brattle Street; Downtown: 11 School Street. Cupcakes will also be provided to students at the Model UN simulation!

Occurring simultaneously on the 24th, cities and towns throughout Massachusetts from Westwood to Yarmouth will be submitting proclamations supporting the UN. Proclamations range in content but all provide resounding support for the mission and work of the UN globally and the work UNA-GB is doing locally in the community.

Ending the week we will be holding our annual UN Day Luncheon on Friday, October 28 which gathers leaders from the business, policy, and academic communities in the Greater Boston area for an engaging dialogue on world affairs and an opportunity to network with other globally conscious individuals and organizations. This year our keynote speaker will be Gillian Sorensen, Senior Adviser at the United Nations Foundation and former Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations.  Sorensen has distinguished career at the UN serving two Secretaries-General, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. During her service Sorensen was responsible for 4,000 non-governmental organizations, and is also an ardent advocate to the US/UN relationship. Sorensen’s remarks will focus on “The UN and You: Global Citizenship in the 21st Century”.

This year at the Luncheon we will also be introducing our first-ever Global Corporate Citizenship honor roll recognizing the more than 30 Massachusetts-based companies who have signed on to key business principles through the UN Global Compact. We believe it is important to highlight the leaders in our community making a difference around sustainable development and corporate citizenship. Funds raised through ticket sales and sponsorships at the Luncheon directly support UNA-GB’s community events and class-room based programs, which serves more than 5,000 participants annually in greater Boston. This years sponsors include: Clark University Graduate School of Management; British School of Boston; GGA Software Services, LLC; New England College of Business and Finance; Ocean Spray; and our 2011-2012 Education Program sponsor National Grid.

Our Campus Ambassadors will also be celebrating UN Day at their respective universities throughout the month. At Northeastern University there is a two week celebration with events, starting already this past week including a movie screening of “The Whistleblower,” on Sunday, October 16 followed by a discussion of the importance of speaking up in difficult situations and possible resulting reforms.  At the beginning of this week, there will be a screening of “Seeds of Peace,” which will kick off a week of various programs including panel discussions with the film maker. Positive Foundations at Brandeis University will be hosting a panel discussion on the importance of literacy and education in developing countries. Other universities such as Boston College, Tufts University and Suffolk University will also be holding celebratory events.

It’s not too late to get involved in many of our UN Day events! You can still purchase tickets to our UN Day Luncheon on the 28th and join us for the UN flag raising and mini-simulation on the 24th!

Help us celebrate 66 years of peace, justice and prosperity with the UN and the importance of thinking globally and acting locally!

-UNA-GB staff

Join UNA-GB’s 66 for 66 Campaign

As world leaders prepare to gather today for the United Nations General Assembly’s opening session, here at UNA-GB a brand new 66 for 66 Campaign has been launched.  In connection with the opening of the 66th session of the General Assembly and in honor of the 66th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, our campaign focuses on providing 66 Boston-area high school students the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of diplomats at the annual UN Day Model UN Simulation at the Massachusetts State House on October 24.

“Now more than ever we need to invest in and nurture the next generation of global leaders” says Jennifer Irizarry, Education Director at UNA-GB.  “Unfortunately, too many urban students do not have access to the life-changing resources offered through Model UN, so this campaign allows us to offer more students an opportunity to broaden their perspective, engage in international issues, and build skills that will be critical for college and workplace success.”

UNA-GB’s Model UN program is a college-preparatory program that exposes public school students to the work of the United Nations, the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and topics such as international economics, development and sustainability, while building leadership and negotiation skills, critical reading and writing ability, and public speaking prowess.

It only costs $50 to support one student’s participation in a Model UN, so the 66 for 66 Campaign’s total goal is to raise $3,300 to serve 66 students.  The campaign will run up through Monday, October 24, when dozens of Boston-area public school students will come together at the Massachusetts State House in honor of the 66th anniversary of the UN to solve a critical issue in international development. Students representing diverse nations such as Afghanistan, Paraguay, and South Africa will participate in a Model UN simulation to debate solutions to gender inequality and answer the question: Why do global inequalities for women in education and employment persist and what can be done about it?

Want to learn more about and to support the 66 for 66 Campaign? Visit http://ow.ly/6sdrB!  And invite your friends and family to join you today in investing in the global leaders of tomorrow!

-UNA-GB Education

A Reform For The World

Check out this week’s blog post from our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series. This week, learn about the modernization of international relations through history and reform of the UN Security Council in preparation for a MUN simulation coming up on UN Day . Also, check out our last five blog posts from the series: “Creating A Road To Democracy”, “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure” and “A Necessary Priority”.

If there is one thing that international relations experts agree on unanimously, it is that the modern international system has changed drastically since its origins in the aftermath of World War II. The shadow of fascism no longer hangs over Europe and Asia; the “Iron Curtain” has been pulled back; and, perhaps most importantly, large developing countries are beginning to emerge on the “world stage”. Despite these major shifts in world politics in the past half-century, much of the international system’s critical infrastructure remains exactly as it has always been. Recently, calls for reform have grown louder as rising powers are eager to take to the helm of the international system. In particular, many nations are calling for reform of the UN Security Council to better reflect the current dynamics of world politics.


The Charter of the United Nations charges the Security Council – the most powerful and important organ of the UN – with “the maintenance of international peace and security”. The founders of the UN gave five victors of World War II – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – permanent seats on the Council with the power to veto any of the Council’s resolutions. The General Assembly (GA) of the UN elects the remaining 10 non-permanent members on the Council (none of whom holds veto power) for two-year terms. Although frequently criticized, this structure has barely changed since the founding of the UN, with the notable exception of an expansion of the Council from 11 to 15 members in 1965.

Number of resolutions vetoed by each of the five permanent members of the Security Council between 1946 and 2007.

The most controversial characteristic of the Security Council is the “veto power” afforded to the five “permanent members” (aka. the “P-5”). Initially developed as an incentive to develop consensus and to maintain the absolute sovereignty of the world’s leading powers, the veto is sometimes criticized as a relic of a bygone era and an impediment to the Council’s effectiveness. Notably, the veto power effectively prevents the Security Council from resolving conflicts between its permanent members. For example, during the Cold War, the Security Council held a much less important role in maintaining international peace and security than it does today due to the competing vetoes of the United States and the Soviet Union. More recently, the veto power prevented the Security Council from addressing the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Some also argue that countries abuse their veto power for political gain. For example, China sometimes vetoes resolutions that send aid to nations that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation. While criticism of the veto power is widespread, it is unlikely to disappear any time soon, as its elimination would require the approval of the very nations that possess it.

A more likely scenario for Security Council reform would be further expansion of its membership. Many criticize the fact that the Council has two permanent European members (UK & France), yet no permanent members from Africa, Latin America, or South Asia/Middle East. While most nations agree that a larger Council would be more representative of the international community, there is little consensus on how to expand or who would receive the new seats. One proposal would expand the number of permanent members but not the veto power. New permanent seats could go to resurgent and/or emergent world powers such as Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria or Mexico. Other proposals involve expanding the number of non-permanent seats, or some combination of the two. However, as the current permanent members must approve any reforms, there are many roadblocks to these proposals. Today, we know more about which nations the “P-5” would refuse to allow permanent seats than we do about which nations they could support. For example, China fiercely opposes a permanent seat for rival Japan and all permanent members fear diluting their significant clout on the Council. However, US President Barack Obama has notably endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Council. Although potential expansion of the Council appears to be gaining steam, it remains to be seen if the international community can overcome the necessary challenges.

Reform of the Security Council appears necessary and inevitable in order for the international system to retain its legitimacy and successfully prevent conflict. However, many critics argue that reform would make the Council more representative, but not more effective. For now, the dominant viewpoint is that emerging and resurgent powers must mature before they can take to the helm of maintaining international peace and security.

However reform unfolds, this issue is clearly among the most complex debates taking place at the UN today! We invite you to debate the issue with us at this year’s United Nations Day celebrations on October 24, 2011!

– Nicholas Blake, Education Intern

A Day as a Refugee: Middle School Simulation

Today, more than 30 million people around the world have been displaced due to war and violence, making nearly 10 million children refugees. As previously blogged about, countries facing an inordinate amount of displaced persons today include Somalia, Colombia, Palestine, Haiti, and Iraq.

On Monday, April 11th, the Education Department of UNA-GB guided a group of participating middle school students from the Greater Boston area through the “Torn from Home: My Life as a Refugee” exhibit at the Boston Children’s Museum. The special event was hosted in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. The traveling exhibition provided an interactive second-hand look at the plight of refugees, particularly the children supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The 6th and 7th grade students from Josiah Quincy Upper School came highly prepared for the day’s simulation – when Rachel Farkas, the Asia Program Associate at Boston Children’s Museum,  sat down to give a brief introduction of the exhibition, they enthusiastically differentiated between refugees, evacuees, and environmentally displaced people!

To simulate the camp experience, the students were divided into 4 smaller groups: registration, medical, education and home. Through a series of inspiring hands on activities and guided questions from UNA-GB staff, students were able to address a myriad of complicated issues afflicting refugees. Upon ‘registration’, the students were issued individual identification bracelets and compared the food rations of a camp with their diets. In the medical center, they examined malnutrition, disease prevention, water and sanitation. While crammed into a tent, students discussed “What is home?” and “What does home mean to you?”. After exploring the exhibition, they gathered on the benches and mats of the minimalist school area to discuss the opportunities education presents to children in refugee camps and to share what each group had learned from the exhibit.

That afternoon, the students represented different countries associated with the UNHCR. They used their newfound knowledge from the exhibit to fuel a debate of the international issue of Environmentally Displaced People. The success of the day was evident due to the energetic debate amongst the students and the variety of resolutions drafted. To grasp the impact of Model UN simulation, read or watch personal feedback from the students themselves.

Malden District Model UN Simulation Success!!

“Do you know what it’s like to be dying of thirst?”

This was the opening line of the seventh grade delegates representing Turkey at the Malden District Middle School Model UN Simulation held last Monday December 13, 2010.

After preparing for ten class periods and participating in in-school simulations in four Malden middle schools, the star negotiators, public-speakers, and future leaders were chosen to represent their school at a district wide simulation. Students from Ferryway, Salemwood, Linden, and Beebe Middle Schools in Malden descended on the Malden senior center to debate, negotiate, and propose solutions to the global issue of water scarcity.

During the debate, the delegates brought to the floor many issues connected to water scarcity, including health concerns, gender inequality, and international debt forgiveness. The delegate from Egypt suggested that the developed world forgive 1.5% of the global debt owed to them by the developing world so those funds could go to water projects, such as building wells and irrigation systems. The delegate from France offered to share engineers and technology to the developing world to help build national water infrastructure. And many delegates were appalled that women and children were missing out on an education because they had to walk several miles every morning just to fill one jerry can with water.

After having only ten class periods and one simulation to prepare, these Malden Middle School Students were proposing solutions that would provide foreign aid, send technology experts, and bring medical supplies to the developing world, who suffers the most from water scarcity. The Malden Middle School students did an outstanding job of working to fix a major global issue, water scarcity, in just two and a half hours.