17 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference to launch global model United Nations conference

The United Nations Department of Public Information would convene its first annual Global Model United Nations student conference next August, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, announced today.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference to launch the conference, he said the annual global conference would be “the model of the Model United Nations”, of which more than 400 known programmes were known to exist.  It was driven by the worldwide popularity of Model United Nations programmes, where secondary school or university students simulated events at the world body by playing the role of diplomats.

He said his own interest in the Organization had begun with his participation at a Model United Nations conference in Kyoto, Japan, 40 years ago.  Encouraging such conferences was a way to engage the world’s youth in the Organization’s causes.  “Knowing that we have about half of the world’s population under 25, we have got to enhance our partnership and cooperation with those millions of young people.  They are the future leaders of their countries.”

Accompanying the Under-Secretary-General were Gillian Sorensen, former Assistant Secretary-General responsible for external relations and currently a senior adviser at the United Nations Foundation; Anthony Torbay, a former Model United Nations delegate; Eric Falt, Director of the Outreach Division in the Department of Public Information; and Pera Wells, Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

Ms. Sorensen said she had become the “biggest supporter, booster and advocate of the Model United Nations experience” after speaking to numerous Model United Nations programmes around the country and the world.  Because their formats varied immensely, however, it would be helpful “to have some coherence in terms of form”.

The Global Model United Nations student conference, as organized by the Department, was a chance to put forward the standard for such programmes, she said, explaining that Model United Nations conferences allowed participating students to “dive” into the history of the countries they were representing, and to become experts in issues involving their respective adopted States.

Confirming that view was Anthony Tobay, who once took up the role of Secretary-General at a national conference during his high school years, and an award-winning delegate to the Harvard World Model United Nations conference organized by American University.  “Finding a consensus is sometimes a long and arduous process that requires understanding and communication.  This, for me, has been the best lesson that I’ve kept.”

Emphasizing the variety in the form and scope of such conferences, he said a global conference would act as a standard that they could follow.  The Global Model United Nations conference would simulate as closely as possible each of the Organization’s agencies, becoming a guide for all other Model United Nations programmes.

Mr. Falt, who was expected to lead efforts to organize the first Global Model United Nations conference in Geneva, said he hoped to attract around 1,000 students from as many countries as possible.  After today, the Outreach Division would mobilize a campaign to generate interest in the event.  That campaign would be directed at Model United Nations organizers far and wide.

He said one of the main aims of the conference was to create a realistic atmosphere.  In answer to a journalist asking whether the programme would address controversial issues, such as Security Council reform, he said, “We’ll try to align the rules and procedures as closely as possible to what happens in the Organization in reality.”

Ms. Wells said Model United Nations conferences were an opportunity to integrate United Nations causes into student activities.  In Incheon, Republic of Korea, participants had “stood up” against poverty as part of the world body’s “Stand Up” initiative and had gone on to produce a declaration on the Millennium Development Goals.  With the August 2009 Global Model United Nations Conference scheduled for the Palais des Nations, the Organization was certain to be interested in what the students had to say, and the students were aware that it was “not just play-acting”.

Asked to explain what had prompted such high-level attention to the Global Model United Nations Conference, Ms. Sorensen described it as “a wonderful experiment” that would have “the imprimatur from the top of the Department of Public Information”.

She continued: “All of us are committed to raise the bar on this.”

For further information on the Global Model United Nations conference, see Press Release PI/1858.

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For information media • not an official record