Young Diplomats Tackle Global Issues

Hundreds of High School Students from Across the World Attend YU’s 23rd Annual Model UN Competition

For the 23rd straight year, the Yeshiva University National Model United Nations competition (YUNMUN) brought together hundreds of high school students from around the world for an interactive simulation of the inner workings of the real United Nations. From February 3 – 5, 460 student participants played the roles of delegates to actual UN member nations, championing positions on key issues and learning about the complexities of international diplomacy firsthand.

YUNMUN 2013 drew students from a record 48 high schools on three different continents, including delegations from Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

“It was thrilling to be able to represent our own country,” said Yaffa Abadi of Yeshiva College High School in Johannesburg. “Because I was representing South Africa, I felt that I could be truly passionate about what I was saying. But it was interesting to see other students taking on the roles of countries they weren’t as familiar with and completely empathizing with those countries.”

Prior to the event, students were assigned a country and appointed to one of 15 committees dealing with issues of international concern, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the Middle East Summit (ME). To argue their points effectively, students conducted thorough research of that country’s interests and policies.

“I was on the UN Office in Drugs and Crime (UNODC) committee, and we tried to fix the misuse of prescription drugs and cybercrime,” said Benji Kurnick, a junior from YULA High School in Los Angeles. “I learned so much about how the UN works and how different countries function within that framework.”

To keep participants engaged, updated and entertained, organizers Tweeted throughout the conference with a dedicated #YUNMUN2013 hashtag. The real-time updates were displayed on large screens for all to see and the participants were encouraged to join the ongoing dialogue.

But as YUNMUN organizers have come to expect, most participants noted that the networking element was their favorite part of the event.

“Our committee room had a good balance of work and play, and people were able to make friends by working together towards common goals and trying to understand each other’s opinions,” said Leora Mayer, a senior from Ulpanat Orot Girl’s School in Toronto. “I am really happy because I was able to meet great people who I would not have met otherwise.”

The closing ceremonies included remarks from Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel and the presentation of awards to the best delegates and honorable mentions on each UN committee.

“Yeshiva University hosts a Model United Nations because it is critical that we educate students about our mandate to matter,” said President Joel.  “We must reinforce in them a responsibility for helping shape the destiny of civilization.”

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