On Friday, March 30, the United Nations Student Organization (UNSO) of the University of Wisconsin -Stevens Point left for New York City to attend the National Model United Nations conference. The conference lasted five days and gathered more than 5,000 students from around the world. The trip was punctuated with a visit to the UN building on Thursday April 5.
The students who represented UWSP were: Emma Radosevich, Abby Hencheck, Jenna Helminski, Stephanie Metropulous, Julie Lee, Amanda Glasspoole, Denise Erpenbach, Brian Young, Nathan Woods, Andrew Bretenstein and Gabriel Peterson, led by President Valerie Landowski and their advisor Professor of Political Science Jeff Guse.
The country the UNSO was assigned to represent at the conference was Iraq. Organization members spent months researching different aspects of Iraqi government and political issues in preparation for the conference.
The group was split up into different committees and each committee dealt with a different issue, for example peacekeeping, human rights, economic and social development and the environment. At the conference, delegates from each committee collaborated and wrote working papers containing the framework for formal resolutions similar to those passed by the United Nations.
In order to gain the support of other countries, students had to explain the purpose of their papers and what they hoped would be accomplished if the paper were passed eventually as a resolution. Several model resolutions were passed during the conference, even a few proposed by Iraqi delegates.
This type of work and experience cultivates skills in diplomacy and international relations, as well as oral and written communication. Landowski said this was a very enriching experience. She recently received an award during the annual Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (WIPCS) conference for a paper she had written about Saudi Arabia, and was also nominated Student Activist of the Year by the WIPCS few weeks before the conference.
“We did really great,” she said, mentioning the honorable mention the UNSO was awarded on behalf of UWSP. She said one of the biggest challenges of the conference was acting like a citizen of Iraq. “We in the West could never even really imagine some of the policies enforced by Middle Eastern countries.”
Researching, writing and voting about the issues of the country assigned required a cultural awareness of the people of Iraq and the Middle East. Radosevich said that her committee had to vote down a proposal regarding women’s rights because it conflicted with the values of the people of Iraq and the teachings of the Quran. “I am a strong proponent of women’s rights, and I would have loved to vote in favor of the proposal, but it conflicts with the beliefs of the people of Iraq,” she said.
According to Landowski, around 80 percent of the organization that traveled to NYC was new to the Model UN. She said she hopes that they will attend the conference next year, and is equally hopeful that more students will get involved. “We as students can talk about, read and learn about these issues, but it is entirely different to directly participate,” she said.