Ecole Students Participate in Model United Nations Conference in Geneva

Sunday, 12. January 2014

by Daniel Davis Wood

A few days ago, while the rest of the student body was returning to the Ecole, I traveled to Geneva to meet with two of our students as they prepared to participate in the 2014 Ferney-Voltaire Model United Nations (FerMUN) conference. Darshbir Chahal (pictured left) and Kebir Gadio (pictured right), both from the Ecole’s American Program, were selected as delegates representing the European Union in FerMUN’s G20 Committee and, as an additional honor, Darshbir was one of ten students selected to deliver a speech at the Opening Ceremony, introducing the Ecole d’Humanité to an audience of more than 650 participants in the Human Rights Room at the Palais des Nations.

“The Ecole d’Humanité has a culturally diverse student body with people coming to the school from over twenty-five different countries,” Darshbir said. “Mandarin and Cantonese, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, and Hindi, are just some of the languages a student of the Ecole hears on a daily basis. One might therefore think that the Ecole would have a well-established tradition of participating in model international governing body conferences such as FerMUN, but last year myself and a few other students realized that this was not the case. To remedy this situation, we decided it was time to get the Ecole involved in a Model United Nations conference — and so, with no idea about how to prepare, but with a great deal of enthusiasm and determination, we sought out support from our teachers and set ourselves on the journey that has now landed us in Geneva.”

The Ecole’s participation in the FerMUN conference was spearheaded entirely by students. Helena Gates and Darshbir raised the idea last October, and Kebir joined the team about a month later. They spent most of last term writing research papers on the three issues they knew they would have to debate at the conference — the economic effects of climate change, water shortages and desalination technology, and weather-related threats to global telecommunications infrastructure — as well as honing their debating skills in order to defend their positions on those issues against students representing other nations at FerMUN.

When they arrived at the conference, they found themselves preparing a draft of a United Nations resolution on global methods of dealing with the problems posed by climate change. Together with the delegates representing South Africa, Brazil, and the United States, they wrote a resolution and submitted it for debate on the second day of the conference. The debate saw their resolution compared with alternative resolutions written by other delegates, and as a result they entered a process of negotiations that allowed them to advocate amendments to the alternative resolutions as well as defending their own original document. The outcome was that an alternative resolution was passed with substantial amendments from the Ecole’s delegates — including one amendment that received approval after long debate and discussion and one amendment which, in Darshbir’s words, “passed without a hitch.”

The photograph above, published on the United Nations’ official Flickr feed and republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), shows Darshbir (left) and Kebir (right) sitting in the Human Rights Room at the Palais des Nations just ahead of Darshbir’s speech. FerMUN gave our delegates a fantastic opportunity for hands-on experience in political negotiations, bargaining, advocacy, and compromise.