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, the 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.
Well attended as always, YUNMUN 2013 drew students from a record 48 high schools on three different continents, including delegations from Canada, Brazil, and South Africa.
“Although this is the third time our school attended YUNMUN, it was the first year that we represented an actual country, rather than the Red Cross. It was thrilling to be able to represent our own country, South Africa,” 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, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and the Middle East Summit. 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 committee, and we tried to fix the misuse of prescription drugs and cybercrime. I learned so much about how the UN works and how different countries function within that framework,” said Benji Kurnick, a junior from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA).
To keep participants engaged, updated, and entertained, organizers Tweeted throughout the conference with a dedicated #YUNMUN 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. I am really happy because I was able to meet great people who I would not have met otherwise,” said Leora Mayer, a senior from Ulpanat Orot Girls’ School in Toronto.
Streamed live for the first time this year, 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. YULA stood out as the big winner, taking home a prize in almost every category.
“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.” v