Dr. Sherry Gray, Coordinator and Lecturer in the Global Policy Area of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota greeted the student delegates. The delegates traveled from Cambridge-Isanti High School, Champlin High School, Chanhassen High School, Edina High School, Irondale High School, Minnetonka High School, Nova Classical Academy and St. Paul Preparatory School to participate. Dr. Gray introduced students to the Humphrey School and said that attending the university will prepare students to discuss major world issues such as climate change, refugees and sustainable development. Dr. Gray concluded that Hubert Humphrey “embodies a culture of service”.
A Q&A panel with speakers from the University followed. The first speaker, Ashfaqul Haq Chowdhury, from Dhaka, Bangladesh has worked on sustainable development projects, including renewable energy. His research interests include the topic of Committee #1: Promoting Access to Renewable and Sustainable Energy for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development.
“1.2 million people don’t have electricity”, said Chowdhury. Energy independence is a major issue in Bangladesh. “You don’t need fossil fuels when you have wind and solar. There needs to be a lot of investment”.
A delegate asked what can done to address this issue. Chowdhury replied that we can learn from developed countries including Germany and Spain and that it is the energy of the future. He concluded that renewable energy projects are increasingly being funded by international nongovernmental organizations and agencies.
Esmatullah Sahebdil, a Fullbright-Humphrey Fellow from Kabul, Afghanistan, talked to student delegates. He addressed topic of Committee #2: Transforming Refugee Camps into Sustainable Settlements in the Case of Protracted Displacement. He has nine-plus years of expertise with issues, programs and policies related to refugees.
“In 1979 millions of people left. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) developed refugee camps. These weren’t designed to be permanent settlements”. Sahebdil shared that there are internally displaced person (IDP) camps near most major cities in Afghanistan.
“They get support only when serious issues arise,” such as food insecurity. “There isn’t assistance for education. I ask you to think: how can we help these people who have been here for four decades? I hope you can come up with solutions today”.
Bahgat spoke from personal experience on the topic of Committee #3: Strengthening the Capacity of Host Refugee Countries. She began by explaining the difference between transit countries and resettlement countries. She works in child protection in her home country. Egypt has one of the highest prevalence of protection issues for women.
“This is a very big issue. Even those successful in crossing (the Mediterranean Sea) – they face challenges in countries like Greece. These countries have their own problems… They are forgotten people – they don’t have access to services and lack human dignity”.
Baghat and Sahebdil also spoke on the issues of refugee access only to the informal job market and the return of refugees to places with no future for them.
The delegates split up into four committees. Each committee held Roll Call. The committees had a Rapporteur, Chair, Director and Pages. The Chair called on delegates one-by-one so that each can address the committee in short speeches and during unmoderated caucuses, the committee took breaks to allow delegates to meet with each other and discuss ideas. The delegates wrote working papers – effective tools for debating in their committee. The final results of these discussions, writing and negotiation were Draft Resolutions.
“We want them to understand that every voice matters… A solution to a problem starts with one… And, anyone can make a difference,” shared Jim Woodbury, Civics Instructor at Cambridge-Isanti High School.
The focus of Committee #4 was Threats to International Peace & Security and the student delegates presented their views on this topic on behalf of their assigned country. Islamic State, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram were all discussed. Issues of nationalism, for example, in England, and actions that can be taken by the UN Security Council were addressed by the delegates.
All Model UN delegates have the possibility to remain involved with the discussion of global issues as university students. University of Minnesota students can become involved with Model UN activities through participation in a club called the United Nations Student Association. James Broomfield, a graduate student at the Carlson School of Management, shared that interested students can learn more about United Nations Student Association. Students can learn about this work through the United Nations Student Association website and they hold weekly meetings and regular programs.