Imagine having to decide the fate of a nation torn by civil war, or whether or not to provide humanitarian aid to a nation racked by famine.
What action would a country authorize after learning of a terrorist attack against the Vatican?
Trying to understand and deal with issues such as these from a global perspective is what Model United Nations is all about.
Model U.N. is a simulation of the United Nations, the international organization created at the end of World War II to promote international peace and security through cooperation. Local participants come from high schools in Western New York, Southern Ontario and Western Pennsylvania.
It's sponsored by the Buffalo Council on World Affairs Inc. Local colleges, including Canisius, D'Youville and Daemen, hold at least two conferences each year. A Security Council session was held on Oct. 21, and a larger General Assembly of the United Nations will gather in the spring.
This is definitely not an activity for "geeks" or "nerds." It does help to be well-versed in current events, and to have the ability to communicate well. But most of Model U.N. participants are the same students you will find on the basketball court, the track team or the soccer team.
"The chief complaint among all model U.N. advisers is that most participants are just too busy," says Mark Davison, the faculty adviser to the Iroquois High School Model U.N. team. "The students most likely to have an interest in Model U.N. are already interested in at least two or three other extracurricular activities.
"Learning how to manage your time helps, especially when student participants must research a specific country's position on an issue presented to the actual United Nations in New York City."
Every year in late spring, schools have the chance to select a country to represent at the next Model U.N. Once the participants and their respective countries are announced, the real work begins.
Iroquois student Scott Sobieraj says: "In order to best represent a country, you must first understand that nation's people, their unique ethnic characteristics, and their attitude toward other nations, friend and enemy alike. If you don't, you'll say or do something stupid."
Iroquois students Jason Ertel and Matthew Resutek explain that the work takes place before they get to the conference.
"Knowing how to use the Internet really helps me to get the information I need as quickly as possible," says Matt. "This gives me more time to think about the issues."
Student delegates compete and are rated on preparation, ability to accurately represent their nation's political position, overall knowledge of parliamentary procedure, speaking ability and knowledge of the U.N.
A delegation's goal is to introduce a resolution that was prepared by that school's team to the Security Council or General Assembly, and to gain the support of the other delegates.
Iroquois senior Jake Haselswerdt said the only thing he doesn't like about Model U.N. is that "the debate and discussion go on and on and on and on, when people don't really understand the issues and spend too much time arguing about the wording of a resolution. Also, it seems that sometimes the same schools walk away with all of the recognition year after year, and that can be frustrating."
Why join Model U.N.?
There are many answers to that question, ranging from "because it's fun and I like to hang out with my friends who are members" to "it looks good on a college application."
Model U.N. is something more students should try to experience. If there is a group at your school, get the information about joining. If there isn't a group, approach a faculty member and try to generate some interest in getting one started. The experience will be a good one.
Justin Becker is a senior at Iroquois High School.