A faux civil war rages on in California, and the very real dispute between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region continues as it has for more than half a century.
These were some of the pressing global issues students were faced with at OwlMUN II, a Model United Nations conference held for high school students Oct. 17 at the Tuttleman Learning Center by Temple’s Model United Nations team.
Nathan Horton, president of Temple’s Model UN and secretary general of the conference, recruited high school students from across the Philadelphia region to come to the conference for its second year in existence.
“Getting new schools is always the harder challenge,” said Horton, a junior international business major. “But once they come, they usually stick around.”
This year, 268 students participated in OwlMUN II from 12 different Philadelphia region high schools, including La Salle College High School, Avon Grove High School and Kennett High School.
“Each one or two [students] are given a country to represent,” Horton said. “And when everyone comes together, you get that organization in the U.N.’s body.”
In each conference committee, students debated with each other and sought out solutions to the problems they faced by amending and passing resolutions.
Liam Haffey, a junior at Salesianum School in Wilmington, Delaware, represented Russia in the “Security Council” and won that committee, which discussed military issues like the dispute over control of an island in the South China Sea.
“Russia basically wanted China to lease the island from the countries who were also claiming it because they allied with China,” Haffey said.
Haffey was able to get his resolution passed, he said, with added amendments suggested by other countries.
He also worked with the United States throughout the day, which he said was difficult in terms of being someone raised in the United States, but having to work toward Russian policies and goals.
“The U.S. is a free market economy, which is something as a U.S. citizen I would agree with, but Russia doesn’t,” Haffey said. “So I kind of had to go against what I would originally believe to support [Russia’s] policy.”
Horton said one of the main goals of Model U.N. is to encourage students to learn about life and government in other nations.
“Too often we don’t know enough about other cultures to effectively help assist them with what they need done,” Horton said.
In addition to the high school-style committees, which are rooted in fact and allow for preparation ahead of time, OwlMUN II hosted college-style committees, which pose problems to students that are likely to change throughout the day and are sometimes rooted in fiction.
“[We are] pushing our college-style crisis delegates to the test,” Horton said. “We want to see how fast they can react, how fast they can come up with solutions.”
Noah Goff, a general body member of Temple’s Model United Nations, chaired the college-style crisis committee, “Collapse of the United States, 2050,” which set up a scenario where the U.S. suffered an economic and subsequent structural collapse.
Throughout the course of the day, Goff said, students adapted to new information, which is introduced “constantly,” and changed their modes of attack.
“More than half of the day everyone was very pacifist,” said Goff, a freshman biology and political science major. “They were very keen on keeping diplomacy, which was really interesting. We weren’t expecting that from high school students.”
“Once they began to take into consideration the more militaristic nature of some of their regions, they changed and that was pretty impressive,” he added.
Next year, leaders of OwlMUN II hope to attract similarly impressive students in even larger numbers, potentially drawing from schools in New Jersey and further north in Pennsylvania, to come to Temple’s conference to debate and come up with solutions to world problems, both real and fictitious.
“Encouraging Model U.N. with high schoolers … makes us better global citizens, rather than just citizens of our own country,” Horton said.
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.