Students Consider World Issues at Model UN Conference


From international piracy and cyber warfare to the problem of Korean independence, a dozen MCLA students last month actively considered matters of critical global concern at the North American Model United Nations Conference.

The students spent approximately six hours each day deliberating major world issues on committees with students from more than 20 countries and representing over 50 universities and colleges at the University of Toronto, in Canada.

According to Dr. Robert Bence, who teaches the political science and public policy class that traveled to participate in this Model UN experience, the conference was both fast-paced and challenging, as students enjoyed opportunities to speak often and debate frequently.

"Our students were active, effective contributors in the various committees' attempts to promote solutions to historical, contemporary and future international problems," Bence said. "Our well-prepared and committed delegation received an honorable mention as an outstanding delegation."

Stephan Rochefort '14, a history major from Wrentham, Mass., said attending the conference allowed him to not only bridge the gap between history and politics, but also to take what he's learned in the classroom and extend that knowledge to applications in the modern world.

While the largest groups took part in a "General Assembly," which attempted to pass calculated, detailed resolutions pertaining to a specific global issue, Rochefort was the only MCLA student to serve on "The United Nations Security Council Special Meeting on Piracy and the Somali Situation."

As part of this "Specialized Agency," Rochefort and its other members worked to consider the instability in the Horn of Africa, develop a plan to eradicate piracy in the strait of Hormuz, and  to establish a longstanding, stable government in Somalia.

The task, Rochefort explained, was complicated by a constant stream of "crisis updates."

"These were things that required immediate actions - such as pirate attacks - that the Security Council had to deal with," he said. "Even though we were in the committee room for several hours a day, the fast-paced crisis updates drove our committee in directions that we never thought would happen - directions that we needed to think on our feet to respond to."

The level of intensity and excitement of this experience was a highlight of the conference, Rochefort said.

History and education major Ben Raimer '14 of Cheshire, Mass., represented Belgium on "The Disarmament and International Security Committee," which consisted of more than 50 delegates.

For "Cyber Warfare," the students explored the increasingly important issue of the militarization of cyberspace, and discussed frameworks to determine the legality and ethics of cyber warfare, examining its social, political and economic implications.

In "Arms Trade," they looked at an unsuccessful attempt in 2012 to negotiate a historic Arms Trade Treaty, and discussed an agreement to establish a set of internationally recognized and accepted standards to regulate global trade in conventional arms.

"Throughout the three-day conference, we spent roughly 15 to 20 hours discussing these topics with the goal of implementing resolutions to address some of the complexities of each topic," Raimer explained.

"The conference highlighted how difficult it is to reach an international consensus on various issues, because each state and region has their own interests," Raimer added. "Overall, attending the conference was a great experience."

According to Bence, "The numerous hours spent inside and outside of committees resulted in a number of friendships with diverse colleagues from Canadian and American universities. I was proud of how well they represented MCLA."