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Model U.N. creates goodwill ambassadors to Korea

This year’s model U.N. conference, which took place in Incheon from Aug. 10-14, attracted a record number of participants from around the world, largely helped by the attendance of the United Nations chief.

About 1,000 high school, university and graduate students from 60 countries discussed pending global issues, ranging from global warming to a U.S.-led financial market crisis in Songdo, a district of the Incheon Free Economic Zone.

Their five days of impassioned discussion resulted in resolutions on four topics ― nuclear safety and security, world food security, global warming and sustainable development. 
Participants of the Global Model U.N. Conference applaud during the opening ceremony of The Global Model United Nations Conference at Songdo, Incheon, on Aug. 11. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Participants of the Global Model U.N. Conference applaud during the opening ceremony of The Global Model United Nations Conference at Songdo, Incheon, on Aug. 11. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
(From left)Ban Ki-moon U.N. secretary-general, Song Young-gil Incheon mayor
(From left)Ban Ki-moon U.N. secretary-general, Song Young-gil Incheon mayor

As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his keynote address, it was a chance to experience the complexity of international relations first-hand.
“Your experience in this conference will give you a full taste of the complexity of international relations, the intricacies of negotiating among diverse peoples and perspectives, the challenges of achieving consensus, the patience required to win progress,” said Ban during the opening ceremony Thursday addressing 646 model delegates from 61 countries.

The Global Model United Nations Conference, launched in 2009, is designed to give students a chance to role play as foreign diplomats and participate in simulated sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and other multinational bodies in the U.N. system.

While preparing for the conference, students can also develop skills of leadership, research, writing, public speaking and problem-solving that they can use throughout their lives. In addition, participation also encourages consensus-building, conflict-resolution, cooperation and the enhancement of leadership skills.

This year’s conference was the first the U.N. chief attended, drawing double the number of attendees of last year’s event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The U.N. chief’s speech uplifted the many hopeful leaders of tomorrow, stressing his faith in the young people.

“You will soon be the government officials who will negotiate peace, the community leaders who will help feed and shelter the vulnerable, the entrepreneurs and innovators who will get carbon emissions under control, the lawyers and human rights defenders who will fight injustice, impunity and tolerance.”

Ban also attributed the recent uprisings and peaceful protests against the oppressive governments in the Middle East to the younger generation.

“Recent events around the world have shown the power of young people to take the initiative and positively change the course of history,” he said.

“Increasingly, young people are saying to their elders, to their governments: ‘This is not the world we want.’”

The conference was hailed as a great opportunity to introduce Korea, and Incheon, to the rest of the world.

“It actually will create goodwill ambassadors for Korea. I think all of these young people will now go back and have my stories to tell about Incheon and how the city is developing,” Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division of the U.N. Department of Public Information, told The Korea Herald.

Kiyo Akasaka, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, praised the venue.

“We are grateful to the city of Incheon and the mayor for their kind support and generous assistance to the U.N.,” the official said.

The ultra-modern Songdo area, which is acknowledged for its sustainability, was cited as an ideal place for the future leaders of tomorrow to see what the future can hold for other developing countries.

“I think a lot of students who have never been to Korea who are now coming to see Incheon; they see how a country that fifty years ago was actually a recipient of aid and the first country to move from being a developing country receiving aid to a donor country nation to join the OECD,” said Nasser.

The conference’s theme this year was “Sustainable Development: Advancing human progress in harmony with nature.”

“It is a very impressive achievement for Korea and if you look around Incheon and you see the new buildings and this green building that is again eco friendly or trying to be in the theme of the conference itself, it’s very impressive.”

Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil had made strenuous efforts to host the event.

“Incheon continuously told the U.N. that they wanted to hold the model conference, and the mayor himself went to the U.N. headquarters and met with the secretary general and with the Under-Secretary General Akasaka in January and signed a MOU,” said Kim Jin-pyeong, Director of the International Conference Team at Incheon Metropolitan Government.

During the mayor’s opening speech, he introduced the city of Incheon and the numerous accomplishments of its population of 2.8 million.

“With the opening of the Incheon Bridge, the nation’s longest and ranked fifth worldwide ... Songdo (is) some 15 minutes from Incheon International Airport which is within a 3 hour flight of a third of the global population,” said Song.

Incheon International Airport has been named the Best Airport Worldwide six years in a row by Airport Councils International, servicing more than 33 million passengers in 2010.

The mayor also drew attention to the largest sporting event in Asia, which will be held in Incheon in 2014.

“We plan to use the 2014 Asian Games to deliver the message of Asia’s peace and joint development to the rest of the world,” said Song.

About 20,000 athletes from all over Asia are expected to participate in 36 sports at the event.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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