On the morning of March 30, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session at the UN building to discuss the crisis in the Middle East. At the same time, three floors down in Conference Room 4, I was giving a presentation on world hunger.
As part of the National Model United Nations (NMUN), nine of us Washington State University students joined 2,500 other students in “modeling” UN procedures: lobbying, debating, and writing resolution papers.
We spent a week in New York City, going to committee sessions, talking with UN representatives and ambassadors, and sightseeing on the side. Schools from around the world sent delegations of students.
Our group was assigned Cyprus as a country to model. We researched the social and political views of Cyprus, as well as its international role, in order to be Cypriot “delegates.”
Cyprus is a tiny country—its population less than a million—but is very involved in humanitarian issues. When we met with the Cypriot ambassador, he talked about his country’s fight against torture and the death penalty. Whereas the other “delegations” got maybe 15 minutes of their ambassadors’ time, ours talked with us for almost two hours.
Each student was assigned a UN committee that Cyprus was actually on. I was a delegate to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a committee of about 40 members concerned with eradicating hunger and freeing international food trade. Our committee met at the hotel in a tiny box-like room and attempted to work out the world hunger, international food trade, and biotechnology issues in three days. Needless to say, we didn’t get far. We discussed only world hunger.
The NMUN perfectly modeled the bureaucratic process; everything was gruelingly slow and frustrating, even though we were all in agreement about how to combat world hunger. Each of our five resolutions dealt with a different aspect of world hunger. Since Cyprus is active in humanitarian matters, I was involved with each of them. The first outlined the need for schooling and AIDS education as a means of combating hunger; the second called for all nations to respect the cultural identity of those countries receiving aid; the third stressed the importance of increasing contributions from donor nations; the fourth set up an emergency food bank that would provide quick relief in times of crisis; and the fifth was a four-page overview dealing with all the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of setting up sustainable agriculture programs in third-world countries.
For those few days, I wasn’t “Katie.” I responded to “Hey, Cyprus.” I worked on a resolution with three guys I called “Spain,” “Canada,” and “Syria.”
The resolutions we turned out in the FAO didn’t have to be voted on; our chair would just present them to the Economic and Social Council on the last day. But he didn’t show up that morning. Panicked, the administrator for the FAO committee grabbed me, the first FAO delegate he recognized, and asked me to give the speech. I sat at the head of the conference room and presented our papers to the council while, during a time of serious international conflict, one of the most powerful UN committees met upstairs.