By Rosaly Byrd
Marine pollution, whaling, terrorism, and nuclear energy—the students of the Escola Alemã Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro showed us that these topics aren’t only for UN-veterans to discuss. On 26-28 of June 2017 the Escola Alemã Corcovado secondary school held its first edition of AleMUN, its version of the Model United Nations simulation. The Model United Nations (also known as MUN) is an educational simulation that takes place globally both at the high school and college level and allows students to learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations. The simulation provides a chance for students to polish their critical thinking skills as well as public speaking, writing, and teamwork.
Student-organized, run, and led, AleMUN was a production completed entirely by 16- and 17-year-old students at the Escola Alemã Corcovado. In addition to deciding that participation in the simulation would be mandatory for all students in grades 10 and 11, the organizing students also agreed that the simulation would use English as the working language. The student organizing team also decided on the committees that would be involved (which included the UN Human Rights Council, UN Security Council, Atomic Energy Commission, World Health Organization, UN Economic and Social Council, UN Environment Programme, UN Women, and the International Court of Justice) and which topics would be discussed. Students were designated a country to represent as well as a committee. Over 200 students participated, taking part in 20 hours of debate on a wide range of global issues and delivering resolutions on topics including terrorism, whaling, and women’s rights.
Young students such as the ones that participated in AleMUN with bright ideas and an optimistic look at the world are the future of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the next 13 years, the world has agreed to implement 17 goals and achieve the world we want by 2030. Yet it is the next generation that will be inheriting this world, as well as the responsibility for designing tangible solutions and initiatives to realizing the SDGs. It is their livelihoods and futures that are the most at stake, and as such, it is their engagement and familiarity of the collective challenges our world faces that is vital to creating effective responses.
The resolutions presented by AleMUN students were heartening and ambitious, with a clear absence of the cynicism that often cloaks meaningful negotiations and progress. Such new ideas are needed to change the pathways of development and ensure a sustainable world. Tackling age-old questions with traditional solutions will not work. Young people are ready to bring new, creative approaches for their future. Now we must simply be ready to listen.