Delegates from Qatar, Chile and India sat together at Trinity University, going over the wording of a resolution they would propose at the mock-convening of the United Nations Human Rights Council this week.
Ingrid Mayer, a Keystone School student assigned to represent India, transcribed the resolution, while Steele High School student and Qatari delegate Nyah Conrad and Reagan High School’s Merrill Casanoff, who wore a Chilean flag pin, offered suggestions.
The three were among more than 1,000 students at the annual Model United Nations San Antonio, or MUNSA, a simulation that calls on high schoolers to develop and debate solutions to policy problems facing the international organization
While students in Trinity’s Coates Student Center assigned to the Human Rights Council drafted ways to address sex trafficking and talked of education, safehouses and databases, another group worked feverishly upstairs developing methods to combat domestic violence.
Their table was littered with memos, addressed, “To: Denmark, From: United Kingdom” and “To U.S., From: Cuba.” Three clusters of students, each attempting to represent their assigned countries’ interests and governments, developed competing working papers, racing to finish them and open them up for consideration and a committee vote.
In the Human Rights Council, students grappled with how to address sex trafficking in countries with conflicting laws about prostitution. Delegates from smaller countries countered proposals that would require more resources than they could afford.
Students from the International School of the Americas, a magnet school in North East Independent School District, coordinate and staff the conference each year, participating alongside students from 35 other high schools across Texas and Mexico. The MUNSA that ended Friday is in its 23rd year, and its seventh hosted at Trinity.
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Twenty-five panels of students simulated caucuses and prepared working papers, ranging from groups like the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization to the Nuclear Crisis Committee and Historical Crisis Committees, evaluating the Soviet-Afghan War and Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
The idea is to “replicate as accurately as possible” the actual workings of the United Nations, with teenagers acting as delegates and the secretariat, said ISA senior Ale Talamantes-Martinez, the conference’s Undersecretary General of Delegate Development
Committee chairs are tasked with extensive research, writing background papers for their delegates to study and setting the topics they’ll debate, with an emphasis on choosing current events that are relevant and timely, said Brooke Romine, the conference’s Secretary General.
In addition to studying up on international issues like overfishing, drone warfare and refugee crises, students learn parliamentary procedure and develop confidence in public speaking.
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As a senior, lecturing 40 ISA students on the rules of parliamentary debate to prepare for the conference was initially nerve-wracking, Ryan Smith said. But now, as a freshman at Trinity, “I have no anxiety” when it comes to class presentations, he said crediting his MUNSA experience for being better equipped to think on his feet and adapt.
The hands-on learning is vital for ISA students, said Angela Breidenstein, an education professor at Trinity. Freshmen serve as the mock “press” covering the event, sophomores as delegates representing their assigned countries, and juniors and seniors staff and organize the event.
Students, led by Undersecretary General for Outreach Vivienne Martinez, also fundraised $5,000 for Humanity & Inclusion, an international organization that works with people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations to improve living conditions and advocate for rights.
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