What should students know about the Model United Nations?
"It's better than it sounds," said Whistler Secondary School (WSS) student Leah Brownlie with a laugh.
"It sounds really boring, but it's a lot more fun than it sounds."
Brownlie was one of six WSS students who attended the Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference in Vancouver from March 6 to 8.
Other students to attend the conference were Nicole Boulanger, Sierra Grant, Shayna Ross-Kelly, Siobhan Van Gruen and Carla Marginean.
The WSS students were among more than 800 student delegates from 47 schools across North America to attend the conference.
"It's a little intimidating, but it also inspires you to do more," Marginean said.
According to WSS teacher John Hall, who accompanied the students on the trip, the conference is designed to promote global awareness, cooperation and the expansion of human rights.
"I think for students here who don't get a chance to be exposed to a lot of different things, I think it's a really good experience," Hall said.
At the conference, students were put into various mock-UN committees and tasked with finding resolutions to a wide range of topics.
Some of the topics tackled at this year's conference included China's economic transition, genetic patenting and the economic impact of the Syrian War, Hall said.
One of the resolutions the WSS students worked on was Child Bearing Women's Access to Water in Developing Countries.
There weren't many surprises that came with that topic in particular, Brownlie said.
"Child-bearing women's access to water in developing countries, no one refutes that they should have that," she said.
Instead, the issue became about finding solutions to the problem, whether it be through funding, dispersal or sanitization.
"That was probably one of the more controversial ones I think," Brownlie said.
"Some countries wanted to use NGOs, some wanted to use governments. Some people thought that using NGOs would take away from sovereignty."
Doing proper research — a big part of Model UN participation — ensures there are less surprises along the way, Marginean said.
"If you do a little bit of research, even if you read the news, you know kind of the big countries' stances on stuff," she said.
"But North Korea was funny... invariably, no matter what we were debating, he was like, 'The only solution is to worship the great leader, Kim Jong-un.'"
Some of the topics were eye-opening for the students, Hall said, such as one that examined the role of Canadian mining companies around the world and child labour in developing countries.
"They actually learned quite a bit, and they ran into more controversial topics because essentially China said 'We depend on child labour,'" he said.
"We would never imagine children working the same way here, and yet, their economy depends on it."
This is the second year that WSS students have attended the conference. In both years, Hall said he was approached by students asking him to sponsor their attendance.
"We're not quite an established group at WSS yet," he said.
"Going forward, the goal would be to start recruiting interested students early in the year next year and have at least monthly prep sessions, including possible attendance at a smaller Model UN for junior grades."
The six who attended this year's conference are already eyeing another one slated for this May — the Canada International Model United Nations.
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