Regent’s University London held its sixth Youth Model United Nations Conference (MUN) on Friday 5 July and Saturday 6 July 2019, welcoming school students to the University to take part in organised debates and panel discussions. In honour of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all committees this year were dedicated to human rights issues.
The conference, organised by Regent’s staff and alumni, saw students from 14 schools address challenges including artificial intelligence, climate refugees [people displaced by the effects of climate change], food security and climate, the right to privacy and cyber security, crisis and the situation in Yemen.
Over the two days, students worked alongside each other to discuss real world challenges and solutions, while developing their leadership skills.
Opening the conference, Professor Yossi Mekelberg asked all the participants to stand for a minute of contemplation in memory of the 44 innocent African refugees who lost their lives in an air attack in east of Tripoli, the 681 refugees who drowned in their desperate attempt to cross the Mediterranean, and all victims of the abuse of human rights across the globe.
Professor Mekelberg wished participants a successful conference, advising them to exercise their right to come up with creative and innovative ideas, but ones that are also real and constructive.
‘Dare to dream about a better world without entering the world of fantasy, and most importantly enjoy the two days, make friends and remember that you are the ones with the power to make the world a much better place.’
Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division, joined staff and students to speak about Human Rights Watch and why their work is so important.
Ward suggested that when people criticise the Human Rights Act, we should speak out and not stay silent, believing education is critical to the process.
‘For me, it’s really great and inspiring to see you sitting here today and I hope that you all do your own investigations to learn more about your own rights and hopefully, if you learn more about your own rights, you might be willing to stand up for the rights of others as well.’
Discussing the success of the conference and the student experience, Youth Model UN Lead Coordinator Kate Fanning said: ‘I found the experience to be really inspiring, both in watching the students' confidence grow over the two days and the passion and determination with which they engaged in trying to solve some of the most complex world issues we face today.’
A snapshot of student feedback
'I really enjoyed writing the resolutions as a group because it was a chance to learn new skills and work with other people to find alliances and common ground.'
'I learnt I could make friends with new people. I learnt a lot about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I learnt about the procedures of the United Nations Security Council.'
‘I had an amazing experience for the very first time, hopefully things will be even better in the future – worth coming!'
'It's a unique experience, which everyone should have.'
'It is very interesting and helps you to learn a lot about yourself.'
‘It was so fun and I feel more confident.'
‘Your opinion matters, and you have to fight for what you want.’
Schools that participated in Regent’s University London’s 2019 Youth Model United Nations Conference include:
• Bellerbys College, Brighton
• Bohunt School, Hampshire
• Clapton Girl’s Academy, Hackney
• Highgate Wood School, Highgate
• London Nautical School, Lambeth
• Merchant Taylor’s School, Northwood
• NGO Multinational Georgia for Strengthening Democratic Values, Georgia
• Newman Catholic College, Harlesden
• Reading School, Reading
• Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC, Pimlico
• St Albans High School, St Albans
• St Joseph Seminary and High School, Nazareth, Israel
• St George’s School, Cologne, Germany
• Independent students