Model UN China

Earlier this week, UNSW Law Dean David Dixon and the AHRCentre welcomed Ambassador Lu Shumin, Madame Zhang Xiaoan and a delegation from the United Nations Association of China and representatives from the Australian Human Rights Commission to a reception to celebrate a unique partnership which has seen 24 UNSW Law students and 5 members of Faculty participate in an annual Model UN at a Chinese University over the last 5 years. Georgia Drake, a student alumni of the program, spoke of her extraordinary experience at a Model UN at Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing.

 

Summary of Model UN China delegations

 

2006: Sichuan University, Chengdu

Faculty Advisor: Rosemary Rayfuse

Student delegation: Ed Coper, Ben Lumsdaine, Maggie Phang, Mariko Lawson and Rachel Harris

Country represented: Guatemala

Themes discussed: 'International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Ideals Vs. Reality', 'Progress Made and Challenges Faced by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'

Awards: Distinguished Delegation Awards, Best Leaders award (Ben Lumsdaine), Friendliest Delegate award (Mariko Lawson).

 

2007: Heilongjiang University, Harbin

Faculty Advisor: Jane McAdam

Student delegation: Renee Chartres; Tristan Garcia; Madeleine Ellicott; Kate Purcell; Gaurav Sharma

Country represented: Senegal

Themes discussed:  ‘poverty and human rights’, ‘the right to education’

Awards: Outstanding Delegation Award, Position Paper Award, Leadership Award (Tristan Garcia), Contribution Award (Gaurav Sharma), Adviser Award (Dr Jane McAdam)

 

2008 Xiamen University, Fujian Province 

Faculty Advisor: Ed Santow

Student delegation: Jonathan Cooper, Amanda Foong, Julia Mansour, Vinay Orekondy and Aimee Wiseman

Country represented: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Themes discussed: human rights and the environment', the 'responsibility to protect'.

Awards: Outstanding Delegation Award; Amanda Foong (Leadership Award) and Julia Mansour (Friendship Award).

 

2009: Beijing Normal University

Faculty Advisor: Justine Nolan

Student delegation: Marissa Chorn, Sarah Haid, Jessica Roth and Jemir Punthakey

Country represented: Jordan

Themes discussed: universality of rights’, ‘the right to education for children’

Awards: Outstanding Delegation; Best Position Paper; Best Faculty Advisor award (Justine Nolan).

 

2010 Model: Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing

Faculty Advisor: Andrea Durbach

Student delegation: Adam Arnold, Georgia Drake, Alison Ewart and Katherine McCallum

Country represented: Cuba

Themes discussed: ‘the impact of the GFC on the realisation and enjoyment of human rights’, ‘the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities

 

Awards: Outstanding Delegation; Best Position Paper; Best Delegates Awards (Alison Ewart and Georgia Drake)

 

           

 

Georgia Drake, Model UN attendee in 2010, relates her experiences:

 

I attended the China National Model United Nations in Chongqing in November 2010 with Katherine McCallum (who is also here today), Alison Ewart and Adam Arnold.  I was so excited to be part of the UNSW delegation - the only Australian group going conference - and to be part of Australia’s human rights cooperative program with China.  At the time, I thought that it was amazing to be part of something so important, and I still think that I was so privileged to have participated in the conference. 

We all know that both Australia and China have imperfect human rights records.  Because of this, I think that a cooperative and frank dialogue between us on varied issues is of great utility - we have so much to learn from each other.  This collaboration, I think, is significant in our growing relationship, and is something that has been emphasised recently by Prime Minister Julia Gillard upping the ante of Australia’s engagement with China.

My attendance at the conference was my first trip to China.  I was unsure about what to expect, firstly from Chongqing - a city I knew nothing about other than that its population was the same as the whole of Australia - and secondly, from a conference on human rights in China at which we would be the only foreigners. 

I can remember the first afternoon of the conference vividly - some two hundred university students introducing themselves and sharing their specially designed contact cards.  I was overwhelmed by how welcoming and inclusive the other students were and how eager they were to get to know everyone.  At a conference elsewhere, we may have felt like outsiders, but that didn’t happen in Chongqing.  I was also astonished at how far some of the students had travelled to attend the conference, thinking that we must have made the longest journey in coming from Australia.  But I was wrong as there were a number who had travelled for 30 hours or more by train.  Their dedication to human rights education was inspiring. 

The first night of the conference was a big welcome dinner.  We were treated to a huge range of regional dishes, one of which was chicken with red chillies, and what looked like green beans.  Unfortunately for Alison, who had carefully selected a number of green beans from the dish and taken a mouthful of them, the beans were actually very spicy green chillies.  Alison was very careful about what she ate after that. 

The two topics that were discussed at the conference in Chongqing were the rights of the disabled and the impact on human rights of the global financial crisis.  Each model Human Rights Council engaged in robust discussion and each participating state engaged rigorously negotiations.  Unlike how I understand the real Human Rights Council to operate, after staying up most of the night, both groups were able to come to an effective consensus and pass substantial resolutions.  In reflecting on that experience, I can only think of what might happen if the real UN were to operate like that.