YUNMUN XXVI--Another Success in the Books
On Sunday, February 21st, 2016, over 450 students from 45 cities across North America and around the globe entered the Stamford Plaza Hotel and Conference Center to participate in Yeshiva University’s 26th National Model United Nations. YUNMUN is a YU student-led conference in which students from Yeshiva high schools worldwide engage in global issues outside the classroom, learning the importance of diplomacy and collaboration. For three days students learned the value of taking on a new perspective by representing and fighting on the behalf of their countries opinions on their UN committees. With 60 YU student staff members leading 15 committees debating topics ranging from women’s rights to environmental issues, the conference was most definitely one to remember.
Sunday began with YU students arriving early in the morning for final meetings with co-chairmen, and to set up all of the conference rooms for committee sessions. By early afternoon, high school delegations were showing up and students from across the globe began to meet one another in attempt to discern who was in their committee. Opening Ceremonies began late afternoon with an address from YU Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Ms. Geri Mansdorf, followed by the keynote speaker, Mr. Seth Siegal.
Mr. Siegal, a writer, activist, and successful serial entrepreneur, discussed the pressing issue of our water starved world. More specifically, he brought to everyone’s attention that if our world stays on its current track of water consumption, by the year 2025 there will be very little clean water remaining. Furthermore, he talked about Israel’s potential solution to our ever-depleting global water supply.
According to Miram Pearl Klahr (SCW ’18) chairman of CSTD: “Mr. Siegal was an extremely relevant speaker for a Model UN conference. He was engaging, and passionate and seemed to have caught the students attention.” Mr. Siegal’s speech appeared to be well-liked by all and truly sparked interest among all YUNMUN attendees, including delegates, YU students, and even chaperones.
As always, the conference officially began with a speech from the Secretary General, this years being Danielle Orenshein (SCW ’16).
For nearly a day and a half, student delegates spent 11 hours in 6 sessions debating and arguing their committee topics. Students worked tirelessly to get their countries positions heard, demonstrating their oratory prowess, while also utilizing the art of compromise in passing resolutions and leading caucuses.
Each one of the 15 committees had two relevant topics that the students needed to debate on and pass resolutions on before the conference could end. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) chaired by Federico Zepeda (Syms ’16), dealt with the two issues of water sanitation and the immunization gap in certain global populations. Another committee, the World Food Programme (WFP), was led by Akiva Marder (YC ’18). They spent their committee sessions discussing the ramifications of genetically modified food and the questions of providing food for countries otherwise sanctioned by the international community.
All in all, it seemed every committee discussed extremely interesting and relevant issues plaguing the real-world United Nations. Moreover, at one point in every committee, a crisis broke out and the delegates would have to think fast on their feet to find a potential solution. For instance, the crisis on the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) began with a few YU staff members dressing up as Disney princesses discussing the ramifications of marriage. Through a short skit, they posed the question to the delegates as to whether or not marriage should be banned around the world. In a mere 40 minutes, all the students representing multiple countries had to effectively work together in preparing a resolution.
On Monday, the main day of the conference, students were able to hear from two more respected speakers with expertise in matters of global affairs. In the morning, Ambassador Danny Ayalon, a visiting professor of foreign policy studies at YU, spoke about the need for authenticity and transparency in the United Nations, without which will lead to its demise.
Akiva Koppel (Syms, ’17) assistant chair of CTC, mentioned that “his speech really made me want to take action, I plan on taking a trip to the UN sometime in the near future.”
Later on in the day, Dr. Selma Botman, Provost and VP for Academic Affairs at YU, delivered a speech about the crisis in the Middle-East and the future path it might take. Delegates, chaperones, and YU students alike were enthralled with these two speeches, it really added to the entirety of the conference.
It was clear from the moment the conference began until closing remarks that every attendee had a smile on their face that simply could not be wiped away. Whether it be during committee sessions, a meal, or free time during the evening hours, there was constant excitement, exhilaration, and ambition in the air. Ayelet Marder, a sophomore at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls representing the country of Jordan on COPUOS, said that “I had the best time of my life on YUNMUN. I never wanted to go to sleep, I just wanted to be in my committee meetings or hang out with my friends!” The feeling was reciprocated by virtually all of the YU staff members.
Marder’s older brother Ari (YC, ’17) chaired the International Maritime Organization committee. A veteran of YUNMUN conferences, he exclaimed “this is by far the best YUNMUN to date, every second is exciting and fun!”
The general chatter in the staff lounge revolved around their amazement of how professional and ambitious this year’s delegates were. According to Michelle Sabbagh (SCW ’16), chair of CTC: “I had a room of 28 intelligent, superstar high school students. Despite the intense competition, they really respected each other and honed their negotiation skills. They successfully articulated their solutions to complex issues in counter terrorism--my delegates completely exceeded my expectations.”
The final day began with a speech from YU President Richard Joel, followed by the award ceremony. Each committee has one best delegate award and two honorable mentions and one high school is chosen as the best delegation with two runner ups. While presenting his awards, Akiva Marder (YC ’18) creatively introduced all of the members of his committee by means of a “Miss World Food Programme” beauty pageant. He had all of his delegates line up and strut down the rows in the center of the hall wearing sashes and crowns. Other chairmen mentioned jokes that went on during committee sessions or mentioned major accomplishments their committees achieved while presenting their awards to delegates. This year’s best delegation was awarded to SAR High School in Riverdale, NY. The first runner up award was given to Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD and second runner up prize was awarded to YULA High School in Los Angeles, CA.
Although not every committee arrived at a resolution, and not every delegate could compromise with one another, the one thing every individual at model UN this year could agree on is that they had a spectacular time and cannot wait until next year’s Model UN--YUNMUN XXVII.