30 May 2018 - Around the globe, it is estimated that over 1,500 Model United Nations (MUN) conferences are held every year, involving up to half a million learners from primary school to university. To promote the rule of law to students through this academic simulation phenomenon, UNODC's unique Model UN Guide was the first of its kind to support the integration of crime prevention and criminal justice issues into an MUN when it was launched earlier this year.
To explore the Guide's potential for wider dissemination in established MUN arenas, the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative hosted a three-day training workshop last week, engaging with educators, university student leaders and staff from the numerous UNODC offices around the world. Over 30 representatives from the vibrant global MUN community, with many years of practice running these conferences at different education levels, shared experiences and perspectives on how to best utilize the Guide to give students a taste of the many facets of rule of law, and its applications.
On one of the days, the veteran conference organizers took the place of the students and became temporary delegates of various Member States themselves, for a simulation of a debate on the trafficking of firearms, one of the many crime-related topics falling under the remit of UNODC. The exercise was meant to show how the consensus procedure (also known as the Vienna Formula) is applied in order to agree on and adopt a draft resolution, following a line by line review process involving all the participants.
By all accounts, the exercise demonstrated the success of E4J's Resource Guide in enriching the MUN experience, and in creating a format which attracts student interest and involvement - an important factor voiced by several participants. By the end of the workshop, there was unanimity on the desire to incorporate UNODC's various endeavours on rule of law - including a simulated Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) - into upcoming MUN conferences.
Of particular importance to the participants was the degree of direct support offered by E4J, through the interaction of its experts with conference organizers and educators, helping them draw students to topics ranging from crime prevention and corruption to terrorism and transnational organized crime, and other elements relating to the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 16.
Laurabeth Goldsmith, Director of Partnerships at Best Delegate and one of the workshop trainers, commented that "it is one of the first times we have seen such a direct involvement of a UN office for an MUN, so it's very exciting because MUNers are already passionate about it."
While students around the world are often eager to discuss topical international news, they may initially know less about topics which are nevertheless interesting and important. For Salam Kedan, Programme Director from the Salam Centre for Peace, wider discussions were key: "I will take this back home and try to educate others because we have a lot of corruption, but we can raise awareness to interest the younger generation into doing something about it."
All the participants expressed their intention to conduct UNODC-related MUN events, using the Guide, at the earliest possible opportunity. After brainstorming in different regional sub-groups about how to roll this out in their respective areas, some participants estimated the new Guide could potentially impact around 10,000 students around the world over the course of the following year, after which it was hoped this would have a ripple effect and exponential growth.
Bill Yotive, Model UN Coordinator from the World Federation of United Nations Associations, decided to integrate UNODC's MUN model immediately: "We've done some UNODC topics before, but I would like to do a full CCPCJ, like we've seen here, at our next flagship conference.
"There are many elements to building a culture of lawfulness, and educating children and youth about crime prevention and criminal justice, and UNODC's contribution with the MUN Guide is just one of its many projects. As THIMUN Qatar's Director Lisa Martin summed it up, "attending MUN can impact kids, who decide they want to have action and engagement and do something. This is more than a debate, it is something that changes people's lives."