By From the Lowell Sun
By Robert Moreau
Everything went wrong in the space of an hour.
A day after the Republic of Georgia agreed to join the NATO alliance, its president was assassinated while exiting his home. Around the same time, the Russian embassy in the country was destroyed in a terrorist bombing. In response, Russian soldiers amassed at the Georgian border, placed on highest alert.
None of this happened in real life. But the evolving crisis was one of the scenarios faced by delegates from nine Greater Lowell high schools in the fourth annual UMass Lowell Model United Nations (UMLMUN), hosted by the UML’s Dean Bergeron International Relations Club (IRC).
Model United Nations is an activity in which participants portray the role of UN delegates from assigned countries, dealing with significant global issues in their various committees. In simulated sessions, they attempt to create resolutions addressing these topics; the challenge is for them to find ways to compromise while adhering to their country’s policies. It is an exercise in public speaking, problem-solving and diplomatic skills.
The 2008 UMLMUN conference hosted about 200 total participants and featured seven committees: Security Council, NATO, ECOSOC, APEC, UNDP, European Union, and UNHRC. NATO and the Security Council both dealt with the Georgian crisis, and the atmosphere was frenzied as delegates from each committee frantically sent notes asking what their respective country counterparts were doing in the other. The UNHRC also dealt with a mini-crisis in Sri Lanka in its last session.
One highlight of the conference was the presence of Roger Cressey, an NBC news counterterrorism analyst and security consultant who was first president of the IRC when it began in 1985, as speaker at the closing ceremonies. Cressey discussed his experiences working in the State Department and with counterterrorism during his government career from 1991 to 2002.
UMass Lowell Regional Economic and Social Development Professor Robert Forrant served as keynote speaker during the opening ceremonies, and UML Chancellor Marty Meehan also made a brief address.
UMass Lowell Professor Ardeth Thawngmaung, who serves as adviser to the club, said she was “very pleased
very moved” by the effort of the IRC members and volunteers whose work made the conference a reality.
Conor Baldwin, a graduate student at Regional Economic and Social Development who chaired the European Union committee, was impressed by the delegates who participated.
“I’ve been really impressed with the kids and how much they know,” he said.
Faculty from the schools attending enjoyed the conference.
Mike Martell of Lowell High, said, “This is (our) first competition.
This is going to be our number-one conference from now on.”
Amy Jones of Haverhill said, “I think the kids are being exposed to the world” and that the conference “empowers” student participants to believe they can make positive change.
That view was shared by Licia Sanchez, a Lowell High senior who represented New Zealand in ECOSOC.
“I see (diplomacy) as maybe a future career,” Licia said, adding that “it’s good to know there are people in the world who can make a difference.”
Local high-school students who fared well include:
• Amanda Carter, Tewksbury, first place, UNHRC.
• Vishal Atri and Anny Din, first place, Euroean Union.
• Lowell High, second place, best delegation.
• Melissa Sack, Chelmsford, third place, ECOSOC.
• Aneena Sin and Stephanie Brackett, Lowell, third place, APEC.
• T.J. Hughes, Tewksbury, people’s choice, APEC.
• Steve Clapp, Westford, people’s choice, European Union.