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Banting students address global issues at Model UN event

May 11, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

The Simcoe County District School Board held its 34th Model United Nations event last week, where high school students assume the role of a delegate from a country in one of five regions worldwide.

The event took a break during the pandemic but returned on Friday (May 5) as an option for local high school students.

The delegate students debated their respective countries’ interests, beliefs, and ideals in small regional groups. Students presented their chosen country’s stance on the issues in a general assembly of delegates.

Over 100 students from nine teams representing seven secondary schools participated in this student-run event. Banting Memorial High School in Alliston sent a team and organized this year’s program.

Leading up to the event, participants must research the country they represent to learn more about it and present their arguments.

This can provide a real challenge to students. Since a real UN delegate would try to promote their country in a positive light, a student delegate will have to do the same – even if they disagree on a personal level with the policies of the government they are representing.

This year, the students debated the issues of social media responsibility, UN Security Council reform, and vaccine accessibility.

“For us at Banting, we put it out to the student body – asking who would be interested in participating,” explained event organizer Robert Howatson, a Canadian and World Studies teacher at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston. “We knew some students would be strong in this and said ‘this is something you might want to consider.’ There are 10 delegate spots per team, and there are nine teams. I have another 15 students who are helping to run the event. Most of the students involved have an interest in politics or world affairs and global issues. Some are looking to study that in the future, and some just enjoy the debate.”

Each school team is assigned different countries to represent. Students can request a country to represent. Some students may have a connection to another country through family and request the opportunity to represent it, while others just take what is available.

“Some countries are easier to find information on, and others may be a little trickier,” Mr. Howatson explained. “We try to help steer the kids to find the information.”

While a student’s personal beliefs may clash with the ideologies of the country they are representing, they have to put that aside and take on the role of delegate.

Mr. Howatson recalled one student at a pre-pandemic debate who was assigned to represent the United States. The student did not like the, then current Trump administration at all, but took the challenge and played the role and did a very good job representing the country in a positive light.

“There are three issues that we are going to be looking at,” Mr. Howatson said. “The students will meet in small break-out groups based on regional geography. They will debate an issue in a small group setting, then they all come together for a General Assemblies meeting, and the kids get a chance to make speeches in front of the whole crowd, on three different proposals put forward by the students.”

The same process is repeated for the other two issues. It makes for some interesting debate.

The Model United Nations took place at the Simcoe County District School Board Education Centre in Midhurst on Friday, May 5.


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