Pretoria, South Africa – The finals of the South African Model United Nations Debate competition will be held this week at the Cape Town Metropolitan Chambers on the 10th and 11th of October 2008. An awards ceremony will then be held on Robben Island on Monday, 13 October where 12 learners will be selected to represent South Africa in an international Model UN Competition in New York in early 2009.
The programme is coordinated by Education Africa, a Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation. The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) assists with policy direction and adjudication while the Model UN of South Africa (MUNSA) provides tutoring and topic selection. Two simulated debates will be held focusing on the following topics: The International Criminal Court: Sovereignty versus Human Rights and Human Rights violations in Myanmar and the role of regional organisations.
The competition was first held in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and has since grown from strength to strength. With nearly 600 schools from every province in South Africa participating. Provincial workshops are held where learners are trained on simulating a UN General Assembly debate. Provincial competitions are held three months later, and winning teams then go on to compete in the national finals. For the second time since the project’s inception, South African learners will be joined in Cape Town by learners from the United Kingdom, Kenya, the United States and Ethiopia.
A team represented at the Model United Nations General Assembly Competition for South African High Schools primarily consists of four pupils (two from an advantaged school and two from a disadvantaged school) participating in debates largely based on a simulation of those held at the United Nations General Assembly. This twinning concept makes this programme a globally unique example of bridge-building and awareness-raising among young people.
To create an authentic sense of the United Nations General Assembly, each team is allocated a Member State of the United Nations to represent in the debates. Participants have to familiarise themselves with the political, economic, social and cultural policies of the country they represent. Through research and reading they convincingly adopt their country’s stance on the issues that are put forward and debated. The debates are an exercise in developing communication skills – such as the written preparation of arguments, oral presentations, negotiations and reaching of working compromises. These are skills that are essential for the “world of work” and enhance one’s understanding of international politics and South Africa’s place in the world.
An added bonus for the students is that this year they will be afforded the opportunity to spend the night on Robben Island and participate in fireside chats with former political prisoners on the issues facing them as young people. In the past, the South African delegation selected to go to New York has received top honours at the international competitions and this year should be no exception as the leaders of tomorrow debate and discuss the issues facing our world today.