Pretoria, South Africa – A group of 12 South African high school students representing all nine provinces of the country won the Best Small Delegation Award at the Cornell University Model United Nations Conference held in Ithaca, New York, in the United States from the 4-6 April. In addition, nine of the students won individual awards for outstanding performances in their individual debating committees.
Model UN debates involve the simulation of real United Nations debates whereby participants discuss issues on the global agenda and try to find solutions. The debates are unique in that a participant takes on the role of a particular country following extensive research on the policies of the assigned country.
Prior to the conference, the South African delegation spent two days in New York getting diplomatic briefings including an informal session with the South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dumisani Khumalo, who hosted the group in the Security Council chambers on the day that South Africa assumed the Council’s Presidency for the month of April.
The South African delegation competed against over 500 North American students and was judged to have been most effective at putting forward a coherent and realistic foreign policy on a range of issues including nuclear disarmament, reform of the UN Security Council, the African Union and human trafficking.
The South African Model United Nations programme for high schools is a unique initiative in that it involves the “twinning” of resourced and under-resourced schools to reflect the need to build bridges and raise consciousness among South African youth. The students, who come from both resourced and under-resourced schools, were selected through a national competition held during the course of the second half of 2007 in all nine provinces. The competition culminated in an international Model UN conference held in Cape Town in October 2007 where the winning team was chosen at an awards ceremony held on Robben Island.
The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Pretoria, and other UN agencies in South Africa and at UN headquarters in New York, are actively involved in the programme. A Johannesburg-based non-governmental organization, Education Africa, manages and coordinates the project with assistance from the Model United Nations of South Africa. A South African mobile telephone company Cell C, sponsors the programme.