South African Model UN students to participate in international conference

By | 2 March 2011

Pretoria – The South African Model United Nations debating team will leave to New York on Saturday, 4 March 2011 to participate in an international Model United Nations debate competition at Cornell University, Ithaca.

The 12 learners from all nine provinces in South Africa who will be leaving to New York

The team, comprising twelve high school learners, were selected through a series of simulated United Nations General Assembly debates held in all nine provinces of the South Africa.  The nine provincial teams competed against each other and against schools from Kenya and the United Kingdom at an international Model UN competition held in Cape Town in October 2010. From this, the winning team of four learners from Mpumalanga province and one learner each from the remaining 8 provinces was selected by an adjudication panel comprising representatives of the United Nations, academia and the corporate sector.


The debates were first held in South Africa in 1995 as part of the United Nations 50th anniversary when the winning debaters accompanied former President Mandela to New York, for the UN’s 50th Anniversary commemoration.  The programme is an initiative of a Johannesburg-based NGO, Education Africa and is sponsored by the South African cellular phone service provider, MTN.

This programme is globally unique in that each team of four students comprises two from a previously-under-resourced school and two from a previously-resourced-school. It thus affords unique bridge-building opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders as it inculcates in them the values of tolerance, empathy and awareness of the wider world. The United Nations Information Centre, other UN agencies as well as the national and provincial Ministries of Education are strong proponents of this invaluable initiative. Since its inception, the South African learners have won numerous awards and accolades and are an illuminating and tangible example of nation building, South Africa’s re-emergence in the international arena and the potential of its young people. For the past four years, the South African team has won the “Best Small Delegation” prize at the Cornell University Model UN conference.

To create an authentic sense of the United Nations General Assembly, each team is allocated a country of the world to represent in the debates. Participants have to familiarise themselves with the cultural practices, social, economic and political 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.  Skills that are essential for the “world of work” and very much so in the understanding of international politics and South Africa’s place in the world. The debates focus on key global issues and the complexities involved in putting forward one’s country’s policy while putting aside one’s personal opinions.

The twelve learners will be accompanied by representatives of UNIC, Education Africa, the Model UN of South Africa and MTN. In New York, the delegation will be hosted by the South Africa’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations before they participate in the conference. The learners will undergo a three-day training period in Johannesburg prior to their departure for the United States from the 2nd to the 4th of March.

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