ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

Debating for change

By Natasha Fernandopulle

Calvin: I wonder if you can refuse to inherit the world.

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes p227.

Yes, the one way to make a change is to start with yourself and what better way to try and understand how this change can take place, than by being part of an organization that does just that? Giving students the opportunity to discuss and debate the topics that affect society, it seems the Colombo Model Untied Nations is one basis through which students meet, discuss and debate on the pressing issues faced in the world today. In fact, the reason most young people participate in CO-MUN is because they meet lots of really interesting people who are politically aware, thus helping you to learn a lot about people.

The United Nations as you may know, is divided into six major organs, them being, the General Assembly (GA), the Security Council (SC), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Trusteeship Council (TC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Secretariat.

In addition, the UN consists of various programs and funds, by which various programmes are managed, which include the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Program (UNDP). The UN also consists of specialised, semi-autonomous agencies such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

What the Colombo Model United Nations simulates are the first three committees of the UN, them being, the General Assembly, the Security Council, and ECOSOC. What students participating as delegates in CO-MUN gain are the skills of diplomacy, compromise and negotiation.

The Colombo Model United Nations (CO-MUN) was established in Sri Lanka in 1994, as an initiative of the Overseas School of Colombo. CO-MUN is open to students between the ages of 13 and 19, where most students participate as delegates. Each delegate represents a country where they debate on the vital international affairs related to that particular country. What these delegates gain is the art of public speaking, resolution writing and researching foreign policies in an environment that promotes co-operation and understanding.

CO-MUN is completely student-run and the Organising Committee comprises of 16 students headed by the Secretary General, Minal Cabraal (Overseas School of Colombo) and the President of General Assembly, Vinayak Rajendran (Stafford International School).

The Organising Committee acts as chairpersons for the conference where they look into all aspects, including raising funds to finance the entire conference and they supervise over debates during the three day conference.

The committee this year, consists, Mahum Kidwai (Head of Administration, Colombo International School), Rana Aroos (Lyceum International School), Maheeka Seneviratne (Ladies' College), Tarika Jayaratne (CIS), Shiraz Akbarally (Asian International School), Carina von Heimendahl (CIS), Anithra Varia (Ladies' College), Taamara de Silva (Ananda College), Shamara Wettimuny (CIS), Andrew Udeshi (OSC), Ranga Wimalasuriya (Lyceum), Anu Illeperumaarachi (OSC), Chulanga Ishan (Royal Institute) and Raqeeb Thameem (OSC). The faculty advisors this year have been Mr. Matt Foss and Ms. Peggy Kelly.

Workshops and practice debates were held in preparation for the conference, while CO-MUN 2008 was held in the fashion of a simulated conference environment where formal debates were held. The first two days of the three day conference was held on February 29 and March 1, at the Overseas School of Colombo and the final day, which was March 2, at the Trans Asia Colombo, while close to 550 students participated in the conference this year. Apart from the 25 schools from Sri Lanka, one school each from India and Pakistan participated this year, with the central theme of this year's conference being 'Climate Change.' Therefore every committee in CO-MUN 2008 debated on a topic relating to this global issue.

Day one began with the opening ceremony of the conference which was held at the OSC auditorium with a number of speeches being delivered, by the Heads of OSC, Sponsors and also by Minal and Vinayak. Participants were then split into different committees where they then caucused, discussed topics and then went on to write and submit their resolutions.

On Day Two, they had to work in their individual committees. They then debated in a formal manner on the resolutions and made amendments to their resolutions and then the best one on each topic was passed. Then on the final day of the conference the three committees in the GA came together as they discussed their three resolutions, which were passed the previous day, strengthened them and got them passed. Such sessions for the SC and ECOSOC were held on the second day as well as the third and final day where they caucused and debated on their resolutions. And on the last day, the SC was given an emergency topic, where the delegates have to debate impromptu.

Interestingly, by the end of the conference, all the resolutions on climate change are sent across to the UN itself. Speaking to the CO-MUN Secretary General Minal after the conference, she had this to say with regard to this year's conference, "from all the feedback we got, everyone said it was the best conference so far," she said confidently.

General Assembly (GA)

This is the largest body, consisting of all 192 members which, except for Palestine, are represented a vote each. The GA, deals with a unique range of subjects which include, the First Committee - security and disarmament, the Second Committee - economic and environmental issues and the Third Committee – social, cultural and humanitarian issues. What these committees do, is try to reach a consensus depending on the seriousness of a particular issue, which ranges from global warming to arms smuggling, and what they do, is produce resolutions. In turn the recommendations are put across to the Security Council, to a particular nation, or to the world in general as to what should be done.

Security Council (SC)

What the SC is responsible for, is maintaining peace and security. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, it is the only UN organ with the ability to enforce its decisions, utilizing all means from economic sanctions to military intervention.

There are a total of fifteen members in the SC and five permanent members, them being, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The five permanent members have the power of 'veto,' which means that one vote against a resolution by any of these countries results in the failure of the particular resolution.

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Issues such as living standards, malnourishment, disease and cultural cooperation, which are economic and social issues, are the main discussion points of ECOSOC. This council consists of 54 members, elected by the GA. Developing countries are the main concern of ECOSOC, at present. And they work with many UN agencies like UNICEF and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to accomplish the many resolutions.

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