Model UN returns for first time in two years with hybrid model

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The stage was full of student representatives from Carlton, St. Mary and Shellbrook listen intently to the moderators during the morning session of the Model UN at Ecole St. Mary High School on Wednesday.

Students from Prince Albert and Shellbrook were on hand for the first hybrid Model UN Assembly at Ecole St. Mary High School on Wednesday, April 4.

This was the first time the event had an in-person portion since 2020, and students, organizers, and event sponsors the Rotary Club of Prince Albert were all happy to be back.

“It’s a lot different than online. Just seeing everybody’s expression when they are up on the podium, it just makes the whole experience 10 times more enjoyable,” said Carlton student Adam Ismail, who represented the United States. “Seeing everybody’s expression, and to talk one on one, that just makes it a lot more enjoyable.”

“It’s a lot better,” added St. Mary Grade 11 student Andrew Harris, who represented the Russian Federation. “We didn’t actually do it last year because of the COVID restrictions. It’s a lot better especially for the public speaking aspect of it, and it’s a lot more realistic than doing it online.

“It’s just good to be back in school, and back doing this. It’s a lot more realistic.”

Students held in-person debates in the morning, then switched to virtual in the afternoon. Bob Twyver of the Rotary Club of Prince Albert said it was excellent to see students back in person, even if it was only for the morning.

“We see the enjoyment of the kids, we see their knowledge of what is going on in the world and we see their interaction with one another and we see their opportunity to move on to a district level event from here in Winnipeg and that has been going on since 1957,” Twyver said. “Winnipeg was one of the first Rotary Clubs to start Model UN.”

Ismail explained that he did the Model UN while he was a student in Jordan, but couldn’t last years since the event was cancelled. As a Grade 12 student, he’s happy to get one last shot at the event.

“I’m a little rusty because the last time I really did it was Grade 10, but it’s really fun I really enjoy it,” he said.

Ismail added that he missed seeing the expressions and reactions from the other delegates.

“You can’t really get that online, even if you do have the camera’s on,” he said. “Just being here in person and being able to talk with other countries who second us or who we disagree with or who disagree with us, it’s a lot more enjoyable.”

Ismail explained that a hybrid model was better than nothing. He was pleasantly surprised to have everyone back for an in-person session.

“I didn’t expect it to go back in person this year,” Ismail said.

St. Mary High School teams swept the top three positions at this year’s Model UN. Moderators and judges had the Russian Federation team in first place, Canada in second place and Syria in third.

Honorable mentions went to the People’s Republic of China, represented by WP Sandin in Shellbrook, Serbia represented by Carlton Comprehensive High School, and the United Kingdom represented by St. Mary.

The winner advances to Winnipeg for the district Model UN, which will still be held virtually. Since everything is online, the Rotary Club will cover the fees of any team that wanted to participate.

Twyver said they switched the afternoon session to virtual to give the students a taste of what it would be like at districts.

Wednesday’s debate focused on social media, personal data, transparency, and safeguarding democracy. Harris and his Russian Federation delegation spent the morning session trying to find allies, while Ismail and the American Delegation sought to find solutions that would limit the spread of disinformation.

“We are still in discussions with China and the US and other delegations to try and find common ground because the majority of the delegates seem to be in support of the ideals behind this resolution,” Harris explained during a break. “We are just working to find a system that will work for as many people as possible and hopefully pass it.”

“We kind of did want to censor it (social media) so that it wouldn’t affect the democracy in a negative way, because you know in 2016 Russia interfered with the US presidential election,” Ismail said of his own’ delegation’s efforts.

The top finishers from the Russian Federation Delegation will be joined by a representative from the Canada Delegation, and two representatives from the United Kingdom Delegation.

Staff at St. Mary High School hosted the event and invited Shellbrook and Carlton to attend.