Student delegates shine

File photo. Students vote during the 2017 MUNA event at St. Mary School March 22. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Students deal and debate at annual MUNA event

It’s not every day that the United States and China team up on a United Nations resolution to sanction North Korea, or Russia and France team up to criticize the United States for its lack of action on gun control.

But both of those things happened Thursday during the annual Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) at St. Mary high school.

Students from PACI, Carlton, St. Mary and Kinistino competed as delegates from various United Nations members, debating resolutions as if they were actual delegates from those nations. The event is put on each year by the Rotary Club, which sponsors the winning team at the large MUNA event held annually in Winnipeg by Rotary International.

That large assembly involves over 20 students from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Prince Albert has taken home first place a couple of times in 60 years of competition.

The winning delegates will compete from May 3 to 6 this year.

Thursday’s event saw the delegates debating two original resolutions, as well as a third resolution put forward by France and Russia.

The first resolution was about gender mainstreaming in policies and programs, ensuring recruitment and career development is free of sexual harassment and works toward gender parity and requests a report to be implemented on the resolution.

France proposed an amendment that would extend the protections to LGBTQ+ people, but Russia used its veto power to kill the amendment. The original resolution passed.

The second resolution stirred up more debate. It called for intense sanctions on North Korea and a UN-run trade blockade.

After three amendments were put forward, that motion passed when Russia used its veto power.

The third resolution was put forward by the delegates themselves, calling on member nations to implement stricter gun control measures. Most delegates took the opportunity to criticize the U.S. for its record on mass shootings, and for lawmakers’ unwillingness to act. The delegate representing the US argued it was none of the assembly’s business what goes on in its country, and used its veto power. The United Kingdom also voted against the resolution, exercising its veto.

At the end of the day of debate the judges — Rev. Tony Thompson of Wesley United Church, myself and city manager Jim Toye chose the winner.

We chose a team from St. Mary as the winners, Janaya Fuller and Lilly Koenig, who represented France. The Russian delegation came second, with honourable mentions for China and Kuwait.

Fuller and Koenig were blown away when their names were called.

“Amazing. I didn’t expect when we started Model UN we would be here right now,” Fuller said.

Both were first introduced to MUNA as pages, delivering notes, and watching as people got up and banged on their tables to show support. It was overwhelming at first, but the pair eventually got into it.

“It feels great and amazing that we get to be a part of this experience,” Koenig said, “ and that we get to move on and be a part of another amazing experience.”

The teens spent “months and months” preparing, Fuller said. They did lots of research, lots of speeches, and lots of getting to know the positions of both heir assigned country (France) and other countries at the debate.

“You really, really really need to know your country inside out and backwards,” she said. “You need to know what their views are on human rights, their political laws and on issues happening presently.”

One thing that helped the team stand out was its teamwork. Both Fuller and Koenig contributed equally to each of the three debates.

“We decided to split (the resolutions) up to make it easier for both of us,” Koenig explained.

“We’ve known each other for close to six years, so we know each other, we know our country, we know everything we need to do to work together, and we always discuss things before we do something crazy.”

Now that the girls have won the local event, they have to start preparing for the massive MUNA assembly in Winnipeg. Two of he resolutions will be the same — the ones about North Korea and about gender. But the team will have to prepare for two additional resolutions dealing with rights of those with disabilities and on the ongoing war in Syria.

They’ll also have to learn the position of a new country. They can’t represent France again.

“We’re going to have to work our butts off like crazy to get everything done, but I think it will be worth it,” Koenig said.

Despite all the work that goes into it, both Koenig and Fuller enjoy the process, and the curveballs it throws at the.

“The hardest part is working on your feet and not knowing what’s going to happen,” Fuller said.

For Koenig, that’s the best part.

“Every time you do it, something new comes along and you have to be good on your feet. You learn to be a good public speaker, you learnt o communicate with others, and you have to keep in mind all of the rules and regulations to represent your country.”

One of the St. Mary model UN coaches, Dennis Ogrodnick, expressed his pride for the team.

“It’s a thrill to have Lilly and Janaya win,” he said.

“They put so much work and effort into it. They demonstrated what a model UN delegate should be and how we should strive to become that through our understanding of issues and countries.”

Like Ogrodnick, Morley Harrison is proud of what the students accomplished. He’s overseen the Prince Albert MUNA conference for several years, and watched as teams have gone off to Winnipeg, and sometimes won. He’s confident this year’s Prince Albert champions will continue the tradition of strong P.A. teams.

“Both young women speak extremely well,” he said.

“They did their homework. I have every confidence they will do very well and maybe even bring the big trophy home again.”