Training today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders

[The discussions allowed them to address global issues from the perspectives of different countries.]

Introduced for the first time, the diplomacy ambassadors programme trained 50 Emirati high school students at Boston’s Harvard University and Washington DC’s Georgetown University to find solutions to current global problems in peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. 

The model united nations institute Programme at a glance

> Fifty UAE students completed the Model UN Institute programme at the Harvard and Georgetown universities
> 25 students at the Harvard University, Boston
> 25 students at the Georgetown University, Washington DC

Level I Diplomat Programme

> Students represented countries in simulations including degradation ofnatural habitats, equal representation for women, and biological and chemical weapons
> Students worked in groups of 10 and participated in daily lessons in leadership, debate, public speaking, and research skills
> Delegates studied the founding history, purposes, and principles of the United Nations (UN); the UN system, with a focus on the UN General Assembly; and the practices of the UN, including consensus building, implementation, and funding.

Level II Crisis Programme

> Students took on roles of world leaders who had to make decisions in emerging crisis of historical and present day events.
> Students learned advanced Model UN skills and strategy to address national security ?threats, including terrorism, natural disasters, and economic collapse.
> Students also learn how to conduct in-depth research of government policy, debate persuasively, and think on their feet.

Through the two-week Model United Nations (MUN) Institute programme, organised by Best Delegate, young aspiring diplomats worked on building their public speaking and leadership skills, while studying international affairs through Model UN simulations.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at Harvard University in Boston, Laurabeth Goldsmith, director of Partnerships at Best Delegate, said she mentored 25 UAE students from grade 9 to 11 participated in six UN simulations in diplomat and crisis categories of the programme.

The first week’s diplomat programme allowed students to represent different countries and lead discussions with international peers about global issues including equal representation of women, biological and chemical weapons, climate change and nuclear security.

The discussions allowed them to address global issues from the perspectives of different countries.

“The programme addressed the founding history, purposes, and principles of the UN; the UN system, with a focus on the UN General Assembly; and the practices of the UN, including consensus building, implementation, and funding,” said Goldsmith.

The second week’s crisis programme, on the other hand, allowed students to represent a world leader who have to make decisions about a historical or present-day emerging crisis by utilising theories of International Relations.

Through tackling events such as Oslo Accord and the 1978 Iranian revolution, the programme simulates how the highest levels of national government respond to national security threats, including terrorism, natural disasters, and economic collapse.

“Through placing them in historical events like these, students learn how to conduct in-depth research of government policy, debate persuasively, and think on their feet,” added Goldsmith.

The Model UN programme, she said, gives students the skills needed for a diplomat in the 21st century.

“Students learn how to research, write, speak, and negotiate. They also get the opportunity to lead their peers and organise large-scale conferences. These are not only skills that colleges look for and employers value, but that will stay with students throughout their lives as they grow into positions of leadership,” said Goldsmith.

Through the programme, the government is looking to train future young diplomats and ambassadors as UAE is known for having ministers in the new cabinet with average age of 38 years old, including 24-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, the youngest minister in the world.

Representing UAE to the world

Ahlam Al Ahmed, skills development specialist at the ministry who supervised the 25 diplomacy ambassadors of Harvard University, said by working with international students, young Emiratis represented their culture to the world.

“Some students had never interacted with Arabs before, but now they know what young Muslim men and women are capable of doing,” said Al Ahmed.

Among thousands of applications received, the ministry selected 50 students from government and private schools and institutes across the UAE to participate in the programme after set of interviews that evaluated their command of English, personality, problem solving and debating skills.

Al Ahmed said students grew in confidence and negotiation skills throughout the programme.

“Students were first shy to speak in public in English, but after being equipped with new skills, they felt empowered to speak and negotiate,” said Al Ahmed.

She added: “The most important thing about a diplomat is to learn about foreign policies of different countries and think critically about issues from multiple perspectives different than their own. The MUN Institute trains them to do exactly that through different simulations,” said Al Ahmed.

Before commencing the programme at the Harvard, the young students participated in a one-day training workshop at the Emirates Diplomacy Academy in Abu Dhabi.

Upon completion, students received level 1 and 2 diplomacy certificates as graduates of the MUN Institute programme.

The Emirates Diplomacy Academy will also offer trainings and programmes to ensure the young ambassadors continue the projects they discussed at the MUN Institute.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith said Best Delegate offers the MUN programme in 20 countries throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Programmes are also offered for teachers. The ambassadors programme started in 2016. This year saw 1, 080 Emirati school and university students and teachers participants in programmes at distinguished college campuses in US and Europe to cover six fields of the future, innovation, giving, diplomacy, sports excellence and masterpieces.

I’m taking back knowledge to my friends
Saeed Al Yamahi, 16,Grade 11, Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Sharqi Secondary School in Fujairah,

Aspiring criminologist

“Participating at the MUN Institute programme changed my world. Now I look at other people’s perspectives, not only my own, when addressing issues. Representing Japan during the degradation of natural habitat talk gave me a different look on climate change. Unlike the UAE where it’s always hot, Japan faces the challenge of snow, earthquakes and natural disasters. Speaking on behalf of Iran in biological and chemical weapons expanded my horizon to crucial global issues. I will launch MUN club at my school to transfer knowledge to my friends back home.”

Empowering women is my ?mission
Noura Al Shamsi, 17, Grade 11, Al Dhait Secondary School for Girls in Ras ?Al Khaimah

Aspiring minister or ?ambassador

“Representing Kenya in equal representation for women simulation encouraged me to grow and empower other women in my society and other countries. While Kenya hires women in its government positions, other countries are falling behind in this aspect, which is unfortunate because women’s role is crucial in any society’s development. When I first started, I wasn’t confident enough to speak in public, but the program taught us how to structure our speeches to make our words more influential. Now I follow the hook-point-action structure when I speak!”

Equipped with lifetime skills
Zayed Al Saeedi, 18, Grade 11, Bani Yas School ?in Abu Dhabi

Aspiring UAE ambassador ?in Germany

“Having a certificate from Harvard University as a school student is a privilege, but we will also take the skills we learned for a lifetime. I developed public speaking skills that will help me achieve my dreams in becoming a diplomat who will represent the country in the best image. Representing Ethiopia in degradation of natural habitat and being involved in talks of gender equality help in changing our perspectives and work towards becoming active people in our communities. I look forward to establishing an MUN club in my school.”