The annual New Zealand Model United Nations teaches global citizenship to high school students in an authentic way, by assigning young people to countries and enabling them to experience how the UN works. The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is a regular sponsor of this event. UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Peter MacKenzie (pictured holding sign) reflects on the experience.
When thinking of the United Nations and its myriad affiliated institutions, transparency and coherency are not the words which typically spring to mind. Instead, the UN is often perceived as so far removed from the lives of everyday individuals that it is not worth learning about or understanding.
Every year, UN Youth sets about changing that. UN Youth is run by youth and for youth, and annually invites hundreds of youth from across the country to New Zealand Model United Nations (NZMUN) – its premier event. At the event, youth take on the role of a UN member-state, representing its views, learning about what the UN does, and seeing a tangible demonstration of how it is structured.
I was privileged enough to attend NZMUN multiple times during my time at high school, representing countries as diverse as Oman, China and Kiribati. Each year, the lead-up to the event would entail a flurry of research as you learn about the position and perspective of your assigned nation. Arriving at the event, you would get stuck in – shaking hands and sharing thoughts on issues of global importance – from the Syrian crisis, to planetary food supply, to censorship and free speech. It is a very different world from high school classes, and is an unmatched opportunity to learn how to be a global citizen, which UNESCO strongly advocates.