On 14 July 2012, five lucky UN enthusiasts took a trip to the United Nations in New York. Josh, Louis, Rory and teacher Cathy from Ellesmere College were the gold winning school at ‘Uniting the Nations’, UNA-UK’s Model UN schools tournament. Carl, a UNA Youth member, won our ‘Where will the UN take you?’ competition. The prize-trip was organised by UNA-UK to inspire the next generation of internationalists. Here’s how they got on:
We were all so excited to have won a trip to the UN in New York though it all seemed unreal as we touched down in JFK airport. As we walked through the crowded streets of Manhattan and savoured Times Square, the realisation that it was our great good fortune to be in New York had started to sink in!
A day free for our own sightseeing we took in all that New York had to offer: an open top bus tour, a spot of shopping and a quick trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
UNA-UK had organised a day of UN meetings for us so we dressed in our best and walked the few blocks to the United Nations headquarters. As we toured the building we were struck by a feeling of gratitude that such an institution exists where the world’s injustices can be discussed. Though the UN is not a perfect body, its successes are prolific and are often more effective than any one government could be acting alone.
We had the opportunity to meet with the World Federation of UNA’s (WFUNA), at their office at 1 United Nations Plaza – a great address! We heard about the role of WFUNA, which made us all realise how important our association with the UNA movement is. Our next meeting was with Nathalie Leroy, Chief of Education Outreach at the Department of Public Information, who discussed the UN’s engagements with young people. The UN posters we were given will also now adorn the corridors of our school!
The final meeting of the day was at the US Mission to the UN where we had a fruitful discussion which covered many aspects of the UN’s work, from high level policy-making to conflict prevention. Our conversation on sport and development was particularly inspiring and highly relevant with the London Olympics which were just two weeks away.
The highlight of our final day was our meeting at the UK’s Mission to the UN. Here we learned more about how the UK works internationally as well as the UK’s priorities at the UN. We all felt that by the end of the meeting we had a much better understanding of how member states are able to operate within the vast UN system.
Even as regular participants in Model United Nations, it can be easy to think of the UN as a just a ‘talking shop’, however, this trip has emphasised just how much work the UN does around the world, and how important it is for us, the next generation, to educate ourselves about world affairs. Thanks to UNA-UK, this trip has inspired us to learn more about the border-less issues that affect not just one country, but many.
Thank you UNA-UK for giving us this once in a lifetime experience – the UN headquarters, the inspiring people we met and New York itself – the trip has not failed to make an impression.
Carl, Cathy, Josh, Louis and Rory.