By Butch Wehry
Academy Spirit staff
Thirteen members of the Academy Model United Nations team led by the dean of the faculty’s Lt. Col. Joe Derdzinski and Mr. David “Mike” Reinert returned with new cultural and diplomatic insights from the McGill Model United Nations Assembly 2009 held in Montreal, Canada recently.
The McGill Model United Nations Assembly, one of the world’s largest and most vibrant university-level Model United Nations conferences, is an exercise in diplomacy and international organization to better understand the workings of the UN.
“We had club meetings for the conference about twice a week for the month before the conference, did research on our respective committee topics and the nations we were representing, said Cadet Squadron-8’s Cadet 2nd Class Jonathan Lewczyk.
The foreign area studies major said participating was better than he expected.
“I co-sponsored two resolutions that were passed and was a signatory on two more that were passed by the committee as well,” said the cadet from Buffalo, N.Y. “The biggest thing I learned from this experience was how to better my communication skills and networking abilities; especially with those not in the military. The entire conference, in my opinion, highlighted the club members’ understanding of diplomacy and the United Nations; we made deals and alliances, we lobbied to get certain points included in resolutions, and we debated and negotiated with students from other universities to reach compromises.”
Cadet Lewczyk believes participation will help the leaders of tomorrow.
“In order to be a good officer, one must have effective communication skills, patience, and resolve in putting forth an agenda and arguing its merits,” he said. “At the same time, an officer must be able to step up and admit when there is a good idea he did not think of, or when someone else’s plan is better than your own. These are all skills one develops at a Model UN conference, and that’s why I believe these conferences help us develop into effective leaders.
Cadet 1st Class Darshan Subramanian remembers the long hours getting ready for the conference.
“There were countless hours of reading and research that went into model UN preparation,” said Cadet Squadron 17’s political science major. “We created strategies on how to convince people to implement our ideas for the various topics we debated. Knowledge is key, but only gets you as far as the conference. Once there, it is all about being sociable, diplomatic, compromising on tough issues, and creating solutions to real-world problems that the United Nations would face,” said the cadet from Albany, N.Y.
This year he represented the country of Egypt in the special political and decolonization 4th committee. It is one of the oldest committees in the real United Nations and deals with a range of issues from non-sovereign regions to international security.
“This year we discussed the privatization of war,” Cadet Subramanian said. “The previous year, I represented the nation of Palau in the same committee, discussing the issues of torture and the war on terrorism. In 2007, I represented the Ivory Coast in the African Union, discussing issues of reconciling cultural practices with humanitarian law in the tribal regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
He said the biggest thing he learned from this is the importance of civil-military relations.
“While we represented Egypt, Palau and the Ivory Coast, thousands of students across the world were at these conferences and knew we represented the United States Air Force,” the cadet said. “In discussing serious world issues, we learned a lot about different world views, and they learned a lot about our Air Force and country in general. In this globalized, dynamic, multi cultural world we live in, it is crucial to learn about different cultures and perspectives, as it may not be long before we will be working with these fine individuals in a real world environment. The Academy should look more into these experiences that promote cultural awareness and knowledge about world issues.”
Coming from the Air Force Academy, Cadet Subramanian was fairly knowledgeable about how the military operates in a real world environment, specifically from an Air Force perspective.
“I tried to portray this perspective when attempting to write resolutions to address the privatization of war,” he said. “It does not matter what country we represent, as everyone at the conferences knows we are from the United States and the United States Air Force respectively. It was crucial for us to take an unbiased approach when debating these issues and participating in these types of conferences not only helps us cadets become more aware of other cultural beliefs, world views and practices, but students from around the world understand the United States and the U.S. Air Force.
In terms of the military as well as the private sector, Cadet Subramanian believes that work can be done in a very joint environment.
“It will not be long before we as cadets will be working with these individuals from around the world,” the senior cadet said. “Attending conferences, such as Model UN, allows a better understanding between all parties involved. This ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ will prove highly beneficial to us as future leaders.