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Not as easy as it looks

May 22, 2007|by ALEXANDRA CANTONE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Imagine having a chance to solve one of the world's great crises. In April, middle school students from Montessori Academy of Chambersburg and private schools in West Virginia and New York did just that. We attended a Model United Nations conference, charged with resolving the Iran nuclear crisis.

The conference at Mercersburg Academy was the senior project of academy students Chuck Roberts and Anne Spencer. The whole day was planned by them, and they presided over the day's events. Roberts was the Model U.N.'s secretary-general. Spencer was under-secretary-general.

Students were seated at one of three long tables in the shape of a U. Seated at a separate table at the open end of the U were Secretary-General Roberts and Under-Secretary-General Spencer.

Task: Resolve the Iran crisis

The back story for the session is this: Several years ago, in real life, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency of the U.N., determined that Iran was enriching uranium. Iran claimed it was only developing fuel for nuclear power plants. The U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran suspend all uranium-enrichment activities in 2006. Iran ignored the demand.

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So, at the conference in an exercise of international relations, we students were supposed to decide what should happen to resolve this disagreement. Participants were supposed to resolve the issue of nuclear arms in Iran the way their represented country would.

The day started with a motion to open a speaker's list. Delegates would, in their turn, raise their hand to indicate that they wanted to speak on the topic of the day - Iran's nuclear program.

After each delegate stated his or her country's position, the delegate could request a caucus - either a moderated caucus (a time when nations debated the Iran issue and tried to prove their point) or an unmoderated caucus (a time to privately discuss with other countries' delegates and convince or persuade them to be on your side). Caucuses lasted from five to 15 minutes.

During a moderated caucus, a nation's representative raised a hand. After the chair called on the nation, a delegate had 30 seconds to speak. Then another nation would respond. Nations could raise their hand many times during a single caucus.

And so went the day, debates and private discussions.

The delegation from China

Haley Porteus, 12, of Waynesboro, Pa., and I were assigned to represent the People's Republic of China. Most countries were represented by a team of two or three people; only Belgium had a one-person team.

All team members worked together on everything. There were no official titles, such as ambassador.

It was important to try to think like and act like the nation that you represented. There was a total of 15 represented countries, including the U.S., France, the UK, Peru, Slovakia, South Africa, Qatar, and Italy are only some. Each delegation sat behind a small sign indicating their country.

There were also many Mercersburg Academy students who took part in the conference. They played the role of pages, a cameraman, an Israeli leader, an Iranian leader, president of the IAEA and other positions.

China and Russia negotiate

Toward the end of the day, nations joined together to create resolution papers - formal proposals to resolve the issue at hand. If a country feels that they know a way to resolve the issue, they can create a resolution paper. Other countries, at the end of the day, will vote for which paper they agree with. But this is a cooperative process. In order to create a resolution paper, there must be a sponsor and at least three nations signing their support.

I was a sponsor for one resolution paper.

It was actually in the middle of the day, far earlier then the time to start working on resolution papers, when the delegates from the Russian Federation came to chat with me about a resolution. They stated that they realized that China had a lot of the same views as Russia. The Russians had the idea to have nuclear energy taken away from Iran (Iran doesn't actually have nuclear power plants yet. However, they are seeking material to create one. ) to be placed in a nuclear enrichment plant in Russia. The original plan was to have it set up so that both Russia and China would be able to access electricity produced by the plant whenever needed.

I agreed that Russia and China should get together to have greater influence on Iran. In real life, the IAEA and many nations placed sanctions on Iran to try to force Iran to stop developing its nuclear program. But Iran ignored these sanctions. In the Model U.N., I convinced the Russians that financial and trade sanctions against Iran were not working. Iran stated that sanctions would push them to use nuclear arms in means of war. Then Russia and China discussed the possibility of the IAEA taking authority over Iran's nuclear energy program.

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