Giuliana Nicolucci-Altman, SYA France ‘16 and a junior from Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago, says that participating in the recent Model United Nations (MUN) conference was a, “life changing experience,” and enhanced her knowledge of the world in so many ways all while having fun! Giuliana was the only SYA France student who proposed a resolution that was passed.
Giuliana represented the Special Environmental Committee, or the committee designated to the COP21. “COP21” is shorthand for "Conference of the Parties 21,” which is the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The concept of COP21 is a fairly simple, countries from all over the world gather in Paris and try to decide the best way to keep all global warming below 2°C (35.6°F).
Giuliana and her committee were presented the following questions for which they needed to come up with solutions or resolutions:
- How to put in place the objectives set out by the COP21?
- The creation of a weighted tax on greenhouse gas emitting vehicles
- The creation of an international sustainable plan for the exploitation of natural resources.
Each student in the committee represents a country, or delegation, and works with other delegations to draft resolutions that are feasible, and that coincide with the desires of each country.
“The process involves collaboration, writing, speech making, and compromising. The language barrier was an extra challenge,” Giuliana explained, “It was especially difficult, for example, to try to explain to the delegate of Japan why my resolution wouldn't hurt the global economy - in French. But in the end, all the SYA participants would say the hard work was worth the enriching experience.”
Resolutions - Passed!
Giuliana’s resolution was how the member states of the United Nations can achieve the goals set out by the COP21, including keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. “One of the first things that I had to do as the delegation from Denmark, was to research my own environmental policies, like for renewable energy, recycling, energy efficient public transport, etc,” she explained, “I found that Denmark was a leader in energy efficiency, so I started drafting my own resolution based on Denmark's policies, before even arriving at the conference.”
On the first day of lobbying, Giuliana showed her ideas to other delegations, some of whom agreed completely and many of whom had things to add to the document to make it work internationally. Then as a team, they rewrote and formatted the resolution as it is required to be: perambulatory clauses followed by numbered operative clauses. Her and her teammate from Istanbul went around the conference room, gathering enough signatures for the resolution to be accepted by the chair.
“As soon as it was accepted, I had to read the resolution in front of the entire committee. Afterwards, my voice probably cracking due to nerves, I gave a short speech in favor for it, and then had to accept questions.” She said, “You have to be prepared for the worst, because you have 50 other people in the room asking how you plan on funding clause X, or whether clause Y is really feasible in developing countries, etc. It's stressful, but also very exciting. It definitely gave me a lot of adrenaline.”
After answering questions, other delegations made amendments, or edits to the resolution, and those were voted on. Some passed, some didn't, Giuliana partnered with Iran to change the date of carbon-neutrality. After all the amendments were made, the resolution got a final vote-- and passed!.
Learning in action and meeting world wide friends
So, what was Giuliana’s favorite part of the experience? She explained it best herself:
“The learning in action. This was my first Model U.N. conference, and I had no idea what to expect. All I had was my research, and five months worth of French immersion, and I was traveling to an international conference that would take place at the real United Nations in Geneva. I completely surprised myself; as soon as I sat in the conference room, I picked up on the formalities and vocabulary (for example to ask a question, you say "point of information"), and relished the lobbying and writing, so much so, that I proposed my own resolution, which was signed by 20 countries and got passed by the committee. It was also feeling the weight and importance of being trusted with the opinions and policies of an entire country. Yes, it's the United Nations for high school students, and none of the resolutions will change the world. Regardless, you get a sense of what it's like to make real change, because we know that we are the generation that will soon be making these decisions. I also loved staying with a host family! Though it was for only a few nights, it was lovely to get to know yet another family.”
Experiences like this stay with our students for a lifetime and truly allow them to become global citizens. They met other students their age from Morocco to Australia, Turkey to Senegal, and Martinique to the Ivory Coast, making new teenage friends from all over the world.
“Even in the professional atmosphere of the conference we laughed, smiled at mistakes, became Facebook friends, and enjoyed the unique moment, knowing that these exact people will never be together again,” recalled Giuliana, “I miss the conference and its participants already; I've never experienced anything as amazing as being in a room full of high school students with the potential and intention to leave our world better than they found it.”
To learn more about SYA France, visit sya.org/France today!