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Diplomacy rules as king for U.N. club

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
United Nations Club Vice President Ben Zuniga discusses upcoming events at a general meeting Tuesday. The Model United Nations Club is on the Mall today celebrating the United Nations' 58th anniversary.
By Alexis Blue
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 24, 2003

For most UA students, it's just another Friday. But for members of the Model United Nations Club, it's a time to celebrate world diplomacy.

The United Nations was officially formed on this date in 1945, and in celebration of U.N. Day, the Model United Nations Club will have an informational booth on the Mall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They will also have a booth at the U.N. Centre, at North Wilmot Road and East Speedway Boulevard, from 2 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Members of the club know that there are UA students who might not even know what the United Nations is or what it does, and that is something they would like to change.

One of several such clubs at colleges and high schools worldwide, the UA's Model United Nations Club addresses significant world issues through mock debates modeled after U.N. proceedings.

At weekly meetings, the club engages in simulated debates in which each of the 35 members is asked to play the part of a different country in the United Nations.

It might appear at first, that the Model United Nations Club is all about "pretending," said Kevin Ingram, the secretary general, or president, of the club. But there's much more to the club than mere make-believe.

As members are asked to play the roles of other countries, they learn not only about the workings of the United Nations, but also about how to look at important world issues from different perspectives.

"The biggest thing to learn is to role-play a country. You don't think like an American here, you think like they would," said Ben Zuniga, a senior majoring in geography and Italian.

Zuniga was involved with the Model United Nations Club at his high school for four years, and has belonged to the UA's club for three.

"This club lets students get a world perspective they can't get many other places," he said.

Weekly debates also help members hone their public speaking, debating and negotiating

techniques, skills important in daily life as well as within the club, said Ingram, a political science and regional development senior.

Every year, the club participates in a national conference in which model U.N. clubs from different schools come together to simulate a session of the U.N. general assembly.

In November, the UA will represent the countries of Syria and Bahrain at a conference in Chicago.

Discussion topics at the conference will include the solar energy program, rights of indigenous peoples and the SARS epidemic, Ingram said.

Awards will be given at the conference to schools that best represent their countries.

To prepare, members are doing extensive research on the countries they represent, as well as the countries they will be debating.

They meet on Tuesdays and Saturdays to compile research and practice for the big event.

Katya Yanayaco, who joined the Model United Nations Club last spring, said that while the club requires a lot of hard work and dedication, the hands-on learning experience is worth the effort.

"This isn't your ordinary club," she said.

Yanayaco, a political science and Latin American studies senior, said she appreciates the diversity of people involved in the club.

Members come from all different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and represent a range of different opinions and views.

"The UA is very diverse and you see that here," Yanayaco said.

Every spring, the Model United Nation Club hosts a conference for high school students throughout Arizona and the Southwest.

Last year, 350 high school students attended the two-day event on campus, where they participated in simulated debates centered on world issues chosen by the UA's Model United Nations Club.

Ingram said in addition to being an educational opportunity for high school students, the spring conference is a recruiting tool for the UA's club. While many members of the club are political science or international relations majors, the group is open to anyone, Ingram said.

"If you're interested in world affairs, this is the place to be," he said.

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