By James Pouliot
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Students of Newburyport High School are reaching out for donations to their Model United Nations team’s trip to a New York City conference later this month. Working alongside more than 1,000 students from schools around the world, the 25 Newburyport students will represent Brazil and Sri Lanka in mock debates and UN proceedings.
The Global Classrooms International Model UN conference is a prestigious event, featuring an opening ceremony in the real UN General Assembly. The team of hopes to raise $6,000 through the personal fundraising website GoFundMe.com. That’s just a fraction of the $625 per student that the conference, lodging and transportation will cost.
They’ve raised $640 so far, primarily from one generous donor.
Though the conference itself lasts only a few days, the students work for months in advance to understand their “nation” in-depth. Students research trade patterns, international history, domestic politics and more to create a convincing simulation of the country’s delegation, according to Matt LaChapelle, the team’s primary faculty advisor.
“Throughout the whole process, the kids are trying to write a resolution, but they’re trying to do so to keep Brazil’s interests in mind,” LaChapelle said. “They need to know who their trade partners are, and who their historic rivals are, so they don’t make an unrealistic alliance.”
Students who don’t prepare risk losing face: LaChapelle recalled one notorious blunder when a team representing Pakistan attempted to ally with India despite the nations’ decades-old rivalry. On the other hand, awards are given to both teams and individuals for accomplishing their nation’s goals, arguing persuasively and maintaining a realistic portrayal of their country.
The team will be split into committees based on their country and areas of interest, with various students having representing Brazil and Sri Lanka’s interests in matters like nuclear proliferation, world health and international security.
“The idea of it is to teach kids to be globally responsible,” LaChapelle said. “They can learn international relations, they can learn research techniques...techniques in negotiation and compromise. Basically it’s designed to help them be more globally educated, more globally aware.”
Seniors Christian Cyr and Conner Reynolds will represent Brazil before the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, which will discuss drug trafficking. Brazil is the world’s second-largest importer of cocaine, Cyr said, so they’ll try to create a multilateral drug task force with neighbors Bolivia, Columbia and Peru, whose borders are popular targets for smugglers. The primarily-Brazilian force would then hunt traffickers in other countries.
But it’s more difficult than a handshake.
“Of course, because it’s Brazilian soldiers in those countries, that could break sovereignty, so you have to get agreements from them,” Cyr said. “And when you’re trying to get more than one country on a task force, they don’t always want to fund it.”
Cyr’s plan is to lobby the United States for grant funds and technology to stop the organized trade, then set aside domestic funds to rehabilitate addicts and cut off demand.
With 12 years of experience since LaChapelle was hired to create the team, Newburyport’s Model UN is considered quite skilled in the region. At their usual Maine conference, they’ve won Best Delegation for several years running, as well as numerous individual awards for diplomacy and public speaking.
“The club is very well established, we’re a very accomplished group,” he said. “This is a chance for our kids to showcase their skill on a greater scale.”
That greater scale is reflected in their country assignment: while NHS is often assigned large, influential countries like China, Russia and the United Kingdom, in the New York, those important roles will go to schools with a history of high performance at the conference.
“If you have someone representing the United States and they’re not prepared, it makes it very difficult for all other students in the committee to be able to do their roles properly,” LaChapelle said.
Since virtually every country must take America’s actions into account when making their own plans, an ill-prepared America throws the conference into disarray.
Though Brazil is not on the same international level, it is a “complex” and “growing economy,” and a good chance to introduce the rest of the conference to Newburyport’s skills, according to LaChapelle.
“If this becomes something that we go to consistently, I would almost guarantee that we would get the big countries after a year or two,” he said.
The Newburyport Model UN is accepting donations to the trip at http://www.gofundme.com/6v21wc. The Global Classrooms International Model UN conference will take place in New York City on May 15 to May 17.