Education served through school is never enough; it does not define a student’s character and personality. What defines a student is his/her level of awareness of the environment they live in, the knowledge they gain by reading, learning about, and exploring the world around them. That is what motivated us to organize Palestine’s first high school Model United Nations conference, PalMUN.
Model UN is a simulation of the actual United Nations venue that gives an opportunity for students interested in global affairs and international topics to discuss these matters on a competitive level. The aim is to develop students’ abilities in debate, discussion, and conflict resolution along with raising students’ awareness about world’s politics, economics, culture, and worldwide issues in general.
In the Friends School in Ramallah, students participate in worldwide Model United Nations conferences; we’ve been to the United States, Netherlands, Greece, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, and India. The amount of valuable experience we have gained is massive, but what benefit does it bring to Palestine if our experience isn’t shared with other young Palestinian students? That is the reason we decided we are going to hold this Palestinian MUN conference for Palestinian young students who haven’t had the chance to participate in Model UN conferences abroad, we want to share our experience with the largest number of students possible, who can then share their experience with others and so on.
Another thing that makes this PalMUN conference unique is that it is organized by sole student effort. The Model United Nations club’s board at the Friends School consists of 5 students, Areen Bahour, Dalal Awwad, Ali al-Ahmad, Mona Yasin, and me. We have made a promise to ourselves that we will reach out to the biggest number of young Palestinian students, either directly through this conference, or indirectly through conference participants.
One month before the conference’s set date (It was set for September 23rd, but was POSTPONED due to reasons stated here), we faced many setbacks. We were frustrated at times, we reached points we almost gave up on this bumpy ride, and we were also worried we weren’t going to be able to find sponsors for this conference. Looking back now, I am glad we never gave up and carried on this path to make this conference happen. We received generous financial support from members of the Palestinian Business Club who asked for nothing in return, except that we make sure this conference is not the last, rather it is the first of many to come.
Over 130 students participated in this conference, student delegations came from schools from Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus, Haifa, and Nazareth. We contacted a school in Gaza, but due to the inhumane siege laid on Gaza by Israel, a delegation from Gaza wasn’t able to join us, hopefully next year they will be the first to arrive!
Opening ceremonies and first day of the conference were held at the Friends School, but the second and third days were held at the Movinpick hotel in Ramallah. The conference was made of three committees: The first is a General Assembly with over 70 students, second is an Economic and Social council with over 40 students, and last is an Arab League of which I was president of, it had 21 delegates. Various issues were put on the table for discussion, the state of Palestine was discussed at the General Assembly and after a heated debate the state of Palestine was recognized by General Assembly delegates. In the Arab League, topics about foreign military interventions in Arab affairs and the Somali famine and civil war were discussed, but unlike the real Arab League, the model Arab League did come up with strong resolutions aiming to solve the problems.
Closing ceremonies were held on October 9th, we were joined by Mr. Munib AlMasri as a guest speaker who talked about how our generation is the generation that will determine the future of Palestine and its people. After his speech, he was faced with critical questions by many students regarding the Palestinian statehood bid and whether it comes in favor of Palestinians or not, he answered most students stating his opinions on this matter, but later emphasized that it is us who will determine our future, he said he was proud of everyone and believes that being critical and having different opinions is what will make great leaders of us in the near future.
Before she gathered her students and went back to Bethlehem, Ms. Nidal Barham, supervisor of a student delegation from Bethlehem told us: “I was not hopeful of the young generation, all I saw was young kids messing around on facebook and not caring for the world they live in, but you guys have changed all my perspectives when I came here, you proved me wrong, you proved that this generation is up for the responsibility to lead our people and bring prosperity to everyone in the near future, Thank You for organizing this conference and opening my eyes”.
I still cannot believe that we have achieved this great achievement as high school students, we are proud of this achievement ourselves. Palestinian youth deserve what is better out of this world, occupation and continuous conflict have demoralized our people, but we’ll never give up. After all, everything depends on the level of education and awareness our young generation has, and that is what we are working on. This conference is nothing but another step in the right way; it is still a long way to go.