Students negotiate ‘resolution’ to Ukraine crisis at Model United Nations meeting

As the world watches almost helplessly as Russian forces continue to occupy eastern Ukraine and subject its people to relentless bombardment, there has been very little progress in reaching a resolution to the conflict that is became a total invasion in February.

Peace talks held in Turkey did not lead to a resolution and even negotiations to allow humanitarian evacuations from besieged towns like Mariupol failed.

In Cork city last week, however, the first Davis College Model United Nations since 2019, before the pandemic hit, saw up to 400 students from 30 schools across Ireland and one school in Spain discuss the nuances of issues relating to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other contentious issues such as domestic violence, Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland, how to deal with new viruses and pandemics and questions relating to the integration of indigenous peoples.

A brief visit Thursday, the final day of a conference that began Tuesday afternoon, provided insightful insight into the firm understanding these high school students have of the nuances and complexities of national and global issues that have compelled diplomats to many years of experience. .

Davis College professor José Horta, the main organizer of the event, points out that the resolutions adopted in Cork have no binding effect – after all, it is a “model” United Nations, like similar events in other countries. But the quality of debate and discussion at all levels – Security Council, Special Conference and General Assembly – is as high as if it were binding.

Rachel O’Driscoll, a pupil at St Brogan’s secondary school in Bandon and a member of the Irish delegation to the Security Council, explained that she and her colleagues are limited in the sources of their knowledge, which means that they approach issues with far less nuance than at the United Nations in New York.

“We have a much less nuanced view of the whole situation, we represent our countries to the best of our abilities but in the end it’s based on personal research and there are archives and information that we wouldn’t have access to then. even if it seems like that resolutions and solutions are much faster, the situation is not so clear in reality.

That said, however, following a resolution proposed by the delegation of the Russian Federation and many intense negotiations behind the scenes between the Irish delegation and the delegations of the five permanent members of the Security Council, concessions were made which would have led to peace talks.

These included the creation of a demilitarized zone in eastern Ukraine and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force of 2,000 soldiers to allow peace talks to progress in a place neutral.

The Irish delegation would not normally have been allowed to participate in what is described as a P5 caucus, but as this was an amendment they had proposed and which was under discussion at the time, it was decided by the general secretary, Peter Holland of Davis College. , that they should be allowed to participate.

How and, more specifically, where the peace talks could be conducted was also a topic of discussion.

While countries like Croatia and Austria were suggested because they were ostensibly neutral countries, they were opposed by another member of the Security Council, Mexico, because they had voted against the invasion. of Ukraine when it happened while the Mexicans had abstained.

Cian Walsh, the second of Ireland’s delegates to the Security Council, was impressed by this argument because he agreed that Mexico was the only truly neutral candidate country to host the peace talks.

“Putin, Zelensky, it’s time for a vacation in the sun,” he said.

Other issues were to be discussed and decided by the Security Council. An amendment by France suggesting that Ukraine receive immediate membership has been challenged by the Russian Federation, which questioned why its neighbor would be allowed to join the bloc without meeting the criteria set by the EU. The British delegation was not very enthusiastic either, given its efforts to leave the European Union.

The Russian Federation delegation, consisting of two Mallow students, Balint Gasper and Liam Healy, two able diplomats who had to defend the Russian position, a not easy task, and do it fairly, had its own counter-proposal, namely which Ukraine could join with the BRICs, an informal union of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a union of emerging economies.

Since this was not really what other members of the Council thought Ukraine wanted to do, there was a discussion outside the room between the permanent members and a compromise was reached – l Ukraine could participate in the European Economic Area, an arrangement that extends the European Union’s single market to members of the European Free Trade Association.

These weren’t the only discussions taking place at the same time on Thursday – there was a special conference on sustainable development issues while in the General Assembly there was a heated debate on domestic violence and abuse sexual.

One of the most eye-catching proposals came from the Dominica delegate who wanted men to be subject to a curfew since men were most likely to commit acts of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Objections pleased many other delegations, underscoring the discriminatory nature of this broad approach, but the delegate from Dominica remained unmoved despite her amendment being defeated.

The debates were entertaining and the delegates thoughtful and serious, the event as a whole was informative, uplifting and inspiring. This is the kind of event that gives hope for the future.

There was not a crossword exchanged, although I have heard of the possibility of penalties for writers of a poorly worded motion.

Christi C. Elwood