Jamaican Students Discuss SIDS and Human Rights at UN Model Assembly

Mar 19, 2015

Dr. Birgit Gerstenberg with a student at the Jamaica Model Assembly. Photo Credit: Contributed

Munro College emerged as the winning school at Jamaica’s UN Model Assembly for students, held on Thursday, March 19, and organized by the United Nations Association in Jamaica (UNAJ). Eleven schools from across the island presented in the Model Assembly which was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston. A number of other schools attended as observers.

Munro College, representing the United Kingdom, was judged to have made the best presentation on the topic ‘The Role of Government in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is to Protect the Rights of its People.’ Vere Technical High School, representing Costa Rica, placed second and Excelsior High School, representing Sweden, placed third.

The judges noted the ‘extremely high’ standards of presentations and praised students and their teachers and coaches for their hard work in researching, writing and making presentations on the selected theme. Students were judged on their use of facts, knowledge demonstrated, logic and delivery, as well as use of time.

Birgit Gerstenberg, Senior Human Rights Advisor from the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Jamaica, representing the Resident Coordinator, gave the opening remarks and chaired the opening session of the Model Assembly. In her remarks she noted that the UN recognises that SIDS face specific challenges related to their size. Their vulnerabilities, related to their natural environment and resources and their geographical location, as well as to inherited poverty and discrimination on various levels, pose a challenge as they strive to achieve sustainable development for their citizens. She also pointed however to achievements in human rights, and continued work towards realising these rights, by SIDS which she said are well documented and should be highlighted.

Dr. Gerstenberg, who participated in the entire day’s proceedings, expressed satisfaction with work of the students and the UNAJ.
“It was an excellent example of how young people are acquainting themselves, through research and discussion, with the purposes of the United Nations and the functions of its main organ, the General Assembly. It was impressive to see that all 11 student delegations presented high quality statements on the countries they have chosen to represent, including their achievements and specific challenges in protecting human rights. From our perspective, this is indeed a way to further human rights education in schools in a meaningful way,” Dr. Gerstenberg said. “l enjoyed talking with several of the students during the breaks and realized how important this event was for them,” she added.

The guest speaker at the opening ceremony, Jamaica’s State Minister for Foreign and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown, also commended the students’ involvement in UN clubs in schools and encouraged them to use the experience of the model assembly to learn more about international diplomacy and the United Nations.

The UNAJ organises a UN Model Assembly for secondary level students in Jamaica annually. This year’s Model Assembly was the 39th in this series, where high school students present on a given theme and vie for prizes based on their performances. Their participation is coordinated through UN clubs in schools and with the UNAJ. The Association will be organising a youth conference later this year to look at the Rights of Children.

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