VCE students get a taste of the UN

More than 250 VCE Global Politics students are taking part in three model United Nations conferences on La Trobe University’s Melbourne and Bendigo campuses.

As recounted by Olivia from Eltham College, who represented India at the debate, Caucus and vote on The Responsibility to Protect: Preventing Mass Atrocity Crimes: “I found the UN conference to be very insightful and particularly useful in terms of my Global Politics studies. The Caucus session was my favourite activity of the day. It was a lively task which allowed me to see firsthand the debate that occurs within UN conferences and the many factors delegates have to consider when representing their country’s views and values.”

Challenging the engaged, well-informed young students was an interesting experience for La Trobe International Relations Senior Lecturer Dr Michael O’Keefe, who introduced the contentious debate with: “How many people have to be killed to justify an intervention? Does it matter who they are and how they are killed? How many people would you kill to save a people? Are you willing to do the killing? Are you capable of doing the killing? If not, who will you outsource your ‘responsibility’ to protect to?”

Olivia added: “I found that countries’ stances on the issue depended greatly on factors such as alliances, political ideologies and relationships with the country at hand. Whilst I had a general understanding of the UN General Assembly through my studies, playing an active part in a model conference strengthened my understanding.”

La Trobe Politics lecturer Dr Bec Strating introduced Asylum Seekers and Refugees: A Global Humanitarian Crisis, which sparked much debate and a swathe of amendments. Led by the United States (Ave Maria College) with strong support from China (Reservoir High School), Russia (Gladstone Park Secondary College) and France (Catholic Ladies College), a key clause condemning mandatory detention was watered down with an amendment that “appreciates the right of the State to maintain their own national security”.

Much heat and debate will also be generated at the Bendigo campus on Friday when La Trobe International Relations lecturer Dr Ben Habib will introduce Confronting Climate Change: Committing to Global Action. Dr Habib will say: “We need to face the inescapable reality that we live on a finite planet. We stand with one foot in a capitalist economy largely powered by fossil fuel energy, underpinned by separation from everything non-human.  Our other foot stands in an emerging post-growth society based on sustainable existence within the natural world on which we are entirely dependent.  The survival of our species depends on a timely transition from the old model to the new. As educators we are failing if we do not prepare our students for the serious environmental realities of our time.”

Students from as far afield as Cobram and Wangaratta will travel to Bendigo for the all-day conference.

Media contact: Tim Newhouse | | 94792315 | 0416306759