NEW YORK – WFUNA welcomed sixteen high school students from the Republic of Korea this past week for another Training at the UN. This is the third group from the Hope to the Future Association to visit the WFUNA New York office since the partnership with the Korean educational organization began in early 2013. The participants engaged in an eventful five-day program focusing on the UN in New York, Sustainable Development, Peace and Security, and how young people could start impacting the world today.
The week started with a welcome and an introduction by Vince Fuentes, WFUNA Student Training Associate. Afterwards, the students received a briefing from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN. Topics presented included how to become a diplomat with the Korean foreign ministry, as well as the work of the mission at UN headquarters.
After lunch, Mr. Fuentes ran a lesson on global governance and UN decision-making. The day ended with a tour of the United Nations.
Participants focused on issues with development on the second day of training. Jessica O’Herron, Education Fellow at the US Fund for UNICEF, visited the students to talk about her work and the issues of sustainable development with children. Ms. O’Herron spoke on her own personal experience in the field as well as her advocacy work. In the next session, the students were introduced to the concept of living in extreme poverty. With this workshop, participants first compared their current lives and spending habits with those living below the global poverty line. Students were asked to create a budget a family’s spending on $1.25 a day to learn about the choices to be made under these dire circumstances.
Later in the day, Cubby Graham from charity: water gave a presentation on the NGO’s efforts to raise money for projects all around the world that addressed the global water crisis. Mr. Graham drew on the inspiring fundraising campaigns of thousands both young and old.
The day ended with an introduction to project management in an exercise where students imagined running their own development project.
Wednesday’s activities all took place at the United Nations Secretariat. Sebastian Vegara from the United Nations Development Programme spoke on the MDGs, describing the tracking and progress of each of the eight goals.
After lunch at the UN cafeteria and its beautiful view overlooking the Hudson River, students played in a UN trivia Global Quiz, pitting students into teams of four and answering questions based on what was learned in the week so far.
Ewen Buchanan from the Office of Disarmament Affairs (pictured) once again came to brief a WFUNA Training Program, this time focusing solely on the nuclear disarmament efforts of the UN. This subject is of special interest to the students from the Republic of Korea, given the transgressions from their neighbor to the north in recent years. Mr. Buchanan was also kind enough to bring along a colleague from the Republic of Korea to briefly talk about working at the UN as a Korean national.
Finally, George Baumgartner from the UN Correspondents Association spoke about his job reporting on the United Nations for over a decade, providing a unique perspective and stories of interactions with world leaders and diplomats.
The theme for Thursday was Peace and Security. Students heard a presentation from Kurt Chesko from the United Nations Mine Action Service. Mr. Chesko talked about the efforts of UNMAS in mine removal and the destruction of other explosive remnants of war and conflict. Participants especially enjoyed trying some of the equipment used in mine removal including protective gear and metal detectors.
The participants continued with a discussion and debate on actors in armed conflict. Students were given a scenario where soldiers had to decide how to act towards enemy combatants and civilians in different situations. Although the conversation was heavy, the students explored dilemmas that arise in armed conflict, touching on human rights and issues in legal, moral, and pragmatic terms.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations hosted the afternoon session, providing WFUNA and the Hope to the Future students with two speakers. Jon Greenway, Public Affairs Officer for the DPKO, introduced the students to the elements of peacekeeping and spoke about some of the missions currently underway. Next, Steven Feller from the UN Crisis Center spoke to the students about the management of dangerous world events and the dissemination of information to the highest levels of the UN Secretariat. The participants were incredibly interested in the work of the UN Watch Room.
For an hour, the students were given time to plan their group presentations on the Millennium Development Goals, ending their second to last day of the program.
The students arrived early to the Temporary North Lawn Building to finish their group presentations before visitors from the Avenues School arrived for a mid-morning session.
The Avenues School is a private high school located in Chelsea, New York City with a particular focus on global awareness and social responsibility. Ivan Cestero, a professor at the upper school, brought ten of his students to participate in a roundtable discussion and student exchange. The session, labeled “You’re Never Too Young to Change the World,” allowed students from both countries to share their ideas on social entrepreneurship and responsibility. Both sets of participants were invited to continue their conversations during lunch, comparing each other’s lives in school and home.
In the afternoon, four groups of students each presented their ideas for addressing a Millennium Development Goal, coming up with a handful of innovative project ideas. Three members of the WFUNA staff, who awarded each group prizes based on certain criteria, judged the highly anticipated presentations.
The day and the week ended with a talk from Mahel Nasser, Director of Outreach with the UN Department of Public Information. After Mr. Nasser’s final remarks, the students took part in a certificate ceremony commemorating the finish of the program, capping off an eventful and memorable week.
The WFUNA staff would like to thank the students, volunteers, coordinators and principals from Hope to the Future, the speakers and their respective offices, and all of those who played a role in securing venues, meals, and other material. Without your help this program would not be possible.
WFUNA wishes all the best of luck in the future!