THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 2014
NEW YORK – For three straight weeks in July and August, we welcomed education partners for both the Training Program and the Advanced Training Program at the United Nations. Students took part in sessions from UN officials, diplomats, and representatives from civil society. In addition, participants learned skills in project management, public speaking, problem solving, and critical thinking. At the end of each week, the programs ended with student presentations, addressing a specific sustainable development issue.
For the first time, the New York office conducted joint programs. We combined groups from different educational partners, allowing for students to meet their peers from other countries and cultures. The education partners included the Research Center of United Nations and International Organizations (RCUNIO), the Hope to the Future Association, the United Nations Association of New York (UNA-NY), and Sookmyung Women’s University.
Within and between the groups, participants displayed diverse skills, backgrounds, and interests. Students showed creativity and innovation in their development presentations, demonstrating their tech savvy while using the latest presentation software. Academic interests spanned a broad spectrum from economics to the arts to computer science majors. Many students expressed interest in working at the United Nations, in their foreign service, or in civil society, while a number or participants sought opportunities to engage the UN system through business.
We invited officials and staff from the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Labor Organization, the UN Global Compact, UN Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Public Information, UN Environmental Program, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This wide range of presenters allowed the students to gain an in-depth understanding of the UN’s work from the inside, with off-the record discussions not found in textbooks.
Civil society representatives included charity:water, Pencils of Promise, Global Action to Prevent War, and the US Federation for Middle East Peace. During a joint session with Chinese, Korean, and American students, retired Ambassador Ahmad Kamal addressed the students on the future of global affairs.
Training Program at the UN: 29 July – 4 August
We kicked off Training Program season with a high school group from China, recruited and organized by RCUNIO. This was RCUNIO’s 7th program overall with WFUNA. Sixteen students enjoyed five days of our TP program before attending the UN Youth Assembly the following week.
An addition to this edition included a Research Scavenger Hunt. Students were tasked to visit the Permanent Missions of Sri Lanka, Mexico and the Netherlands and ask specific questions to their presenters about: the role of their state at the UN; working in their diplomatic corps; the relationship between their country and China; and facts about their culture. The assignment also required each group to take photos of their visit.
For their final presentations, students chose one of the eight Millennium Development Goals and developed a project to address their particular development issue. The winning group came up with a program to provide primary education to rural areas in China.
Training Program at the UN: 4 – 8 August
Our first joint program consisted of a group of 22 students ranging in age from 13 to 18. A larger group came from the Hope to the Future Association, a South Korean NGO that provides education and volunteer opportunities for high school students. A handful of students attended local American high schools. The students integrated with each other quickly and seamlessly, enriching the experience and providing an opportunity to create bonds that will cross borders.
The highlight of the week had the students studying the current post-2015 development agenda. Each group of four to five students picked an issue they felt took precedence and created a local project plan dealing with a specific problem. The group with the best overall solution addressed the protection of forests, oceans, and rivers through measures which included ecotourism in Madagascar. Other ideas including creating a clothing line and providing jobs to promote gender equality, a sustainable energy framework for a small African village, and an education program teaching religious tolerance in Afghanistan.
Advanced Training Program at the UN: 11 – 15 August
Both RCUNIO and Sookmyung Women’s University sent a combined 45 participants for the New York office’s final training of the summer. Our program organizers divided the group into tracks focusing on either Peace and Security or Sustainable Development. Students had opportunities to interact with each other in activities, which included examining actors in armed conflict and global poverty. The Chinese and Korean students acclimated with each other successfully, creating a dynamic atmosphere that we plan to replicate in future training programs.
Students’ final presentations focused on the post-2015 development agenda. Each group had two choices on how to address their choice of development issue. Groups could take on a role of an NGO designing a short-term project. Inspired by the work of the UN Global Compact, students could also take on the role of a corporate social responsibility department of a medium to large-sized business, where a new product line or training program would tackle an issue. Ideas included an employment program for the elderly in South Korea, an approach to pitch governments on Internet connectivity, a sustainable energy project targeting North Korea, and tech company sponsorship of education programs in underdeveloped communities.
To cap off the week, Advanced Training Program participants attended the UNA-NY summer soiree. Participants met young professionals from the New York area in a rooftop party at the Hudson Terrace. With the weather cooperating and the generous hospitality of UNA-NY, the week ended on a high note.