UW News

April 10, 2003

UW students lead high schoolers as they take on world issues

If high school students ran the world, Israelis and Palestinians would declare a ceasefire, land mines would be heading toward extinction and the United Nations already would be gearing up to rebuild Iraq.

Those were among the actions taken April 4 and 5 at the Washington State Model United Nations conference, a mammoth gathering of 500 high school delegates led by more than 60 UW-student mentors.

Perhaps because it was shadowing an actual war in Iraq, this year’s third annual conference was the largest and most successful to date, said UW senior Shantini James, the undersecretary general.

“Iraq was not something we hid from,” she said. “It became part of our Security Council agenda.”

After fierce debate, the Security Council passed a resolution dictating that the rebuilding of Iraq be administered by a newly minted United Nations Reconstruction Mission for Iraq (UNRMI).

The conference, known as WASMUN (for Washington State Model United Nations), is a partnership between the WASMUN Student Association, the World Affairs Council and the University of Washington. It is funded primarily through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

UW students performed extensive research on each issue and led the conference planning. High school delegates boned up on current events and attended four UW campus workshops before the conference. More than 30 schools took part.

In addition to the immersion in civics and international studies, the event offered a taste of journalism. Student-written reports of Security Council and General Assembly action were published in the WASMUN Post.