Front Page

News

Alumni Notes
& Quotes

Bookmarks

Classified

Employment

In Brief

News & Notes

Notable

Out & About

Papers & Presentations

Research

Student View

Search This Issue

The Gazette Homepage

Division of University
Relations
Homepage

E-Mail Us

 


May 1, 2003, Gazette

The centre of the world

Katie Norman
The current political climate is buzzing with comments over the legitimacy, transparency and usefulness of the United Nations and its off-shooting projects. The League of Nations disbanded after failing to stop the Second World War and many predicted a similar fate for the United Nations after the unilateral actions committed by the Bush Administration on Iraq. In these trying times, when the UN is being handed yet another war torn country to mend, I received the opportunity of a lifetime – to sit in the Grand Hall at the United Nations in New York City and debate such topics as child poverty and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Between April 14–20, nine other students from Memorial University and myself had the opportunity to attend the National Model United Nations in New York City along with 3,000 other students from 15 countries around the world. Assigned to be ambassadors of Madagascar, we were given the opportunity to consider a very different political and economic viewpoint. In a time when political ideologies are creating great clashes in the world arena, it was very interesting to look at such topics as the transfer of illicit funds and water conservation from an African viewpoint.
Memorial students standing in front of the globe at the United Nations.
Standing in front of the globe at the United Nations are Memorial students (back, L-R) Jane Barnes, Matt Hunt, Matthew Gollop, James Smith, Meaghon Dunphy and Lee Burry. (Front, L-R) Katie Norman, Lesley Herridge, Jessica Dwyer and Jacqueline Costello.
Sitting in the General Assembly, with all 191 member states, permanent observer nations and non-governmental organizations, provided all of us with the vast host of opinions present in our world today. Often we look at things ethnocentrically, judging others as backwards, uninformed or barbaric. Listening to the foreign policies of countries that are very different from Canada showed the logic that is present in many countries’ beliefs. The reason the viewpoints vary is due to differences in economic stability, internal and external security, the types of governments in power and the history of the state. There tends to be the belief in western society that religion and politics shouldn’t mix, and when they are kept separate a peaceful democratic society emerges. While some may cite examples of this, it must be remembered that it is not only religious differences that account for differences in political ideologies, rather they are the amalgamation of many factors that create an increasing sophistication of international politics.

Not only did Memorial students have an opportunity to debate international issues but also got to discuss Canadian policy at the Permanent Mission to Canada. At the Mission, Canada’s view on Iraq was discussed as well as the type of a lifestyle one leads as an Ambassador to Canada. Such opportunities not only allowed us to see ways to engage in political life and the public service outside the electoral office, but also gave us a first-hand opportunity to ask questions on why Canada makes the decisions that it does. The key trend that emerged was that Canada wants to maintain the image of a stable country that is willing to work with other nations on international issues. Being a western nation, but not a security council member as the U.S., France and Great Britain are, has lead Canada to increasing cooperation with Australia and New Zealand, states who both maintain similar political views and standpoints to Canada.

Not only did we get to learn of the foreign policies of Canada, we were given an opportunity to see the reactions of many Americans to Canadians. At best they were mixed reactions. Some people were blatantly asking why we weren’t in their war while others asked us what Canada was really like, since they felt their country didn’t represent the values they held for themselves. There seems to be an anti-Canadian sentiment within some circles but we too are guilty of this in our own country with many people describing George W. Bush as a cowboy.

This trip would have been a wonderful experience at any time in my life but the current attacks on foreign policies and the role of the UN enriched the debate and made our sessions feel more real. Talking to students from England, Germany and Japan allowed us not only to learn about their views but also gave us an opportunity to consider our own viewpoints. It is very easy to use Canada as a model to measure all states against but the key trend that emerged is that comparison results in nothing other than the realization and overcompensation of differences. The United Nations is founded on the core principals of peace, security and betterment of the human experience and for these reasons all nations must ideally strive to arrive at commonalties. It is from such efforts that we will truly be able to fulfill increased human rights for all peoples.