May 1, 2003, Gazette
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.
|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.