By David W. ’19
Photos by Mr. Umble
For the past decade or so, a handful of seniors enrolled in Lancaster Country Day’s Model United Nations class have traveled every year to The Hague for an international five-day conference. It’s become a staple of LCDS culture, a sort of nerdy ritual for the departing class.
This year, things were a little different.
First, the MUN class welcomed both juniors and seniors for the first time. Second, it was at maximum capacity, boasting a full complement of 18 students.
And third, while this class hopped the pond like its forebears, we continued on over Turkey, threading the border between Iran and Iraq, hugging the coast of Saudi Arabia, and landing, after 14 hours in the air, in Doha, Qatar. (I would be remiss not to mention here that Qatar Airways gives metal utensils to its passengers. For those 14 hours, we were truly living in the lap of luxury.)
The Hague International Model United Nations, or THIMUN, is an international U.N. simulation that’s also an accredited non-governmental organization with the United Nations. Participating schools are assigned countries which their students represent in a variety of committees, from the General Assembly to the International Court of Justice. It is the students’ responsibility to exhaustively research their country’s policies before the conference. More than 1,000 student delegates from dozens of countries participated in this year’s Doha conference. Among them, hailing from little old Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were six delegates of the Republic of Uganda and 12 delegates of the United Mexican States (Colloquially referred to as Mexico and Uganda.)
Our class had spent months writing policy papers, drafting resolutions, and practicing debate in preparation for the conference, so upon arrival in Qatar, we took a well-deserved break. The group visited Souq Waqif, a historic market in Old Doha that remains a favorite of locals. We toured the Museum of Islamic Art, a beautiful five-story building with panoramic views of the city and art spanning more than a millennium of human history; we went “dune bashing” on a desert safari and experienced the terror of sliding sideways down a steep sand dune in an SUV; and of course, we encountered some camels. We took selfies with camels. We rode camels.
Students were assigned to a variety of committees which focused on topics ranging from corruption in the global fishing industry to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Each committee held around 80-100 delegates. LCDS was in a unique position this year, as it represented two countries — which held, at times, opposing viewpoints — simultaneously. Mexico, for instance, enshrines press freedom in its constitution, and its government advertises an effort to protect the interests of journalists acting in the country. (However, it still remains notorious for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.) Conversely, Uganda’s official policy on press freedom includes harsh libel laws and restrictions on press access. In a simulated conference, therefore, Uganda would be more willing to speak against measures to protect press freedom than Mexico, even if their policies are roughly the same in practice.
For every serious debate, there were plenty of lighthearted moments. Before my resolution was considered, I motioned for a three-minute unmoderated caucus because, “The delegate from Uganda needs to use the bathroom.” (Speaking in the third-person is required at all times during committee sessions.) Nick H.’19 shamelessly de-linted his suit — during lunch, on a balcony, in front of several hundred people — because he tried on a black hoodie over a white shirt. After taking a fall and receiving stitches in a Qatari hospital (free of charge, because literally every public service in Qatar is free), Lauren L.’19 Facetimed the group on laughing gas to tell us everything was okay. Mr. Umble sat next to her, half-concerned as a chaperone, half-amused as a friend.
Perhaps the most memorable moment occurred on the last night as we rode a bus from the conference center back to our hotel, which we shared with students from Kuwait. Spontaneously, our schools began to sing with one another. We belted out songs like Adele’s “Hello,” Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” and even the Kuwaiti national anthem. And after 30 or so minutes of singing, right as we pulled up to the hotel, someone started a song from Barney. Everyone sang in unison:
“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family. With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?”