The South African Model United Nations debating conferences are based on the principles and format of a UN General Assembly debate, with a focus on the United Nations, global issues, international relations and human rights issues.
The conferences were first held in 1995 as part of the United Nations’ 50th anniversary celebrations. The 1995 group of debaters accompanied former President Nelson Mandela on his trip to New York for the UN celebrations. Although the event was run at the time by the National Ministry of Education, Education Africa was called in by the then Minister of Education, Professor Sibusiso Bengu, to assist with the project. It was a resounding success, giving South African learners a life-changing experience. In 1998, Education Africa revived the debating conferences for South African high schools.
For the past decade, our South Africa Model United Nations debating conferences have united disadvantaged and advantaged learners from all nine provinces of South Africa, and have been run successfully at provincial, national and international levels.
Over 500 South African high schools from diverse backgrounds from all nine provinces in South Africa participate in this programme on an annual basis.
A unique feature of this Education Africa project, which sets it apart from other Model UN debates run throughout the world, is the twinning of resourced and under-resourced schools to form a combined team. Each team consists of two learners from a resourced school and two from an under-resourced school, as well as an educator from each school. This twinning model addresses inequalities in the education environment and fosters social cohesion. It is also the only truly national Model UN in the world, and entrance is free to all participants.
This combination is distinct from any other Model UN conference around the world in that it:
- Promotes cross-cultural exchange;
- Encourages tolerance and peace between learners; and
- Gives disadvantaged learners the opportunity to compete on an equal footing, as they have access to research resources through their partner school.
We are proud of the fact that this project has the support, endorsement and active participation of the following:
- United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Pretoria
- Department of Basic Education and the personal participation of Deputy Minister Enver Surty
- Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO)
- The South African Mission to the UN
- The Provincial Legislators
- The Cape Town Metropolitan Council
- Robben Island Museum
STRUCTURE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN MODEL UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCES
The conference structure is divided into the following components:
Provincial training workshops: Teams attend a training workshop in their province, where they are briefed on the rules, procedures and issues to be debated. Each team is allocated the country whose viewpoint they will be debating in the conference, as well as the topic of debate (e.g. child soldiers, HIV & Aids, Child Labour, Human Rights Violations, Global Warming etc.)
Provincial conferences: The conference is run firstly at a provincial level, where the debates are held in the Provincial Legislatures.
National training workshops: Past participants of this programme are appointed as tutors to the winning teams to help them prepare for the South African Model United Nations Cape Town International Conference.
South African Model United Nations Cape Town International Conference: The winning teams from each province, including their educators and tutors, are then flown to Cape Town to debate against school teams from both Africa and abroad. The teams participate in a unique learning experience on Robben Island, where the closing ceremonies also take place.
USA International Conference: The best performing South African team at the South African Model United Nations Cape Town International Conference, and one member from each of the other eight provincial teams, receive the tremendous experience of attending an international debating conference in the USA and visiting the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The South African Model United Nations is a youth leadership and mentorship programme that brings a global perspective into play whilst preparing high school learners for their entry into the world of work through the acquisition of research and debating skills. Through its training, design, strategy and vision, this Education Africa project assists in fostering an informed and engaged youth who will participate in broader society. The programme also enhances an appreciation of democracy and good governance, as well as the objectives of the AU and SADC, and the values of the Constitution of South Africa and the United Nations. The South African Model United Nations establishes the grounding elements for the development of future leaders by changing mind-sets and transcending the boundaries that hamper meaningful academic, economic and social achievement.
This project has been and continues to be one of the highlights of my life. It has offered me the opportunity to work with young people from different backgrounds and from across the world. It has exposed me to a world I never imagined. I have come to understand the role South Africa plays in the global community and the dynamics of this community. A world of possibilities has opened up to me.