Two Yorkton Regional High School students recently had a unique opportunity to see the world through a different lens.
Jonathon Muir and Peter Kozushka were chosen to represent Sri Lanka at Rotary International’s Model United Nations Assembly (MUNA) in Winnipeg May 1 to 3.
MUNA teaches participants how the UN works and, using actual resolutions that have faced the real UN, gives high school students a chance to participate in debates, committees and voting.
Of particular interest to the Yorkton/Sri Lanka delegation was the first resolution regarding disputed maritime claims in the South China Sea. Moved by Vietnam and seconded by The Philippines, the resolution sought to have interested parties renounce use of force in resolving disputes, refrain from deploying military forces in the area, commit to a peaceful resolution of disputes and to have the UN establish a peacekeeping force and convene an international conference to examine the issues.
“We were kind of put in a hard position because what China was doing was wanting to take over two-thirds of those seas, so it takes over those other countries’ fishing rights,” Muir said.
“Being from Canada and being born in Canada, for both of us, we want to say, ‘China, you shouldn’t be there,’ but you really have to look at it from a Sri Lankan point of view, so that was kind of really interesting.
“Our stand was kind of helping China, like we were supporting China because they’ve been past partners for a really long time, so it was kind of interesting because you had to get into that mindset that you are Sri Lankan, you have to kind of put aside your other morals or whatever.”
Muir and Kozushka, who knew very little about Sri Lanka before the conference, ended up speaking and voting against the resolution, which did not pass.
“It was fun to research,” Kozushka said. “We learned a lot.”
They voted for a resolution on banning chemical weapons in Syria, offered no comment on gender-killings and having initially spoken against a resolution on the rights of indigenous people around the world after ultimately supported it after it was modified during the debate and committee processes.
It gave the students a new appreciation for diplomacy.
“It makes you realize really how hard their job is because you have to try not to step on anybody’s toes,” Kozushka said.
YRHS English teacher and counselor Dennis Nesseth, who recommended the two young men for the event, was proud of their commitment and hard work.
“Neither had done anything like this in the past, but they jumped in and got to work,” Nesseth said. “They knew what resolutions Sri Lanka would speak on, so it was a matter of researching as much about Sri Lanka’s economic, domestic and foreign policies as they could and then formulate positions on the resolutions.”
Rotary International was involved in the formation of the United Nations after World War II and has been running these mock events for decades. The Yorkton boys’ participation was made possible by the local Rotary club.