Model United Nations conference sparks student debate

Teenagers at a North Cork school brought children from Angola, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Austria to Cork City Hall to join pupils from 22 Irish second- level schools as part of the country’s largest model United Nations conference.

Model United Nations conference sparks student debate

Before yesterday’s Davis College general assembly and conference kicked off, the almost 400 young people taking part in the student-run simulation of the UN General Assembly heard from Amnesty International Ireland president, Colm O’Gorman.

He urged them before they began debating topics like migration, alternative energy, UN reform, and youth radicalisation to ask “what can we achieve”.

He also warned them to “take responsibility as individuals and members of civic society” and to “stop thinking that all these decisions are made by somebody else”.

“Global displacement is probably the single biggest challenge on the planet with 60m people displaced and 20m refugees. Yet just 10 countries (Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda) have taken 56% of these displaced people and these 10 countries are only responsible for 2.5% of world GDP, they are some of the poorest countries in the world,” he said.

“Many of the other countries that are not taking their fair share of refugees are bound by UN humanitarian and human rights law to help these displaced people, but they are not implementing this law. They are finding ways to avoid their obligations. The young people here today need to join the dots. When these decisions are made by the EU, they are not made by somebody else. We are the EU and we have to look at what role we can play to change these decisions.”

Sorcha Gorman, 17, from Loreto Secondary School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, debated on the “mental well-being of youth” decrying the illusion of ‘a perfect life’ that is being perpetuated by social media.

She called on schools to start paying as much attention to youth wellness and mental health as they do to anti-bullying education.

“Social media is a huge factor in people feeling like they are just not good enough. People only post on social media apps about what is good in their life; their perfect school life, their perfect friends. So we only see the best of other people’s lives and that puts young people under such pressure,” she argued.

She said stigma around mental health still stops young people from talking about anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

“We talk about everything else but we won’t talk about mental health. It’s still not seen as normal. Schools could help this to change by having more talks around wellness and mental health. I’ve only ever had one class in school on this but numerous talks around bullying”.

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