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20.03.2012 South Africa

South African high school students to participate in international Model United Nations conference

By UNITED NATIONS
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JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, March 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- As South Africa marks Human Rights Day and the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 12 young leaders from throughout the country will gather in Johannesburg to prepare for an international Model United Nations Conference taking place in the United States of America next week.

The South African Model United Nations (SAMUN) debating team will leave for New York on Saturday, 24 March 2012 to participate in an international Model UN conference at Cornell University in New York State. The team comprises twelve high school learners who were selected through a series of simulated United Nations General Assembly debates held in all provinces as well as at an international Model UN competition held in Cape Town in October 2011. Here, participants debated issues around climate change and COP 17 among others and spent the night on Robben Island where fireside chats were held with former political prisoners.

The team leaving to New York comprises four learners (this time from Gauteng province) and one learner each from the remaining eight provinces. They were selected by an adjudication panel comprising representatives of the United Nations and academia.

The SAMUN is a project of Education Africa, a Johannesburg-based non-governmental organization with academic support provided by the Model United Nations of South Africa. The United Nations Information Centre is a key partner while other UN agencies as well as the national and provincial Departments of Education are strong supporters of this invaluable initiative.

Funded by the MTN Foundation, the SAMUN is globally unique in that each team of four students comprises two from an under-resourced school and two from a resourced-school. It thus affords bridge-building opportunities for tomorrow's leaders as it inculcates in them the values of tolerance, empathy and awareness of the world.

The South African learners have won numerous awards and accolades and are an illuminating and tangible example of nation-building, South Africa's active engagement in the international arena and the potential of its young citizens. For the past four years, the South African team has won the “Best Small Delegation” prize at the Cornell University Model UN conference.

The debates are an exercise in developing communication skills - such as the written preparation of arguments, oral presentations, negotiations and reaching compromises. These are skills that are essential in a work environment and very much so in understanding international politics and South Africa's place in the world. The debates focus on key global issues and the complexities involved in putting forward a country's policy while putting aside one's personal opinions.

In New York, the delegation will be hosted by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations as well as the UN Department of Public Information before they participate in the conference. The learners will undergo further training in Johannesburg (from 21 to 21 March) prior to their departure for the United States of America. The team will return to South Africa on Wednesday, 4 April 2012.

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