Political Science students define international terrorism in Model United Nations assembly

Written by: 
Jessica Leon

The Political Science Department and BYUH Model United Nation had a General Assembly Special Session on the topic of the international definition for terrorism on Dec. 5 at HGB 273.

Christina Akanoa, an adjunct professor who served as the moderator for the Model UN session, explained this was the 5th Model UN held at BYUH.

Aknoa said, “It’s [terrorism] a real issue. We are not seeing a lot of action from the United Nations to dealing with terrorism, and the reason why is because they do not have an agreement of what the international definition of terrorism should be, so all countries have their own definition of terrorism,” said Akanoa.

The purpose of the session was to have groups of students represent 10 different countries and debate on the statements each group had worked on and throughout the semester. The students researched their country’s position on political and social situations related to terrorism.

The countries that were represented were Australia, Bolivia, China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States. During the session, students were referred to as delegates, and each country had three to six participants.

Akanoa started the session by welcoming and doing a roll call for every country. The environment was professional with students dressed up and formalities observed during the session. When the floor was opened, each country had the opportunity to debate the issue for four minutes.

A half an hour dinner break followed the program with an unmoderated caucus, then the second session began with a moderated caucus draft resolution proposal and a debate after that. Delegates were then asked questions and given recommendations by a panel of political science faculty.

The panel included special instructors Line Kruse and Dr. John Tsukayama as well as Dr. Brian Houghton, associate professor, and Akanoa.

Houghton, who is an expert on terrorism, explained, “The idea of coming together to create a consensus on a common definition of terrorism is to build a consensus. It is to pull together and to try to find a commonality among countries rather than looking to try to promote each country saying, ‘What we believe is right and what you believe is incorrect.’”

He explained how during the first session, delegates were discussing the consensus model, but as the second session continued it started to become about their own country’s beliefs. He said, “In order to get something to pass, they had to find a compromise. They need to come together and define consensus.”

Kruse began the panel’s questions asking delegates to think about what they were doing to find a common goal and to find the definition of terrorism. “It seemed that they were more so arguing to find points versus trying to build on consensus here for the Model UN,” she said. “One of the pillars is to find a consensus among countries in order to promote human rights, which is the big picture.”

As an overall picture of the flow of the debate, Kruse said she hopes the the students will humble themselves in terms of competition. “They all want to win, but when you are in this UN model, you are learning how to work together and how to listen. These are all lifelong skills.

“I am hoping they’re pondering and thinking about each other’s definitions and coming together to a consensus point to create a definition for terrorism by listening and finding commonality, versus attacking each other.”

Julian Skinner, a senior student from Australia majoring in political science, was on the U.K. team and said, “I'm really looking forward to the outcome. Everybody is their own separate state. Even though we might come to an agreement now, it’s the voting at the very end that counts, so we could essentially get stabbed in the back but hopefully the U.K. comes up on top.”

After delegates had the time to come together and make alliances with countries, delegates brought two different proposals for a final draft resolution to vote for.

Australia, France, Indonesia, U.K., and the U.S. made their final statement together while Bolivia, China, Egypt, Nigeria, and Russia made their own. A vote was held and resulted in a five to five tie with no resolution passed.

All delegates received a participation award, and there were some special mentions and awards based on students’ performances during the MUN. Houghton said, “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the students to take the theories and ideas that they’ve learned in the classroom and actually simulate these things in a way to get practical experience. It is very different to talk about it, to discuss it in class theoretically and in an abstract way, and then very different to come and actually try to put it into practice.”

Kruse said, “There’s a lot of work. Honestly, this is in addition to classes and finals are coming up, so they’ve been working really hard. They were meeting twice a week.

“In addition to the class load, all the students work and some of them have families. So to get up and speak how they did and debate based on principles and positions by other countries takes a lot of confidence. It takes a lot of preparation and I take my hats off to them. Some of them are just sophomores. This can be very daunting. I mean look at the setup, it looks very UN like. They deserve a lot of credit, and I think they did a good job.”

Skinner added how the activity was formal and helped “to get an idea and understanding of these types of formalities moving into the future once we graduate and get into the professional world. It is a good eye opener of things to come.”

Debbie Delfin, from Australia, was part of the audience and said she was there to support her husband Curtis Delfin, from Guam. “I feel like he did put in a lot of time. They often had group projects and group meetings to be more organized with this presentation, so he worked through this semester.

“And the students were very organized and prepared to speak. They were very confident, so they did a good job presenting themselves in a very professional way.”

Date Published: 
Friday, December 15, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, December 15, 2017