It’s 8am on a Monday morning and there is already a long queue before the security gates of the Palais des Nations, the seat of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). But these are not seasoned diplomats – these are secondary school students aged between 15 and 20 from over 100 countries, all waiting to be granted security clearance and enter the UN grounds for the 23rd General Assembly of the Students’ League of Nations (SLN). The direct successor to the Students’ United Nations, founded by Ecolint history teacher Robert Leach in 1953, the SLN has become a model for other schools worldwide.
Among the keynote speakers this year: Michael Møller, the Director General of UNOG and host of the two-day proceedings, who welcomes this event as key to creating awareness about multilateral diplomacy and its processes. This is the very purpose of the SLN which, motivated by aspirations for peace and the social, economic and moral progress of the world, aims to contribute to the education of young people by allowing them to examine and debate issues of world-wide importance in a faithful simulation of the UN General Assembly.
Addressing issues of global importance
As in previous editions, the students this year have undertaken this challenge and, once again, come up with four resolutions to debate with their colleagues on issues which Møller acknowledges are all high on the UN agenda. The first, proposed by the delegation from the United States, calls for the restriction of human activity in the high seas to conserve marine environments and resources that are endangered by the creation of artificial islands.
The Turkish delegation, for their part, condemn the overwhelming burden placed on nations that are forced to accept disproportionate numbers of refugees, a topic which is on everyone’s lips, particularly within the UN, including Møller’s. “An unprecedented 65.3 million people have been forced from home, with about 40,000 people fleeing from home every day” he explains. “In Lebanon, one person in five is a refugee from Syria” he continues, confirming Turkey’s assertion about the refugee crisis being a devastating weight on these States.
Germany’s resolution comes next, denouncing the use of internet access to global service providers as a tool for extremist propaganda. This is also among the UN’s priorities, confirms Møller, regretting that Internet can, indeed, be a medium for the transmission of messages, including those of hate.
Last but not least, Sweden’s delegates take the stage to call for greater gender equality in education. Citing an alarming study published by the World Economic Forum, the UNOG Director General explains that “if current trends continue, a baby girl born today will only see the gender gap [in education] closed if she lives to be 83 years old” and that States must realise that “girls’ education boosts the economy, raises the standards and promotes democracy”.
The roadmap for the future
Yet across these four resolutions, Møller points to a common global denominator: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs for short), seventeen global goals covering a broad range of issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, to name just a few. They include a total of 169 targets against which future successes can be measured. The SDGs have become the UN’s (and wider world’s) roadmap for the future.
Lesson learned for Ecolint students: we promise to do our part too in promoting the SDGs and making the world a better place for all - whether through the Students’ League of Nations or our pledge to educate for peace, inclusiveness, respect and inter-cultural understanding.