Last December a group of eight year 12 students had the opportunity to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on a five-day trip to take part in the annual Students’ League of Nations Conference. Accompanied by Ms. Menzies, students not only got the chance to attend the Conference within the historic UN buildings, but to also travel around Geneva and visit some of Switzerland's historic landmarks. Staying with host families in and around the city, the sixth formers were also able to experience local culture, cuisine and customs.
Eleanor Hardcastle, Isabel Davison, Nathan Giles-Donavan, Hannah Burlinson, Tom Joyce, Lucy Oliva, Isaac Rice and Danielle Gipps were the students chosen to represent Newport within the conference, each partnership representing one of 127 different individual countries. Newport were responsible for delegating Brunei, Haiti, Iraq and Canada, which involved conducting extensive research to try and gain an authentic insight into the policies, issues, political stances and current conflicts within each country.
Inside the conference chamber, more than 250 students from a variety of different global schools were tasked with debating a number of controversial issues such as euthanasia and assisted suicide, the banning of public protests, global energy resources and secession and independence. Over two days, delegates each gave speeches reflecting their country’s stances on the topics raised throughout the presented resolutions. The opportunity was also available to contest the points raised by each country, leading to a highly engaging and lengthy debate. It was stressed to conduct the proceedings as professionally as possible to try and reenact the conditions of a real, formal conference.
As well as debating, students got the opportunity to listen to speeches given by distinguished members of the UN such as Assistant Director for International Relations, Daniel Warner and recently appointed Director General of the United Nations, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. It was an invaluable experience for all of the students involved, allowing them to get a real taste of what it takes to be a successful delegate or political figure. It also taught the importance of communication and understanding, as well as the manners and politeness needed to successfully replicate a genuine debate.
Along with attending the two-day conference, students got the chance to travel around Switzerland and visit landmarks such as the Olympic museum in Lausanne, Château de Chillon and the lakeside town of Montreux to explore the Christmas Market. Some got to experience the local favourites of crepes, chocolate and even horse steak!
Referring to the trip, Tom Joyce said, “Before the trip I knew very little about politics, but after signing up for the trip we did a lot of research and I learnt masses. My host family was really nice and my host showed me around Geneva in the day and night. I had an amazing time; the conference was very demanding but it was interesting and widened my knowledge about each of the countries represented and their views.” Fellow student Isabel Davison added, “Being thrown into the heart of the debates really boosts your confidence and gives you that sense of a global community. Meeting people from all around the world and experiencing the culture was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”