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19 November 2018
Tackling the Global Opioid Crisis at the Fall 2018 Model UN Training Conference


On November 15, 2018, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) hosted the 13th Annual Fall Model UN Training Conference. The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) has been partnering with PAHO, the Latin American branch of the World Health Organization, for almost 16 years now. Each fall, we have hosted a Training Conference where several hundred students act as country delegates to discuss current issues and gain experience in Model United Nations.

IMG_0048Thank you to all of the UNA-NCA staffers and volunteers who helped us create this amazing event!


Over the course of the day-long conference, the students came together to discuss the Global Opioid Crisis. While we were expecting more schools this fall, the unexpected snow weather prevented several registered schools from attending the conference. However, we were lucky to have five schools (three from DC and two from Maryland) participate in the conference, with 78 students who represented 29 countries in the World Health Organization (WHO). This year we also welcomed three teachers from schools in Maryland and North Carolina who are starting new Model UN clubs.

The conference showcased the important work of the WHO, as well as the diversity of issue surrounding opioids around the world. According to the CDC, opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain. Opioids range from prescriptions, such as Oxycontin and Hydrocodone, to illicit drugs such as Heroin, and are considered to have very strong addictive properties. The day began with a welcome from Paula Boland, the Executive Director of UNA-NCA. She was followed by the keynote speaker Dr. Meg O’Brien, PhD. Dr. O’Brien is currently serving as the Managing Director of Global Cancer Treatment at the American Cancer Society. She leads the American Cancer Society’s international efforts to improve access to high-quality cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, and pain relief. Before coming to the American Cancer Society, she was the Research Director of the Consortium for Strategic HIV Operations Research at the Clinton Health Access Initiative and worked for three years in HIV treatment clinics in Tanzania for the Harvard School of Public Health.

IMG_0057Following the opening ceremonies, students began the WHO committee session to discuss how to best address the Global Opioid Crisis from the country’s perspective that they were representing. Students learned about the key role of WHO in leading international action to address the Global Opioid Crisis and to solve the many issues surrounding the crisis around the globe. Many Americans may be familiar with the epidemic happening in our own country, but the easy availability of opioids have caused the increase in misuse and deaths that lead to worldwide crisis. In addition, many countries are extremely restrictive with life-saving pain medication, and suffer from too little access.

The second half of the day focused on writing their resolutions. In Model UN and the real United Nations, resolutions are summaries or recommendations of what countries would like to do in order to resolve an issue or crisis. To do this in the training conference committee, students had to engage in international conversations and hone their writing, negotiation, and public speaking skills. The conference concluded with the delegates presenting their joint solutions to address the Global Opioid Crisis around the world.

IMG_0060By the end of the day, students had passed one resolution, and had worked together effectively to brainstorm solutions such as setting up clinics, training doctors, supporting rehabilitation, creating laws to prevent illegal opioid trade, and more.

Global Classrooms DC (GCDC) is the flagship education program of UNA-NCA. With the collaboration of partners, GCDC creates year-long curriculum for students who care about their global and local communities by cultivating an international perspective, understand the UN system, and interact with other students from diverse backgrounds. It is an opportunity for students to become more active local and global citizens by being exposed to larger issues and different people.

The Global Classrooms DC Fall Model UN Training Conference is implemented by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, which is a chapter of UNA-USA. Global Classrooms DC also has a year-round program that offers reduced-cost global education curriculum.

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