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21 November 2019
Students at the Fall 2019 Model UN Training Conference Propose Real-World Solutions to Malnutrition

All photos credited to Sonia Mey-Schmidt (PAHO/WHO)

On November 14th, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) hosted our annual Fall Model UN Training Conference. Global Classrooms DC, the flagship education program of 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 16 years. Each fall, we have hosted a Training Conference where several hundred students are introduced to Model United Nations, where they represent a country and discuss current issues with other delegates.

Throughout the day, over 170 students representing 80 countries gathered at PAHO to discuss global malnutrition. We were pleased to have 12 schools from previous years return while also welcoming two new schools to our program, including a home-schooled delegation. The majority of students, who ranged from 5th grade to 10th grade, had never done Model UN before and were putting the skills they had learned into practice for the first time.

paho19-6The topic of the conference was especially relevant, since malnutrition affects every country in the world, whether in the form of obesity or undernourishment. According to the UN, one in three people in the world suffer from malnutrition, and many countries suffer from what is known as the double burden, where a country struggles with both undernutrition and obesity in their community.

The day began with a welcome from Paula Boland, Executive Director of UNA-NCA, who introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Sonja Caffé, currently serving as the Regional Adolescent Health Advisor at PAHO. Dr. Caffé is also a past Fulbright fellow and has worked with the United Nations for over 20 years, first with UNICEF and later with PAHO/WHO. In her speech, she emphasized the importance of addressing the triple threat of undernutrition, obesity, and micronutrient deficiency. She also encouraged delegates to think broadly and propose bold solutions to this critical issue.

Following opening ceremonies, students began by discussing their countries’ views on how best to address global malnutrition. In their speeches, delegates highlighted how malnutrition affected both paho19-4their own countries and the international community as a whole, and emphasized the need for international cooperation to find a solution. These opening speeches were also an excellent opportunity for students to practice their public speaking skills in a professional setting while honing their ability to succinctly condense their argument into short and concise proposals. Students also learned about the advisory role that the WHO plays, specifically in terms of how the WHO fits into a broader UN-led strategy to combat malnutrition.

As each country made their views known and proposed new ideas, it became clear that there was broad consensus on the urgency of the issue. The proposals of these delegates were multifaceted and comprehensive, ranging from addressing how poverty is tied to malnutrition to proposing a data-driven approach to better understand how each country is affected by malnutrition. During the first unmoderated caucus, where delegates can informally meet with others and negotiate directly with other countries, a number of countries formed different blocs that were focused on different aspects of malnutrition. Each of these blocs were made up of like-minded countries who agreed on a set of solutions. By the end of the morning session, delegates had begun writing their draft resolutions, which contained their proposed solutions for the issue.

Once the blocs finished their resolutions, students began negotiating with each other. Blocs that found they had similar views merged their resolutions in a bid to garner more support, and delegates’ negotiating and presentation skills were tested as each bloc attempted to present their resolution in the best possible light to others and to secure their votes. With 80 countries being represented, a resolution had to have the backing of at least 41 countries to be successfully implemented, so delegates were hard at work convincing others that their solutions were realistic and would help solve global malnutrition.

paho19-2By mid-afternoon, the sponsors of each resolution, or those who had written the majority of the text, jointly presented their resolution and took questions from delegates. Questions included how these proposals would be financed, as well as how these proposals would be reconciled with the national sovereignty of each individual country. At the end of the afternoon session, the committee entered into voting procedure, and delegates voted on the 12 resolutions that had been drafted and debated throughout the day. In total, three resolutions passed. The first focused on educating the public about malnutrition and encouraging countries to promote healthier foods. Another recommended establishing an international fund for countries with severe malnutrition to draw from, and the last focused on redistributing food and preventing food waste through international coordination.

Overall, the Dias was extremely pleased with the level of debate throughout the day. Students showed a remarkable understanding of the complexities of malnutrition, and were able to approach the issue from multiple directions. Delegates also showed themselves to be well-researched, and many of them were able to cite statistics that they had prepared ahead of time. paho19-3Despite their relative inexperience with the procedures of Model UN, delegates quickly grasped the rules of procedure and had a vigorous and substantive debate on the difficulties surrounding solutions to malnutrition. The Dias was especially encouraged to see students of all ages participating, with younger students being unafraid to advocate for their own countries and debate with older students. Throughout the day, delegates were prompted to consider the real-world impact of their policies and how every country’s participation is necessary to solve major international problems such as malnutrition.

The Fall Training Conference is part of a year-long curriculum for students who care about their global and local communities, and is implemented through Global Classrooms DC (GCDC), the flagship education program of UNA-NCA. With the collaboration of its partners, GCDC creates a curriculum that uses Model United Nations to cultivate an international perspective, promote understanding of the UN system, and encourage students to interact with others from diverse backgrounds. The curriculum is used by middle schools and high schools from across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and is an opportunity for students to become more active local and global citizens by being exposed to larger issues and different viewpoints.


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. Each year, GCDC also hosts a competitive Model UN conference in the Spring, where students can showcase everything they learned throughout the year. For more information, you can visit our website.