Kyoto, Rio 20+, Paris 2015; there have been so many efforts to reach a common international environmental agreement and so much frustration among experts and the general population about a fair outcome. This is also what David Meinel, former AEGEE Liaison Officer to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), thought in May 2015 when he was wondering how young people would deal with the difficult situation of climate change, environmental destruction and a decrease in biodiversity.
After some talks with friends and people from UNEP, the project of a simulation conference with 150 young people from all over the world was born. The Carpathian Convention Interim Secretariat at UNEP was quickly acquired as a partner, offering to hold the Conference in a politically important setting, the Vienna International Centre, headquarter of many United Nations suborganisations and host of several UNEP divisions.
Over a short time several enthusiastic people came together to make this project possible. In a project-team composed by interested AEGEEans from different antennae in Germany, Spain, Turkey, Greece and, of course, Austria, the project could now rise to another stage.
After many skype-conversations and intensive working group meetings, the team finally got the chance to meet in person in Vienna in November 2015 and discuss directly further steps. The tour through the Vienna International Centre and the talks with the UNEP staff were impressive and made group members even more enthusiastic about the upcoming event. Over many hours of planning, even more cups of coffee and some chats over beer in the evening, the project started to get more precise. The name had to be redefined and the logo was changed several times. Maybe quite a stressful, but also funny time.
Now, it is only one and a half month till the opening ceremony of the Model United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development in Vienna: the 17th to the 22nd of April 2016. Over a period of 5 days young people in teams of one expert and one delegate per country will experience what is it like to represent their country in an international debate that differs only slightly from official conferences of the UN. The Carpathian Convention as a best-practise example and the IUCN Covenant as a draft convention developed by experts will serve as an outstanding basis for the discussions of students in the position of world leaders. On their first day in Vienna participants will be welcomed by people from UNEP and learn about its background. Also, the staff of UNEP will teach the participants about the COP of the Carpathian Convention. This is a once in a lifetime experience for MUNs.
Different from other Model United Nations Conferences is the big scientific support of the conferences. Several project team members with a degree in natural sciences managed to provide workshops on the biological background of environmental problems and got professors researching in that field to deliver speeches to inspire the participants. During a fair with NGOs, international organisations and education institutions, participants will be able to network and learn more about the diversity of actors influencing policy-making in environmental topics in real life. Supported by the Austrian Student Association UNYSA-AFA, participants will form coalitions over four days on the topics they perceive as most pressing and will draft a convention which will then be negotiated, amended, re-negotiated and agreed upon at the conference’s general assembly.
Participants will not only go home with an amazing new experience and knowledge about processes in international organisations, but their convention will be taken as a serious voice of young people. UNEP staff already emphasised the importance of the results of this simulation conference for their work and their interest in using the outcome as inspiration.
The application process is open and several applications from MUN- and Environmental-Enthusiasts have already arrived. Young people interested in the topic can still apply on the website to become a participant for this extraordinary Model United Nation Conference, specialised in Environment and Sustainable Development. Applications are still open till the 30th of March 2016 (for non visa applicants).
Written by Teresa Oberhauser, AEGEE-Passau