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Students team up to look at human rights crises tied to COVID-19

August 26, 2020 | Society
For five days in early July, close to 70 students, faculty and guest speakers from MacEwan University and 10 Ukrainian post-secondary institutions spent their days together online, digging into diplomacy.

This is the second summer that executive members of the MacEwan University United Nations Club and its faculty advisor, Dr. Chaldeans Mensah, have mentored and trained faculty and students in Ukraine, but the first time the training has been delivered virtually.

Condensing the eight-month program the club uses to train its members – the same training techniques that have led them to receive Outstanding or Distinguished Delegation 20 of the 25 times they have attended National Model United Nations conferences in New York – into five days is no easy feat, says Kiera Brown, the club’s director general and a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student. The reward, she adds, came on the final day when participants were divided into 19 teams for an online Model United Nations simulation to address the topic of human rights crises resulting from COVID-19. After the hours of lessons, lectures and peer-to-peer training activities on research, position paper writing and delivering speeches, each team wrote four papers outlining potential solutions to economic, security, domestic violence and health care issues among vulnerable populations.

“We were so impressed with the amount of sophistication and forward thinking that was demonstrated in these papers, especially since students had only learned these skills in the few days before,” says Brown. “I could really see that our hard work and dedication had paid off in a tremendous way.”

With the uncertainty around travel for the foreseeable future, Brown says the club plans to offer another online Model United Nations simulation with its own members and their Ukrainian counterparts in the coming year. “We also hope to visit Ukraine – and to have the Ukrainian students visit Edmonton – when it is safe to do so.”

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