Jerusalem students model their own version of the United Nations

The delegate from Indonesia arranges his papers, takes a deep breath and begins to harangue his colleagues at the UN General Assembly. He expounds his points forcefully and cogently, in grand oratorical style. If you close your eyes, you could easily forget that this Indonesian delegate is actually Hebrew University Secondary School (Leyada) 10th grader Adam Nahari addressing the Israel Model United Nations (IMUN) 2008, hosted by the Foreign Ministry. "I researched Indonesia's positions and I also went on line and watched people giving speeches. We were also trained in public speaking," Nahari told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, at the conclusion of the first of the Model United Nations' three days. "But I think my style could just be a personal attribute," he added with a grin. Now in its second year, IMUN has brought together 180 students from 11 Jerusalem schools students to simulate the UN and its committees and councils. "IMUN is part of a process of positive agenda building in Israel regarding the UN," Rony Adam, director of the Department for United Nations Political Affairs at the Foreign Ministry and the initiator of the conference, told the Post. "If we seem more serious about the UN, then we will be perceived better. Many countries take the UN very seriously and we want to show them we do, too. IMUN is a part of changing the image of the UN in Israel," he said. Adam also said there were positive byproducts of the conference such as learning how to debate, speak in public, craft a proposal, even how to dress. Keynote speaker Stephane Dujarric, deputy communications director of the UN, admitted the world body had not always treated Israel very well, but said he felt there had been vast improvement in the last decade, under former secretary-general Kofi Annan. "Annan's message to Israel was simple; get involved. And over the last several years, Israel has done so," Dujarric said. He listed a number of Israeli achievements over the past year such as getting its first resolution passed and having an Israeli chair a committee. Dujarric's communications skills were also put to the test as the delegates asked him about the hottest topics of the day. "Does the UN support an operation in Gaza to stop the rocket attacks on Sderot, which recently wounded two children?" one student-delegate asked. Another asked Dujarric about the UN's efforts to curb nuclear proliferation. Dujarric neatly fielded the questions and gave serious answers. He said the preferred solution to the Gaza situation was a political one, which would take time to work out. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also addressed the delegates, giving an impassioned breakdown of Israeli strategy vis-a-vis the UN. Despite starting off with, "I hope this will be a friendlier UN than the one in NY," she talked seriously throughout. "The problem is not what they will say beyond the borders of Israel, it is what they decide. We live in a world that increasingly forces its decisions upon countries and we must influence those decisions," she said. At times, "we recruited the UN to further Israel's interests. Sometimes, we also have to minimize the UN's influence which would prevent us from implementing that which we think is right to do," Livni continued. She pointed to Israel's efforts just 10 days ago to prevent UN condemnation over IDF operations in Gaza. The UN Secretariat, Leyada 12th graders Uri Agnon, Yarden Stern and Daphne Benvenisty, were extremely pleased with the first day of the conference. Veteran diplomats, each has been a delegate or committee chair at five previous conferences, including one in Qatar last month. They praised the delegates for their presentations. "I've been to a lot of opening sessions of the General Assembly, but this was the most interesting," Agnon, the president of the GA, told the Post. "The delegates were really prepared and gave intelligent speeches," Secretary-General Benvenisty said. Looking at those who are here for the first time, we envy them their enthusiasm, Agnon said. People who have never met one another are still here talking about policies, he added. The three headed committees at the first Israel Model United Nations last year and were selected by their advisers to play the role of the Secretariat this time around. The conference is sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, Leyada, The Jerusalem Education Authority and The Jerusalem Foundation. The next two days of the conference will be held on the Hebrew University campus. The Israel Model United Nations has been restricted to Jerusalem schools, but Adam hopes to change that. "IMUN started in Jerusalem because of the support of the Jerusalem Foundation, but I hope to be able to expand it to other cities in Israel soon," Adam said.