Young Diplomats in the Making: Lebanese Students Dive into the UN World

On February 6, 2024, the UN-House in Beirut opened its doors to a group of Grade 10 students from Collège des Saints-Cœurs Kfarhbab (SSCC-Kfarhbab), all participants in the Model United Nations (MUN) program. The visit offered them a unique peek into the intricate universe of international diplomacy, negotiations, and conflict resolution.

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Selected MUN students with their Head of Division, Ms. Elisabeth Boutros, touring the main conference hall at the UN House in Beirut, as part of the visit.

Meet-and-Greet Session with High UN Official   

The day's highlight was the students' interaction with the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Imran Riza. Organized by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) in Lebanon and the United Nations Information Centre in Beirut (UNIC Beirut), this meet-and-greet session served as a deep dive into the complexities of national and regional challenges as well as the essential skills for successful and effective UN leadership.

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MUN student engaging with the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Imran Riza.

In his discussion with the young future diplomats, Riza emphasized the UN's commitment to engaging and empowering youth, sharing insights on various UN youth programs led by UN entities in Lebanon that help identify and nurture young leaders. “Investing in youth is investing in the future,” he stressed.

When asked about the challenges facing the UN amid the spread of disinformation and anti-refugee sentiments, Riza emphasized the critical role of youth in combating hate speech, misinformation and disinformation. “I advise you to make good use of digital platforms and social media to limit the spread of mis/disinformation,” Riza urged the students, before delving into a set of skills and values needed for those aspiring to take up leadership roles in the UN in the future.  

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UN RC/HC, Imran Riza, addressing MUN students.

“Dreaming of Lebanon”: Learning through Virtual Reality

The visit included a screening of “Dreaming of Lebanon,” a VR documentary that offers an immersive glimpse into the aspirations of young Lebanese amidst challenging times. Produced by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) and the Innovation Cell at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA), the film used 360-degree technology to bring human-centered stories of resilience and hope to life.

Students were particularly moved by the narratives of Josephine Abou Abdo and Batoul Hakim, whose stories of perseverance and commitment to Lebanon inspired them. "The documentary was a vivid lesson in hope and resilience, showing us that despite adversity, we can dream of and work towards a better future," shared student Paul Maaykel.

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Few students watching the VR documentary using headsets and controllers.

Insights into Negotiations and Conflict Prevention

The screening of the VR documentary was followed by an engaging session with UNSCOL experts, Pascale El-Kassis and Alaa Abdel-Aziz on negotiations and conflict prevention, who both introduced the students to real-world applications of negotiation, mediation, and conflict prevention strategies.

This interaction enriched the students’ understanding of these concepts and strategies, sparking lively debates and discussions that helped hone their leadership and communication skills.

Commenting on the session, Maurice Nasr said he was “impressed” by how UN strategies were formulated and implemented. As for Tia Azar, she described the session as “remarkably interactive.”

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Alaa Abdel-Aziz, UNSCOL's Chief of Coordination, holding an interactive session on diplomacy and conflict prevention.
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Pascal El-Kassis, Senior Strategic Communications Officer at UNSCOL, holding an interactive session on diplomacy and conflict prevention.

Reflecting on a Memorable Experience

The students unanimously appreciated the visit, highlighting its role in deepening their understanding of the UN's operations and the practical application of their MUN learnings. "This was a rare glimpse behind the scenes of international diplomacy, offering invaluable insights that go beyond the classroom," said student Carl Mchaylah.

Hoda Houssami, the MUN Coordinator and English teacher at SSCC-Kfarhbab, summed up the visit: “It was a rigorous, memorable, and impactful learning experience that broadened our students' horizons, equipping them with a deeper understanding of the UN's pivotal role in addressing global and local crises."

“Overall, the visit was unforgettable and incredibly enriching for everyone involved. From our arrival, we were met with exceptional care and professionalism,” added Elisabeth Boutros, the Head of Grade 9 and Grade 10 Division at SSCC Kfarhbab.”

This immersive experience not only educated these young minds on the complexities of global diplomacy and humanitarian efforts but also inspired them to envision their roles in crafting a better future for Lebanon and the world.

Watch the wrap-up video below. 

 

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 Another group photo of students with their teachers, supervisors, and UN organizers, showing UN-branded promotional items offered by UNIC Beirut, taken on the Ground Floor of the UN House, Beirut.