Foreign policy, diplomacy and Brexit: The Young Diplomats Forum

As a student in my final year I decided to do something different – travel to London for the Young Diplomats Forum! London was a city I’ve always wanted to visit and it was the first time I visited a country alone.

I stayed at a suburb called Canning Town and once I decided to look around I noticed how very multicultural it was. For the first three days I went sightseeing and visited the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London and Big Ben. Then it was time for the Young Diplomats Forum. I was not the only Australian at the Forum, there were seven of us with a few from Macquarie, who were undertaking the GLP like I was. I also met some delegates from Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan who also knew some Turkish like me. Most of them were aspiring young diplomats, already working at an embassy or other position unrelated to diplomatic service. On the first day of the Forum we went to Greenwich where most of the morning speeches were held. As the day went on I met so many socially aware and insightful people. Before we got too comfortable we were given a presentation task to do in groups. Our topic was on post-ISIS Middle-East so most of the week was spent working on that.

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Look mum, I’m a diplomat!

Over the past two years I have had the privilege to travel to Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, South Korea and New York. I was a United Nations delegate for Egypt, India, Portugal, Dominica, Saudi Arabia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Well… not in a literal sense, let me explain my GLP journey to you.

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United Nations Stall, O-Week 2015

For the past two years I have been heavily involved in Model United Nations (MUN), holding two executive positions within the Macquarie United Nations Society on campus. The aim of MUN is to allow students to engage in an academic simulation of the United Nations, by taking on the role of Diplomats and representing different countries. By preparing draft resolutions, plotting strategy, negotiating with supporters and adversaries, resolving conflicts, and navigating the United Nations rules of procedure as applied in the respective United Nations bodies, all in the interest of mobilising “international cooperation” to scrutinize international issues, argue, deliberate, consult, and finally develop solutions to world problems.

My MUN experience peaked when I, along with two other Macquarie students, took the plunge and decided to make a bid to host the Asia Pacific Model United Nations conference at Macquarie. This required a lot of hard work, emails, phone calls and organising that resulted in a 27 page document! A conversation with GLP staff, Chloe and Tara, helped to boost our confidence and open doors we didn’t know existed when navigating university systems. Our GLP experiences taught us to stand up for global issues and stand out from the pack, and it was this that ultimately influenced the theme of the conference we envisioned hosting.

The proposed theme was ‘A New Frontier’; the exploration and navigation of our world and the unknown challenges and triumphs that lay before us. Allowing for a visionary way to view our world in the past, the present and the future tense. Creating the means for delegates to observe the challenges and changes global society faces in the modern day, and discussing how the international community can best address them. We were aiming for delegates to be exposed to how past and current events in the world impact the day-to-day functioning of society, politics and relations between states, with hopes to facilitate a fluid and complex interaction between decisions and their impacts politically, socially and globally over a period of time. The theme would afford delegates the opportunity to observe what could have been with the benefit of hindsight at their disposal.

Though we were not successful in our endeavour we were able to utilise our skills and take a risk that I would dare say we’re all better off for!

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SydMUN 2013 and 2014 reconnecting with old friends from the Third General Assembly!

Model UN conferences are a great way to build networks with like minded people, just as we’re encouraged to do through GLP. With a diverse range of students participating from all sorts of majors, and the chance to meet delegates from other universities and countries, Model UN is the perfect blend of intellectual and social.

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My first ever conference, SydMUN 2013 #clicheMUNphoto

Imagine having the opportunity to assume the role of a delegate representing Yemen, discussing maternal health in the developing world. Taking on the role of a country that is different to my own and having to look at pressing issues from a different point of view has taught me to think outside of the box and look beyond my own experiences to create effective solutions.

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On my way to Seoul, South Korea to compete at the Harvard World Model United Nations 2015

There are conferences all over the country—and the world, so get out of town! Whether you want to take a trip to USyd or UTS and experience a conference at a different uni, or go to Canberra, Brisbane or Melbourne, even Germany, New York or Russia, there are dozens of different opportunities to explore the world around you through Model United Nations. I can say with confidence that I have gained a couch to sleep on in every continent through MUN!

Without the GLP and the encouragement of GLP staff I’m not sure that I would have taken initiative, or had the drive to get out of my comfort zone, stop coasting through my degree, create great experiences and become a better version of myself.

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Some of my MUN memories!

 

*Jeanette Nkrumah

Jeanette has just completed a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations and Media, Culture and Communication. She finished up the GLP with a whopping 260 experiential credit points! A number of those points were from the many Model United Nations conferences Jeanette participated in.

For Undergraduate students, Model United Nations is applicable for 40 experiential credit points. For Postgraduate students, Model United Nations can be claimed as an international or domestic conference. More details on how to claim a Model United Nations can be found in your guidebook or get in touch with your GLP Advisor.

If you would like to join the Macquarie Model United Nations Society check out their Facebook page.

The Happiest Diplomats: A German Adventure

Claire McMullen is a current GLP student who recently attended the G20 Conference in Munich. Previously she has participated in the GLP Youth Development Forum and been a delegate on the GL Symposium to Turkey. For something a little different, below is a day to day account of what she and the other Macquarie delegates got up to recently in Munich outside conference hours…
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Part 1: Munich.

The flight to Germany began with airport security.  Jenny, the most suspicious member of our delegation, was fortunate enough to be cleared after a sufficient scanning and joined the rest of us (Patrick McGrath, Luke Dominish and Omar Abawi) at the departure gate.  Looking back it’s hard to believe the 5 of us, leaving for Munich early, barely knew each other as we stepped onto the plane. It’s safe to say after 22 hours of wailing babies, ‘Frozen’ sing-alongs and Arabian pop songs, our friendships had been well and truly consolidated… even if Luke was asking, “are we there yet” only 4 hours into the flight.

After arriving in Germany to a brisk 6 degrees and stellar public transport system, our entourage set off in search of bakeries; pretzels were a priority! We joined a walking tour and explored the historical sites and breathtaking architecture of the city. The majesty of the buildings exhibiting a gothic and renaissance décor, combined with the striking number of people in Bavarian dress, made it feel like we had traveled back through the ages. To our bewilderment, our tour guide informed us that most of the city was no more than 80 years old.  WWII air raids had destroyed most of Munich, a memory still very much alive in the heartbeat of this great city. Over the years the German government had slowly rebuilt central Munich to mirror the buildings that once stood.

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We compared our foot size to the Devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche, ‘Church of our Lady’, where according to legend Satan stamped his foot in anger at being double-crossed by the builder, Halsbach. When the clock struck 11am we watched the puppets dance around the Rathus-Glockenspiel tower. Our guide had warned us that it was anticlimactic but the tourist’s “oohs and aahs” made it a worthwhile viewing.  Taking shelter from the rain we ducked into the Beer Garden where Adolf Hitler began his ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ in 1923. There’s history on every corner.

 

A walking tour is a really valuable way to see a huge diversity of historical and cultural sites in a short period of time. Both Jenny (with a broken toe) and I (in an ankle brace) were thanking all things German that Munich is so flat. We would also like to thank Luke and Pat for routinely checking on our progress as we hobbled down the cobble stone streets and not leaving us behind.

Before our group succumbed to jetlag, we popped by Munich’s Spring Festival where Jenny met the ‘Pretzel of her Dreams’. I told her not to take it at face value.

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The following day the cripples climbed the 360 steps of St Peter’s Church tower and were rewarded with sweeping views of the city. I have been asked by Luke to inform one and all that he too went up a tower, the one captured in the picture below, the only difference was he got an elevator to the 11th floor… pic 4Jenny was in charge of bakeries, Luke scheduling, Pat activities and Claire navigation. Now the others might have something to say about my sense of direction, or lack thereof, but none could deny that some of our greatest finds were stumbled upon whilst lost in Munich. We wandered through the Jewish Museum and the City of Munich Museum where the personal recounts and vibrant visual displays painted a powerful story of German history and everyday life. It took us from medieval times, to the Nazi rise to power and the aftermath of war.

 

 The Chills of Dachau and the Importance of Remembrance

5th of May. Jenny, Luke and I travelled to Dachau, the first German concentration camp. Established in 1933 in an old munitions factory, Dachau was designed as a ‘work camp’ and its forced labour, imprisonment and inhumane treatment horrifically became a model for other camps during the WWII.

It was eerie as we walked through the quaint town of Dachau and along a cobble stone path lined with towering green pines. Behind this veil of natural beauty, the stone watchtowers and barbed wire fences reminded us of the terrible atrocities and human suffering that occurred here just over half a century ago.

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We stood in the bunkrooms where a prisoner’s rank and living conditions were determined in accordance with their perceived ‘crime’. My fingers trailed across the fanatical lists categorizing prisoners, political dissidents, Jews, immigrants, gays and nationals, on their ‘level of humanity’ dictated by Nazi supercilious ideology. By the mid-war years, Jews were considered sub-human and thus forced to endure unsanitary, overcrowded, diseased and fetid quarters with over 200 people forced into a bunkroom designed for a maximum of 80 people.  Each day the prisoners were subject to inhumane working conditions and extreme levels of torture, both physical and mental. It’s an entrenched fear of ‘difference’ that feeds racism, discrimination and persecution; fusing into a toxic ideology of endemic proportions and spreading like a plague, subjecting our own kind to a cruelty beyond all rational thought.

The propaganda displays were equally shocking, with an inspector from the Red Cross declaring the Camp ‘top quality’ and a facility ‘that treated its prisoners well’. Visual depictions of the  horrific medical experiments inflicted on prisoners by madmen such as Dr. Sigmund Rascher and the personal recounts by survivors serve as both a warning and reminder of the  human capacity for extraordinary cruelty. Whilst Dachau was classified as a “work camp” it still contained gas chambers and 2 crematoriums… one wasn’t considered enough at the height  of the war years. As we walked to the gas chambers, Building 44, hidden behind a wall of trees, the German tour guide told us quietly that prisoners had known nothing about this building;    only that those who went there never returned.

As we exited the Death Camp, through the ironclad gates and past the words Arbeit macht frei (work makes you free), we couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. The prisoners who had entered the camp through those gates more than half a century ago had no way of knowing what lay ahead or whether they would ever leave. Dachau was the only camp that remained in operation for the entire duration of the war; finally liberated by American soldiers in 1945.[1]

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Macquarie’s Fairytale

Once upon a time, two princesses and two princes set off to find a castle nestled among the Bavarian mountains. What they found was Neuschwanstein. Before conquering the hillside, the royals (that’s us), found a bridge that provided a picturesque view of the castle and the rocky stream far, far below… After watching or perhaps crashing a local wedding proposal, the royals continued past signs that possibly said something in German about DANGER (we couldn’t be sure) and up the opposite mountain. Not afraid of dirt or adventure, the 4 made it to the top where they were greeted by… an even better view!

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The Castle – #sofrozen

 

The royals disguised themselves as tourists and joined an English language tour of Neuschwanstein. Illustrious detailing and gold furnishings decorated every inch of the interior. At first, the four weren’t sure the palace was suitable, there wasn’t even a throne! King Ludwig II was declared clinically insane and unfit for Kingship after only 172 days at the castle.  He mysteriously drowned in a lake… with his psychologist before the castle could be completed. Insanity or genius, everyone was impressed by the personal man cave that separated the King’s bedchamber and dressing room.  Complete with stalagmites and stalactites, it was quite literally ‘a cave’. The royals stopped in their tracks. Never could they have imagined such a peculiar feature in a palace. Excitedly they declared the castle their own. To celebrate, someone asked one of the princes, Luke, to sing ‘Would you like to build a Snowman’ in the Grand Hall. He declined.

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Thank you!

 

Munich and the surrounding countryside were memorable in so many ways. The four of us really made the most of our time there. We would like to thank Macquarie University for enabling us to travel a little earlier. The experiences we had, the amount we’ve learned so quickly and, perhaps most poignant of all, the lasting friendships formed, have added so much to this great opportunity. Our sheer excitement, comradeship and the rigor of learning experienced through interaction with history and a different culture, only enhanced the G20 Conference experience that followed.

 

By Claire McMullen

 

 

 

 

[1] For more information on Dachau see the historical site: http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/memorial.html

*All photos courtesy of Claire McMullen