UN General Assembly Role Play from Engineering Student Perspective

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All delegates including workshop speakers, students were taken a picture together. (Picture from: https://www.inunis.net/inu-student-seminar-on-global-citizenship-peace-2018/)

Being an engineering student, Jason might be one of the exceptional student who willing to experience international diplomatic event like the UN General Assembly Role Play. Let’s see what an engineering student gained from an event that is out of his comfort zone!

Why do you need to join the UN General Assembly Role Play? Isn’t that only suitable for social science students?”. This question was asked to me when I decided to participate in the INU Student Seminar on Global Citizenship and Peace. It was not a big surprise for me, to be asked such question. Knowing that I am an Information Science and Engineering student, some people might think it is not likely for engineering student like me to participate in the UN General Assembly discussion. In my defense, I decided to apply because I wanted to have a new perspective. Studying engineering has shaped me to see everything from engineering perspective only, including problem solving. Meanwhile, I believe, one problem could be solved from different angles. Thus, in this article, I would like to share my experience and the benefit that I gained by join an event that is out of my comfort zone: INU Student Seminar on Global Citizenship and Peace in Hiroshima, Japan.

First of all, this event was organized by INU (International Network Universities). It is a global universities network consists of 13 universities from different countries. Usually, each country only has one representative university. Nonetheless, Japan has two representative universities: Hiroshima University and Ritsumeikan University. How about Indonesia? Indonesia has one representative university: Parahyangan Catholic University (Universitas Katolik Parahyangan), Bandung. Moreover, there are other universities which are members of the INU network, for example, James Madison University (USA), Flinders University (AUS), Kingston University (UK), and many more.

My Niger country group during the General Assembly. (Picture from Natsuki Kato / Hiroshima University)
My Niger country group during the General Assembly. (Picture from Natsuki Kato / Hiroshima University)

Every year, INU holds a student seminar to discuss a specific issue. This year, the theme of the seminar was “Food and Water Insecurity”. It was held on 4-12 August 2018. Hiroshima University hosted this student seminar. Therefore, the main activities were located in Hiroshima University, East Hiroshima (Higashi-Hiroshima), Japan. There were about 80 student participants, 11 facilitators and role play chair, 3 guest speakers, and still more committees from Hiroshima University. Most student participants came from Hiroshima University. Usually, there will be more than one participant from Ritsumeikan University (my campus where I currently do my bachelor degree). However, unfortunately, this year I was the only delegate from Ritsumeikan University. Additionally, this student seminar also held a Master’s summer school for master students who would like to present their researches.

The event was actually split into two different parts. On the first two days (5-6 August 2018), delegates were given chances to travel to Hiroshima city. First, we on August 6th we attended the Peace Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the atomic bomb incident in Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. Then, we joined workshops and guest lectures about “Food and Water Insecurity”. In the mean time, we also had to prepare for the final activity of INU event: the UN General Assembly role play on August 12th.

Beginning from the fun part first, I will share some experiences of traveling in Hiroshima. Unfortunately, Hiroshima got a disaster in previous months. There was a long-term raining which caused some damages, such as landslides and terribly broken railways. Due to this fact, it was slightly difficult to commute from Hiroshima University to Hiroshima city. Since the railway is broke, I had to take a bus from Hiroshima city back to Higashi-Hiroshima area. The problem is, the bus only came once per hour and the last bus was at about 9 PM. Another option is by taking a shinkansen. However, shinkansen costed more than a bus, although the shinkansen is available until midnight. Despite some troubles, I was still excited to travel in Hiroshima for the first time.

On August 5th, we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. This museum has all historical information about the atomic bomb incident. Started by the landscapes of Hiroshima before and after the A-bomb incident, the museum tells the stories of the A-bomb incident – complete with the display of the stuff from A-bomb victims at the end of the museum route. After spending for around one hour, we got a chance to listen to an atomic bomb survivor, Mrs. Keiko Ogura. She shared her experience about how miserable it was when the incident occurred. She sent a message especially to young generations to always keep peace and not to let another disaster happens like what Hiroshima experienced 63 years ago.

On the next day, as I stated before, I had a chance to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. It was an honor for me to watch the ceremony in a very close distance at Peace Memorial Park. The ceremony was also attended by the Prime Minister of Japan, Mayor of Hiroshima city, Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, and a representative from the United Nations. Although it was a hot sunny day in summer, everyone was following the ceremony solemnly. After the ceremony finished, I went with some Japanese friends and my high school friend who was coincidentally also a delegate, to Miyajima island. It is an iconic place for tourists in Hiroshima. It was fun and I enjoyed eating Momiji Manju, a special cookie from Hiroshima.

Me, posted a message for the lantern ceremony in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome
Me, posted a message for the lantern ceremony in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome
WhatsApp Image 2018-10-05 at 11.36.25
Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe was giving a speech during Peace Memorial Ceremony
In front of Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima island
In front of Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima island

On August 7th, I started to attend workshops as well as preparing documents for the UN General Assembly. I belonged to “Niger” country group (it is not “Nigeria” but “Niger”). There were 10 countries to be played in the general assembly including Niger. Furthermore, I volunteered myself to be a communication director for receiving information or sending information regarding the UN General Assembly. My group was facilitated by Dr. Wayne Teel Stephen from James Madison University, USA. His geographical background and experience of living in Kenya for about 8 years really helped us a lot in understanding “Niger” situation. For those of you who do not understand how UN General Assembly works, relax! I also had no idea when I first joined this event.

The panel started when the communication director received a draft resolution from the UN role play chair. Then, it would be shared with the fellow group members to be discussed. In about two days, each group needed to send two amendments. On the final amendment, each group needed to send one amendment. As a result, the days before the general assembly day, each group had to compromise and made a coalition to have voted. Therefore, on the general assembly day, each clause of draft resolutions would be discussed thoroughly to have a final draft resolution.

Personally, speaking from a Nigerien (citizens of Niger) and an engineering student perspective, I learned a lot from this experience. I am certain that each of the delegates experienced slightly different things, dependent on which country was represented. Niger has the second lowest HDP (human development index) in the world. Thus, it was difficult for us to gain alliances during the discussion. Another thing that I want to mention is this was the first time for me to be involved in a UN General Assembly role play. I did not have any backgrounds about UN or how to interpret the draft resolution itself. Fortunately, I had very kind friends who would like to explain to me if there were some unclear points. Lastly, being a communication director also trained my ability to communicate in English. All in all, I truly enjoyed joining this general assembly role play.

My Niger country group after interpreting the draft resolution. (Picture from Sichen Meng / Hiroshima University)
My Niger country group after interpreting the draft resolution. (Picture from Sichen Meng / Hiroshima University)
My Niger country group received certificates marking the end of the INU Student Seminar (Picture from Sichen Meng / Hiroshima University)
My Niger country group received certificates marking the end of the INU Student Seminar (Picture from Sichen Meng / Hiroshima University)

Specifically, I appreciate Japanese students who were willing to help and give big efforts to this event. They were very patient and helpful in guiding foreign students while traveling in Hiroshima city. They were also involved in the UN General Assembly preparation, which I believe was not an easy task to do. There were some unfamiliar English vocabularies used on the draft resolution. Nevertheless, they join the discussion. Even in the General Assembly day, they also spoke to express their opinions.

The last thing that I would like to share is, I was happy to gain more friends. First, when I told them that I am Indonesian, they assumed that I represented Parahyangan Catholic University. I had to explain to them that I am an Indonesian who studies in another Japanese university. Moreover, I had many chances to speak Japanese too especially to Japanese friends. I know my Japanese ability was not good enough, but they seemed very happy to see my attempt. I also have new friends from Indonesia which I met in this event.

Finally, I would say that UN General Assembly is not only for those of you who have related backgrounds (i.e. International Relation major). Therefore, just believe on what you want to do. Whether you come from an engineering backgrounds or social science background, if you want to learn about new things, I can assure you that you will get precious experience by joining the UN General Assembly. I hope this article enlightens you!

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Jason Nataprawira
Jason is a sophomore of Information Science Undergraduate Student in Ritsumeikan University, Japan. His interests are embedded system, computer networks, and microcontroller. Recently, he was involved in some website projects which enhance his knowledge in HTML, CSS and Javascript with integrating Python language. He has been enthusiastic in joining non-acedemic activities since junior high school. Currently, he belongs to Indonesian Students Association at Ritsumeikan. On the other hand, he actively volunteers himself as a campus student ambassador, an English teaching assistant, and a participant in several international students activities.