NMUN Students Represent the United Kingdom in the Galapagos Islands

by TARA MARIN JESS SOLAN, Senior Writer & Staff Writer

Over winter break, a group of students from Manhattan College participated in a special National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in the Galapagos Islands. They represented the United Kingdom, returning with a number of awards, as well as memories. The Quad spoke with three delegates from the trip who reflected on their experiences.

For Chris Byrne, a senior international studies major, the Galapagos was his fourth NMUN conference. Prior to the trip, Byrne, a delegate on the Security Council, spent hours researching the impacts of climate change and environmental migration on peace and security around the world. Byrne’s hard work paid off at the conference, and he was blown away by the scenery.

“It was completely different from any other conference I have done, because there was no WiFi. But the conference was also directly across from a beach. We would go to this beach after committee sessions almost everyday,” Byrne said.

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Students had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands to partake in the National Model United Nations conference and represent the United Kingdom. NMUN Facebook /Courtesy

Lizzie Garcia, also a senior international studies major, was a delegate in the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

“I wanted to push mainstreaming a gender perspective through the development of both of our proposed topics. Since I was representing a country that is not primarily affected by the topics at hand, I was pushing for the continuation of research and development in partner with universities and both private and non-governmental organizations. By aiding in the installation of sustainable technology for industrialization and water and sanitation facilities, I wanted to ensure the increase of education and employment opportunities for all members of affected communities,” Garcia explains.

Garcia’s research involved finding numbers and facts on how the United Nations and the United Kingdom already address the issues at hand, and then finding ways that the UK could support furthering that development.

“I really enjoyed this part of the prep work because I always love learning about the organizations and programs that exist to help those that need it. It was also exciting and challenging to come up with new, realistic ways to expand on these programs from the point of view of the UK,” she said.

Julia Canigiani, a sophomore international studies and psychology major, was assigned to a committee called the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Her delegation was responsible for representing these topics in relation to politics and positions on certain topics in the UK.

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Students were able to experience all the unique aspects of the island. LIZZIE GARCIA / Courtesy

“To prepare for the trip, we individually had to write a position paper in which we had to make proposals regarding the topics our committee would be discussing at the conference, with mine being primarily on the protection of World Heritage Sites. We had to do a lot of research and editing drafts of the paper, which took around two to three months until we each had our final copy ready to submit,” said Canigiani.

Since this was Canigiani’s first NMUN conference, she was not sure what to expect.

“I went into the conference wanting to back up the proposal I had made in my position paper and hopefully get it to be written into a resolution. It ended up being a large part of a resolution my committee and I wrote on developing a ‘task force’ to assist world heritage sites that were in danger,” she said.

At the conference, the MC delegation received the third highest honor, an honorable mention, but there were other rewarding parts of the trip as well, as the group spent a day doing community service by helping plant trees on a farm.

“This farm was really like no other farm I have ever seen – half of it was almost like a rainforest, and there were giant tortoises on the farm as well,” Byrne said.

The group also went on excursions. When the conference was over, the MC delegation toured the islands by both land and sea.

“The sea tour was my favorite; we spent the day on a boat seeing parts of the island that aren’t accessible by land,” Garcia said.  “We went snorkeling around a giant volcanic rock that was millions of years old and saw sea turtles and sharks. A few of us even went snorkeling on the beach and the sea lions were so friendly they were swimming with us,” Garcia said.

Byrne also described the excitement of their sea experience.

“We saw yellowtail fish, sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, and about 1,000 tropical fish. In addition, we went to a few private and secluded beaches where the sand was practically white. On our snorkeling day, the captain of the boat took us to a spot where we saw about 500 dolphins swimming together, it was an unbelievable sight. The water is amazingly clear, it was like bath water, and it was like that throughout the island. We also went to a giant tortoise hatchery where they are bred. Moreover, we did numerous hiking trips throughout the national park in the Galapagos,” Byrne said.

“During the land tour, we climbed a volcano with a lagoon on top and were able to see amazing views of the incredible and diverse landscape. We also visited a tortoise sanctuary where they house tortoises of all ages, from babies to 80 years old,” Garcia said.

Canigiani said, “I got to sit next to sea lions every day on the beach; not many people get to experience that in their lifetime,” also mentioning that they swam beside them for their snorkeling experience.

The students enjoyed meeting students from all over the U.S. and the world at the conference, as they all stayed in the same hotel. Garcia mentioned meeting students from Ecuador, Canada, and Germany.

Garcia also enjoyed bonding with the people on her committee and achieving conference goals as a group.

“My committee was small, just 11 students, and everyone was friendly and happy to work together. It was really a great experience to make new friends while also simulating the negotiations and conflicts that arise during UN meetings. We were able to pass two resolutions for our first topic, Solving SDG 6: Ensuring Access to Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation For All, and got to writing one comprehensive working paper for our second topic, Promotion of Sustainable Industrial Development and Innovation in Rural Areas,” she said.

What Byrne found most fascinating about the Galapagos Islands was how clean they were.

“When you are there, it feels like that they [the islands] are practically untouched by humans. There are sea lions everywhere, I mean everywhere. If you turn a street corner there’s sea lions. They are on every boat in the harbor. They are on every beach. There was a boardwalk along the beach, and up against the railings there would be sea lions. Literally there are more sea lions than people. It’s hard to explain but they are literally everywhere,” Byrne said.

Some light research proves Byrne’s point: according to the Galapagos Islands’ tourism website, there are 50,000 sea lions on the island, more than double the amount of people on the islands.

Garcia was amazed by the sea lions, but also by the biodiversity of the animals and plants all over the island.

“I really think it’s something we may hear about but can’t totally appreciate until you see it. There were sea lions everywhere and it was so fun to see the babies playing on the beach. There were little geckos and all kinds of colorful birds hanging around the beaches and sidewalks, and the plant life was just beautiful too,” she said.