A model Zero Hunger Challenge

Students engage Model UN process to debate policies for Zero Hunger

Guest blog by Rebecca Lagden, Model UN coordinator & Director of Co-curricular, Felsted School, Essex

Photos: Rebecca Lagden

Photos: Rebecca Lagden

My first question was: who’s felt hungry this week? Around three quarters of the 90 students in front of me raised their hands; by the end of the day, nobody did.

For us in the developed world, the idea of hunger, a gnawing hunger where your body begins to break itself down to extract the nourishment it needs, is a foreign concept. To us hunger is something that hits around 11am, the breakfast high is starting to wear off and it’s a long time until lunch. We could easily survive without food for another two hours but we’re peckish and we have food available, so why not? We are privileged to live in a world where food and education are readily available and often taken for granted; we have a responsibility, though, to utilise our education for the greater good.

DSC_0003 290 students, ranging in age from nine to twelve years old, gathered at Felsted School to discuss and debate a number of suggestions for helping to achieve Zero Hunger; for a number of these students this was their first experience of Model United Nations and so the day began with a number of workshops to familiarise them with the process of debate and with the Zero Hunger Challenge.

One of the most revealing workshops required the students to think about what hunger really was; when the students started to compile lists about what individuals really need to survive, it became clear that they lived in relative luxury compared to the 795 million people around the world who go hungry every day.

From this session, students then started to consider the short and long term impacts of hunger in individuals and societies and from there to consider what policies could be put in place by member states to reach Zero Hunger.

By the afternoon, the students were ready to begin their General Assembly debate; the United Kingdom, represented by Sixth Form students from Felsted School, presented a resolution outlining a number of hunger related issues and policies to combat them.  The UK asked member states to commit themselves to the Zero Hunger Challenge and also to the first Millennium Development Goal, which aims to halve extreme poverty and hunger. This was not an especially controversial suggestion but the manner in which member states were expected to demonstrate their commitment revealed different attitudes from those member states represented. Many felt that the UK were simply asking for money with no clear indication as to how this would be spent; Myanmar and Bangladesh felt their countries were in a position of needing assistance rather than contributing to others while Russia agreed that member states should address their own food supply issues before seeking to assist others.

DSC_0021 2More pragmatic suggestions followed as the UK suggested that member states should be able to demonstrate a 5% reduction in food waste; this was a popular suggestion on the floor and many member states opted to speak in favour of this policy. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, a caveat came attached: member states needed to demonstrate this reduction by January 2016 and, understandably, this divided the floor with many member states feeling the deadline was far too tight to integrate the necessary actions to achieve the target. A number of delegates had undertaken research into the causes and aggravators of inadequate food supplies in their countries and were able to demonstrate that a number of social, financial and geographical factors combined over a number of years to create the current state of play and thus, a number of years might be required to untangle these issues but this didn’t mean they were any less committed to eradicating hunger or food wastage.

After an hour and fifteen minutes of debate, the UK amended some of the deadlines and donations to better suit the mood and requirements of the floor; at its heart the resolution held member states to commitments in reducing food waste and investing in the education of women to further propagate the eradication of hunger. It was a relief to all when the resolution was voted through with a majority of eleven votes to seven and the assembly were told: Clapping is in order.

Sadly, for those of us at Felsted Prep’s MUN we don’t (yet!) have a seat in the UN but that doesn’t mean we cannot and should not discuss the global issues surrounding us. The students who attended enjoyed the conference but said they hadn’t realised that hunger, or the lack of it, was more than just about whether there was food on the table or not and this meant they had to consider a number of factors before they could articulate their views to the General Assembly.

For me, I was happy to see a group of young people begin to realise they didn’t live in a city, county or country but a world.