“Africa’s time”: Team members reflect on SE Model African Union summit

logoIt’s our pleasure today to publish this post, jointly written by the Georgia Law team that last week was named Best Delegation at the Southeast Model African Union, and so is eligible to compete in the 35th annual national competition in February in Washington, D.C. The 6 students on the team each won individual achievement awards at the event, which was hosted by the University of Georgia African Studies Institute and cosponsored by the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center. They write:

Introduction

“This is Africa’s time.”

So said the keynote speaker and Honorary Consul of Sierra Leone, Cynthia Jarrett-Thorpe, to delegates at the 20th Annual Southeast Model African Union, This was the beginning of what turned out to be an eventful competition. Over the course of the next 2-1/2 days we would be tasked with working together in various negotiations, in order to provide solutions to complex situations on behalf of the country we represented, the Republic of Niger.

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► Rebecca Wackym left, listens to statement by delegate from South Sudan

Rebecca Wackym, 1L, Executive Council

My role as a delegate for the Republic of Niger in the Executive Council was not only as an advocate for the interests of Niger, but also a servant to the interests of the entirety of the African Union. As a member of the Executive Council, I was not required to draft or advocate for a resolution. I introduced a hypothetical crisis situation caused by Boko Haram to the committees, who then had to create resolutions to solve the crisis.

Regarding the process, I had to work with other delegates in the Executive Council to first decide on how to setup the crisis in a way that would guide them to a solution while simultaneously, allowing each committee to achieve the goals set forth in the Union’s Agenda 2063.

The Executive Council ferociously debated how we wanted to achieve these goals in the context of the Boko Haram crisis. For example, we contemplated:

  • Would we ask the Committee on Peace and Security to involve states with more resources to combat Boko Haram?
  • Would we rather rely on our own resources, even though we had far less than the Americans?

I had to advocate for a position that struck a balance between safety and sovereignty of Niger and the goals of the Agenda. We eventually negotiated an agreement to ask the committees to formulate plans in a tiered manner, which put the African Union’s sovereignty first, but allowed for support outside of the Union.

However, our work did not end with tasking the committees. We also were tasked with creating a final report, called a “communiqué.” We had discretion to adopt an entire committee’s resolution, or certain parts, or to scrap the entire resolution and draft our own. At this point, we divided into groups so that we could discuss the edits, if any, that we wanted to make to the resolution. I was asked to look over the Committee on Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights’ resolution because the other delegates believed that my whole t3 months in law school afforded me more expertise in regards to judicial reform in the African Union. Drafting the communiqué might have been one of most hectic couple of hours, but with exceptional teamwork we churned out a comprehensive report.

My takeaway from this experience is that the diplomatic system works well when all the parties decide put the interest in solving the crisis above their own individual interests. The Executive Council ran efficiently when we all saw each other as colleagues working towards a common goal rather than a competition of whose interest would be given most prominence.

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From left, team members Shummi Chowdhury, Amanda Hoefer, and Chanel Chauvet

Amanda Hoefer, 1L, Committee on Democracy, Governance and Human Rights

I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the 2016 Southeastern Model African Union Competition held at UGA, with the support of both the Dean Rusk International Law Center and the UGA Department of African Studies. I represented the Republic of Niger in the Committee on Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights, and helped with the drafting of four resolutions, addressing a wide spectrum of issues, including the scope and jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the use of transitional justice as a means of compensating victims of human rights abuses, the reduction of corruption throughout the continent, and the African Union’s role in promoting economic growth throughout the diaspora.

The most rewarding aspect of this experience was working with undergraduate students with little experience in mock diplomacy; having participated in Model United Nations in high school, I was able to use my rusty knowledge of parliamentary procedure to help steer my fellow delegates to a rewarding and enriching resolution. Diplomacy competitions are an incredible opportunity to flex your teamwork muscles and to collaborate on creative solutions to complex problems; in a word, competitions like SEMAU are empowering. I enjoyed watching those in my committee who had never participated in a similar competition become increasingly confident in their public speaking and critical thinking skills, and loved having a chance to dig into complicated diplomatic problems myself.

I also enjoyed having the chance to learn about African culture and politics, having never had a particular opportunity to immerse myself in the topic before this competition. While preparing for the competition during the Fall semester of my 1L year was a bit stressful, my inner-diplomacy nerd jumped at the opportunity to do some research about Niger and the AU, and to delve into the complex policy problems that we were asked to face. I’m incredibly grateful to both Georgia Law’s Dean Rusk International Law Center and the University of Georgia African Studies Institute for their patronage and support in this endeavor, and look forward to competing again at the national competition in February.

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On behalf of Niger, Johann Ebongom (center) joins in discussion

Johann Ebongom, LLM, Committee on Economic Matters

The Model African Union is known as a competition in which student delegates represent their selected countries and develop an understanding of African issues from an African perspective. Practically speaking, the Model African Union is a simulation of the African Union Summit which occurs twice a year in Africa.

At the 20th annual Southeastern Model African Union competition, I had the opportunity to participate in the Economic Matters Committee. We convened on the afternoon of November 3, to discuss on two main agenda topics:

  • Promoting a balanced and inclusive economic growth: aspirations and implementation
  • Promoting a sustainable ecosystem and climate resilient economies: aspirations and implementation

The objective was to debate and engage in diplomatic principles and standards to ultimately resolve major economic issues currently harming African countries. Some of these issues include concerns of water resources and agricultural development, management of mineral resources, debt relief, energy and development, multilateral trade negotiations, and food security. The committee created a resolution that represented the majority opinion of the different countries present. Following negotiations, we presented the resolution to Heads of State and Government during the General Assembly on the last day of the event for their final approval.

The Delegation of Niger recognized that despite a sustained agricultural productivity growth, a large number of households continue to face food insecurity and malnutrition problems due to on-site effects of soil degradation and the mismanagement of revenues from the exportation of the continent’s natural resources. At this point, it was clear that our challenge would not only be that of enhancing our agricultural production to meet the increased food demands of the expanding population, but also to focus on the judicious use of soils in order to promote a sustained productivity in the foreseeable future.

Niger promoted the implementation of a tax, on the total revenue from natural and agricultural resources exportation, which would be deposited and managed at the level of the African Union through an African Fund for Development. The funds would then be distributed back across the continent to support integration-related projects which will lead to the inclusive economic growth of the continent. Niger supported this motion using the slogan:

“Give what you own for the benefit of the continent!”

Niger also reminded the delegation about the importance of a collective solution that would benefit the 54 African countries. We also urged the honorable house to vote for a resolution that will take into account the effects of the current Boko Haram security issue, which directly affects the economy of a number of western African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Niger was leading the negotiations and after long hours, a compromise was found! The resolution was adopted by a 2/3 majority of the house.

I had the honor of being promoted by the organizers of the competition as a “Parliamentarian Dais” for the rest of the session. As such, my role was to ensure the respect of for the rules and proceedings during the working session, and advise the Chair in maintaining the parliamentary order during the debates. I also had the opportunity to fill this role during the General Assembly of Heads of State and Government on November 5, 2016.

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► Nelly Ndounteng, right, seeks to intervene on behalf of Niger

Nelly Ndounteng, LLM, Committee on Social Matters

The 20th Southeast Model African Union (SEMAU) competition was a noble experience for me. I am delighted to have represented the law school as the Republic of Niger in this conference. As the representative for the Committee on Social Matters, I was tasked with the responsibility of providing a solution to:

  • Empowering the African Woman and Eliminating All Forms of Violence and Discrimination (Social Economic, Political) Against Women and Girls.
  • Eliminating Youth Unemployment and Promoting the Creativity, Energy and Innovation of African Youth as the Driving Force Behind the Continent’s Transformation.

I was especially excited to work on the sub-topic that dealt with African women because it required the committee to resolve matters concerning hardship, inequality and degradation suffered as a result of male counterparts.
It was my first experience using parliamentary procedure, and I must say I enjoyed every bit of it. During the first session, I decided to observe the proceedings in order to see how procedure was carried out. Once I was comfortable, I began participating, and later, took the lead, which made the whole experience more exciting for me.

My sincere appreciation goes to the founder of SEMAU, the organizers and most importantly, the Dean Rusk International Law Center for allowing me this great opportunity to promote Africa’s development.

Shummi Chowdhury, 1L, Committee on Pan-Africanism and Continental Unity

The Southeast Model African Union Competition (SEMAU) proved to be an eventful and rich learning experience to kick off my 1L career. I participated on the Pan-Africanism Committee as the delegate for the Republic of Niger. One of the important tasks we faced on the first two days of the competition was to read and scrutinize the resolutions from all the countries represented, and then engage in debate over the merits and drafting of the resolutions. Having been exposed to the concise and effective style of legal writing, I took an active role in drafting the two main consolidated resolutions that passed through our committee. This competition helped me reflect on my newly acquired skills and for the first time appreciate that all the work spent on my courses thus far actually have substantial application outside the classroom.

nigerThe part I enjoyed most during the competition however was in the negotiations that occurred. Everyone had a resolution, or an idea that they wished to promote. For me, I focused on human trafficking as it affects Niger, particularly in light of the Boko Haram crisis. In order to get my ideas drafted into a resolution, I had to work the room and speak to different delegates to find common ground and similar interests. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of negotiating and coming together with distinct parties to draft a resolution that satisfactorily acknowledged differing goals in a coherent manner.

Though the competition occurred in November, which is a very busy time for 1L students, I have no regrets and am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate. It really forced me to manage my time, so that I could focus on the competition and also stay on top of all the schoolwork and studying that is required to be successful in law school.

Chanel Chauvet, 2L, Committee on Peace and Security

As the delegate for the Republic of Niger in the Committee on Peace and Security, I was engaged in the intricate task of educating and debating my fellow delegates about the impact of Boko Haram and al-Qaeda within my state. According to the United Nations, more than 20,000 people have been killed, and 2.2 million people have been internally displaced as a result of the Boko Haram and al-Qaeda.

My primary focus however, involved the potential remedies that the African Union could provide through the use of education. One of the solutions that Niger emphasized in accordance to the “Achieving Freedom From Armed Conflict, Terrorism, Extremism and Intolerance by 2063: Aspirations and ecowasImplementation” topic was the implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL) within school and military curriculums. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have considered how treaties related to IHL can be strengthened through the legal system, as detailed here; however, the organizations have yet to explore these other avenues of implementation. Educating the youth about the legal protections and obligations of parties involved and affected by conflict would ultimately serve to generate respect for treaties that promote IHL and prevent conflict.

Perhaps, what was the most difficult part about the committee process for me was the need to use of parliamentary procedure in order to communicate my points effectively to the other delegates. This required extensive knowledge of the rules and procedure, in order to redirect the committee to certain point favorable to my country. Fortunately, our team had laboriously practiced parliamentary procedure in the weeks leading up to the competition, so we were well-prepared.

Conclusion

Overall, we are grateful for this experience, and pleased with our team performance. We managed to earn the “Best Delegation” award, in addition to numerous individual awards.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law and our faculty advisor for extending this opportunity to us. We would also like to thank the African Studies Institute at UGA and its Director for his assistance.

Sojourn stirs questions about policies in China, Cuba and the United States

Our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation, Kathleen A. Doty, is a World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow just completing her tour of China. Traveling with her have been eleven others, many from globally minded businesses. This is the last dispatch in Kate’s series of posts on her travels.

4BEIJING – The people of China are warm. They love babies. I quickly found the best way to make a friend was to coo at the child in her arms. They love long meals and good toasts, and have spent centuries mastering the art of hospitality. Being a guest in China is wonderful.

Beijing is a vastly different city than Shanghai. It is old, gritty, artistic. I heard many people say that Beijing was like Washington, D.C., and Shanghai was like New York. I think that it is a shallow comparison, and having lived in both U.S. cities, I disagree.image1

New York is much more than high rises; Beijing is a city alive and rich in a similar way. Of course, this impression has much to do with the organization of our trip; in Shanghai we were taken primarily to government developments, while in Beijing we were taking primarily to private companies and cultural sites. We visited the sleek showroom of Huawei, the Chinese version of Apple, and iQIYI, the Chinese version of Netflix, which exudes a hip imagestart-up vibe. I sipped exotic tea as I strolled through galleries in the profoundly cool 798 Art District, wandered back alleys in Old World neighborhoods, and saw a palace that has been grand since before my own country was founded. When the lights went out in a restaurant at dinner, the servers calmly brought candles to the table and we kept on with the toasts. Beijing was much more what I image2expected to find in China: a mix of the modern and the historical, of wealth and underdevelopment.

Cultural heritage was a theme I pondered throughout the trip. China is old in a way that I, a woman from Colorado, a place young even in the history of the United States, find mind-blowing. Beijing is a huge city. The several ring roads surrounding it put the Beltway or the Perimeter to shame. The city has been developed and redeveloped countless times, replacing so much of what once was. Walking the Great Wall (which is covered in scratched graffiti, in Chinese characters so foreign to my eye) and seeing the Forbidden City provided just a taste of an incredibly rich history that, little by little, is lost with improvements to modern life. I commented to a friend, an American expat living in China, that I found this sad. He responded that the history in 3China is too long to preserve the physical – you just can’t save every 5,000-year-old building – the cultural heritage of China lives in the language. Having mastered only four words in ten days – “Hello,” “Thank you,” “Cheers,” and “too expensive” – I have to admit that this is lost on me. But it emphasized the importance of intangible cultural heritage work as a means of preserving at least some of an ancient way of life.

Sitting alone in a public park one day, I marveled at how a parent or grandparent needed only to speak a word to a child and he or she behaved. Meeting times were given at strangely precise intervals (for example, 1:25) and taken very seriously. I heard more apologies for tardiness than I thought reasonable given a city of such size and with such congestion. Our guides shared their views that much of Eastern culture derives from Confucius’ thought, and emphasizes hierarchy and respect. This consideration to others was surprising given our pre-trip prepping that people push and don’t stand in line or respect your space, but it just reinforced the cultural difference in the meaning of “consideration.” In so many of my reflections about Communism and the economy, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the attitudes I picked up on were born of pre-existing Eastern philosophy and culture, or from the current economic and political systems in the country.

I also couldn’t help but wonder about the tension between the incredible feats of the state and human rights. Much has been written about this topic and I am no expert, so I won’t belabor the point. But I found myself reflecting, much as I did during my studies in Cuba, on the tension between the social benefits of a Communist system – universal healthcare, education, and in the case of China, the elevation of an extraordinary number of people out of poverty in a short time frame – with the profound lack of freedoms.

2During our visit to the Great Wall, we were standing in an epically long line to take a shuttle bus from the base of the Wall to the parking lot where our bus was waiting. Our guide, a young man in the employ of the University who spoke nearly perfect English, sighed as we inched forward. He said:

“Thank God for the family planning policy.”

I was surprised because the one-child policy so deeply offends our Western concept of individual choice that I simply expected someone of roughly my age to concur; yet in such a populous country, a limit on the number of people is sometimes welcome. I relayed my surprise at his comment to another young Chinese woman I met, and she said,

“Oh yes. The problem with the family planning is that we now have a China that is out of balance, with too many old people and not enough young ones.”

I was so amazed; again, it was a comment totally focused on the macro. Is that Chinese culture? Is that the effect of a Communist system of government? Is it both?

These are the questions that will for me remain unanswered. After studying in Cuba, my takeaway was that they don’t have it right, but neither do we in the United States. The “right” is somewhere in the middle. My impression of China is that it is inching closer to the right balance than Cuba. I have far more context about Cuba to make that statement; this trip showed me, more than anything else, how much I don’t know about China. But standing in Tiananmen Square in the rain, I couldn’t help but think that an inch is terrifically small.

In politics, East is East and West is West even as economies grow closer

Our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation, Kathleen A. Doty, is a World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow just completing her tour of China. Traveling with her have been eleven others, many from globally minded businesses. This is another dispatch in Kate’s series of posts on her travels.

imageSHANGHAI – A Chinese official at the Pilot Free Trade Zone in Shanghai told us:

“The United States is a very different economy than China; it is much more globalized. We are still learning.”

Visiting Shanghai, one would never guess that China is still learning. The city is shockingly modern, with architecture straight out of a sci-fi movie, sparklingly clean public spaces, and every sort of of consumer product available. The brands are recognizable to Americans – from Walmart to most high-end designers. Yet the rhetoric from the officials with which we’ve met has been all about development: how to further open up China’s economy.

The efforts in this regard are impossible to miss. Almost everywhere in the city there are new buildings going up and renovations in progress.

The Chinese are obsessed with space: the first thing they tell you about any project is the number of square kilometers it will occupy and the population of people living or working there. This is understandable given the stress such a high population places on the limited physical space and infrastructure of the city.

image3Perhaps more striking: they are obsessed with showcasing this development. The government has erected entire museums and project-specific showrooms dedicated to urban planning with information tailored to foreign visitors. They are surreal – we saw several unbelievably intricate miniature models of the building projects, complete with lights in the windows of the mini-buildings, and incredibly high resolution 3D video tours set to dramatic symphonic music. At one such display a colleague leaned over and said:

“Wow, it’s propaganda.”

And propaganda it is. Unlike Cuba, which is still brimming with billboards of Fidel and slogans like “¡Patria o Muerte! ¡Venceremos! (Homeland or Death! We Shall Overcome!),” the Chinese version is more subtle. It’s not centered on a leader or on separation from the rest of the world, but on the collective progress: development, innovation, opening up.

I expected Shanghai to be filled with the iconic Soviet concrete-style buildings, but the new Communism is glass and steel. It is rows of narrow, tall apartment buildings shooting out of the ground in perfectly aligned formation. But it still feels cold, a little sterile, and with pollution hanging in the air, eerie.

image1It was also quite clear that the Chinese keep a tight grip on the narrative available to foreign visitors. My trip, sponsored by the Confucius Institute, a division of the government education agency, made sure to show us the best of what China had to offer. We looked up at a major skyscraper in the distance and asked our tour guide if we were going to go there. He looked at us in complete seriousness and said:

“But why would we go there? You saw it in the model.”

I realized then that the propaganda wasn’t just for the foreign visitors, he believed it too. Government control of the narrative affects everyone.

We were told that the farmers who used to be on the land now occupied by the new industrial parks were simply removed from their land. Eminent domain is in full force in China. Here’s a statement of fact about the issue, rather than skepticism, from our same tour guide:

“You can’t bargain with the government.”

Nor can you reason with it. On my way out of the airport, after the security checkpoint where they took large liquids, I bought two waters. These were confiscated in an unexpected secondary screening on the jetway. When I asked the guard why he took them, he explained it was because of TSA rules. When I protested that they had already screened for liquids and that I purchased these past security, he just shook his head and tossed my water in a bin. Perhaps China doesn’t regulate items for purchase after security and therefore doesn’t meet TSA standards, but I find that unlikely. Despite the progress in China, it felt much more like the absurdity of life characteristic of such a strong state government.

image2China is impressive. It is actualizing public works and infrastructure projects at a rate that is unimaginable in the United States. It is developing its cities and offering its people access to a diverse marketplace of consumer goods.

Wandering a mall, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was Cuba’s future. It’s not a bad compromise between the socialist and capitalist models. (Oh, the irony; I wonder if Marx could ever have envisioned a transition back to capitalism.)

I’m not entirely certain whether the official we spoke with at the Free Trade Zone would say that the main difference between the United States and China was the economic model of each country, but I know that I left thinking that no matter how open the Chinese economy becomes, we will always be far apart, even in business, because of our different underlying political systems.

Shanghai story opens World Affairs Council Young Leaders’ China sojourn

Our Center’s Director of Global Practice Preparation, Kathleen A. Doty, is a World Affairs Council Young Leaders Fellow now touring China. Traveling with her are eleven others, many from globally minded businesses. Kate will post on her travels throughout the trip; her 1st dispatch in this series is below.

img_0315SHANGHAI –

“Confucius said: it is such a delight to have friends from afar.”

And so began our first day in China, with a warm welcome from Professor Yang Li, Vice-President of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). He shared his hope that through our exchange, “the distance between American and Chinese businesses will be bridged.” These sentiments were echoed by Kimberly Griffin, Deputy Director of the Confucius Institute at Georgia State University, and Paulina Guzman, Membership Manager at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta.

Our opening ceremony took place in the state-of-the-art conference facilities at SISU, one of the top universities in China for students of translation and interpretation. We all felt quite official, with headphones, tablets at each of our seats, and interpretation provided by the Dean, Zhang Ailing. The ceremony closed with our hosts presenting us with a lovely gift of custom-made SISU jackets.

img_0316We were then treated to a lecture by Dr. Zhang Shangwu, Professor and Deputy Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tonghi University. He introduced us to the historical expansion of the city of Shanghai, and its newly unveiled 2040 development plan. Shanghai has always been an important city in the region because of its rich water resources from the Yangtze river delta. Following the 1840 opium wars, the city started to take shape as an international center of commerce, because of the concessions granted to various foreign governments in the aftermath of the war. Official urban planning began in the 1920s and 1930s, but intervening conflicts and political changes meant that many of these projects were never completed.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Shanghai Master Plan was adopted as the blueprint of development for the city. This was a critical because it emphasized the four major areas of industry that would define the city going forward: economy, finance, trade, and shipping. It also aimed to control the incredibly densely populated city – at that time, 9 million people in fewer than 700 square kilometers – by moving approximately 80,000 people to satellite cities built to absorb them. This plan was bolstered by China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, and showcased when Shanghai hosted the 2010 World Expo, which focused on urban life. The latter also drove a new wave of infrastructure development, including a deep water port, two international airports, and a vastly improved metro system.

img_0317The economic crash forced Shanghai to re-envision its future, as the manufacturing industries and accompanying trade suffered. The city faces many challenges, including a steady population growth rate and a dwindling supply of land as urban sprawl expands. Accordingly, the 2040 plan aims to re-position the city by adding three new areas of focus to those emphasized by the 2010 plan:

► Innovation, especially in the areas of the tech and service industries;
► Culture, to make the city more attractive to newcomers and livable for current residents; and
► Environment, to include increased outdoor spaces and sustainable growth mechanism.

The overall goal is to create a better city that offers a better life.

From what we’ve seen so far, Shanghai is indeed an incredibly organized city for a place so densely populated. I look forward to exploring more and seeing this development plan in action.