Three students at Bournemouth University became diplomats for a day at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London last week and came away from a NATO crisis exercise with the Distinguished Delegation award.
Shahidah Miah, Alex Carey and Josh Pitt were amongst 120 students from 30 universities who took part in Model NATO, run by British International Studies Association in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
Each university was allocated a country that students represented in a specialised NATO body – the Military Committee and the Civil Emergency Planning Committee – and in the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest authority. The BU students were acting as a delegation from Canada and needed to research the country’s resources and political position in advance.
For the exercise, the committee members needed to agree the international response to a hypothetical scenario of multiple earthquakes and a volcanic eruption, resulting in significant loss of life and mass displacement of populations.
The members of a simulated North Atlantic Council then had to agree a detailed set of actions to be endorsed in a final declaration.
Diplomats and civil servants from the FCDO were available throughout the day to chat with students about their approach to the task, as well as about career prospects in diplomacy.
Law student Shahida Miah said, “Diplomacy is not merely a means to an end; it is a vehicle for social change.
“I would love to work in this sector. The thrill and rush of it all is truly something! Transnational perspectives offer innovation because each microcosm can be evaluated for its strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that you can make a difference and contribute to a shared goal is truly astounding.
“The crisis transpired from the Turkey-Syria disaster across the Mediterranean, which in actual fact is a possibility. The ability to look at current affairs, analyse how government officials work and apply their ideas to a scenario gave an edge of reality and an appreciation of transnational organisations’ internal mechanisms.”
Politics student Josh Pitt added, “Attending the model NATO conference was a fantastic opportunity to advance my learning and interest in international relations.
“The event also coincided with current international humanitarian crises such as the Syria-Turkey earthquakes. This made the simulation we were presented with feel very real.”
The Bournemouth / Canada delegation proposed several initiatives to the other members on the committee – including the establishment of a task force. They impressed the judges from BISA and the FCDO who named them “Distinguished Delegation” during the awards presentations after the exercise had concluded.
The students’ tutor, Dr Alina Dolea, Associate Professor in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy, said, “this was the first time BU has taken part in this event and I’m so proud that they won the award against teams from universities with long tradition of politics and international studies.
“Simulation events like this give students access to insights and skills that add to what they gain in classroom settings. BU students demonstrated excellent negotiating skills and worked brilliantly as a team representing Canada, contributing to the consensus reached at the end of the day.
“They were true diplomats for a day. And they also networked with fellow students, staff from other universities and diplomats from FCDO who gave them glowing praises for their interventions.”