“...and that is why we believe that NATO member states must jointly counter modern cyberthreats. I have finished, Mr. Chairman.”
“Thank you, Ms. Representative of the Federal Republic of Germany. Does anyone have any suggestions or additions? Now, the delegate of the United States of America has the floor…”
No, the quote above comes not from a meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, but from a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in... Lviv, held with the participation of local college and school students who played the role of delegates from the Alliance’s member nations. On December 8-9, a simulation game called Model NATO-2017 was conducted there.
The Model NATO is a game designed by the team of the Institute of Public Initiatives NGO. For four years, activists have been engaging in informal education, in particular, in simulation games, as they have been holding Model UN and Model Council of Europe events. “This is the first time that we are organizing a simulated meeting of the North Atlantic Alliance’s Council. We have support from the Lviv Oblast State Administration and the Ukrainian Catholic University in that effort,” noted Vitalii SERHIICHUK, a project manager of the Institute for Public Initiatives and coordinator of the Model NATO-2017.
A GAME THAT DEVELOPED INTO AN EDUCATIONAL TRADITION
The first attempts to imitate the activities of international organizations took place back in the 1920s, when the League of Nations was still active. A full-fledged movement modeling activities of international and national institutions originated in the 1950s in the US. At first, American college students simulated the work of the US Senate, and then moved to simulating the activities of international organizations. The first model UN event took place at Harvard in 1953. On that occasion, students thought that their lesson about the UN had not been informative enough. They decided to hold a game that later developed into an entire educational tradition.
A model UN event is, in essence, a synthesis of a scholarly conference and a role-playing game, in which college and high school students recreate the work of the organization’s bodies, gaining diplomatic, leadership, oratorical skills and the ability to reach a compromise in the process.
“We tell all of our participants an interesting fact: former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also participated in model events in his student years and became the best delegate on occasion,” said Serhiichuk. “This educational movement already has a long tradition, which is supported by many organizations and universities. We, in turn, are trying to develop it in Ukraine.”
“THIS FORMAT ACTIVATES CRITICAL THINKING AND CREATES UNDERSTANDING OF UKRAINE’S REAL CONDITION”
The purpose of the Model NATO-2017 is to increase Lviv youths’ awareness on issues of security, national defense, contemporary challenges, international cooperation and Euro-Atlantic integration in the context of strengthening the NATO-Ukraine dialog. The practical part of the event aims to simulate a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, with the roles of delegates performed by Lviv college and school students.
“The NATO issue is extremely relevant for Ukraine today,” stressed the project’s coordinator Serhiichuk. “It is very important today to educate young people on all international issues so that they can properly form their vision of Ukraine’s strategic development. It will also contribute to the formation of critical thinking and alter their perception of news, in particular, by creating greater resistance to information manipulation. Thanks to the model, people can better understand the essence and peculiarities of NATO from within.
“For example, after the first day of work and discussions in the format of the North Atlantic Council, one of the participants criticized the body for failing to reach any concrete results throughout the day. But this just reflected the way it really happens when there are a lot of questions on the agenda and the procedure needs to be carefully observed. When someone will later say in the news that NATO is ineffective and does nothing, all such claims must be seen through the prism of personal realization why this organization works the way it does. You see, it is a long and complicated process which seeks to take into account the interests of individual member states and reach a consensus on resolving a particular issue.”
The agenda of the Model NATO’s participants included a number of topical issues. They were cybersecurity, and the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the nuclear threat from North Korea, and a comprehensive discussion of NATO competences and the effectiveness of this organization. Of course, the topic of Ukraine’s potential accession to the North Atlantic Alliance was also raised. “Does NATO need Ukraine? The participants sought answers to this question from the standpoints of the Alliance’s 29 members,” we heard from Serhiichuk, who served as moderator at the meeting of the Council as well. “The format of Model NATO activates critical thinking and creates understanding of Ukraine’s real condition and place on the geopolitical map. Yes, not all delegates always reached conclusions that would please Ukraine. After all, Ukraine’s position is still far from clear to all members of the Alliance. This gives us an opportunity to review what Ukraine really needs to correct in its activities and how to reach our goal.”
Before the simulation game itself, its participants are given the task of studying the country they represent, identifying its priorities and interests. “Having realized all the nuances of a certain country’s policy, one can then come to a conclusion why it acts in the international arena as it does,” the moderator continued. “The participants in our model events are people who forget for two days how old they are and what are their personal positions, because their job is to represent the delegation of a particular country. This is a great practice for the development of debate and diplomatic skills. It will be useful not only for those who intend to work in international relations. Before simulating the North Atlantic Council, we prepared our participants by practicing games with elements of negotiation and leader teamwork. It is important for our delegates to learn how to cooperate, because they will write a final communique at the end of the model event, which should be adopted unanimously.”
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO STUDY AND DISCUSS ALL ISSUES IN THE CONTEXT OF NATO”
When talking to The Day, the Model NATO’s participants expressed their appreciation of the importance of such an educational event both in the context of gaining a better understanding of the peculiarities of the North Atlantic Alliance and in terms of acquiring useful practical skills.
Oleksandr KAPETS, who studies at the Law Faculty of Franko University of Lviv, has repeatedly participated in simulation games. He had this to say about the Model NATO: “Since Ukraine has a strong intention to join the North Atlantic Alliance, college and high school students need to devote more time to studying the subject. In the future, we want to become members of that organization, but public awareness of it is still at a low level. It is therefore important to study and discuss all issues in the context of NATO.
“Simulation games allow one to deepen one’s knowledge and gain practical experience. It is also a way to broaden one’s knowledge of international topics and not only them. Each participant analyzes in detail a particular nation, studying its culture and politics. They identify its interests and generally begin to better understand the specifics of international relations.”
In the end, the Model NATO-2017’s coordinator Serhiichuk emphasized: “Such events are also good networking opportunities, because they bring together many interesting, above-average people. This simulation ‘bubble’ allows them to establish certain connections in two days. Our model events often give rise to projects which the participants go on to jointly implement later. This is our first project in such a format, which is devoted to the theme of NATO. After summing up its results, we will, if it turns out to be a success, continue to develop the Model NATO, and beyond Lviv as well.”