[GUEST BLOG] Centre students participate in Model Arab League Conference
Each year, the National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUAR), based in Washington D.C., organizes Model Arab League Conferences across the country for college students to assemble and discuss pressing issues in the Arab world. One of those conferences, the Ohio Valley Model Arab League (OVMAL), is held at Miami University each February. This past weekend, I took a group of six Centre students to represent the Kingdom of Jordan, despite the snowy forecast.
The Arab League was established in 1945 by six Arab states as a regional organization that aimed to discuss and coordinate mutually important economic and political issues. It has grown to include 22 members that span from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. (Syria was suspended in 2011 following Bashar al-Assad’s military crackdown in his country.)
The Ohio Conference closely mirrors real Arab League summits in that councils meet over the course of several days to discuss problems facing member states. While the problem of the self-declared Islamic State militant group presently weighs heavily on the minds of Arab leaders, it was far from the only issue discussed. I watched our students create alliances with other “states” and vent their frustrations after each council about uncompromising delegates. They were truly invested in representing Jordan and reaching resolutions that would further its interests. In the end, the councils debated and voted on resolutions concerning access to water, the status of refugees, the role of women, representation of Palestinians and the meaning of political legitimacy. Reaching these resolutions requires not only face-to-face time at the conference, but countless hours of prior research to understand the interests and concerns of their countries both holistically and with great nuance.
Participating in the conference gave Centre students the opportunity to get acquainted with the Arab League and its parliamentary procedures; to study regional issues from the perspective of the Kingdom of Jordan; to meet students from colleges in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky and learn to compromise with other delegations representing other Arab countries. Most importantly, they participated in an experiential learning conference that taught them the value of diplomacy, the hurdles to reaching consensus and the importance of compromise on substantial issues.
These students are to be commended for their initiative in self-organizing and working tirelessly on a major extracurricular project. Our Centre delegation — Andrew Amend, John Coard, Emma Jackson, Peter O’Donnell, Alana Smith and Nicholas Teale — performed with aplomb. Their efforts did not go without notice. The National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations awarded our delegates in four out of five councils for their representation of Jordan, and our delegation won third place overall for outstanding representation at the conference. Not bad for Centre’s debut!
by Dina M. Badie, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Studies
PHOTO (left to right): Emma Jackson ’18, John Coard ’18, Andrew Amend ’15, Nicholas Teale ’15, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Studies Dina Badie, Peter O’Donnell ’18 and Alana Smith ’18