FM Livni to students: "We have to try to enlist the UN to work in Israel’s favor."
Guest of honor Stephane Dujarric: A revolution has taken place in UN-Israeli relations.
"The great significance of the UN is the legitimacy it bestows on processes, when the legitimacy of the international community is needed. Israel has to learn to use the organization wisely. UN Resolution 1701 is just one example of the meaningful way Israel uses the UN. We also have to know how to handle crises at the UN and to prevent the Security Council from passing resolutions or declarations that condemn Israel. That’s what happened a week ago, when Libya proposed to condemn Israel and abstained in the end due to our objections."
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni was speaking at the opening of the Model UN project on Sunday, February 10, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project, which is held annually in many countries around the world, is a simulation of the UN General Assembly and UN committees conducted by high school students. This is the second time the project is being held in Israel, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. About 120 high school students from Jerusalem, including Arab students from Beit Safafa, participated this year. Other partners in the project include the Jerusalem Foundation, the Educational Administration of Jerusalem and the Hebrew University.
The main speaker of the symposium was former UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. Mr. Dujarric noted that UN-Israeli relations were characterized in the past by suspicion and prejudice but, in the last decade, a revolution has taken place. Former Secretary General Kofi Anan invited Israel to take part in various UN activities, especially in the field of development. "Israel’s financial contributions to the UN and its development program have increased dramatically, as has Israel’s involvement in the global agenda, and not only in subjects relating to the Middle East."
Mr. Dujarric told how, after the establishment of the State in 1948, the UN responded to an appeal by the new Israeli government, and UNICEF supplied food, blankets and essential items to half a million children and mothers living in immigrant camps. This aid continued for a year and a half. He added that after the Yom Kippur War, the UN granted aid to renovate kindergartens. The UN also took care of traumatized children in Kiryat Shmona following the Second Lebanon War and, more recently, in Sderot.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been making great efforts in recent years to be involved in positive agendas of the UN, especially in the fields of development and humanitarian aid, in order to show the world that Israel has other interests besides the Middle East conflict and that the UN is important to it," said Ron Adam, Director of the UN Political Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry and the one who brought the Model UN project to Israel. He added that this is why teaching about the UN in high school is so important. "We believe that improving the UN’s image in Israel will necessarily lead to an improvement in Israel’s image in the world. It wouldn’t hurt the public and the politicians in Israel to better understand the importance of the UN as the only body that bestows international legitimacy based on international norms and conventions in the realm of human rights and the environment," Adam said. He added that Israel, as a country interested in being accepted as a member of the OECD, an organization of wealthy states, must be involved in the agenda that is troubling the whole world and to contribute more in the humanitarian realm to Third World countries.
The students showed grave seriousness in delivering their speeches as the ambassadors of the thirty countries represented at the symposium. The UN Secretary General this year was Daphne Benvenisti, and the President of the General Assembly was Uri Agnon, both students at the Hebrew University high school. The opening session was chaired by Yarden Stern. On the way to the auditorium from the Foreign Minister’s Bureau, Livni said that she was happy to see a woman in the position of UN Sec.Gen., and that it would surely advance world peace. The ambassador of Pakistan at the UN, a student from the same high school, surprised the audience by waving a picture of Benazir Bhutto and spoke of her with praise. Students from René Cassin, who represented North Korea, wore authentic khaki caps with the sword and sickle emblem. The Sudanese delegation was represented by students from Beit Safafa, who participated in the UN model for the first time this year.