by Anton Burkov*
(a short story about the National Model UN, New
York, 6-10 April 2004)
We had only 5 days to save the Earth
Applying for the Model
UN Conference I was looking forward to finding answers to the questions
which bothered me for a long time how does the UN system of human rights
protection really work, what is behind this system, and what change can
I make after pursuing my degree in International Human Rights Law?
Anticipating the excitement of being in New York
City, of participating at the Conference in the UN premises among 3000
international students from all over the Globe, I had, however, a very
slight idea of where I was going. I realized the spirit of the Games the
very moment I entered the lobby of the Hilton at Avenue of the Americas,
the hotel which hosted the Model UN. There were hundreds of smiles, camera’s
flashes, a buzz of conversations and laughs... There was something in the
air which resembled the atmosphere of the Olympic Games, the Games I dreamed
about at the time of my speed skating career. Suddenly, the dream came
However, I was not representing my home country,
Russia. MUNICIPS, the team composed of 25 Chevening scholars getting their
postgraduate degrees in the UK, was assigned to represent France. Even
better. It will help to be more impartial. So, “Viva La France!” and “Long
Live Human Rights!”
The First day began with the Opening Ceremony
at the General Assembly Hall. Thousands of excited students were present,
carrying placards with names of different countries. This must be the only
event where one can meet, for example, representatives of Italy composed
of delegates with Chinese names only. Or imagine a blond delegate of the
Peoples Republic of China called Vladimir Ivanov. Probably this is the
ideal of international friendship.
My French-Chinese partner and I, French-Russian,
were on the Commission on Human Rights. First in line was voting for an
agenda. Vulnerability Reduction/ Protection Against HIV/AIDS was voted
for as number one topic for a debate. The Brazilian delegation asked for
a first suspension of the meeting for the purpose of caucusing. It caused
an explosion! At the very moment of announcing the suspension delegates
from about 15 countries jumped up, started to scream, and waved country
placards – everybody was looking for a friendly country. By the end of
the day 10 blocks were formed according to states’ policies.
The approaching night was spent searching the
internet for more details on the agenda issue and foreign policy of France.
In the morning, our team went for a mission briefing, where we met with
the Deputy Representative of France to the United Nations.
The next day the session of the Human Rights Commission
continued. No, not that Commission which is in Geneva sitting in its 60th
session at the same time. The one which is in New York City composed of
those who will be in Geneva tomorrow. Ten draft resolutions were being
debated. Is it possible for a separate country or group of countries to
lose or win when human rights are at stake, when the issue debated does
not care about boarders, names and well-beings of countries?! This is a
situation were all the countries will win or lose. Other options are illusions.
It is up to them. Those on the Commission on Human Rights in New York did
understand it. After a long four-day debates, from 8-30 in the morning
to 10-30 in the evening, all 10 draft resolutions were passed.
There was one disappointing thing. I have got
the impression about the UN simulation, particularly about the Commission
on Human Rights’ work, that it was nothing about international law implementation
but bargaining. Having said to myself that it was just a simulation, not
a reality, I set my mind at rest. What a surprise it was when 5 days later
I read the Chair of the Russian Presidential Commission on Human Rights
Ella Pamfilova’s speech delivered at the 60th session of the Commission
on Human Rights in Geneva! She stated that “there is a crisis of the international
law implementation… Clashes of the geo-strategic interests and political
conjuncture to the prejudice of principles of human rights protection make
it harder for the human rights institutions all over the world to act…
Commission on Human Rights should revise the mechanism of the resolution
The Closing Ceremony was held in the General Assembly
Hall. Announcements of winners were made. There were no losers at the Games.
There were winners and non-winners. I always believed in an Olympic saying
“The participation is important, not the victory”. The experience is important.
The experience, which will make the victory possible tomorrow, is what
matters. We will have other games, real human rights to fight for, for
the real UN and home countries we belong to, and real life.
23 April 2004
"Playing the UN" by Anton Burkov in Russian
"Down Broadway or the Tragic Events through
the Eyes of a Russian Volunteer" by Anton
Burkov in English >>> in Russian >>>