More than 400 high school and middle school students from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York are on USM’s Gorham campus this week for the 14th annual Maine Model UN Conference (MeMUNC). The conference, staffed by University of Southern Maine students, concludes Thursday afternoon, May 17.
Middle and high school student teams represent different countries in a range of meetings and sessions, simulating the United Nations. This year, the conference features a simulation of the International Criminal Court where students will try Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan, on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Eighty percent of the participants are from Maine although students from five out-of-state schools also are attending. According to Julia Edwards, faculty advisor of MeMUNC, the program serves not only to infuse an international perspective into Maine's middle and high school curricula, but also provides USM students with the leadership experience and skills necessary to advocate in Maine as part of a global society. Adds Edwards, “They’ll be running around, solving world problems, having a great time.”
Tom Andrews, president and chief executive officer of United to End Genocide and a former congressman from Maine, gave the keynote address during opening ceremonies Tuesday evening. Andrews has long been a supporter of the rights of the Sudanese people, and has worked closely with other noted activists such as author John Prendergast and actor George Clooney.
MeMUNC students rolled out their #BringClooney2ME campaign this spring by canvasing the campus with a QR code, leading to a video, explaining why Clooney needs to come to Maine. Clooney, who has been to the Sudan six times, was arrested on March 16 while protesting outside of Sudan’s embassy in Washington D.C., calling for humanitarian aid to the country and to put an end to the violence. Part of the ICC’s case against al-Bashir was built around data from private spy satellites partially funded and organized by Clooney.
Edwards and USM business major Erica Benson, MeMUNC’s Secretary General, appeared on Fox 23’s “Good Morning Maine” to discuss the campaign and Model UN conference. Benson attended the conference as a high school student.
MeMUNC students continue the #BringClooney2ME campaign and believe southern Maine would benefit from a visit by Clooney given the number of immigrants from Sudan and other African diasporic countries that live in the area.