Practicing Diplomacy With Northeastern’s International Relations Council

Sarah LombardoRarely are university students challenged to integrate research into policy proposals, defend their positions, and negotiate with their peers, as they are in Model United Nations, Model NATO, and Model Arab League. This year, an Honors Travel Grant allowed me to attend a Model NATO conference and a Model Arab League conference through Northeastern’s International Relations Council. Over the past two semesters, my participation in these programs has developed my public speaking, research and writing skills. I have also gained substantial knowledge on how international diplomacy and foreign policy differences between various states affect the course of history.

During the fall semester, International Relations Council selected me during a tryout process to represent Latvia in the Political Affairs Committee at the International Model NATO Conference in Washington, DC. I received the agenda for my committee with the topics we would be discussing, and spent the following months researching those issues and Latvia’s policy on them. When I finally arrived at the conference, I pooled my knowledge and policy objectives with that of other delegates. Through this process, I drafted and presented resolutions, which were compiled with the resolutions from other committees and sent to the real North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In the spring, I represented Qatar in the Council of Social Affairs Ministers at the South East Regional Model Arab League Conference in South Carolina. I confronted very different issues and regional relations than I had as Latvia. We discussed public health initiatives, human rights, and drafting a comprehensive regional indiscriminate weapons ordinance. These topics brought with them a unique set of regional challenges, especially with Syria and post-Arab Spring states present. My partner and I had to be careful to form alliances and working relationships that would prevent the committee from factionalizing and becoming unproductive. However, we could not compromise our own state’s policy or allow the committee to cross what Qatar would see as a ‘red line’.

Representing a foreign government forces you to see the world through a different state’s perspective before you even begin debate. Throughout the course of debate, you need to grasp other delegates’ positions and objectives in order to negotiate with them, win their support and understand their motives. Because of the Balkan’s tragic past and the Office of the High Representative’s critical role of implementing and monitoring the Peace Agreement, I have to represent the organization I am working for, while understanding the views of different political actors and ethnic groups.

Model programs mimic real tasks and difficulties that diplomats face and prepare students for job opportunities within their field. I will be co-oping at the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina from June until December. In this position, I will be attending diplomatic meetings, helping to draft speeches, conducting policy research, and writing reports. I have experienced a mock version of all of these duties through the conferences and events that I have attended with the International Relations Council. The simulations and debates that International Relations Council members participate in complement and enhance Northeastern’s experiential education mantra.

-Sarah Lombardo, International Affairs