Earlier this month, a group of secondary-school pupils from Norwich School gathered together for the first Norwich Model Arctic Council (NORMAC), an educational initiative I’ve recently developed to raise awareness and understanding of the Arctic amongst youth. Whilst there have been a number of Model Arctic Councils at postgraduate level, NORMAC is so far as I know one of the very few Model Arctic Councils run at the secondary-school level, and perhaps only the second in the world after the Yukon MAC of 2010.
Like the better-known Model United Nations, a Model Arctic Council re-enacts the decision-making bodies of its eponymous international organisation. Having researched the circumstances and policy positions of Arctic states and indigenous organisations, youth ‘delegates’ aim to influence the passage of ‘resolutions’ on various pressing Arctic issues through persuasion, negotiation and debate. As an exercise in model diplomacy, NORMAC inspires youth to engage with Arctic and global issues, teaches them valuable lessons in collaboration and consensus-building, and strengthens their confidence in the public square.
At this year’s NORMAC, pupils playing the roles of delegates from the eight Arctic States and six Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council simulated meetings of both Senior Arctic Officials and Ministers. They considered the questions of establishing Marine Protected Areas in the Arctic, and of combatting suicide in Arctic communities — both issues very much on the current Arctic Council agenda.
But most importantly, they gained an understanding of a unique region of the world that most of their peers have never experienced, as well as the peoples who call it home. In the words of some of the delegates:
It was exciting to be a part of a real-life simulation of Arctic politics.
I learnt lots about the Arctic and especially its indigenous peoples. I have become more aware of issues in the Arctic and how they are dealt with.
It was very fun and interesting! I learnt so much about the Arctic and the states governing it, and how much of an impact they have on the lives of its permanent residents.
Having convened this first NORMAC conference as a pilot project, I now intend to run a second, larger conference in Norwich next year, open to other secondary schools. If your school would like to register an early interest in future NORMAC conferences, please don’t hesitate to contact me.