This past weekend, I was extremely pleased to launch my third Model Arctic Council conference for secondary schools, after the Norwich Model Arctic Council (NORMAC, launched 2016) and Model Arctic Council Bilbao (MAC Bilbao, launched 2018). The first annual Wycombe Model Arctic Council (WYCOMAC) saw 25 pupils from 8 schools gather at Wycombe Abbey in High Wycombe, UK, for a simulation of a cycle of meetings of the Arctic Council. Over the course of two days, they played the roles of diplomats from Arctic States and Arctic indigenous people’s organisations, all trying to negotiate consensus on major challenges facing the Arctic today.
WYCOMAC 2020 involved simulations of two Arctic Council Working Groups, as well as a Senior Arctic Officials’ Meeting and a Ministerial. Delegates to the PAME Working Group discussed the issue of plastic pollution in the Arctic marine environment, and delegates to the SDWG Working Group discussed the issue of sustainable energy in Arctic communities. Both of these important and difficult issues are currently on the agenda of the real Arctic Council. And in keeping with the Arctic Council’s rule of consensus, delegates had to rise to the challenge of developing a jointly agreed approach to solving them.
Delegates threw themselves into the simulation with great energy and stamina. Consensus proved difficult to agree until the final hours, however, when delegates frequently suspended meetings to work through their impasses in intense small-group negotiations. In the end, delegates managed to reach consensus on both issues, and the relief and satisfaction was palpable in the sighs and applause! As one delegate put it after the conference, ‘Collaboration is everything, and compromise is essential’.
WYCOMAC 2020 took place alongside the 2020 Wycombe Abbey Model United Nations (WASAMUN) conference. WASAMUN emphasises a rich and realistic delegate experience overseen by experienced university-level chairs, and I was delighted to have the assistance of two NORMAC veterans, Charlie Austin and Tom Dewin as chairs of PAME and SDWG respectively. I’m also very grateful to Wycombe Abbey staff Miss Harri Hall and Miss Vicki Higgs for serving as rapporteurs and administrators, and to Wycombe Abbey MUN Director Dr Alistair Goddard for inviting me to launch WYCOMAC as part of his very highly regarded WASAMUN conference.
I developed WYCOMAC, as well as its sister-conferences NORMAC and MAC Bilbao, in order to raise awareness and understanding of the Arctic amongst youth, and to help them learn how to collaborate and build consensus on difficult issues. Feedback from delegates and teachers strongly indicate that these conferences have been very successful in doing so. And as I’ve said before, what makes WYCOMAC, NORMAC and MAC Bilbao special amongst model-diplomacy conferences is what makes the Arctic Council special amongst international organisations—permanent seats for Arctic indigenous peoples around the table, and a commitment to consensus-based decision-making. In practical terms, this means that MAC delegates learn not only about the Arctic, but also about the indigenous peoples who call it home. And they learn not only how to take a position and defend it, but also how to negotiate in good faith and find the bridging solution.
The second annual WYCOMAC will take place at Wycombe Abbey from 22nd to 24th January 2021. If your school would like to participate, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.