Last weekend, 20 pupils representing four secondary schools in the UK took part in our second Online Model Arctic Council (OMAC) conference. This fully-online pedagogical simulation, convened for the first time this past March in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, engages secondary-school pupils from anywhere in the world in a simulation of real-world Arctic Council diplomacy. For four hours each day on Saturday 11th December and Sunday 12th December, delegates attempted to negotiate a consensus-based Arctic Council declaration on the importance of the transmission of Indigenous Knowledge from elders to youth, and the challenges that surround that process in today’s Arctic. I’m pleased to report that the delegates threw themselves into the work admirably, and after intense negotiations, both Arctic State and Arctic Indigenous Permanent Participant delegations mutually agreed the second OMAC Declaration. Congratulations!
During the course of the conference, delegates had the privilege of reflecting on their progress with OMAC Honorary Chair Prof Ketil Lenert Hansen of the University of Tromsø, himself an Indigenous Saami scholar and knowledge-holder. In this way, they were guided in transforming their simulation into new knowledge about the Arctic and Arctic Indigenous peoples, and I’m very grateful to Prof Hansen for devoting some of his weekend to sharing his perspective and advice with the delegates. Many of the OMAC 2 delegates had also previously immersed themselves in learning about the Arctic, the Arctic Council and the Model Arctic Council through the second OMAC Delegate Training round this past November—taking advantage of the full OMAC educational programme.
But OMAC 2 wasn’t all diplomatic work and experiential learning, however. Social events are an important part of any model diplomacy conference, whether in-person or online, and some delegates stayed online after the first day of negotiations on Saturday evening to get to know one another over a fun Arctic-themed ‘Kahoot’!
OMAC complements my in-person MAC conferences, offering pupils who are unable to travel for whatever reason the chance to take part in a live diplomatic simulation focused on one of the most important regions on the planet today. And like my in-person MAC conferences, OMAC is the only online MAC simulation in the world for secondary schools. Special thanks go to my OMAC Secretariat of Joshua Gray and Rosie Tregenza, for helping to make this unique event possible.
As a Secretariat, we’re delighted that OMAC delegates seem to have valued their conference experience highly, We received extremely positive feedback from them, including comments such as:
- ‘It was very interesting and different from anything I’ve ever done before’
- ‘Managed/organised very well, was thoroughly enjoyable—thank you!!’
- ‘[I learned] how to speak in public properly without being shy’
- ‘Delegate handbooks and research guides were incredibly helpful’
- ‘[OMAC Director] Dr Speca is an amazing man!’
- ‘Thank you so much for hosting this event, I’ve learnt so much and I look forward to participating in more events in the future! I’d also like to thank you for making my online experience such a pleasant one. It was a very comfortable and welcoming environment where I felt listened to, just as if I was there in person which was particularly special. Thank you!’
It was also a thrill to discover that the Ambassador of Finland to the Arctic Council himself, Petteri Vuorimäki, took notice of OMAC, tweeting that he was following the work of the delegates with ‘great fascination’, and that here were future Arctic Ambassadors in the making!
We’ve not yet set the dates for the third OMAC Delegate Training round and OMAC Conference, but they’re certainly coming! If you or your school would like to hear more about OMAC and other Polar Aspect MAC opportunities, please don’t hesitate to contact us.