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ODU Model United Nations Conference Starts Friday

Approximately 1,000 high school students from across the state will descend on downtown Norfolk for this weekend's 36th annual Old Dominion University Model United Nations Conference.

Friday morning, the conference will be opened by Abdelhamid Abdeljaber, a Rutgers University professor and former U.N. official who has been a keynote speaker since 1991. ODUMUN President Luke Watson and Secretary-General Robert Townsend will also provide welcoming remarks.

Townsend said students from more than 50 Virginia high schools, and one from Maryland, will participate in the event, which runs through Sunday. The ODU Model U.N. Conference is widely regarded as one of the most realistic and well-organized events of its kind. In past years, students have traveled internationally to attend.

Model U.N. participants engage in role-playing simulations representing more than 100 countries in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. During the three-day conference, attendees deliberate in committees and try to find solutions to issues in nine major international arenas.

New at this year's conference is the addition of a Human Rights Council and a crisis simulation where participants will work to bring about an end to World War I through a scenario that involves sending troops into battle in an effort to win the conflict, Townsend said.

The theme for the 36th conference is "Everyone Matters." In a letter from the secretariat, Townsend wrote to attendees, explaining: "Firstly, we want to emphasize, in light of recent violence in Libya, Sudan, Syria and other nations, the importance of the United Nations in every individual's human rights. Secondly, our theme calls attention to the significance of every sovereign nation, no matter how large, small or agreeable."

Townsend said the aim of the conference is to help prepare students for a world that has changed greatly with the rise of the Arab Spring, and similar movements, in conjunction with advances in technology that have brought issues of sovereignty, rebel governments and peacekeeping to the forefront of international consciousness.

"With the addition of the Human Rights Council (at this year's conference), and with everything we've noticed going on in the international community, we wanted to focus on how important every individual has become," Townsend said. "Through Twitter and other social media platforms we can hear from people themselves. It's clearly making a huge impact on our world."

South Hampton Roads high schools participating in this year's conference include: Booker T. Washington, First Colonial, Floyd Kellum, Frank W. Cox, Granby, Grassfield, Great Bridge, Hickory, Indian River, Lake Taylor, Norfolk Academy, Norfolk Collegiate, Northampton, Norview, Oscar F. Smith, Patrick Henry, Princess Anne, Tallwood and Western Branch. Peninsula high school participants include: Bethel, Bruton, Grafton, Hampton, James River, Kecoughtan, Lafayette, Phoebus, Tabb, Walsingham Academy, Warhill, Warwick, Woodside and York.

The conference is hosted by ODU's Model U.N. Society. Established in 1977, the society is an organization of undergraduate and graduate students who engage in mock United Nations role-playing conferences with other academic institutions across the country. The society's mission is promoting global, multicultural education and leadership experience through experiential learning, stressing student participation in simulation conferences and academic classes.

For more information about the conference, visit the Model UN Society.

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