Youth delegates ramp up debate

TASMANIA’S future United Nations (UN) delegates convened at Parliament House in Hobart to debate and discuss solutions to real world issues at the state final of the UN Youth Tasmania’s Evatt Trophy Competition.

As Australia’s largest diplomacy and debate competition, students from years nine to 12 took on the role of diplomats representing a country on the UN Security Council.

Fifteen teams of two students were selected from schools around Tasmania after advancing to the state final from previous rounds.

The three best teams from the event will then be invited to attend the national final held in Brisbane in December.

UN Youth delegate representing the United Kingdom Bryher McKeown, from Hobart College, said the competition reflected the real-world discussion of issues that would take place in the UN Security Council.

“We have a debate room where one of the pair will debate and try to pass resolutions and amendments,” she said.

“Then there is a negotiation chamber, which is a separate room where people negotiate and try to convince other countries to support their solutions.

“To pass amendments you have to have two thirds, 10 countries, in favour, including having none of the permanent five countries vetoing it.”

Bryher said the competition was judged based on broad criteria surrounding teamwork and how well the delegates communicated their country’s point.

“It’s quite difficult to work as a team because often there will be one person in the negotiation chamber and the other person in the debate room,” she said.

“If you say something contradictory to your partner that looks really bad, so you have to be on the same page.”

UN Youth Tasmania president Cassady Swinbourne said the students learnt valuable life skills even if they don’t end up going into a career in politics or international relations.

“It builds analytical and speaking skills, but also gets young people to engage with global issues and think critically about them in a way they usually wouldn’t,” she said.

“Usually they would approach it from the perspective of a young person who lives in Hobart, but this gives them the ability to have a more global view on issues and the world as a whole, and helps them to appreciate different points of view.

“It’s great to see them jump up and engage with whatever issue we put in front of them – it’s really inspiring to see them get so passionate about these things.”

Caption: Hobart College students Bryher McKeown, left, and Barney Russell represent the United Kingdom at the state final of the UN Youth Tasmania’s Evatt Trophy Competition.