Award of Excellence Winners, New York

At the beginning of March, the Wycombe Abbey team joined 5,000 young people from 300 schools across the globe to participate in the National High Schools Model United Nations conference in New York. Our group of 25 Wycombe Abbey girls was presented with the conference’s highest team prize during the closing ceremony, the ‘Award of Excellence’.

The group represented the policies of the United Kingdom during the seven-day trip, which simulated the debate of various diplomatic forums, with the conference including some sessions hosted at the real United Nations (UN) Headquarters! The team were very lucky to have exclusive briefings with a number of senior figures before the conference including the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Her Excellency Ms Amina Mohammed.

Amongst the international bodies recreated were the Security Council, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the C34 Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The girls advocated for their own solutions to a range of international problems including peacebuilding in the Sahel, workplace inequality, combating corruption and organised crime, regulation of private military companies and maternal health in conflict areas. Some team members also participated in specialist committees including the International Court of Justice and an historical crisis committee, which recreated the deliberations of the British Cabinet in 1916.

Our special meeting with the Deputy Secretary-General was one of the trip’s highlights. The girls’ questions covered a range of topics including UN reform, gender equality, female leadership and current challenges to liberal internationalism.

The team was also honoured to meet with Her Excellency Ms Lana Nusseibeh, the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the UN and first woman to hold that position. Ms Nusseibeh and her leading advisers took questions on a range of topics including gender equality and economic development. The ambassador is a Wycombe Abbey Senior and was presented with a special gift from the School at the end of the visit.

There was also a fascinating briefing at the UK Mission with Her Excellency. Dame Karen Pierce, the United Kingdom’s first female ambassador to the UN. Here, girls discussed with Dame Karen the situation in Yemen, Security Council reform, the status of the “special relationship” and the effectiveness of UN resolutions. Dame Karen also talked about the challenges she is likely to face in her new role as British ambassador in Washington DC.

We are very grateful to Her Excellency Ms Mohammed, Her Excellency Ms Nusseibeh and Her Excellency Dame Karen for their great kindness with their time, and to all staff at the UN, UAE Mission and UK Mission to the UN for hosting us.

There was also opportunity to experience something of American culture including a bus tour of Manhattan, a Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Gardens, a Broadway show and visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and 9-11 Memorial Museum. Culinary experiences included a traditional New York Sunday brunch, breakfast at a stereotypical American diner and lunch in the dining room at the UN, which is normally reserved for diplomats. The team also enjoyed a private tour of the UN Headquarters.