Lessons learned in a Caribbean classroom

Kennedy Hatfield2By Kennedy Hatfield

Special to the LOGOS

The Model Organization of American States is a simulation aimed at increasing the participant’s knowledge of the interworking of the OAS General Assembly for Universities of the Hemisphere.

This year’s Model was held last spring in the beautiful Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis. There were 16 countries represented in the Model, and our six-member team from the University of the Incarnate Word – the only team from the United States — was representing Peru. There were also students from Colombia, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis. No team represented their home country.

Our team – under the tutelage of Dr. Scott Dittloff, an associate professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs — prepared for the Model by mastering parliamentary procedure, and gathering as much information on Peru as we could so we could make decisions in their best interest in the Model.

I was the chief delegate of our team. On top of being assigned to the General Committee, and voting on behalf of Peru, I had to give the opening remarks on the first day of the competition. I had prepared my speech ahead of time, and perfected it weeks prior. When it came time for me to speak, I was confident.

The moment I opened my mouth, I was gaveled down by the president of the MOAS, followed by “ ‘Delegate of Peru, will you please refrain from using personal pronouns?’ ” Terrified I stopped, and looked down at my paper and watched as all the “I,” “We,” “They” and Us” that I had written floated to the top of the paper. There was no way I could modify it on the fly, so embarrassed I had no other choice but to continue with what I prepared.

From the opening ceremony we moved into the negotiations. In the General Assembly we were tasked with developing a resolution to create a “hemispheric dialogue on developing government responses for dealing with social community conflicts resulting from investment projects and natural resource exploration issues, in the interest of sustaining democratic stability.”

There were three parts of negotiations during the MOAS: the approaches, negotiations within the working groups, and the passage of the resolutions.

Prior to the approaches phase, our team realized two things: the first is that the real Peruvians, representing four teams, meant business, and the second was we didn’t fully grasp the process of the MOAS but we were prepared to win any way we could.

The latter became evident when the topic of approaches arose in my committee, the General Committee. The chair announced we were moving to this section of negotiation, and everyone should have their approaches ready. I turned to either side of me and noticed both delegates had a typed page of approaches, with bullet points. At that moment, the delegate from St. Kitts and Nevis, who was a Peruvian, turned toward me and asks cattily, “ ‘What are your approaches?’ ”

I froze for a second, not understanding what the question was, while glancing at her paper and noticing the approaches were essentially solutions to the problem. The only thing I had prepared was a draft resolution on corporate social responsibility, so that’s what I told her. She looked dumbfounded, and I was nervous.

Moments later, the chair opened the floor for approaches, and I threw my placard up in response. After announcing my approach, a few questions were addressed to me, wanting me to further explain the approach. I explained corporate social responsibility is a concept in which corporations take greater responsibility for their practices, where low regulations exist, so the citizens within the countries they are working in are not negatively affected. Then Colombia announced its support for my approach. I was excited! Then, the delegate from Barbados spoke out against my approach, trying to sway the other delegates from allowing it to move to the next phase. We went back and forth several times, but in the end I was victorious.

We narrowed down our list of approaches to three, and the delegates had to decide which working group they wanted to be part of. There were more delegates who wanted to be part of my working group than allowed for, so two were removed based on the order of precedence, and we began collaborating.

The environment within our working group was jovial. Everyone seemed to enjoy working together, and the process was a piece of cake. I suggested we all work off the same Google Doc in order to save time and ensure everyone’s concerns could be addressed. This suggestion seemed to do the trick, because we were the first working group to finish, while the others raced to finish their resolutions before we were called to vote on them. Each delegate inserted “must haves” into the document, and together we figured out how each was to be implemented without contradicting one another, or risking opposition from another member state. In the beginning it seemed like we were trying to secure world peace, and add every great idea that popped into our heads, so we spent a considerable amount of time bringing in the resolution to one specific topic, which was corporate social responsibility.

At the start of the third day I was especially nervous. I feared the real Peruvians were up all night picking apart our resolution just to be facetious. I knew they weren’t particularly keen on me, individually, so I suggested the delegate from Colombia answer the bulk of the questions, to create a buffer between the resolution and me. Our resolution was the second to be heard. Once the first resolution came up for discussion, several delegates began to take it apart. If there is one thing I learned from this simulation, it’s that words do matter. The conversation became rather heated, and I stepped in several times to try and facilitate compromise. In the end, we completely removed two resolves, and amended another two.

Our resolution was next, and after seeing how the previous resolution was attacked, I was very fearful. I gave the opening statement about the resolution, and yielded the questions to Colombia. There were two, and they both came from Mexico and St. Kitts and Nevis, both Peruvian teams of course. However, no changes were made, and our resolution was passed in its entirety. I couldn’t have been more relieved. The third resolution faced minimal opposition, and passed with one or two amendments that focused on wording.

The moment the last resolution passed, I watched several delegates pull out election applications to take positions in the next MOAS. Several positions were available: chair, and vice chair, secretary-general, and president. Our team hadn’t discussed the possibility of someone running, but several delegates from other teams encouraged me to run for a position. Of course, the real Peruvian to my left was running for president unopposed at this point. I knew I had been more successful in the Model facilitating cooperation, and ensuring my country’s concerns were addressed, and therefore I thought I would be a better president. So I applied.

In order to get onto the ballot, you had to obtain five signatures endorsing your candidacy from other member countries. My alternate delegate, Ryan Bibby, and myself began lobbying in our committee, and obtained the necessary signatures to run. Lunch followed, and we had to use this time to write a speech that was going to be read at the closing ceremony. While everyone else gorged on the delicious island food provided to us, Ryan and I composed a speech about what I had done in the Model that was indicated I was the best choice for President.

We moved into the closing ceremony. Every delegation, their coaches, and the administration were present. It was very formal. We were seated in the Order of Precedence, with a microphone in front of each of us. My opponent gave her speech first. It was very sentimental, and echoed several of the other speeches I had heard from the other delegates running for different positions. Next, I gave my speech which was very formal, and focused on my ability to serve as president. We immediately moved into a vote by secret ballot with each country having one vote. There were 16 countries participating. In order to win you had to obtain nine votes. I kept tally as they pulled the ballots out one by one, reading it aloud: “One vote Mexico, one vote Peru, one vote Mexico, one vote Peru…”

Never have I been so nervous in my entire life. Fifteen votes had been accounted for, and she had seven and I had eight. I needed one more vote to win. If she got one more vote, the president would break the tie. “One vote Peru” was called over the loudspeaker. I jumped up in elation. I couldn’t believe I won!

As president of the 34th MOAS, I will be expected to fly out to the next Model, chair the General Committee, and preside over the opening and closing ceremony. A country has not been chosen yet, but it will take place in either Latin America or the Caribbean.

This process was extremely rewarding and I enjoyed every moment of it from official deliberation, to the ferocity at which notes were streaming across the table. I left St. Kitts and Nevis with an incredible understanding of not only how the organization works, but also a new perspective on the importance of diplomacy and working with others in such a way that is most beneficial for all participants. I look forward to presiding over the next model, and I am very grateful to have participated in the 33rd MOAS.


Editor’s Note: Hatfield, 21, graduated in August with a bachelor’s degree in government with a concentration in international relations and comparative politics. She also minored in pre-law. Besides serving as president of the 34th Model Organization of American States, she will be an off-campus adviser for UIW’s College Democrats. E-mail her at kehatfie@student.uiwtx.edu