Dhaka+20: Bangladeshi youths draft UN resolution

Dhaka witnessed the most solemn youth summit in regards to diplomacy and sustainable development on the May 11 and 12, 2012, through Dhaka+20 Model United Nations Conference. Being above par of regular youth conventions, it did not reflect on mere celebrations, rather it was a formal meet of the Bangladeshi youth to set forward a legitimate UN resolution to be presented in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (commonly known as Rio+20) to be held in June 2012 hosted by Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, as a 20-year follow-up to the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (known as ‘The Earth Summit’) that was held in the same city. Rio+20 will address the challenges and deficits of the entire globe.

United Nations Youth and Students’ Association Bangladesh (UNYSAB) was the organiser of Dhaka+20 supported by Action-Aid Bangladesh and Activista. It was basically a Model UN Conference (commonly known as ‘MUN’ in international arenas). Thus, it was a mirror reflection of a UN General Assembly committee consisting of 120 university students from Bangladesh who assumed the roles of delegates from 60 different countries ranging from superpower USA to our very own Bangladesh. The delegations also included international organisations and stakeholders such as UNDP, UNEP and IMF. The topic of the assembly was “Disaster readiness towards a safe and sustainable city” and the agenda for the topic was “Reaffirming the need for disaster resilient basic services for all.”

Anika Binte Kasem, Director of UNYSAB asserted, “What makes Dhaka+20 different from other MUNs and other youth conventions is the fact that, the ideas and visions of the UN resolution drafted here at Dhaka+20 by our very own youth will be presented in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or RIO+20 through the delegation of Bangladesh where most of the heads of governments of UN nations will be present.”

It should be noted that, Rio+20 is a key milestone in a series of major United Nations conferences, in which the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) was the centrepiece, putting sustainable development as a top priority on the agenda of the United Nations and the international community. Dhaka+20 was the representation of Rio+20 through the Bangladeshi youth with direct ties to the United Nations.

The conference took place in Dhaka University Business Faculty Auditorium on the 11th and the Senate Auditorium, Dhaka University on the May 12 declaring the official resolution and closing the curtains. On the first day, 120 students from over 25 universities a (both public and private) assumed role of delegations of 60 nations and the first session was in motion by 10 AM. The whole day ran through several moderated and un-moderated caucuses, speakers’ lists, voting procedures and other elements that conform to the original UN General Assembly decorum. Throughout the two days, these 120 young Bangladeshis minds had to switch from their own personalities and ponder on global issues from 60 points of views of 60 countries (including Bangladesh), which is probably the most insightful aspect of the convention. Combating and mitigating climate change, tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, floods and other natural and manmade disasters were the focal points of discussion in the conference. The visions of the most vulnerable communities – the youth, women and children were elucidated in an international platform the conference.

“The primary aim of the conference was to summon the Bangladeshi youth and educate them on the urgency of sustainable development issues and encouraging them to involve themselves in the negotiation process of RIO+20,” said K.M. Zakir Hassan Titash, Senior Vice President of UNYSAB, at a pre-conference workshop. He further asserted, “Similar to the international conferences backed by the UN all over the world, its main goal was to prove that the youth is ready to play an active part in international negotiations and to shape the future of a sustainable world.”

As for the participants, it was not a mere pedagogical experience, rather a platform to raise their own voices in proper diplomatic decorum. Since UN conventions and norms were strictly simulated throughout the negotiations and discussions, it turned out to be a summit of world leaders and not one of students. Shazeeb Salim, a student of Dhaka University (delegate of Nepal in the conference) said, “The experience of a summit of this magnitude is an achievement that is something to cheer about. It was my very first experience in these kinds of events and it will certainly motivate me in the future.”

After a gruelling diplomatic two days, a comprehensive resolution was passed and the ceremonious curtain closing was done in an auspicious manner with distinguished guests commensurate the formality of the convention. The Chief Guest was Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University. Among the special guests were Kazi Ali Reza, Officer-in-Charge, UN Information Centre, Dhaka; Professor Delowar Hossain, Chairman, Dept of International Relations, Dhaka University; Asgar Ali Sabri, Acting Country Director, ActionAid Bangladesh and Syed Saikh Imtiaz, Chairman of Trustee Board, UN Youth & Students Association of Bangladesh. The guests awarded outstanding participants for best position paper, best delegation(s), best diplomatic personality, best inter-country friend and delegate of the conference. Besides the participants, the tireless efforts of the organisers were appreciated through awards to several organisers who brought the United Nations assembly to Bangladesh.

Dhaka+20 was a conference that was one of its kind to be held in Bangladesh. Through this summit, the young Bangladeshi voices have reached out to the United Nations. Dr. AAMS Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, commended the efforts of UNYSAB and the participating youth of Bangladesh and encouraged more endeavours in leadership building and voluntarism driven initiatives in Bangladesh.