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Dreaming Big Dreams of a Future UN

From 6-9 July, a group of young students from Edith Stein College, Rijswijk Lyceum and the Johan de Witt School travelled to New York City as part of the Van Aartsen Honours Program to present their visions of the UN to the Permanent Mission of The Netherlands. Read Alanna O'Malley's report of the trip.

The students had taken part in a newly-devised class entitled: ‘The UN and I’ run by the Chair in United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice at Leiden University and The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The class was organized as part of the Van Aartsen Honours Program, which has been established by the City of The Hague to honor the work of former Mayor and Foreign Minister Jozias Van Aartsen.

What does the UN mean for Me and My Future?

The students completed a course of study in The Hague in May, led by myself, Professor Alanna O’Malley. They were introduced to the principles and practices of the UN in various areas and each developed a project which answered the question, ‘What does the UN mean for Me and My Future?’ On Monday 8 July, they presented the outcomes of their projects, in a variety of creative formats, arguing for the importance of the UN for youth within peaceful societies, emphasizing the importance of maintaining mutual respect for each other and for human rights, and calling for immediate and drastic action on climate change. Ambassador to the UN Karel Van Oosterom and Mr. Van Aartsen gave a short reply to the students, highlighting their visions of a more inclusive and representative UN, and the work that The Netherlands does on these issues at the UN every day.

The UN and New York

The students completed their trip with a tour of the UN Headquarters in midtown Manhattan, and an exploration of Roosevelt Island. One of the students from Johan De Wit, Noer Mahmood described that the trip ‘exceeded my expectations. At the UN Headquarters we learned how much money is earned daily just on ammunition. This really makes me appreciate the UN even more for continuing to stand for peace.’

Following the success of this year’s inaugural program, it will be repeated with a wider cache of schools in The Hague in 2020. 

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