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Model NATO delegatesDelegates at a model NATO conference in Ottawa last month, where a team from UWindsor was named best delegation.

Model diplomatic conference a guide to the real thing

Participating in a model NATO conference has given her a better understanding of the challenges facing diplomats, says Paige Gouin.

“I have a very heartfelt appreciation for how difficult it is to get anything accomplished at the international level,” says the fourth-year political science student. “We spent hours debating three words, and for us it’s just hypothetical.”

Gouin serves as president of the UWindsor model NATO club. She led a team to top honours at a conference in Ottawa, February 21 to 23, where members represented Germany in a role-playing exercise. Months of preparation go into researching their chosen country’s diplomatic positions, policies, and national interests, and delegates must react to scenarios presented to deliberative bodies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

It was an interesting exercise, says Gouin.

“Germany is a huge economic power, but does not place the same priority on military engagement as the United States; it’s incredibly pragmatic,” she says. “You have to take into account all these elements outside NATO that matter to its government and citizens.”

Four of her team’s five delegates were selected as the best in their respective committees: Gouin on the North Atlantic Council, Adam Bednarick on the committee on proliferation, Jacob DeJong on the military committee and Kyle Sousa on the intelligence committee. Only Clement Burgess-Hulme on the Euro-Atlantic partnership council was shut out—although Gouin points out that his performance also won praise from the conference organizers. The team also received the overall award for best delegation, based on a combination of graded position papers, committee performance, and a vote by other participants.

“There is so much acting involved, because you are in character,” says Gouin. “You are representing your country’s position, even if you don’t necessarily agree with German policies.”

She says the UWindsor professoriate helped to give team members a solid foundation for the conference.

“What we get from our education here is not just the material, but what it means and why it matters,” Gouin says. “Our faculty is so passionate about foreign affairs that it inspires us as their students.”

A second UWindsor team participated as the Hungarian delegation.