Model UN Attracts Vibrant Debate on Water Cooperation

With ‘water is life’ as its key message, the Model UN simulation held at the Parliament buildings in Zimbabwe’s capital lived up to its reputation as a forum providing students with a deeper understanding of how the UN General Assembly operates. Dozens of students drawn from all parts of the country deliberated on the global water crisis, demonstrating a sharp understanding of UN General Assembly debating procedures.

The event was organized by the Zimbabwe United Nations Association (ZUNA) and the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) under the theme, Water Cooperation an Answer to Water Crises World Over. The event was supported by the UN Country Team in Zimbabwe.

Issues of water availability, accessibility, sharing, control and use underline “The importance of water to all human endeavors, to all life, “leading to water crises in the world,” said the foreign minister, Mr. Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.  In a message read on his behalf by the director of multilateral affairs, the foreign minister explained that in the face of daunting challenges and potential for conflict, there is need for greater coordination to promote cooperation by riparian states and communities.

“At the International level, water has proved to provide reasons for cooperation rather than war,” he said, citing the example of the Indus Basin Treaty between India and Pakistan that has remained in force even during the armed conflict between the two countries. 

Echoing the same theme, the clerk of the national Parliament, Mr. A. Zvoma expressed the view that water management requires effective cooperation at the local and international levels. “Building a village water pump in the recesses of Mashayamombe village in Mhondoro requires local actors to cooperate. Bringing water from a river to irrigated farmland requires regional cooperation,” he said, noting that naturally, rivers flow across basins, political boundaries and cultures.

Describing the Model UN as an interactive learning experience that has benefited teachers and students for over 50 years, Mr. Paul Farran, who heads the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Zimbabwe said the programme “Not only involves young people in the study and discussion of global issues but also encourages the development of useful skills, such as public speaking, problem solving, and consensus building.”  Mr. Farran encouraged the students to use the skills they gain from this exercise to develop innovative, pragmatic, and pertinent solutions, leading to agreement on resolutions which are to the benefit of all.

In December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation to raise awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.

As such, the Zimbabwe Model UN vent is part of the global UN initiated events highlighting the history of successful water cooperation initiatives, as well as identifying burning issues on water education, water diplomacy, transboundary water management, financing cooperation, national/international legal frameworks, and the linkages with the Millennium Development Goals.