Lehigh University hosted North America’s first hybrid Model International Labor Organization simulation from April 22 to 24 in coordination with the U.N.
The three day conference titled “Just Transition: From Fossil Fuels to Green Energy” had a total of 63 students from the U.S. and international schools participate in-person and virtually. Students from Lehigh University, Lafayette College and Muhlenberg College came in person.
Lehigh has had a partnership with the U.N. since 2004, and Kevin Cassidy, director of the International Labor Organizations Office to the U.S. and Canada, has been working with Lehigh for 14 years. He also attended the simulation.
The ILO is an U.N. agency working to promote social justice and labor rights internationally.
“The Model ILO has a tripartite discussion — so not only is it government, but the workers organizations and employers organizations can sit down at the table as equals and negotiate,” Cassidy said.
Bill Hunter, director of fellowship advising and U.N. programs at Lehigh, said the idea of Lehigh hosting North America’s first Model ILO was first proposed to him three years ago.
“We’ve been working with the ILO on different programs, research opportunities, events and even a major conference for more than a decade,” Hunter said.
Hasan Jashari, ‘24, was one of the co-chairs for the simulation and said his preparations for the event included a training session, weekly meetings for the past two months and learning about the history and procedures of the ILO.
“Looking at Model U.N.s across the world, they don’t really simulate its agencies like the ILO very accurately, so that was a very big part for us,” Jashari said. “We wanted to do it as accurately as possible.”
For students representing one of the delegations of the ILO, the Lehigh Office of International Affairs website said participants had to put in a total commitment time of about 20 hours, including attending each session, reading background papers on the topic and writing a one-page position paper to aid them in negotiations.
The first day of the conference was an orientation session, and the second day included negotiations and delegation meetings.
“We had the formal stuff happen in the morning, so for the rest of today and tomorrow is when the real negotiations are going to happen,” Jashari said during the first session. “I’m excited to see the interactions between the different groups and seeing how we’re going to move to a formal consensus.”
In the second half of the first session the delegations came together to propose amendments to their formal document outlining how they plan to transition to green energy.
Hareem Khattak, ‘22, a co-chair during the simulation, said she was impressed by the hard work put forth by the participants as well as their ability to adapt to the hybrid model.
On the final day of the simulation, the three delegations went through each proposed change and agreed on whether or not to adopt them.
“The participants really had reasons behind why they were proposing these amendments which showed they had done their research,” Khattak said.
The topic of transitioning from fossil fuels to green energy was popular among students and advisers.
“We’ve come to a point in time where it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, everyone should care,” Jashari said. “Everyone should care about trying to contribute to solutions in this climate emergency.”
Hunter said he hopes Lehigh will continue to host this simulation in the future.