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SFU students host Global Model NATO Summit

Students bring defence, academia, and global students and perspectives to SFU

SFU Model NATO members met the defense minister in Ottawa.
SFU Model NATO members met the defense minister in Ottawa.

SFU students are “engaging the policymakers of the future” with the Global Model NATO Summit, July 25–30.

Students, academics, and defence experts from across the world will come to Vancouver to participate in the six-day conference.

Students from around the world, including India, Africa, many European countries, the US, and all across Canada will be in attendance. NATO experts from Belgium, Germany, and Canada will mentor and assist the participating students to develop their negotiation and diplomacy skills.

“We’re creating an out-of-classroom learning vehicle to prepare [students] for foreign service, diplomacy, international relations, and defence,” said SFU political science professor, Dr. Alex Moens.

According to him, the Summit “moves past traditional education,” and has attendees learn by doing a simulation as close to the NATO experience as possible.

Moens explained that this will be achieved first by committee work — the most important aspect of NATO decision-making — and second through a crisis response simulation where students will practice the first three critical steps of actual NATO crisis response.

Students have an opportunity to get “real answers from real policymakers” in panel sessions with Q&A, said conference manager Cornel Turdeanu. Speakers include the Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, and Colonel Ian Hope of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Students will be “very close to the actual decision-makers” while interacting with NATO delegates at the conference, many of whom work closely with NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.

The event is student-led, with mentorship from Moens, a self-described “guide” for the student team.

“The leaders are gaining a tremendous amount of experience,” he added, noting that the students will be filling out grant proposals, negotiating with NGOs and government organizations, booking flights and hotel accommodations, creating agendas, and building skills in hosting and designing websites.

The team’s grant proposals have so far been incredibly successful, bringing the Canadian Department of National Defence, Royal Canadian Navy, NATO Defence College, SFU’s political science and Hellenic studies departments, and even the Vancouver Canucks on board as sponsors.

SFU students Cornel Turdeanu, Aleksandra Panic, and Sai Wong started SFU’s Model NATO club in 2015. They were inspired after attending a Model NATO Youth Summit in Latvia, and wanted to bring that experience to SFU and Canada.

“It started as a dream, that one day we would host a summit at SFU,” Turdeanu told The Peak. The intention to host the summit came first, and the club came afterwards.

“NATO stands for democracy, liberty, and the rule of law,” values that make Canada function, said Turdeanu, who grew up in Romania, a former Soviet-controlled country. Moens shared the same sentiments, having seen East Germany in the 1970s before the fall of the Soviet Empire.

“We call it ‘Global Model NATO’ for a reason,” said Dr. Moens. “It is a framework for different allies and partners to discuss and reach consensus-based decisions.”

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