MLS to host young debaters set for UN Youth competition

Melbourne Law School will host the 2015 Evatt competition, continuing its long-standing relationship with UN Youth Victoria (UNYV).

2015 Evatt competition

Students taking part in last year's Evatt competition.

More than 800 year 9-12 secondary school students will compete in the competition here at MLS, which takes place between July 31 and August 10 followed by a state and national final later in the year.

The Evatt competition involves conducting a mock session of the UN Security Council, with teams of two students debating, amending and voting on a prepared resolution from the perspective of their assigned nation.

The students judged the most effective diplomats proceed to the next round.

Jasmine Valcic, a year 12 student at Wesley College, will this year compete in her fourth Evatt competition, having last year made the state final.

She says competing has been both a learning experience and an adrenalin rush.

"Evatt really pushes you to look to different issues from different perspectives, for example from the perspective of Russia or small countries like Azerbaijan. Taking on the role or opinion which clashes with my own thoughts is quite challenging, but it allows me to see the multi-faceted issues that surround global problems or conflicts," she says.

"Evatt has also taught me the importance of negotiations and making allies in the room."

Miss Valcic says both the Evatt competition and her other involvement with UNYV has inspired her to pursue international relations studies at a tertiary level, alongside law.

"Evatt also opened my eyes to many humanitarian rights issues and the complexity of them, which has driven me to want to focus on human rights law during my study of law. Even though I am not yet set on a specific career path, Evatt has definitely opened my eyes to the possibility of being a diplomat or working with the United Nations," she says.

UNYV's Sam Proietto says the purpose of Evatt is to provide a wide base of students an opportunity to learn about international affairs and politics, and experience it in a way that is much more engaging than a regular school class.

"International politics has never been all that accessible in the standard school curriculum, and all the time we have students awaken a passion for it through competing in their first Evatt round. That's something we want to share with as many young people as possible," Mr Proietto says.

"We cover an incredibly broad range of topics - basically anything the real Security Council might be asked to consider. I won't spoil what's on offer this year, but in previous years we've covered topics as diverse as intervention in Syria, reforming the principles of sovereignty, Ukraine, North Korea, the rules of war, the South China Sea and reforming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students might have to prepare for any aspect of global security."

Regional rounds of competition will also take place in Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Warrnambool, Geelong and Gippsland involving both private and public school students.

"Evatt has many different benefits, depending on what the students want to get out of it. It can introduce students to the world of international politics, something they may never have studied at school. It can give further education about the world to students that already have an interest. It can be someone's first experience with public speaking and negotiation, or it can provide an opportunity for debaters to improve their skills in a new format," Mr Proietto says.

"It can teach students to research to a depth they may not have had to do before at school – or it can be entirely social, providing a way for students to interact with peers that have a common interest."

"Two things a lot of the students have in common are interests in international politics and debating, and they really enjoy meeting other students who share that interest. Other than that, with such a wide field, we see a lot of different interests represented."

Nationwide, more than 2000 students are expected to participate in Evatt this year.

By Andy Walsh