By Laura Hokijanto
Whilst we perch in front of the television with our eyes glued to the various fiascos taking place during the World Cup, more than a hundred Palestinian civilians were rendered victims to a series of ruthless airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in the name of sovereignty and identity. Just an hour’s plane ride away, Indonesia is immersed in trepidation as a result of Presidential Elections that could possibly spark a revolution for the very much polarized nation. As students we acknowledge the existence of these events, and many a time, before we let ourselves ease back into the comfort of our lives, we neglect to ask ourselves: can these problems ever solved?
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to take one step further in finding an answer this June. Within the walls of our school, the International and Strategic Affairs Council successful organized the seventh Dunman High Model ASEAN Plus (DHAP), wherein local and international students participated, debating on problems faced by ASEAN in relation to the modern world. Students were to become ASEAN delegates for the three days, assigned to specific councils and countries, further entrusted with the task of defending their country’s stand whilst bombarded by a wide range of pertinent issues such as the protection of women’s rights in the workplace, translational cyber attacks, and the question of militarisation in space. The theme this year was “Charting Courses”, which accentuates on the goal for ASEAN to navigate through the fast changing world of today, charting its course through waters unknown.
But then again, the customary ‘birds-eye-view’ introduction renders readers with the misconception of DHAP being an event for content-loaded kids to have mini soliloquies of what they know. On the contrary, what dawns upon every DHAP delegate is the realization that there is much of the world that they are yet to learn about.
To zoom into context, the council I had been assigned to debated the topic of the denuclearization of the North Korea. The debate surrounded the idea of a progressive disarmament of the nuclear weapons possessed by the rogue state, and future checks and balances to compel the state to follow up with its promises. Being the delegate of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, my stance was drastically different from that of other delegates.
This was where a plethora of problems arose. First and foremost, adhering to your country’s stance was a must. For me, that would mean casting away any preconceived notions about the hermit kingdom and stepping into the shoes of an actual North Korean delegate, determinedly debating with her nation’s best interests at heart. It translated to being plucky and going head-on against the round of equally determined delegates bent on stripping North Korea of its weapons. Secondly, the need to engaging with the international community came along, clashing directly with North Korea’s hermit tendencies. For me, it was an inevitable dilemma: being aggressive, uncompromising and angering the international community, or making friends with other delegates and jeopardizing my nation’s interests. It was a hard battle, not just against the other delegates but between the conflicting expectations that I had for myself.
However, that perhaps is the essence of international negotiation. It is where ministers face huge internal turmoil whilst championing their country’s best interests. This is why resolving an international problem becomes much more complex than it would seem, for a variety of perspectives would have to be debated, considered and reflected upon, before resolution could be passed.
With a rapidly globalizing world and Singapore’s rising influence in the international arena, it is paramount for students like ourselves to be exposed to the gritty business of current affairs. As leaders of the future, we must recognize that while we cannot change the world entirely, we can plant seeds that would ignite a gradual, organic change. And that, is the significance of DHAP.