Model Arab League conference was eye-opening for columnist
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 10:02
This weekend I attended a conference in Houston called Model Arab League with SFA’s World Politics Club. The majority of time was spent drafting and debating possible resolutions to eventually be passed or rejected by the legislative body. On the first day, we spent almost 10 hours attempting to make allies and work together to produce viable legislation that would benefit the countries we represented. The process, while exhausting, was an eye-opening experience.
Events such as Model Arab League are strikingly similar to the proceedings of the Texas legislature and the US Congress. Our legislators spend countless hours debating possible legislation, are forced to compromise and make deals with others and, in the end, must bring home something to benefit their home districts. In some cases, sessions can last well into the night, and at the end of the day, after spending hours debating and fighting for your district’s benefits, sometimes the bill does not even pass. I imagine it can feel like a huge waste of time.
At the Model Arab League this weekend, university undergraduates, graduate students and even some high school students from Texas and surrounding states represented countries from the Arab League and created legislation. SFA represented Egypt. Other countries represented from the Arab League included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya and even Djibouti.
There were also five different tables to address different areas of interest, much like caucuses in the US political system. I sat on the social affairs table and discussed media rights, health concerns and human rights. Defense, Palestinian affairs, politics and economics made up the other tables.
At the Model Arab League it is required that participants keep decorum and stay within the parameters of the parliamentary rules. For example, in order to speak a country must raise their placard, be added to the speaker list, wait their turn to be called by the chair (which may be well after when they intended to speak), and then finally share their thoughts. Speaking or acting out of turn will do no good for a country trying to accomplish favorable legislation for their home.
One of the most difficult parts about participating in an event like Model Arab League is playing the part of the prospective country. For example, it was difficult at first to support heavy media restrictions. However, Egypt does not have a free press like we do in the U.S. In this situation it is important to stick with the views of the country represented and ignore personal opinions.
This draws another comparison to legislators in the U.S. For some legislators, it is important to vote according to their constituents’ views, even when they conflict with the legislator’s personal views. However, many feel they were elected to use their best judgment to represent their constituents.
I am in no way making excuses for the U.S. Congress; however, I am starting to realize that it is much more difficult to persuade enough of your peers to vote a certain way than most people think.
Katelynn Wiggins is a journalism major and a staff writer for The Pine Log.