By Mariam Frangulyan
Participant of the 8th Intl. Security Policy Summit in Vienna
Ca’Foscari University of Venice
In the mind of any international relations student, institutions such as the United Nations and the OSCE are a dream, a final point of arrival in our careers.
Having been able to attend the Intl. Security Policy Summit in Vienna with the WYAcademy allowed me to be a step closer to this dream.
DAY ONE: OSCE Headquarters, Heldenplatz, Vienna
I arrive at the meeting point in front of the OSCE headquarters, excited and eager for what’s coming next. I happily greet my friends who I had met during the last Summit in Madrid and already feel familiar with the environment.
As everybody arrives, we get in line for the passport and security check to get our badges to enter the building.
We get in. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening: we were in the building where the most important decisions in security issues are made.
As we arrive in our room, we are greeted by Florence Le Clézio who works as Senior Media Assistant at the OSCE and is in charge of visiting groups, such as us.
After a quick presentation, she starts explaining to us the structure and role of the OSCE, in order to provide knowledge and perspective of how the institution actually functions.
After this overview of the OSCE, something truly exciting happened: it was time to attend the plenary session that was ongoing that day.
I was so thrilled to have the opportunity of experiencing directly how these countries actually engaged in discussions among them and tried to solve those crucial issues.
That day we were extra-lucky because the session began with a report by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier. He provided a detailed report of what he had done and seen in different countries such as Tajikistan or Ukraine from June to October and he also talked of the cooperation he had had with the United Nations.
Following his report, the floor was given to the 57 countries present in the plenary session. For the time that we were there, the floor was taken by the Russian Federation, Finland, Norway, the United States and Ukraine, who, one at a time, responded to the report made by Zannier and provided their perspective and added comments. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the whole day, as much as I wanted to, we were told to quietly leave the room and go back to our training Summit. I looked back one more time to the room and to the 57 countries, hoping one day to be among them, as a direct actor involved. This has to be certainly one of the highlights of the whole experience.
The next speech was delivered by Tarik Ndifi, analyst and researcher for the conflict prevention centre at the OSCE. I had had the chance of meeting Mr. Ndifi at the Summit in Madrid and I was glad to see him again, as having an expert from the OSCE teaching us security issues is not to be taken for granted.
He provided us with in-depth knowledge about all the steps within a conflict, the so-called conflict cycle, reporting several examples from the OSCE field missions.
After a quick lunch break, to grasp the beauty of Vienna and recharge our energy, we were directed towards the Diplomatische Akademie Wien, where we had some time to get acquainted with one another, before continuing the Summit.
Our next lecturer was Lukas Wank, Co-Director at the Think-Thank Shabka, who delivered a speech about European Security Policy. After the lecture, we dealt with a case study concerning the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where we were divided into small groups and each one of us was assigned a different role within this scenario, such as leader of local militia or university student. The goal of this exercise was to show how difficult and complex it is to agree on policies, when both local and international actors are involved. In fact, the needs and concerns of an actor might be completely different from those of another one, which certainly complicates the situation.
At this point, we wrapped up day one and went out for a few drinks.
DAY 2: UN HEADQUARTERS, VIENNAWe arrive at the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna early in the morning. After entering the building and doing security checks, we receive a badge allowing us to spend the whole day there. Incredible!
We grab a coffee and we are ready for the day. Two important experts from the UNODC were waiting for us in the conference room: Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director in the division for policy analysis and public affairs and Billy Batware, responsible for crime and drug prevention and counter-terrorism projects.
Mr. Lemahieu delivered a speech about how the UNODC is working towards achieving peace, justice and the Sustainable Development Goals. Then, we had an intense Q&A, where we grasped the opportunity of having someone from the UN willing to answer to our many questions and solve our doubts related.
After his speech, Mr. Batware talked to us about the engagement of the UNODC with other NGOs in combating transnational organized crime, which was followed once again by a Q&A session. In this occasion, we also had the chance to get to know one of his interns and ask him directly about his experience at the United Nations as a young student, just like us.
Afterwards, we grabbed lunch at the UN cafeteria, which contributed to making experience at the UN feel more real, as if we were not visitors but rather actually part of the system.
Although at this point the academic part was over, there was so much more we were excitedly waiting for. We had the whole afternoon for ourselves to enjoy at the United Nations, so we had to make the most out of it! So, Ramiro Murguía, the Director of the Academy, guided us through the different wings of the building and thus we visited UNIDO, IAEA and UNODC. At this point, we couldn’t miss the chance of taking some pictures in this incredible environment!
To finish our day in the best way, we gathered at the diplomatic bar of the United Nations and had a drink all together, where we had time to share our views, perspectives and experiences.
DAY 3: International Institute for Peace
The third day and last day was definitely the most intense from an academic point of view but it definitely was necessary to gain a 360-degrees experience.
First, we were greeted by Mrs. Velina Tchakarova, Head of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, who delivered a speech about the transformation of the global system with a special focus on the current and future role of Europe, which later opened up a discussion about Europe’s supremacy.
The next lecturer was Michael Zinkanell, Secretary General at Shabka Think-Tank, who delivered a speech about integration and European Union, which was followed by a practical exercise where we were divided in three groups, each one with a different type of EU integration. For example, my group imagined what would happen if the European Union underwent a process of full integration, where each member state renounced to its sovereignty. I believe that the practical part of the Summit is very important. I experienced this both in Madrid and Vienna: in this way, the lecturers allow the students to understand better the theoretical notions dealt with by applying them into practical contexts.
At this point, it was time for a quick lunch break during which some of us, including myself, gave interviews and shared our experience with World Youth Academy.
After the short break, we had our final lecture by Mr. Tarik Ndifi, who focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the OSCE field mission involved there. Within his lecture, he also emphasized how important the collaboration between the various institutions is and specifically presented us how the OSCE and UNHCR cooperate together.
The last session was now over, bringing the Summit to an end. However, there was still something missing… our certificates! In the last moments of the Summit, we were all handed our diplomas and we took the official pictures. With a final round of applause, we all congratulated and promised each other to meet very soon at the next Summits!
I’d like to conclude with a few final remarks: since first joining the World Youth Academy a few months ago, I honestly feel already much more enriched both from an academic and personal point of view. The lectures, the experts and the institutions involved are of high excellence and provide the participants with thorough and diversified knowledge.
In addition, the working environment is incredible. It’s not everyday you find 16 different nationalities in the same place sharing your own interests and passions.
Thank you everyone and see you soon!