About 300 high school students jumped into their roles yesterday as senior officials from 10 countries, trying to reach a consensus during a simulation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference yesterday at the Hawai’i Convention Center.
One group struggled with the wording on energy issues in a vision statement that covered clean energy, economic security, and trade and investment.
One idea put forward was to help less-developed countries reduce carbon emissions through education — with wealthier countries footing the bill.
Jiaxin Lin, representing Japan, questioned that approach.
"What if they learn slow?" she asked, generating laughter from representatives of the other countries.
The event, organized by the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, brought together students from 23 public and private schools on Oahu, Kauai and Maui. It was one of two annual "global summits" held by PAAC, a nonprofit organization that works to teach high school students about foreign policy, economics and social issues in the region.
The real APEC conference will be held in November, bringing together leaders from 21 member countries.
During a review session to help students better understand their countries’ positions, Lauren Moriarty, the former U.S. ambassador to APEC, advised several groups to find routes around roadblocks and make connections with countries that have similar needs.
Then the students broke into groups and worked on an APEC vision statement, similar to what leaders of APEC will do. They had to negotiate until each could accept the statement.
Moriarty said the consensus is what makes APEC different from other world organizations, such as the United Nations, which have binding agreements.
She said the conference would show students that diplomacy is difficult and can move slowly.
"Sometimes it takes years to be able to understand each other," she said.
Finally, the students learn that diplomatic relations are an investment, much like spending on education.
"It’s very hard for a lot of people to see why they should spend any money on the State Department," Moriarty said. "They don’t understand whether what we do makes any difference in their lives."
Students said they enjoyed the conference.
"This whole experience is very eye-opening," said Shane Funakoshi, 16, a junior at Aiea High School. "How politics work in general, it’s much more complicated than people think. You’ve got to work with other people, your advisers, to get the best for your country."
"This is a good way to see things from other people’s view," he added as a representative of China.
Moriah Hernandez, a Kaimuki High School senior, was inspired to study international business.
"We’re learning a lot," she said. "It’s actually pretty difficult, what we have to go through, just to trade with other countries."