Human Rights and the Students’ League of Nations

Today at the International School of Geneva we begin the first of two days of the Students’ League of Nations  (SLN) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This was first invented by the International School of Geneva in 1953 as a simulation of the United Nations and has since become a world-wide phenomenon in most international schools  known as the Model United Nations.

Students learn to draft resolutions, to present them at a General Assembly and to conduct a debate which leads to voting for or against the drafted resolutions. Two of the cornerstones of freedom of speech are used: the right of speech and the right to reply.

The right of speech, what the Ancient Greeks called isegoria, and the right to reply, are of paramount importance: people must be given a voice and, crucially, the right to defend themselves. It is difficult to conceive of human rights without these two essential pillars. In fact, the Ancient Greeks had a specific term, parrhesia, meaning not only freedom of speech but the right to say almost anything. As long as it is true, not libellous or hate speech, a truly open society must be one where people are not afraid to voice their opinions, even when those opinions are not necessarily what those in authority want to hear.

One of the rules in the SLN is that students may not represent their own country when acting as a delegation. This opens the minds of those debating on behalf of another country, calling them to look at complex political problems from the perspective of a different nation state.

As we stand by Human Rights across the world, let us embrace freedom of speech and the power of being prepared to see things from others’ perspectives.

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