UNBC students attend peace building forum

Karista Olson (on the left), Jen Baddeley, Dara Campbell, Ana Saenz and Lluvia Lopez. UNBC photo
Karista Olson (on the left), Jen Baddeley, Dara Campbell, Ana Saenz and Lluvia Lopez. UNBC photo

University of Northern British Columbia student Karista Olson hopes to one day work with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Mechanism that was established by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations.

The Expert Mechanism provides the Human Rights Council with expertise and advice on the rights of Indigenous people as outlined in the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Olson’s goal to work at the United Nations was partially inspired by her participation as a delegate at the United Nations Peacebuilders Conference in Vancouver in November 2017.

“Becoming familiar with the processes, gaps and realities of working within the UN arena is essential if I am to continue with that pursuit,” said Olson, an English and environmental studies student.

Olson was among a delegation of UNBC students in Vancouver at the peacebuilding forum and also included Jen Baddeley, Dara Campbell, Ana Saenz and Lluvia Lopez.

“The experience in Vancouver gave us valuable insight into how the UN operates and the complexities we face in helping to move our country forward in terms of youth, peace and security,” said Olson. “The opportunity to hear from so many people that have experienced challenges to peace and security was remarkable and our ability to network with other youth leaders was invaluable.”

Due to their participation in that forum, that same group of students leave for Ottawa Wednesday to attend the Canadian International Model United Nations session from March 8-11.

“Canadian students from across the country will come together to debate real world issues and develop deeper understandings of UN processes and mechanisms,” said Olson.

At the UN session in Ottawa, the group is representing diverse organizations such as the World Health Organization, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, Food Security Programme and the Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee from Algeria and Rwanda.

The consultation process leading up to the forum in Vancouver brought the UNBC delegation together with the College of New Caledonia and independent delegates from Calgary and Toronto. The resulting report was compiled with other delegation reports and 14 common threads were identified and fed into the larger report to be issued to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the UN Secretariat.

At the forum, retired Canadian General Roméo Dallaire, Minister of National Defence Harjiit Sajan, and former governor general Michaëlle Jean addressed the delegates.

Peer leaders were tasked with facilitating a workshop session where all 130 delegates were asked to choose one of 14 themes to focus on, and create a single comprehensive recommendation to be delivered to the conference.

“The UNBC/CNC delegation was thrilled to see so many of the ideas that came from our consultations posted verbatim on the consolidated recommendations under many of the 14 themes,” said Olson.

She also had the opportunity to address the conference and deliver her groups workshopped recommendations on the Support of Indigenous Peoples.

Olson’s participation at the Peacebuilders forum has inspired her to continue her work with the UN.

Last month, she attended the UN Youth Assembly Winter Session in New York.