The Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) held a Baltic Model UN at Vytautas Magnus University

Shown here is American Olivia Wells, the former President of the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Photo courtesy of Vytautas Magnus University.

By Ann Charles

This year, according to the former President of the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA), Olivia Wells, “the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) hosted its second annual International Model UN recently. This year’s Model UN entitled, Baltic Model UN (BMUN), was focused on the theme, “Empowering Women.”

As Olivia Wells explained, “the theme was inspired by the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. The seven principles tackle pertinent issues such as gender equality and non-discrimination in the work force, ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of all women, promoting education, training, and professional development for women, and more. BMUN organizers believe it is important now more than ever for the global community to continue to bridge gender gaps and create equal access opportunities.”

In addition, Olivia pointed out that, “BMUN consisted of three committees, namely, the UN Women Committee, Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM) and Economic and Financial Committee (ECOFIN).

The UN Women Committee tackled expanding equal education opportunities and improving access to female health care. “ She also stated that “the SOCHUM Committee dealt with combatting sex trafficking and ending the practice of forced marriage. The ECOFIN Committee was tasked with bridging the gender pay gap and improving maternity leave and family planning.”

What made this event so special was that “ this year’s BMUN delegates hailed from all over the world,” according to Olivia. As she stated, “delegates were from Lithuania, Jordan, Albania, Morocco, the USA, India, Pakistan, Italy, and many more countries.”

She added that, “the participants represented an equally diverse set of delegations spanning Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

“The opening ceremonies,” says Olivia, “featured speeches and workshops from the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, diplomat Edward Janis, and British- Indian human rights worker, Mandy Sanghera. The event resulted in delegations drafting and passing three resolutions.”

What steps were involved in setting up a Lithuanian UN Youth Association (LUNYA) at Vytautas Magnus University? Arrangements were made for Ineta Dabasinskiene of Vytautas Magnus University to meet WFUNA (World Federation of United Nations Associations) officials headquartered in New York City across the street from the United Nations. Pablo Angulo-Troconis, WFUNA’s Youth Program Officer, Allen Abi Yaghi (Finance) and Irene Martinetti from WFUNA’s Office in Geneva were in attendance.

This was followed at a later date with a meeting with the former President of LUNYA, Olivia Wells, Pablo Angulo-Troconis, Youth Program Officer at WFUNA in New York, and Ann Charles, UN Bureau Chief, “Baltic Review”.

As explained on their website, “the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global non-profit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations (UNAs) and their thousands of constituents.”

On May 23, 2016, a letter of agreement was signed between Ineta Dabasinskiene of Vytautas Magnus University and Jurate Landsbergyte, Executive Director, UNA Lithuania, on the founding on the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA).

Here we see Jurate Landsbergyte shaking hands with Ineta Dabasinskiene at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Photos courtesy of Vytautas Magnus University.
Pictured is Jurate Landsbergyte, Executive Director of the United Nations Association of Lithuania. signing an agreement with Ineta Dabasinskiene of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Seated next to Ineta is Dr. Kestutis Sidiauskas, Vice Rector for Studies (VMU).
Shown here are a group of young students from the UN Students Club at Vytautas Magnus University together with Jurate Landsbergyte and Ineta Dabasinskiene.

In looking back at the founding of the first United Nations Association of Lithuania, (UNA-Lithuania) in 1993, take note of the following: “The first United Nations Association of Lithuania held its inaugural general meeting on June 19, 1993, in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, during the same period that the World Conference on Human Rights was taking place in Vienna on June 14-25, 1993.

The late Algis Tomas Geniusas was elected the first President of UNA-Lithuania, and the founding of UNA-Latvia and UNA-Estonia followed. Algis Tomas Geniusas, a Shakespeare scholar, served as the President of UNA-Lithuania for 17 years. UNA-Lithuania is now headed by Jurate Landsbergyte, Executive Director of UNA-Lithuania, based in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: Ann Charles

In a letter addressed to Lithuanian-American Ann Charles, now UN Bureau Chief, “Baltic Review” dated June 22, 1993, Mr. Geniusas expressed his appreciation to Ms. Charles for “paving the ground for the establishment of the UNA of Lithuania, and for the cordial support and most conducive information.”

The formation of UNAs in the Baltics took place in February 1993 during a meeting between Dr. Marek Hagmajer, Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations based in Geneva, and Sirje Ainso (Estonia), Ines Apelis (Latvia) and Ann Charles (Lithuania).

Pictured is Jurate Landsbergyte, internationally-known pianist/ organist, and Executive Director of UNA-Lithuania, during a meeting at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. Photo courtesy of Vytautas Magnus University.

“The Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) has a number of current projects on its website” stated Olivia Wells following a meeting with Pablo Angulo-Troconis, WFUNA’s Youth Program Officer at the WFUNA Office in New York and Lithuanian-American Ann Charles.

According to LUNYA’s former president, Olivia Wells, “Our club is not just a political science organization. We are attempting to provide a platform where students can interact and exchange ideas regarding international conflicts, peacekeeping, diplomacy, development, and a host of other issues.”

She added, “we do so by exposing them to documentary films, workshops where experts impart their knowledge of a particular field and exchange ideas with students. Youth Forums, Model UN, and other events that enable young people to live up to their full potential.”

“Our diversity within our council and members is a microcosm of the diversity we hope to engender in the student body” she went on to say. “Its members believe that peacekeeping is not just dependent on future politicians and that every young person has the ability to change the world for the next generation.” Bravo, Olivia!

Although American student Olivia Wells recently graduated from Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, her positive influence and initiatives as President of the Lithuanian United Nations Association (LUNYA) as well as her commitment to engaging young students from all over the world who are studying in Lithuania has been greatly appreciated by both faculty and students alike.

When asked who the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) would like to network with in the future, Olivia Wells explained that among the top priorities at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania would be working with UNAs in Estonia and Latvia to establish a yearly Baltic Model UN session, and sending youth delegates to the United Nations.

According to the LUNYA website, interest in sending LUNYA council members to the Hague and Geneva to see how UN bodies work in real life is also a networking project envisioned for the future. LUNYA also favors international collaboration for potential overseas projects, and expanding social media networks.

Following a meeting between Pablo Angulo-Troconis, the WFUNA Youth Representative, Olivia Wells, and Lithuanian-American Ann Charles, UN Bureau Chief, “Baltic Review”, the Lithuanian United Nations Youth Association (LUNYA) was listed as “the newest member of the WFUNA Youth Network.” According to WFUNA in New York, “the UNA Youth Directory lists youth programs, youth associations, and youth sections of UNAs that are affiliated to WFUNA.”