Ben Zuniga, an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, has been selected as the secretary-general for the 2004 United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Model United Nations Conference, taking place in New York City, May 21-22, 2004.
Zuniga will supervise eight Senior Secretariat members, along with 78 other staff members (the Secretariat). The Secretariat will chair and serve as dais staff for the various committees, all simulating real UN councils/committees. The event will draw 1,500 student delegates from around the world. Those who attend the conference are expected to research agenda topics and the countries they represent.
Zuniga will speak at the opening and closing ceremonies before approximately 6,000 people. One of his speeches will be on the AIDS program in Africa; a second speech topic is still being planned.
As part of his involvement in the UNA-USA, Zuniga attended the Global Leadership Award Dinner in New York City on Oct. 8, sponsored by the UNA-USA and the Business Council for the United Nations. Zuniga met U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to whom he presented a copy of the book "World Regions in Global Context: People, Places and Environments" written by UA geography Professor Sallie Marston, former UA geography professor and Latin American Studies Head Diana Liverman and Paul Knox, dean of architecture at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Zuniga met ambassadors from several countries, as well as rock star and political activist, Bono.
Marston, a mentor to Zuniga, said "We are all extremely proud of the honor this accomplishment brings to Ben, the department of geography and regional development and the University of Arizona. As a young man with a lively intelligence and a conscientious nature, Ben has the remarkable opportunity to translate the fruits of his academic labors into something exciting and significant."
Zuniga is a UA senior who has a double major in geography and Italian. He also has a double minor in geographic information systems and molecular/cellular biology.
Zuniga became involved in the Arizona Model United Nations program, organized by the UA political science department, while still in high school in Houston. When he became a student at the University of Arizona, he went on to help organize the event. Two years ago, a representative from the UN-USA visited the Arizona conference, and invited Zuniga to participate in the national conference. After two years of increasing responsibility, this year he has the honor of being chosen as secretary-general of the conference, the highest responsibility available to a student.
When asked why he studies geography instead of political science like many of his colleagues in the Model UN, Zuniga said, "Geography has a very interdisciplinary look at the world. I like taking a specific region and examining it from a variety of perspectives, including its climate, culture and politics. There are even medical geographers who look at such things as the spread of viruses. I'm particularly interested in studying the Balkans."
Zuniga said he eventually plans to attend graduate school in the United Kingdom and pursue either regional geography or international relations, and then enter the diplomatic world of the European Union. Presently, though, he has a large conference to help organize.