A small group of UC Santa Barbara students recently spent a weekend running Lebanon – or pretending to, anyway.

Ten UCSB students participated in the Model Arab League at San Francisco State University April 11 through April 13, competing against schools across the state in an annual simulation of the Arab League meetings. UCSB students represented the country of Lebanon; they debated and attempted to pass resolutions on its behalf.

The Model Arab League, put on by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), a nonprofit, nongovernmental educational organization in Washington, D.C., was originally conceived as a one-time simulation in 1983, when people from a handful of schools gathered at Georgetown University to stage a gathering similar to the Model United Nations. Since then, the program has expanded to include high schools and colleges across the nation, with over 200 schools participating annually. To date, over 25,000 students have participated in the program.

Delegates were split into five separate groups named after councils on the actual Arab League, including councils for the ministries of the interior, social affairs, Palestinian affairs, joint defense and environmental affairs. Two students from each of the 20 participating schools were represented in the groups, who spent two days debating resolutions aimed at improving life in the Arab world and hearing from university professors familiar with the area.

A representative from the Egyptian consulate also spoke at the event. Speakers addressed a narrow range of issues, focusing mostly on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the war in Iraq.

“The speakers presented a pretty one-sided view on the issues,” said Monica Fawzy, head delegate for the team and a senior psychology and law and society major. “There was a lot of rhetoric against Israel and Bush.”

During the last day of the program, resolutions drawn up by the various delegations and councils were debated by the group as a whole. Resolutions that passed were then sent for consideration to the NCUSAR. The UCSB team submitted resolutions with the purpose of creating an agreement between Arab countries to exchange intelligence to combat criminal activity, especially terrorism.

UCSB delegates for the Model Arab League were chosen from Professor Juan Campo’s Islamic and Near Eastern Studies 194 class during Winter Quarter. Students in the class researched Lebanon, learned about the Middle East through speakers and textbooks and prepared resolutions for the simulation. The 10 students were chosen from 20 in the class based on their knowledge of the area.

Delegates who excel at the Model Arab League are eligible to participate in other academic and leadership programs, including summer internships in Washington, D.C. and the Arab world; study opportunities in the Middle East; and Arabic language study at universities in Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and Morocco.

“This is a way that students can exert some influence on what is going on in the world,” Fawzy said. “It’s good to know that these resolutions may be considered by the people making decisions.”

The UCSB delegation received numerous awards this year, including Outstanding Delegate to Fawzy in the Ministry of the Interior group. Team members Nicole Spevak and Nehall Al-Taie picked up honorable mentions in their groups. California State University, San Bernadino, which represented Palestine, won the best delegation award, and UCSB received an honorable mention in the category. Judging for the awards was based on knowledge of parliamentary procedures, quality of the resolutions presented, debate conduct and diplomatic skills.

“Everyone that attended the program was there because they’re really interested in the area,” said Spevak, a senior global studies major. “It wasn’t all about winning awards and passing resolutions.”