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23 March 2003

Opening Ceremony of the WorldMUN Conference at the University of Heidelberg

Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus, mayor Beate Weber and other speakers welcomed almost 1,000 student delegates from all over the world

The 12th Harvard World Model United Nations Conference opened at the University of Heidelberg this evening. There were speeches of welcome for the near 1,000 student delegates from all over the world from rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, Baden-Württemberg's finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus and the mayor of Heidelberg Beate Weber, as well as from Wolfgang Stöckl of the Federal Foreign Ministry and the director of the Sustainability Centre of main sponsor BASF, Dr. Lothar Meinzer. The opening address was held by the chairman of the Standing Conference of Higher Education Rectors in Germany, Prof. Dr. Klaus Landfried.

On behalf of the WorldMUN e.V. Heidelberg organising committee, who contrived to bring this renowned conference to Germany for the first time, Maximilian Schöhl v. Norman welcomed the delegates to the UNO simulation, which could hardly have taken place at a more tension-ridden time, and expressed the hope that despite the news from the war region the delegates would be able to concentrate on the conference and enjoy their stay in Heidelberg. Subsequently he read out greetings from the Federal Chancellor.

Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff insisted on the importance of a joint discussion involving a variety of nations taking place at a time like this. The recent events had shown, he said, that shared values do not always lead to the same conclusions.

As representative of the state of Baden-Württemberg, finance minister Gerhard Stratthaus extolled the merits of Baden-Württemberg as an economic location and its role in a reunited Germany. With her customary charm and eloquence, Heidelberg's mayor Beate Weber welcomed the fact that in a time like the present more and more young people are taking an interest in the work of the United Nations and can be expected in future to stand up for the values that organisation represents. She also emphasised the achievements of the nine Heidelberg students and postgraduates who got the conference under way in spite of immense financial difficulties.

The speaker from the main sponsor of the event BASF, Dr. Lothar Meinzer, enlarged on the commitment of his company to the Global Compact founded by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. Wolfgang Stöckl from the Federal Foreign Ministry spoke on the role of the Federal Republic in the United Nations, noting not without a degree of irony that Germany was in fact the reason for its establishment. He also had remarks to make on the prospects for memberships in the Security Council in 2003 and 2004, displaying confidence that cooperation with the Anglo-American partners would continue to be a firm component of German foreign policy despite the differences of opinion on the Iraq conflict. Here he underlined the prospect of a more independent position for Germany as a result of this difference of opinion. To applause from the delegates, he further expressed his conviction that Germany's stance in favour of a peaceful settlement in Iraq was one that could have been espoused and that there were insufficient grounds for the use of military force in settling the conflict.

In his opening address, Prof. Dr. Klaus Landfried spoke of the challenge to German universities involved in the process of internationalisation. To enthusiastic applause, he began with a quote from his Harvard colleague Karl Wolfgang Deutsch: "To have power means you need not learn. But his does not last long." In the following he indicated the links between the present political situation, in which the system of the United Nations was forced to yield to other interests, and the necessity of permanent learning, in which the universities played a central role. After an entertaining overview of the history of the university in Germany, he turned to the difficulties and opportunities presented by internationalisation, enlarging specifically on international competition and ultimately presenting seven theses on what the aims of European higher education policy should be. Among them were independence of research, improvement of university management, better financing, adaptation of science and scholarship to the market economy and the necessity of higher education remaining a task for the public sector.

To sustained acclaim from the audience, the final speaker, George Tsiatis, secretary general of the Harvard delegation, expressed the hope that the United Nations would remain the heart of the objectives and values of the different nations. The delegates, he said, had the onerous task and also the golden opportunity of being the first voices to advocate a joint future in the system of the UN, thus demonstrating what could and should have been possible if there had been dialogue and a readiness for compromise.

The accompaniment to the event was provided by Dr. Harald Pfeiffer (trumpet) and Christian Kurtzahn (piano) with highly imaginative and entertaining musical interludes. Subsequently the participants repaired to the so-called "Global Village", the traditional overture to the WorldMUN conferences. Here the delegates represented their countries both musically and with culinary delights. Though the alcoholic specialities were also sampled with considerable enjoyment, the start of the committee sessions at 8.30 next morning prevented the delegates from staying up too late…

For more information on the conference and the programme of events go to (Heidelberg) or (Harvard).

Other press releases on WorldMUN:

Your contacts
Nick Schneider
Director of Public Relations
WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V.
Schneidmühlstrasse 12
69115 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/659219, mobile: 0177/4495753
fax: 089/244365657

Susanne Müller
Co-Director of Public Relations
WorldMUN Heidelberg e.V.
Plöck 85
69117 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/603118, mobile: 0173/6764532

General inquiries from journalists can also be addressed to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 02.04.2003


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