Students from across Austria came together at United Nations in Vienna to discuss environmental migration

During a two-day Model United Nations simulation conference, students from various universities across Austria came together at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) to discuss different aspects of environmental migration to find common ground and come up with solutions. Students of translation sciences and young interpreters used the opportunity to test their interpretation skills and put them in practice during the conference.

VIENNA, 19 January 2024 - Around 110 students with 14 different nationalities acted as delegates and interpreters while communicating in 20 different languages. The participants come from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), the University of Vienna, the University of Graz and the University of Innsbruck. For weeks the students had been preparing for this Model UN conference. Coming from different academic background they all contributed in different ways.

The event kicked off with opening remarks by Martin Nesirky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, Johann Spitzer, Alternate Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN (Vienna) and Matthias Jurek, Programme Management Officer at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). A special video message from the UN Secretary General António Guterres was also shown: “We need the United Nations more than ever, but the United Nations also needs the help of young people to create peace, justice and inclusion,” he said and encouraged the Model UN participants to use their voices and contribute to a better future.


In his opening remarks Nesirky highlighted the 45th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre this year and congratulated the students for their commitment to fight the climate crisis and its devastating consequences. He also drew the students’ attention to the Summit of the Future which will take place in September 2024 and aims to bring new life into the multilateral system so the world community can deliver on the promise of the United Nations Charter and the Sustainable Development Goals.

For some of the participants, the Model UN simulation was the final practice day of a dedicated semester course on Environmental Migration, crowning weeks of preparatory work. In their opening statements and negotiations, the student delegates focused on the deeply complex and intertwined global challenges including the existential threat of climate change. The participants noted that environmental migration encompasses more than migration sparked by climate change. According to them, it is the question of justice and fighting inequalities.

In addition to the negotiations, over 50 students of translation sciences and young interpreters simulated interpretation services in more than five languages, including Italian, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Russian, and provided written English interpretation for people with a hearing impairment.

The Model UN conference was organized by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and the University of Vienna with the support of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Office in Austria and the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna.