UK Patterson School of Diplomacy holds crisis simulation

Alexa Caponigro

The Patterson School of Diplomacy hosted the 2022 Crisis Simulation this past weekend, Feb. 24-26. Members of five different teams met on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Patterson Hall to discuss this year’s speculative scenario, a Venezuelan crisis.

The simulation teams consisted of Venezuela, the United States, Peru, China and Colombia. Each team member held a key position like a team mentor, team leader, intelligence and security, diplomacy and military attaché. The teams representing Colombia, Peru and China also contained undergraduate students.

The scenario began with the Peruvian government and the United Nations calling for a meeting in Lima, Peru, to discuss the Venezuelan migration crisis. The mass influx of Venezuelan emigrants caused strife in the economic, political and social dispositions in neighboring countries. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resources and infrastructure became overwhelmed by people who contracted the virus.

The simulation was created so students could come to an agreement and amend the issues laid out through a variety of team meetings, press conferences and rounds to discuss further negotiations.

Nicole Bagby, the intelligence and security liaison for Venezuela, found the simulation to be more laid-back and less structured than the previous one held at Patterson Hall

“We were given a Twitter account, so being able to tweet, go to the press and make our own decisions — I liked it a lot,” Bagby said.

Even with the freedom of decisions, the student-led countries still faced many challenges during the simulation. Bagby explained that each country had “red lines” – information they could not admit or negotiate. In Bagby’s case, her biggest red line was withholding how corrupt the Venezuelan government is. Thus, Bagby could not explain the current extent of the migrant crisis, making it harder to negotiate and plead her case.

“Defending [Venezuelan President] Maduro and his government that we do not agree with, knowing he is corrupt, like hurting the economy … it got hard seeing yourself as the bad guy, but also trying to tell everyone else that we are not the bad guys,” Bagby said.

Although the simulation was a challenge, Bagby thought it was great to receive a different point of view and take a step back to fully understand different positions.

Specifically, in her role as intelligence and security liaison, she was pulled out of meetings to receive intel and relinquish any information the delegation may have decided to share. This aspect helped the team gather different ideas to come to a conclusion on future negotiation points.

“It was nice to be pulled out and be told, ‘This is what is going on,’ or ‘This is what you need to decide to do,’” she said. “It was kind of nice to work with the team, but also to be pulled off, be in my own thoughts and create an approach.”

Sarah Gossett, a team mentor, offered insight into the craziness of the simulation. The Simulation Control team implemented a variety of new ideas to keep things fresh during this simulation.

“There were teams who were kidnapping other members,” Gossett said. “You would get a note saying, ‘Help me, I’ve been kidnapped.’”

Bagby also thought the simulation was interesting because when she was given information, she did not have to give the full truth. For example, when tweets were sent out, each country had its own discretion on lying or being completely honest.

Overall, Bagby said she made a great connection with current events in regards to Ukraine and Russia.

“It makes you wonder, do they only give out the information that helps that country, or was this something we only did in the simulation?” Bagby said.

Furthermore, Bagby pondered on the thought of leniency: if countries are actually allowed to leave out that much information or if the simulation allotted that freedom. She said a lot of insight can be learned through foreign negotiations.

“I think the biggest lesson to be learned is the frustration of diplomacy – the fact you can go days, weeks or maybe even months of negotiating or meeting with members of other countries but get to the end of it and have no solution,” she said.