Model United Nations
Every year over 200,000 young people, university and school students alike, come together in conferences across the globe to share their passion for international affairs, the art of diplomacy, and the principles of the United Nations. Representing countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, they gather to discuss some of the most pressing and intriguing problems that confront the world today. Together, they engage in lively debate, searching for solutions to the complex conundrums of contemporary international politics; and in doing so, hone and perfect their skills of diplomacy and debate. But what exactly is Model United Nations?
What is Model United Nations?
MUN aims to be nothing less than an authentic simulation of the United Nations – complete with Security Council, General Assembly, a wide range of sub-committees, a Secretariat headed by the Secretary General, and of course, you, the delegates!
For the duration of a Model United Nations conference, every participant or ‘delegate’ represents a member state of the United Nations in one of the committees of the UN system. At IUMUN 2012 we shall be offering six committees. Delegates representing the same state together form a ‘delegation’.
In their individual committees, delegates engage in debate on a wide range of topics, relating to issues as diverse as international peace and security, economic cooperation and development, human rights or the protection of the environment.
The ultimate objective of every committee is to pass a resolution that is both broad and comprehensive enough to provide an adequate solution to the question at hand, while at the same time being acceptable to as many member states as possible. Those resolutions passed in committees are then further discussed in the plenary General Assembly on the final day of the conference, and must be passed with a two-thirds majority.
Realism and Compromise
In the interest of making the simulation realistic and credible, all delegates are charged to set aside, for the duration of the conference, their personal views on an issue, and to adopt the stance and attitudes of the country they are representing. In seeking to give a faithful and accurate representation of ‘their’ country and its interests, delegates will be greatly aided by having researched in some detail both their committee’s topic of discussion and the wider issues it raises, as well as their country’s policy-position on these questions.
If, thus, ‘realism’ is one pillar of any MUN simulation, then ‘compromise’ is certainly our second guiding principle. One of the most exciting challenges that faces an MUN delegate is discovering common ground and scope for compromise where real-world politicians are all too often blinded by an overly narrow pursuit of ‘national interest’. Indeed, Model United Nations is grounded in the belief that compromise and a clear grasp of political realities are by no means incompatible goals.
Channels of Communication
During committee sessions, great emphasis is laid on conducting discussions as authentically as possible. The procedural rules governing debate are thus closely modeled on those of the ‘real’ United Nations. Aside from formal debate, however, there exists a plethora of different ways in which delegates can interact with their peers: frequent moderated and unmoderated caucuses, note-passing, committee breaks and even the evening events will give delegates ample opportunity to persuade and cajole their colleagues, to negotiate and do deals. Even at the real United Nations, some of the most famous resolutions are known to have been drafted on the back of a napkin during the lunch break!
Much more than just a Conference
Last but not least, the social programme in the evenings, while allowing delegates to wind down after a hard day of committee work, will also give everyone the opportunity to mix and mingle in the diverse MUN crowd, to make new acquaintances, and to forge friendships that often last long after the conference has ended.
The research and preparation required, the adoption of views and attitudes other than their own and the interaction with so many other delegates from around the world combine to give MUN participants a deep insight into many of the world’s most important problems, to make them aware of the causes of conflict between states, and to lead them to a better understanding of the interests and motivation of others.
Thus, in a small way, MUN fulfills the aims and goals set out by the founders of the United Nations in the Preamble of the Charter: “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.”