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Monday, March 2, 2020

Guest Post #4 - Model United Nations

This week we are delighted to welcome a guest post from Florence Fernandez, a student at Godolphin and Latymer, on the Model United Nations, often known as MUN.

MUN is a close cousin of debating, and there are many overlaps between them. If you are interested in setting up an MUN team in your school, follow the link here.

As Florence points out, in our divided world there is more need than ever for the knowledge and understanding of cultures and perspectives different from our own that MUN offers.

What is Model UN?

The United Nations is a global organisation for maintaining international security. Without it, I firmly believe that humanity would have perished in flames years ago. It is the backbone of international cooperation and paramount for reaching multilateral agreements.  Model United Nations (MUN) is simply an organisation of students who wish to replicate this essential institution of peacekeeping. MUN can be seen as the incubator in which future diplomats are developed and enlightened. My belief is that, at a time when global issues seem to be ascending in severity, MUN will serve to limit future international disquiet more than any other extracurricular activity. Not only does it enrich every participating student with an impressive global understanding, but it’s also entertaining and enjoyable.

How does MUN function?

MUN is structured around organised conferences which are held at various schools and typically last from one to two days. In the weeks leading up to a conference, a delegate (any student who is chosen to represent a country at the conference) will be assigned their country and a committee. The UN is made up of six distinct committees which focus their debate on a specific category. For example, the UN’s third committee is named “SOCHUM”, which is an acronym for Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural issues, especially those related to human rights. This committee will focus the length of the conference on drafting resolutions to find solutions to global questions of human rights. The committee can discuss questions relating to the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism , and many more topics. This is just one committee, which illustrates the large scope of debate that MUN offers. 

A resolution is a document consisting of numbered clauses which set policies in place, and it is from a resolution that the debate ensues. Up to three resolutions are debated in a committee, where the delegates are allowed to commend, criticize and amend resolutions put forward by other countries. In between debating, delegates are given lobbying time, to speak to other delegates and perhaps get them to advocate for your country’s resolution. Before the conference delegates will undertake research to gain a composite picture of their country’s stance on the issue. A successful delegate will incorporate their country’s stance into an exhaustive resolution which can be agreed upon by a majority of countries.

When I describe MUN to my peers in this way, they say it sounds rather arduous - this is completely false! It is axiomatic that public speaking needs to be entertaining in order to be effective. The latest conference resulted in my entire committee giggling as one very passionate delegate gave a furious speech on how the Palestinian territory outlined in Trump’s deal of the century looks more like a piece of swiss cheese than a country. From delegates putting on false accents, to passing war-waging notes, a committee is never short of entertaining banter. Nevertheless, anyone even mildly interested in global politics will be amazed by the sheer passion of the delegates and the indescribable happiness that comes with a group of delegates commending you on your resolution and asking to co-submit it with them.

Avid debaters make good MUN delegates, being quick with statistical evidence and a stern determination to make their point heard. This is crucial in MUN debate, although it is also vital that MUN debaters know how to compromise and agree. You don’t have to be versed in every last word of the U.N. charter to be a success, but you need an interest in global politics and the desire to have fun, fruitful debate.

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