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About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!
Ever wondered what delegates really do at the United Nations? Here’s your chance to find out! Model United Nations is a simulation of the works of the United Nations in which a student (ranging from high school students to those at university) can take on the role of a delegate representing one of the UN’s member states. A delegate of the United Nations has the task to represent the views of his/her country and defend its position within one of the UN branches whilst collaborating with other states. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the land of negotiations and meetings so before I do let’s start from the very beginning and discover how awesome MUN really is!
Not only are there many prestigious model UN conferences in the UK but they are also hosted worldwide! My first MUN conference was when I was attending high school in Italy, my teacher approached me and asked if I would like to apply to be Judge of the International Court of Justice at the upcoming Genoa conference. As judge I shared the task of deliberating ongoing real UN disputes in one of Genoa’s most ancient building with students from across the globe. Whilst I was initially incredibly intimidated I soon learnt the ropes of diplomacy and made some amazing friends. The benefits of MUN do not just limit themselves to the ability to write speeches under pressure or, in my case, to preside on judicial matters along with other judges, but you have the chance to explore an entirely new city – in my case it was the hometown of Pesto! It was an entirely mind-opening experience being able to hear first account stories of conflicts in Egypt by girls that lived in Cairo and going for morning coffee with students to work on our papers. I can say with sheer conviction that it was my first Model UN conference that ignited my passion for International relations.
My second MUN experience was at a university level as I was chosen amongst around 30 students to represent the Federal republic of Germany in the New York National Model UN. My first time in America and my first actual time as a delegate, I was quite nervous but luckily I was surrounded by an amazing team. We each had a partner whom we worked closely with and I was placed as a delegate in the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). The setting of a typical Model UN conference, including the one in NY, is the following:
Day 1: Setting of the agenda
On the first day of the conference, after the grand opening ceremony, the delegates have the task of setting the agenda within formal debate, which is always regulated by a chair. Each delegate has a placard representing their country and the goal is to see which of the three topics you were provided with before the conference you want to tackle first, second and third. There are moments of informal discussion, known as caucus, where you can move around the room listening to delegates’ views and explaining your preferences (during caucus allies are typically made), and moments dedicated to speeches (formal session), where people place their country’s name on the speaker’s list and have around a minute to argue their case.
Days 2, 3 and 4: Tackling your topic
This is when the real work begins and you see students racing around during caucus frantically trying to get their points across. The ultimate goal is to work with others and write a draft resolution tackling and trying to resolve a particular issue; those who write it are known as sponsors whereas those who agree with the paper and sign it are signatories. During this period of the conference there’s a mixture of caucusing and speech making and you’ll find that the room can turn from a jungle of chaos (caucus) into a perfect conference (speech making and formal session) in a matter of minutes! During formal session talking is not permitted but delegates are allowed to pass notes, as long as they address other delegates by their country and not directly by their name. These notes are usually about the resolutions but occasionally you find delegates passing round funny jokes to take away from the seriousness of the conference!
Final Day: Resolutions!
On the last day before the official closing ceremony draft resolutions that have been revisited by the chair are voted on and, if they obtain a majority of votes, can become real resolutions! When a resolution you have been working on is passed you get an inexplicable sense of relief and happiness, during the four days of conferences you can get lost in a world of high diplomacy and now finally all your hard work (which for some fanatics includes early morning meetings over breakfast and extended research late at night!) has finally paid off! And – for some of the most talented delegates – there are awards to be won! This year the Royal Holloway, University of London delegation won the outstanding delegation award once again –and when our university’s name was called out it was definitely a time of celebration!
Whilst the conference last around 4-5 days when going with your school or university you usually are given a few more days to explore the city and run wild, after all you’ve earned it! So whether you’re shy or a born diplomat Model UN can help you greatly and I promise you it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget!
Images: Author’s own, taken in April during the New York MUN conference for university students.