Disclaimer: I know this post is not directly related to the topic of this blog, but this is a topic I really wanted to cover, so please bear with me!
In the beginning it was just an acronym… Now it has become an essential part of my life and has given me a pretty good idea of what I want to become when I grow older. MUN… Model United Nations. What is it? Well, briefly it is a simulation of how it is to be in the real United Nations. If you go ask a delegate that has been to some conferences, however, you hear a completely different story. What you hear is about how MUN changes the ways anybody thinks, the way anybody interacts with others… You hear about how much of a fun experience it is, about how you get engaged in discussions about topics you have never heard before, and about how you make a lot of friends in a span of only three days (in most cases). So MUN, in fact, is much much more than just a simulation of the real United Nations. Although this in 90% of the cases is very nice, sometimes this movement away from the goal of simulating the real UN gets out of hand, which becomes frustrating…
Allow me first to outline how a conference is divided. Usually conferences last three days. The first day represents the time delegates take in order to form alliances and create their resolutions, tackling issues of the real world. During the second day, these formed resolutions get debated with the entirety of the committee present, amendments are made, and, in the end, these resolutions get voted upon and some of them pass and some fail. During the last day, one of the passed resolutions of each committee gets debated upon in the plenary session under which each committee falls under. For the General Assembly Committees (the most important), one resolution gets picked from each committee and gets debated upon in the GA plenary, where it is either passed or failed by all the counties represented in the plenary. During the last two days, delegates have the chance to rise and deliver speeches, ask points of information, or make amendments to a resolution. In all this time, each committee is lead by the so called Chairs, which report to the secretariat, which runs the conference. Let’s start to outline the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of MUN.
What’s great with the Model United Nations is the simple facts that lie at its core. It makes you indulge in research and discussion in topics nobody would have ever imagined teenagers discussing. Off the top of my head, I remember trying to deal with the Refugee crisis in the 6th annual session of PSMUN, in one of the best committees I have ever been a part of, with some of the best chairs. What also comes to mind is trying to solve the ever growing problem of Cyber Terrorism in the 10th annual session of CGSMUN, and, finally, the constantly prominent problem of transportation in a world with constantly rising population in The Hague International Model United Nations. I would have never even imagined the hard work that goes into solving such complex issues, and the challenges that face each delegate in the United Nations to make his/her resolutions appealing to a wide range of countries, all with different cultures and beliefs. Consequently, MUN radically changes the way that a person thinks. No longer do you think about satisfying only your own will… In order to succeed, you have to keep in mind what other people may think and try to incorporate their own aspects in your thinking, in order to rally the support that you need. Nobody will ever succeed in MUN, or the real UN for that matter, if he goes into lobbying trying to force his own opinion upon all the delegates that are contributing each a small piece to construct a resolution that will provide feasible solutions to complex problems. This person will most likely be pushed aside from the alliance and his points or clauses never be considered. Trust me on that. On the same note, if you try to get your revenge during debate and try to destroy the resolution your former alliance created, you will most likely be recognized once and never stand up again. Chairs are not dumb, they have been delegates many times before and know how to distinguish a delegate that tries to construct a resolution and one that tries to tear it apart. With that aside, this new way of thinking basically teaches you how to be a correct diplomat. And of course, an essential part is all the friends that you make. In the spirit of discussion, you constantly make new friends, collaborating when modifying a clause or getting one to yield the floor to another (a nice little trick I learned when wanting to bypass a chair that resists to recognize you). MUN is all about making friends… All the above, complemented by the dress up and the formal language, really gives you the impression of being in the real United Nations.
Moving on to the bad about MUN… Now I know, some of this stuff really applies only to me because I am part of a few of the delegates that really wants to become a delegate of the real UN. Anyway, just keep that in mind. As mentioned in the introduction, sometimes I get really frustrated when MUN takes it a bit too far from deviating from the goal of simulating the United Nations. I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot, I am completely cool with having the DPRK for example proposing an amendment banning social media because it is vulnerable to hacking. This partly contributes to making MUN interesting… But, my problem relies when such stuff gets out of hand. I will reference my time in THIMUN here. We were debating a crucial resolution on the topic of “The Question of the Use of Unilateral Economic Measures as a Means of Political and Economic Coercion Against Developing Nations” and instead of having speeches discussing the feasibility of the clauses proposed, we had delegates coming up and wasting debate time by saying that “MUN is just like tennis; you need to have balls to play” or referencing shots of whiskey when on the floor. It’s totally cool to do it once, maybe twice, but trying to do it every speech you get recognized totally derails the discussion and creates a climate in the committee that not only chairs are unable to handle and become stricter, but also trickles down to other resolutions, derailing the entire discussion. And, at the end of the day, this prevents people that were going to contribute something important to the resolutions to talk. This extends to the so called “funny” awards. This is the part I don’t understand. Why “funny”? Ok yeah, some of them are, indeed, funny like the best couple, most likely to end up in jail, etc.. But why make the best delegate award funny, or the most active award, or the most likely to end up in the real UN? Some delegates are trying really hard to get their efforts recognized, but those efforts get shrugged off by having “funny” awards. A ranking system is why debate has become so widespread and participation in tournaments is so huge. In debate you get a ranking that recognizes your efforts and your “skill” level. There are so many opportunities to get awarded something… There is even a speaker ranking, apart from the team ranking. Why not have something similar to debate in MUN? In my opinion, the participation in MUN will become much greater and much more sophisticated. When one gets awarded the best speaker award or gets in the top ten speakers in debate, he is immediately placed in a high spot in the minds of the rest of the debaters. In MUN, getting the best delegate award is not even recognized by most conferences when applying for the position of chair. What matters in such a case is just experience. With that in mind, a chair can be selected that has been to, say, 10 conferences but was sleeping through them, and a person that had show devotion and was the best delegate in his committees and passed resolutions and amendments, but had participated in, say, 6 conferences might get rejected. I do not understand the reason behind that… Only one conference really recognizes the best delegate awards in Greece, that being CGSMUN. The rest seem to consider them “funny”. “Yeah, sorry for busting my ass to get recognized and contribute to resolutions more than others. Just give me a funny award that is not even recognized”.
Having that rant out of my system, let me get into the conclusion. MUN is great, just great. It teaches every individual a way of thinking that tries to make the right compromises in order to reach a desired result that satisfies everyone in a room. It engages every delegate with topics he could not even imagine talking about and may even inspire delegates to pursue a career in the real United Nations, apart from the fact that you get some college credit. Unfortunately though, the current MUN system has some essential problems that may render it somewhat undesirable, such as the sudden derailments of the discussions due to jokes that take over the debate, or the recognition (or lack thereof) of the hard efforts that some delegates put into the conference to achieve something greater. It is my opinion that MUN can learn a thing or two from the Debating Community that will make it much better in the long run.
Feel free to comment down below with your own experiences and opinion!