This article was first published in December edition of Circles Magazine
Explaining the role of United Nations to young people has always been a hard task. Young and not much wise, children and young adults often find little or no concern about politics and international affairs. In order to bring awareness regarding United Nations and its functioning, a simulation by the name of Model United Nations (MUN) was introduced that has rapidly gained popularity in Pakistan in the past few years.
Although the concept of MUN is as old as United Nations itself, being a program at University of Washington since UN creation, it has gone through several changes until it came to be in its present form in early 2000s. The purpose of MUN is to create awareness among the youth about UN and functions of its various bodies, hone debating skills, improve critical thinking, research about countries on various critical issues, debate upon important issues, deliberate upon possibilities and agree on solutions for various problems.
In Pakistan, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) played a big role in introducing popularizing this concept in the country. Winning HUMUN (Harvard University Model United Nations) 5 times, LUMS students hosted LUMUN (LUMS Model United Nations) and they never looked back. Today, LUMUN is the largest MUN conference of Pakistan that is attended by students from all over the country as well as from abroad.
More institutions took the lead to host MUN conference and prestigious schools, colleges and universities stepped up to host similar events both internally as well as externally. We saw the birth of ZABMUN (SZABIST), ACMUN (Aitchison), ROTMUN (Rotaract), MUNIK (IBA), MUNPK and many others that follow the popular format and teach students practically the art of public speaking.
There are several committees that discuss current topics related to their area of concern and students act as delegates of a certain country. The most commonly hosted committees are:
- UN Security Council (SC)
- Committee of Disarmament and International Security (DISEC)
- UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
- Special Political and Decolonization Committee (SPECPOL)
- Committee of Social, Cultural and Humanitarian (SOCHUM)
There are many other committees as well that may not have any direct relevance to UN’s functioning such as The Arab League, NATO, US Security Council, ASEAN etc. Most MUN conferences in Pakistan do not host non-traditional committees and focus on UN itself.
Having experienced ZABMUN 2011 personally as a Delegate of Chile, representing the country’s viewpoints in the committee of Human Rights (UNHRC), I came to a certain understanding about MUN conferences.
What MUN teaches you?
A good MUN conference will teach you:
– To speak your mind
– Research well
– Learn diplomacy
– Gain allies
– Defend your viewpoint/your country’s viewpoint
– Argue your case
– Form alliances
– Learn how international politics/diplomacy takes place
– Meet students with similar interests from around the country/region/globe
And much more as the advantages of MUN conference are never ending. That said, not every MUN conference is good and it will not necessarily teach what you are looking for. A MUN conference may:
– Not give accurate picture of how UN functions
– Not give you an understanding of the impact of your words/actions if you really were a Delegate at UN
– Not provide you with learning opportunities if overall quality of participants is low or worse yet, very low
– Not satisfy you in case the ‘Chair’ of the committee is biased
– Frustrating if a Delegate of an important country for the committee is completely clueless and unprepared
– Cause confusion if those who are suppose to be your allies are against you and those who are suppose to be against you are acting as your allies
– Not prove fruitful if the committee wastes time discussing topics that do not concern them
For any MUN conference it is very important to have a good participants and strong chair. Just imagine Israel in UNHRC and how it defends itself and its viewpoint. As a Delegate of any country you would certainly expect Arab nations and many others to practically gang up on Israel in MUN for Human Rights violations, but if the delegate of Israel is completely clueless, refuses to answer or worse yet, says its sorry and will not violate Human Rights again, one can only hit his head on the wall.
Most MUNs have this problem and as this concept is relatively new, it will take time for the students to really get accustomed and prepare well for their roles. I came across some brilliant speakers and applaud them for the effort they did.
A student must experience at least one good MUN conference to learn some valuable lessons of life and learn to speak your mind will always help you wherever you go.