MUN in the Air
“France, you should really sign this resolution”; “Has any one of you seen Germany, I can’t find her?”; “Lebanon was right, we should really form a bloc”
Such conversation snippets are common in this conference room; possibly the only place where you’ll see students being referred to by country names. It also may as well be the sole platform where Iran and Israel have diplomatic negotiations with each other. You’ll listen to passionate debates with “delegates” huddled in a circle discussing a political crisis. You’ll drop in on heated tones during an “unmoderated caucus” where students try to come up with solutions. And at the end of it all, there will be some deep bonds of friendship. After all you can’t go through solving something as important as the Suez Canalcrisis (let’s say) in a Historical General Assembly without becoming friends!
Model United Nations is not just a debating exercise. It’s so much more. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MUN, it is an academic simulation of the United Nations that seeks to educate students about international relations and diplomacy, among other indispensable skills like public speaking. A growing phenomenon in Pakistan, Model United Nations conferences are held in all major cities in the country, with LUMUN (The Lahore University of Management Sciences’ premier MUN conference) being the largest. In Islamabad, the Model UN tradition is spread by annual conferences like SMAMUN, BMUN, IMUN and many others, showing a strong commitment to the ideals of diplomacy and peaceful conflict resolution.
For some of us, it’s love at first sight. It was LUMUN’07 and I was representing the Swiss Federation. The whole atmosphere was charged with adrenaline, with peers and youth who would typically seem apolitical in life, discussing issues of international importance, and developing a healthy political consciousness. What started off as a role-playing exercise soon turned into something deeper for me, and by the end of the 4-day conference, I was hooked.
Earlier this month, I was chairing at a conference, and after a few days of exhilarating debate, one of my friends asked me an introspective question that got me thinking about why I’m passionate about MUN in the first place. She was concerned about the value and purpose of the entire activity, and felt that maybe it was just elitist- limited to only a select group of people from a limited socio-economic class, but one that did not create any real change. But an important point to realize is that Model UN is an educational tool, not the final outcome. Articulate speech and debating for a cause are essential skills for the youth of today. The question is, what are you going to do after you have learned them? Are you going to use your abilities for the common good, or is winning a “best delegate” award your only end?
The UN has declared 2011 the International Year of Youth with the motto “Our Year, Our Voice”, with the “ideals of peace, freedom, progress and solidarity towards the promotion of youth development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals”. This signifies the importance of youth responsibility and their crucial role in a country’s development progress. As the youth ofPakistan, where do you see your role in the country’s development progress? Is 2011 the year when you will make a difference?