MUN in the Air


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?

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17 thoughts on “MUN in the Air

  1. Hmmm…. LOL @ Youth Parliament. I’m glad that LUMUN still offers delegates and students the chance to actually get swept away in the role-play or “simulation” of different UN organisms, understanding how diplomacy works in practical life and real scenarios (all the while getting to interact with different people from different schools, different cities, with different hobbies) and getting to understand that we can all negotiate consensus and agreement despite our differences and opposing ideologies and interests…
    I was Committee Director for WHO (World Health Organization) in LUMUN 2007. You didn’t mention the Committee where you represented the Swiss Federation in 2007…
    And also, 2011 is already half gone. I don’t see any change coming any time soon… At least not any positive change that is meaningful or representative of the aspirations of our youth 😦

    1. Well, I think this youth has the potential to bring the change that would be meaningful. LUMUN 2007 and 2008 were both a good experience for me. The networking was amazing. Model UN made me realize I was in the wrong career path. Maha’s made a valid point though. Model UN is only designed for a certain socio-economic class. Efforts should be made it to subsidize it for the unprivileged. There’s another problem with Model UNs; be it Harvard MUN or LUMUN only about 10-15% of the delegates take the topics seriously, for others, it’s more about the after committee fun. The Youth Parliament is actually a forum that should be promoted. A young generation groomed for a particular function is more likely to perform better for that. That is why students are made to study a particular subject in phases. You can’t study Keynesian Economics without understanding the basics of economics can you? Or you can’t design or model a car without studying the engine basics.

      P.S Hello Shemrez, you won’t remember me but I am a mutual friend of Maaz and Umair 🙂 We talked about Media Shortcut in your hostel in 2008. Haha

      1. Maha’s “friend” made that point about MUN being polarized by a certain faction of the society. Omair. =)

    2. Shemrez, she was in HGC.

      And yes years will come and go. I find such declarations by the UN as attempts to dust the shelves without using a good cleaner for shine and smoothness. 2010 was the world year of Biodiversity. Conferences were conducted in Japan, Austria and many more countries. But I fail to comprehend the *ensuing consequence* of such large level investment. I believe in word-combative education and awareness spreading but what next is my question.

      I have attended British Council Active Citizen Programme, they at least try to keep a check on the students who endeavour to go to stage 2.

      Also I believe in Girl Guides and Boy Scouts and their works with the local community, villages in particular. In India, the UNDP has successfully rendered operations with teenage scouts to help them in spreading toilet-training and cleanliness measures. These youngsters give duty in village schools in recess and help the students wash hands and face before eating anything. Diarrhoea and common fever victims have decreased subsequently.

      In Pakistan, all community work in the Northern Areas is done through Girl Guides. Even in the government colleges PGGA (Pakistan Girl Guide Association) is working endlessly to provide some platform to the “real Pakistan youth” which truly needs mobilization.

      1. Maybe I missed that one, my explorer is show 8 posted comments out of the 9 it claims and this one would make it 10 :).

      2. I think it’s important to realize that while the UN tries to create international change, it’s not a supra-government and does not have enough regulatory powers. So real change does start at the grassroots level, BUT the ideals that the world agrees on are great guidelines towards that… True, the contribution of girl guides and boy scouts at the grassroots level should be commended! At the same time, everyday work by UNDP, UNESCO, WHO should not be underestimated either..

    3. I was in the Historical General Assembly (Aleena was my chair [I forgot her last name]).. It was my first mun ever so it was overwhelming but so much fun!

      As for change happening any time soon, even the smallest one is a meaningful difference in my opinion.. Just a move towards personal responsibility change of mindset should be a good start iA =)

  2. And Maha, congratulations on completing your article after such a long time. IMUN was a great experience. I agree with you on your argument about it being an educational exercise. If I take the contention forward I would say that our schools and colleges should introduce it in the course as a compulsory subject. Knowing the psyche of Pakistanis, anything that doesn’t provide an incentive in the form of “marks”, “appreciation by parents” or a pressure of trying not to fail, helps in absolving the heinous crime of participating in extra-curricular activities. =)

    I believe that this is a great exercise only if adapted to the culture and requirements of the country itself. Going towards the “next step i.e. internationalism” would require solving the internal country issues first. Our youth needs words and equipping them with confidence is the first step to go forward. I render that everyone has an opinion on every single issue we just need to channelize it.

    1. I actually agree that it should be offered as a class in school (not a compulsory one, but one that’s definitely part of the curriculum!).. That’s how it is in a lot of high schools in the US.. Only drawback is that students start treating it more like a game of marks and points, rather than treat it as a constructive learning activity…But definitely agree that extracurriculars deserve a LOT more attention than they are currently given in school!

      IMUN tried to do that with committees like the Pakistan National Assembly and National Crisis Cell… A healthy balance between internationalism and nationalism (not the literal meaning) would be great

  3. + Okay So in replying back to Shemrez I happen to post my comment 2 times extra. Kindly pardon my error. Technology and I have never been chums since its inception. =/

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