Around the beginning of March I signed on to do the Concordia Model United Nations Conference 2021. It was one of the biggest learning curves I have ever done in my school career. We do have a Model UN club within the school, but it is relatively new and has never done a conference before as a delegation. I really wanted to see how an actual conference works so I decided to sign up to one and see what happened.
To clarify, Model UN gives students the ability to participate in organised debates on real world and current topics. You represent a country (usually not your own) and join a General Assembly, Specialised Agency, or a Crisis Committee and discuss the relative topic(s) chosen for that conference. It is aimed to be set up near enough exactly as the UN will normally have debates. This gives a professional and controlled atmosphere where we lay out ideas and beliefs. The fact we don’t really represent our own countries develops research skills and debate skills, as you may, personally, fundamentally disagree with a specific countries’ stance on a topic, but you have to act a representative of that country and have to defend said stance.
As mentioned, I had never done a conference before, so I knew the basics when it came to the debating and research, but I realised I had to know much more than that if I were to perform well at this type of conference, where this may be another delegate’s 5th conference. I was selected as a delegate of the Netherlands on the Sixth Committee: Legal. First, I had to understand what the Sixth Committee: Legal was (the Conference itself provided the background guide that was so helpful so that wasn’t too difficult) and the Netherlands’ own stance on protecting petitions and protests and the rule of law domestically and internationally. Then I had to write what is called a position paper on both topics, with citations in Chicago style. This, alone was a challenge as I had to learn how to citate, but with help from Mr Maund, our head of MUN, Mr Donovan, and countless websites I eventually figured it out, how to citate and the language required to write a position paper.
Then, after all of that was sorted out I turned to researching past solutions and tried to view them from The Netherlands’ point of view, it was kind of hard, as the topics were so vague, but it worked out and I had a few ideas. But then I started researching what happens at these conferences, and it wasn’t what I expected. I had to learn, what felt like, a whole new language, for example: “Motion to set the agenda,”; “Motion for a moderated/unmoderated caucus,”; “Motion for a round robin”. It was entirely new, but there are some great YouTube videos, and the delegate training provided at the conference was excellent.
What I also learned was that these conferences are not like other experiences I had done in the past, people were there in essence, to compete. It can get very competitive. Each delegate can compete to have, a Verbal Mention, Honourable Mention, Outstanding Delegate, or Best Delegate (in order of least to most prestigious). There was also awards for delegations. There was also an element of lobbying and persuasion, you had to talk to fellow delegates and persuade them to work with you to produce a working paper (essentially the aim of the conference is to develop a working paper, and if it passed then it becomes a draft resolution). Immediately, during the opening speeches at our first committee session, the networking began, I was approached by 2 other delegates and had a group of around 7 others, eventually 5 of us wrote the working paper, with 11 other signatories.
The Opening Ceremonies introduces us to the Secretariat and we were joined by a guest speaker from the UN, who gave us valuable insight into what it is like working in an organisation like the UN. After a few technical difficulties, that were handled with the utmost professionalism and promptly, we went into our first Committee session.
The Committee I was a part of was incredible, the dais, headed by Emmanuel Louis, were incredible, everything was explained for those who were new to MUN Conferences and ultimately gave me the confidence to speak up in caucuses. They were so friendly and approachable it made the whole experience so much easier. The committee was also incredible, there could not be a better committee to have started my first MUN conference. We all had such an incredible time and got on so well. We even had a “Motion to vibe” and had the bizarre debate on whether cereal is a soup. Eventually the Motion to Adjourn (i.e. formally end the committee session) failed. I cannot say enough good things about this committee or the dais (and they’re incredible background guide).
The Closing Ceremonies concluded the three-day conference with speeches from the secretariat and awards. I ended up winning the Best Delegate award for my committee. The conference was an honour to be a part of and I couldn’t recommend the experience enough. I learned all about foreign policy, debate skills, and networking amongst other things while having an amazing time. The whole journey was not without its stresses (mostly about language and citation) but was entirely worth it.