Let’s talk about the United Nations and youth diplomacy. No doubt, many of you have imagined yourself solving international issues, negotiating peace or defending your people’s interests in talks with other countries in the General Assembly. I know I have. And indeed, these days there are so many issues around us from armed conflict and terrorism to gender equality, access to education, or, at the very least, to clean water, that require more people working to solve them. But, for me at least, the United Nations has always remained this fabled place for a select few.
Model United Nations
Model United Nations or MUN is a special kind of student conference that unites education, diplomacy and lots of fun. Over the course of several days students – the delegates – come together to discuss global issues, pretending to be representatives of various countries. During the conference sessions it is the delegate’s responsibility to defend their country’s interests. The conference itself is very authentic: the discussions happen in accordance with UN rules and procedures, and the delegates have to reflect the real countries’ positions: a country like France is expected to support gender equality in the workforce while Saudi Arabia will probably not agree to it.
As a delegate, you become the authority figure on your country’s politics, discuss issues with other delegates and negotiate the actions the UN needs to take. The work is usually done within the themed committees of the general assembly, each dealing with its own set of topics. The process, while straightforward, is also incredibly nuanced: who is going to support your plan of action? How do you prevent other countries from tanking your resolution? Can you give other delegates what they want without undermining your own agenda? How to make it all work in just three days? As a delegate, you are responsible for finding balance between these and other factors while following the parliamentary procedure of the United Nations. The UN rules and procedures are used as rules of the game for the conference and regulate when you can speak, in what order, and how to define your committee’s order of business. Complex at first, it is easily learned and internalized by the attendees – something even the actual UN delegates cannot always do.
Why Model United Nations?
Model United Nations does not land you a job at the actual UN. That being said, it is the best way out there to navigate your way around the organization, acquire the skills essential for diplomatic work, and make meaningful connections. Historically, many of the attendees of MUNs around the world feel more comfortable starting careers in politics and civil service. That shy delegate on your committee? Chances are they are going to be a real ambassador five years down the road. The conferences always feature notable keynote speakers – councilors, foreign diplomats stationed in your country, international organizations officers looking to make connections with the youth. Sometimes if you’re lucky, an actual secretary general will attend your conference. In other words, a MUN conference is a great opportunity to network.
MUN is a great source of inspiration for the actual United Nations. Sounds bizarre, but Model United Nations sessions are almost always more productive than the real thing. On average, 90% of yearly MUN conferences around the world are able to produce meaningful resolutions, derived from original ideas to address global issues. Ever wondered why countries cannot just rid the oceans of plastic by converting their military fleets and dividing areas of responsibility? Get on a MUN committee and propose the solution! Original ideas usually make it all the way to the actual organization.
Finally, MUN is the best first step to learning the immensely complicated structure of the organization and figuring out the next step you need to take to be a part of the UN. MUN events often feature professional and career talks educating the attendees about the available opportunities like the Young Professionals’ Programme (YPP) or UN internships. They can help you get started on your professional path towards the United Nations, while the experience you get at the conference will make sure you’re one step ahead of the competition.
Why Should you participate in MUN?
While of course MUN is an enriching intellectual experience, it’s much more than that. A large component of MUN reinforces learning about the world in a fun, social and cultural way. Being a participant means that for a short period of time, you get to experience what it means to be a world leader and attempt to solve real world issues together with others. Throughout your time, you are allowed to bring your own ideas to the table and use your imagination to think creatively and critically about global affairs. MUN will give you a chance to explore your own interests and engage in issues which you’re passionate about. MUN may sound intimidating at first, but participating will help you gain self confidence by introducing you to public speaking, leadership, research, negotiation and collaboration in an environment which aims to help you thrive.