Everyone is suited up, high heels for girls and ties for boys, laptop in hand, discussing important contemporary issues. This is, in a few words, the general atmosphere of a Model United Nation (MUN).
But let’s start at the beginning; what is a MUN? Wikipedia tells us, “MUN is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about current events, topics in international relations, diplomacy and the United Nations agenda”. The participants are assigned a country, and have to play the role of a formal delegate, defending their nation’s positions and interests in a definite council.
What could be a more ideal place to learn how to represent a country then the UN headquarters in Geneva, commonly known as the “Palais des Nations”? Taking the opportunity of having such an institution in their city, the GIMUN association (Geneva International Model United Nations), every year they organize a simulation week at the UN headquarters. The goal is simple; discuss, debate, exchange, lobby, write resolutions and vote on them. In other words, be diplomats.
Before each MUN preparation is needed. You have to look for the actual policies of your country, the conventions it signed and ratified, and those it is opposed to. After understanding the general position, it’s time to write a “Position Paper” which summaries the research you’ve done on the topic, in the perspective of the nation you represent.
Then the funny part starts. Knowing precisely what is in your interest and what is against it, you can start lobbying and make alliances with delegates from other countries. Depending on your country, you’ll be on the side of China, or of the USA. Maybe even create your own circle and get along with the African Union. Everything is possible, sometimes surprising situations happen. I’ve seen the Chinese delegation shaking hands with the US ambassador, looking at Russia as if it was the devil in person. Or the Libyan delegate coming with weird sunglasses, imitating perfectly the gesture of its “leader” and talking with a very thick French accent. Did I say surprising?
Debate, argumentation and sometimes even fights give birth to a draft resolution, (occasionally more than just one). Each alliance will put into words the debate they were into, and present it in terms of laws and decrees. All the draft resolutions are then “on the table”, and a second wave of discussions can begin. Then comes the voting procedure; which one of the drafts is going to become a Resolution?
Each of those steps helps you understand how the UN works in reality; beyond all the mysterious ideas and prejudices we may have regarding it. You experience how difficult it can be initiate change on an international level. A MUN is also a very good opportunity to help increase your self-confidence. You have to take the floor, to talk in front of people and to make decisions. Its not usual, perhaps even difficult in some way.
Talking with people from all over the world, exchanging experiences, walking in the footsteps of real diplomats and ambassadors in the Palais des Nations gives you a unique chance, not only to know other people, but first and foremost also to know yourself.