Sunday , November 12, 2017 - 12:00 AM
A few weeks ago, on oh-so-lucky Friday the 13th, I had the chance to attend my first Model United Nations competition, or MUN for short.
Some of you may be thinking, gee, that’s a really long name that means absolutely nothing to me, but don’t worry; you’re not alone. Model United Nations is exactly what its name says — a mock gathering of high schoolers who act in various United Nations positions after the style of a United Nations meeting.
At this point, I bet some of you are still wondering what, exactly, that means. I know I was. So, let me tell you a story.
The Model United Nations club at Bonneville High School got up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. recently to catch a bus to Brigham Young University. Upon arriving in Provo, all of us were directed into a huge room filled with more than 700 other students from schools across Utah.
To clarify, there are two levels of Model United Nations; the high school level — my level — and the college level, where university students compete in their own identical competitions across the United States.
It was these college MUN students who were hosting us the entire day, and as such they spent the first hour of our day explaining some rules and policies. After a few brief speeches — the first of many — we dispersed to our assigned rooms.
Mimicking real life
In all Model U.N. competitions, each school will have at least two countries it is representing, and for each school the students are split into different committees; two people per committee, per country, per school, per competition.
Confused yet? It gets worse.
These committees include the General Plenary Assembly, General Assembly Second, General Assembly Third, Human Rights Council, Commission on the Status of Women, World Health Organization, Security Council and Organization of American States (a Spanish-speaking only committee). These are the same committees that exist in the real United Nations. In fact, pretty much everything we did at BYU was as close as possible to a real U.N. session.
After our opening ceremonies and speeches, we all were dismissed to our separate committee rooms. I was representing Ecuador in the General Assembly Plenary with my friend, Daniel Stewart. We were directed toward a large room full of about 50 different countries and their representatives — and that was just for our committee.
A board of several college student MUNers (as we lovingly refer to them) directed the meeting, typing up schedules and directing speeches and proper decorum. After spending about half an hour debating, giving speeches about, and voting on whether we ought to allow speakers 30 or 45 seconds to speak, and another half hour on proper etiquette and order of speaking and such, we finally moved on to the real deal.
Cybersecurity and beyond
Our assembly was assigned to discuss the topics of “Addressing the Phenomenon of Foreign Terrorist Fighters” and “Evaluating the Importance of Cybersecurity.” Following yet another 45 minutes of speaking and debating, the assembly voted to discuss cybersecurity first.
Really, it’s no wonder that democratic gatherings like this are accused of taking so long to decide. We spent half our time just deciding what to even talk about!
Representatives from various countries, from the United States to Finland to Samoa, would get up and give speeches on what they thought the Model United Nations should do to address cybersecurity threats. After listening to approximately three to six speakers, the assembly would usually decide to hold a caucus. During caucuses, representatives would frantically try to visit as many other countries as they could, presenting their views, listening to yours, and trying to gauge how well they could convince you to join their side. Toward the latter half of the competition, groups of countries would band together and start to draft a resolution.
Now what, you ask, is a resolution? It’s basically an essay paper detailing what you think the group should do or suggest in order to fix whatever problem you’re addressing. The countries that decided to draft a resolution would gather signatories, basically the signatures and signed support of different countries, and sponsors, countries that agreed to promote, help write and speak about your resolution.
Finally, after scribbling down just a few more lines, desperately trying to snag a few more supporters, and promoting your resolution passionately, the assembly held a vote. Each resolution draft that had been approved as appropriately worded and formatted by the college MUNers was brought up on a big screen so that all the delegates could read it. Then, each country voted for, against, or abstained from voting for each resolution.
Opening new doors
For my own country of Ecuador, we liked most of the resolutions, and decided to be signatories on many of them, but for the couple of resolutions we didn’t like, Daniel and I took to finding that resolution’s supporters and trying to draw them away.
On the final vote, four of the six drafts were passed with a majority vote and made into various resolutions, like Resolution 1.3 “Trident” and such.
Points and achievements were then awarded to various countries for their accomplishments, participation, persuasive ability and resolution drafting, hence the “competition” part of Moden U.N. At last, tired, exhausted, but excited by our new experience, we headed back to Ogden on a 4:30 p.m. bus.
All in all, I had a great time. I enjoyed being able to see how the real United Nations and everything fit together. I thought that for all the time-consuming formalities, it really was pretty fun and was certainly a learning experience, and I can’t wait to go to the next session.
So, if you’re interested in politics and international relations, check Model United Nations out; you’ll be glad you did!
McKenzie Leininger is a sophomore at Bonneville High School who loves engineering, eating and writing. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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