Model United Nations Conference 2016
Cori Reid / Assistant Editor
Denver, COLO-Manhattan, NY: Late Saturday night on Mar. 19, eleven Western students arrived at Denver International Airport to board a red-eye flight to take them to New York City. By the time the weary team returned to Colorado, they brought the award of “Distinguished Delegation” back with them to Western, placing them in the top 20% of schools represented at this year’s Model UN conference.
National Model United Nations (NMUN) is a week-long conference designed for colleges across the globe to take part in a simulation of the United Nations (UN). Each school is assigned a country to represent. In the months leading up to the conference, it is that school’s job to learn about their country’s position and policies regarding specific issues. NMUN splits up the delegations, placing them on separate committees to model the true workings of the UN.
Western had a seat on seven different committees including: General Assembly (GA) 1, GA 2, GA 4, Program of Action of Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA SALW), Security Council B, UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and UN Environment Program (UNEP). NMUN is a truly international conference where Western was competing and working alongside students from across the world, including many schools from Europe, Asia, and South America who helped Western students along the way.
Each committee is given three topics to research and craft a position paper on before the conference begins. These papers have a two page limit, and the delegates have to concisely summarize their countries specific views on these issues. These papers become the basis of the conference and determine how the delegates will work with other countries, as well as which countries they will find allies in.
Security Council works a little differently. The council also creates a position paper on their given topics; however they do not often discuss these papers; instead they are given a “crisis situation” and have to work with the other countries delegates to form solutions that will be the best short and long term plan for everyone involved. Western’s delegates, Jade Gale and Dante Velez, who served on Security Council B were awarded with an “Outstanding Position Paper Award.”
Conference sessions were held all day long and would switch from formal to informal sessions. During formal sessions the Dias (the governing body of the committee) was in charge of running the meeting efficiently and effectively. After about twenty minutes of formal session, involving speeches and lobbying for support, delegates would typically motion to break to an informal session, where they would discuss solutions and write working papers. Working papers are informal draft resolutions (the equivalent of bills or laws passed in our government) typically written by a team of multiple delegates from a wide span of countries addressing the given topics.
Once the team of delegates feels their paper is ready, they submit it to the Dias who reviews all of the papers, gives suggestions for formatting and technical information and sees if there are two (or more) papers that are similar enough to be merged. If there are papers that can merge, the Dias will discuss with each group that a merge should occur. Once the groups that merge feel comfortable with their papers, they will resubmit them to the Dias who then acknowledges the papers as a draft resolution rather than a working paper. Once a paper is recognized as a draft resolution it can be mentioned and referred to in speeches back in the formal sessions in preparation for finding support in the voting session.
The voting session occurred on Wednesday afternoon and was closed to all guests and faculty advisors. Voting is run by the Dias and can either be done by a rollcall vote, which involves calling on each individual country to give their vote, or voting by majority, where delegates raise their placards to vote for or against the different draft resolutions.
Each team has either a faculty advisor, head delegate, or both. Dr. Maria Struble is the faculty advisor of the NMUN team. Western’s head delegate was senior Taylor Cull, who has attended two conferences before.
Western represented the African country of Malawi. Malawi is a sub-Saharan country bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Lake Malawi. Malawi is a developing country with a lack of infrastructure, and accusations of a corrupt government. Only 7% of the population has access to reliable electricity, and the country has been on the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries since the list was created in the late 1960’s.
The team arrived in the Big Apple on Sunday morning in time to catch the sunrise. They explored the city and reconvened at the Sheraton Hotel at Times Square to review materials before the opening ceremony. Dr. Struble gave the team one last pep talk before the intensive week.
The opening ceremony was filled with inspirational speakers challenging the delegates to solve the world’s biggest issues in the week ahead. Sessions began immediately after the adjournment of the opening ceremony, the team scattered to their appropriate committees, and the work began. Sunday night was filled with discussion of the topic order for the week. Delegates spoke in front of their committees and persuaded other countries on what would make the best agenda. The discussion was based over what the first topic should be because typically, due to the time constraint at the conference, committees will only discuss one topic. Meetings adjourned Sunday evening, Western’s team debriefed and prepared for the long days ahead.
Monday morning the main topic from Sunday night was discussed and delegates began forming their working papers. Sessions ran long, and the delegates worked hard to produce quality papers within the rushed deadline. Several of the Western delegates gave speeches throughout the day, convincing many other countries to join them on their working papers.
Tuesday morning was different. The mood was somber, there was news of a terrorist attack in Brussels, and the European delegates were feeling the loss of yet another attack. Typically at NMUN the agenda is not broken from and as far as the delegates in the conference know, real world time ends. The agenda was broken during the Programme of Action Small Arms and Light Weapons morning formal session when the Dias was allowed by the Secretary General to have a moment of silence to respect the victims of the attack. The day then commenced as normal and delegates resumed work on their working papers once they received their edits from the Dias.
Wednesday was a shorter day, by around 11am the majority of the working papers had been transformed into Draft Resolutions, and voting occurred that afternoon.
Thursday was the closing day of the conference, where the delegates got to visit the UN headquarters and sit where the country they were representing sits. There was a closing ceremony, and awards were announced.
The conference was officially over, the team left feeling proud and accomplished.
Christian Kerr represented Western alongside Lozen Miller on General Assembly 4. He is a sophomore, double major in Politics and Government, and History. He is also an avid runner. “The conference was a lot of fun,” he said. Kerr and Miller worked on separate working papers and both ended up passing by the end of the conference. “The most useful thing wasn’t necessarily the research or the topic but the practice of collaborating with that many people and then merging papers with more people, and working with people whose first language isn’t English,” said Kerry. It was more about the process and not the end result. People should care about the UN because the UN is the best chance we have in the world to solve problems diplomatically. For all of the problems that the UN has, it still manages to solve issues diplomatically.”
Joey Thomas and Micaela Poe served on UNEP. Thomas is a Senior and Biology major who has a passion for politics. “I had done Model UN in grade school and high school, and politics is a hobby for me. It was a great opportunity to get outside of Hurst Hall and expand my breadth of knowledge. The UN represents the greatest achievement of humanity, a collaborative body who represents the entirety of the world (or at least most of it). It works to create resolutions that encompass the perspectives of all cultures and nations.”
Warren Knutson served on the General Assembly First Committee. “The topics before the committee were: cybersecurity and protecting against cyber warfare, the threat of transnational organize crime to international security, and efforts to control weapons of mass destruction. I spent the majority of the time talking about the threat of transnational organized crime to international security. I joined the Model UN for a variety of reasons. First I wanted to get involved on campus, and this program offered a great opportunity for me. Second, I am passionate about politics, and being able to be put in a simulation that involves making policy changes that effect the world is an incredible opportunity. The UN is important, because they are people that are in charge of making changes that are aimed at helping the whole world. In most cases they come together to try and create a world that is better than it is now. Involvement in the Model UN gives an insight into what challenges the UN faces, and is a great opportunity, to get insight to what the UN finds as important issues right now.”
Mandie Little is a sociology major in her junior year. “My committee was United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). We discussed the topic of Education for all: Strengthening rural education. I joined the Model UN because it was out of my comfort zone and something that I was not previously knowledgeable about. I wanted to learn and experience something new. I saw first-hand how many great minds can come together to solve big issues that face the world. It truly does take many different cultures and backgrounds to truly see what is possible, and where we can go. The work of the United Nations is very important to us all. They tackle the big issues that often seem unsolvable.”