The last month has been a busy period for our H1 and Key Stage 3 students who are involved in Model United Nations (or MUN as it is universally known), with two different conferences being held on the island. TAIMUN was held over three days of the Spring Break at the American School of Taichung, and TASMUN took place last weekend at Taipei American School.
For those who may not have experienced it before, MUN might appear to be rather a strange beast. It might seem to be a little like playing ‘doctors and nurses’, with young people pretending to be professionals that they are not. Students dress up in formal clothes, act in a role in which they represent a particular country, speak to each other using the linguistic norms of diplomats, and struggle with complex wording in resolutions and clauses that are not easy to read or write. On the surface, it is a little strange. However, the skills involved for all students taking part are real and valuable.
To be a successful delegate, students must learn both about the issue(s) they will be debating in their committee and their appointed country’s likely stance on the same issue(s). As a delegate in the conference, they will make an opening speech and lobby directly with other delegates, working to create resolutions that will command consensual support. They must be confident to stand and debate in a format in which they do not use the first person – instead referring to themselves as “this delegate” – or refer to anyone else directly. Rather than disagreeing with another delegate, they must instead ask questions of each other, which are termed ‘Points of Information’. If they wish to change a resolution, they must propose an amendment and persuade the rest of the room to vote for it. It is all very courteous, and far removed from discourse in regular life.
To give the uninitiated a sense of what MUN conferences are like, I asked Euan in H1 – a very experienced MUNer – to write a paragraph or two:
In the middle of a speech, you suddenly feel the urge to speak up and present what your country believes is the most rightful solution to alleviate the issue at hand. You raise your placard and the chair meets your eyes. “The delegate of Indonesia, you have been recognized.” Subsequently, the room of delegations falls silent to entertain your thoughts and your words. This is what being in a Model United Nations conference feels like, as well as being one of my favorite aspects of participating in MUN: the chance to speak your own ideas. Although many around me, and around you, may have the misconception that ‘MUN is just kids arguing at a music stand about something they can’t even change’, they are clearly wrong. MUN provides the perfect chance for you to think outside academic fields, and realistically engage in something that affects our future, what we are left to face in our adulthood. As future leaders, we have the responsibility to continue fighting issues that make our world flawed, and MUN is a chance to do so. While perhaps the debating done in a small MUN conference as teenage students won’t help in the short term, the arguments and points made during these conferences may well be one of the many solutions imposed in the future by fellow delegates sitting in your room, or maybe even you. Each and every one of us, as global citizens, has the obligation to continue improving the world, and this requires analysing the issues, thoroughly researching and critically thinking about what is best for each country.
Stereotypes of Generation Z are often that ‘we are on social media a little too much’ or ‘we take privileges for granted’; however, it is our ability to access knowledge with a few taps and the privileges that older generations have fought for that makes our generation that much stronger, and that much more needed to find solutions to global issues.
MUN is about preparing ourselves and our world for the future.
So MUN is all very strange, and also strangely inspiring. These young people take what they do seriously, and while they do so, they are also engaging with some of the thorniest issues that affect our world today, from global warming to the war in Yemen.
On a final note, I would like to give a few thanks to some people who have volunteered so much of their time to developing MUN within our school over the past couple of years. Two senior students – James in H4 and Celina in H3 – have dedicated many hours explaining MUN procedures to students unsure of what they are doing. Helen Gamble (that’s her in the top right of the photo on this blog!) comes up the mountain every Tuesday afternoon and works patiently with students, honing their arguments and reading their resolution drafts. She is not paid for this task, and she does it because she values the activity. She was a brilliant MUN delegate herself in her youth, and she has done much to ensure that TES students are as prepared for these conferences as she undoubtedly was.