At the end of January, a group of Year 12s had the amazing opportunity of attending a Model United Nations conference in Bilbao. This consisted of a three day conference, organised by a local school, where students from all over the world came together to discus globally relevant and important topics such as international security, sustainable development and world poverty. Each person was assigned a country and a committee they would take part in, and had to both research their nation’s stance on certain subtopics within each committee as well as come up with potential solutions, discussing ideas and collaborating with other countries in attempts to put forward a resolution paper.
The whole trip kicked off with an opening ceremony in the beautiful main ceremonial hall of the University of Deusto, where speeches were made by the ambassadors of each country, as well as special guests such as Juan María Aburto, the mayor of Bilbao. After that, each delegate spent the next few days in their individual committee made up of around 40 people, discussing specific topics, and working alongside other nations to try and tackle the global problems raised, just like in the real UN. After some time debating, passing amendments and altering resolution papers so they would satisfy the needs of as many countries as possible, the topics were then discussed in the General Assembly, and this time everyone attending MUN was involved.
Aside from the more serious aspects of the conference, there were also moments of laughter and fun, like the gossip box, where people sent anonymous messages which were read at the end of the day, or the embarrassing dances and songs delegates had to perform if they arrived late to their committee. The weekend was also a wonderful opportunity to visit the city of Bilbao and some of its major landmarks such as the Guggenheim. Overall the experience was very fulfilling and some Runnymede delegates even won certificates despite it being their first ever conference.
The Runnymede MUN club has many plans for the upcoming years. After such a successful trip the club wants to continue hosting meetings where current affairs are discussed, and are hoping to organise another trip to a conference later this year. It also wants to find ways to involve more students in the school, especially those in the younger years, as they think all the skills developed through MUN such as debating and searching skills are very important.
I was in the Disarmament and International Security on behalf of Ghana. The three topics discussed were: the need for a New Iran Nuclear Deal, the Small Arms Trade and Proliferation, and Terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa. I found the Iran Nuclear Deal particularly interesting because it allowed me to get an insight on how nuclear armament is achieved and the importance it has for maintaining international peace. I even managed passed my resolution about the Small Arms Trade and Proliferation!
Picking out my favourite part of the trip is hard to choose. On one hand, it was very exciting to be able to debate current issues and to feel like a member of the UN. However, travelling with my classmates and visiting the city with them was also so much fun!. Overall, MUN Bilbao has been an unforgettable experience.
I think people should participate in MUN for many reasons. Firstly, it's an amazing opportunity that allows you to make friends from all over the world. Although it can get very tiring by the end of the trip, your hard work will pay off, whether it is by learning about current issues in the world, presenting your resolution in the General Assembly or receiving an award. Finally, MUN gives you great debating, research and public speaking skills and it's a useful thing to have on your CV.
I was representing Iceland on the Arctic Council, and was on the committee for the the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment.
We were discussing seismic exploration in the arctic offshore which was fascinating! It was really interesting to see all of the different things each country wanted. Sadly we weren't able to pass any resolutions in the end, despite debating for 3 days! This was because the Arctic Council operates by consensus; all of the states have to agree to pass resolutions or amendments. This is extremely difficult to do as the countries have such different views.
My favourite part of MUN was debating. Our committee (Arctic Council) was quite more informal and we could voice the opinions of our countries easily.
I think it's important for people to participate in MUN because it enables people to step outside of their comfort zone. I was so nervous before the conference but by the end I got the hang of it and I enjoyed myself so much! I decided to sign up because I wanted to experience diplomacy and a glimpse of what the real United Nations would be like (even though it is quite different from MUN).
I was given the unusual privilege of participating in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental organisation separate from the UN which discusses matters concerning the nations and indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The Council’s current agenda involved a discussion over the development of broadband connectivity and the question of seismic exploration in the Arctic offshore. It is fair to say that there is no other committee quite like it. In fact, there are only two MUN Arctic Councils in the world; the one at Bilbao and one in Norwich. It was a unique experience.
I specialised in broadband connectivity, which might bore some people, but for me it was rather interesting because my own father works in telecommunications. The issues discussed might be considered dull when compared to the exciting issues put forward in committees like the Security Council, but it was not the issue itself but the debates which followed that I found engaging. Representing the AIA, we managed to pass both of our resolutions practically unscathed, but failed to reach total consensus regarding our resolution and, as a result, no final draft was approved - one of the things that makes the Arctic Council so unusual is that resolutions require consensus on behalf of all Arctic States.
It’s hard to say what my favourite part of MUN was. Obviously the superficial aspects of it are always charming - the gossip box (whereby delegates anonymously voice their opinions about their peers), the prizes, the formality and the fancy clothes you wear to the meetings - they all add a certain glamour to the whole event, but for me, the bread and butter lies in the round-the-table debates and discussions, in practising the subtle and evasive art of diplomacy. Sending notes back and forth to different countries behind the scenes, trying to persuade them to support your resolution, carefully wording your amendments to try and satisfy everyone - these were the things I truly enjoyed.
I decided to join the MUN club because it has always been a pleasure to be given the chance to debate and speak in public. I leap at any chance to do so, especially if I can wear a suit. MUN is a fantastic way to hone your fluency, improvisational skills, social skills, and writing ability. My key takeaway from my experience in the Arctic Council is the realisation of the utmost importance of first impressions and choosing your words with care. The words one uses can make or break friendships, build or bust cooperation and consensus. These are realisations which can help you far beyond your academic life at school, and I am certain they will prove useful in the future.
I represented the Ghanaian delegation in the World Health Committee and we discussed the questions of Reforming the Global Pharmaceutical Industry, Combating the International Obesity and Diabetes Epidemic and the World Water Crisis. I specifically found the third topic (the World Water Crisis) very interesting, as it is a major issue which affects every country in the world. Currently, around 40% of the world population is affected by water scarcity, and it is predicted that by 2050, an additional 2.3 billion people will live in areas with severe water stress. I passed several amendments on this topic, which enabled us to create a resolution which aided the whole planet, and not only MEDCs.
My favourite part of MUN was the second day in our committees because everyone knew each other and spoke more, which made the day very enjoyable, and the gossip box was also hilarious!
I think it is very important for people to participate in the MUN conference as it gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, practice your debating and public speaking skills, learn about interesting topics and new countries, and overall, learn about how the real United Nations' conferences work.
Although you have to work a lot before going, it is totally worth it! Even if you prefer science subjects!
I represented Germany in the Economic & Social committee and my three topics were:
A: The question of a Economic Recovery of Countries Affected by Terrorism in the Middle East
B: The question of the Diminution of the Birth Index
C: The question of Reducing International Trade Barriers
Topic A was particularly interesting, considering the clashing interests of countries. The USA has imposed sanctions on Iran and both Russia and a few Western countries are fighting a war in Syria so the debate got pretty heated, especially after I brought those problems up and essentially insulted every country to spice up the debate a bit.
During the conference, I managed to gather enough support to reject a resolution I was strongly against. Although I didn’t present any resolutions, I passed amendments to every single resolution we discussed.
My favourite moment has to be the moment after the delegation of UAE failed to answer some questions I asked in a satisfactory manner so I accused it (in very formal UN english) of lacking the formality and politeness necessary to debate in the UN. She didn't know how to react and after that debating session, I got congratulated by several other delegates for that "incredible intervention" which felt great if I'm being honest.
I think MUN is important as it’s a good way to put into practice skills learned at school. Most importantly however, is the fact that one gets to meet new people from all kinds of schools and then debate against them in the conference and there is nothing that unites two people more than mutually roasting each other in front of strangers. I signed up because, since I had attended other conferences, I knew all of this and have made some great friends in previous MUNs.
Throughout the conference, I was representing Iceland on the subject of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, something that I was very excited about as it is so relevant to our current world, and something I feel very strongly about. The three topics that were discussed were Affordable and Clean Energy, Reducing Inequalities, and Sustainable and Clean Cities.
My favourite topic to discuss was by far the one on ‘Reducing Inequalities’. It was the most controversial topic and the one where everyone was the most engaged, often making shocking comments about sensitive subjects such as women’s and LGBT rights. It really tested everyone’s debating and diplomatic skills and, although everyone was exhausted by the end of it, it felt very rewarding to have been able to start a dialogue about certain social issues many people around the world suffer. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass any resolutions but despite this, I did manage to make a few amendments and it was fun experiencing the process of merging and discussing solutions.
There were many amazing moments, and it therefore makes it very hard to pick just one favourite. The debating process and having to defend your country’s views was interesting, and it definitely helped boost my confidence and speaking skills. It was also amazing to be able to meet so many different but like-minded people from all around the world, as it made me feel a bit more optimistic about the future, knowing that there are people who feel genuinely passionate about providing solutions to global problems, and overall making the world a better place.
I think participating in MUN conferences is important because it develops so many vital skills, especially when it comes to debating. At first, having to speak in front of everyone in my committee, often in an improvised way, making things up on the spot and having to sound as convincing as possible, was a very daunting idea (especially as I had never previously been to a MUN conference before) but, the more we got to know each other, the more confident everyone grew, and, being generally a shy and reserved person, this for me was the biggest thing I took away from the trip.