Model United Nations, an educational simulation of the United Nations, has been teaching students the ways of diplomacy and developing their critical thinking skill since the 1920s.
Teenagers all over the world are given an opportunity to talk about major world issues, meet people from other countries, and cultivate important life skills, like public speaking.
Originally started as a student-run activity, MUN has since developed into a renowned academic activity available to students all over the globe.
Participants represent an assigned country or in special cases, a person, and are called “delegates.” They are sorted into different councils like the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or United Nations Human Rights Council. (UNHRC)
These councils have 1 to 2 topics that are discussed in the MUN, and delegates are given “briefings” containing information about those issues; origins, current state, different approaches to it. Delegates are prompted to do further research on the topic to prepare them for the conference. This research could include the stance the individual or country has on the topic, research into the pros and cons of the possible solutions, or even other viable solutions that were never thought of before.
In the committee sessions, students’ various skills are put to good use. Debate and public speaking skills, for one, are refined as delegates discuss and trade banter on the issues, trying to find the best possible answer to them, and working to convince other delegates also. These solutions become “resolutions,” and delegates work together in teams to come up with one and present them. That’s when the fun begins. Delegates may agree or disagree with resolutions, and the debate and negotiations truly come to life. Each delegate has a reason why they may or may not consider these resolutions, and it really puts things into perspective. During these debates, students’ critical thinking skills develop as they consider the risks and rewards of a possible solution, and decide if it’s worth a shot.
At each conference, delegates who give a great performance may also win the “best delegate award”. Many think it’s the delegates who talk often and are active that always win these awards, but there’s really more to it. Contributive delegates, those who show wonderful teamwork, and leadership skills are also considered, even if they aren’t so outspoken. It provides an opportunity for those who may stay out of the spotlight a chance to be recognised.
Inspiring the younger generation
Students worldwide are given the chance to express their views on current global issues and be part of something bigger than themselves. These students are enabled to prove themselves pioneers of future generations, to speak about matters that concern them that may have been considered “too mature” for them.
This is especially important because it leads to an improved awareness of the world around us, and many can confirm that after a MUN conference they felt more enlightened on the topics discussed. It’s an eye-opening experience and helps build the confidence of young people to voice and discuss topics that concern them.
One of my most memorable MUNs was President MUN in Jakarta. Me and two other members from my MUN club had been sorted into the crisis committee. We were initially nervous as we had only been to one or two MUNs, and some had been to none at all. In the end, it was definitely one of the conferences I had the most fun at.
I made unlikely friends from all over Indonesia and become close to them in the 3 days we spent at the conference, and the entire committee was quite comfortable with one another. Even now, we still stay in touch.
The crisis committee itself was unlike any other committee I’d ever been in. The situations kept changing every minute, and we had to quickly adapt to them. One of my seniors had told us that we could “die” in a crisis, and that definitely kept me on edge.
“Adapt to survive,” I’d say, if I were the dramatic type.
The rapidly changing situations challenged us all, and I learned to keep a clear head and how to deal with unexpected situations. I learnt the power of strategy, quick thinking, and analysis. It taught me the power of unity, to stand up for what we believed was right. Overall, the challenging crisis really emphasised the need for teamwork and strategy, and the whole “high stakes” atmosphere truly made the message stick.