Model United Nations and Magdalen College School MUN 2018

Politics and international relations. What is it that springs first into your mind when you read those words? Is it Brexit and Britain’s decision to leave the EU? Is it Trump and his border walls and travel bans? Is it North Korea and Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons programme? Or is it Boris Johnson sliding down a zip wire waving two Union Flags?

Whatever it is, I think that it’s fair to say that currently, almost all the news we hear is about events on a global scale. I think it’s also fair to say that almost all of it isn’t good. But perhaps what’s most important is that almost all of us have an opinion on it. Who doesn’t have something to say when the President of the United States tweets something… surprising? The difference is, myself and a few other students from Larkmead are getting to experience what it’s like to be right in the middle of that and actually speak out on matters that are affecting people’s lives all around the world – at MUN.

So, what is MUN? MUN stands for Model United Nations, and, to be frank, it does what it says on the tin. The real United Nations is an organisation which almost every country is part of that aims to solve crises and set down solution to problems which are a concern to people worldwide – either because it effects them or because other people are in dire need of their help. At Model United Nations, we as students take the place of the delegates at the real UN and represent a country and its views in the debates surrounding what should be done to solve these issues. For example, if we were aiming to create a plan of how to put an end to the tension created by the North Korean nuclear weapons programme, I might have to argue from the point of view of the USA while others take the positions of China, Russia or North Korea itself, for example. Each of us would want to protect our country’s interests but if we don’t compromise, nothing will be done. We follow a formal process of submitting, debating, changing and voting on our solutions to the problem, and at the end of a meeting, we might have passed a ‘resolution’ (document describing a solution) that achieves what we aimed to do. Though, if you were representing North Korea, it would most likely not be in your favour!

Now you know how MUN works, you might be wondering what we get out of it. After all, all we’re doing is pretending to be countries talking about something we can’t change, right? Well, although our resolutions will never go very far in actually fixing the problems they describe, the mere process of writing and debating them is an amazing experience that I believe everyone can get something out of. Clearly, everyone involved learns a huge amount about the current state of global politics and international relations. If you have to think in the mindset of the Russian government on gay marriage, or think from the USA’s point of view on climate change, you might learn something new about why those countries think the way they do. Equally, if you have to argue against a country like Saudi Arabia on women’s rights, for example, you might learn how to logically express your opinions should you ever need to argue the same way in the future. Politics aside, MUN gives you a chance to improve your public speaking and debating skills and is a great thing to put on your CV. Though, for me, the best part of MUN has to be the people. Everyone is so welcoming and kind, and it’s so easy to have a laugh together when you’re in a group of like-minded people. MUN is almost completely student-led so we get the chance to be independent and decide what we want to spend our time doing at our meetings every week.

In addition to the weekly meetings, taking part in MUN gives you the opportunity to take part in conferences, like the one at Magdalen College School in Oxford last month, on the 23rd to the 25th of February. Conferences are similar to our usual meetings, except they are more formal and they last an entire weekend. There are several groups, called committees, which each focus on a specific area of debate, for example the Human Rights Committee or the Health and Environment Committee. We represent our given country at one of these committees for almost the whole weekend. Students at our MUN group were given the choice of representing Russia, Saudi Arabia or Australia at one of six possible committees, with the rest of the countries being allocated between nine other schools from around the country. Overall, there were over 250 students taking part. On the Friday, there was a short session in the the evening which consisted of an opening ceremony and a chance to meet with the other members of our committees and talk about our resolutions on the issues we would be debating. On Saturday, we spent the whole day debating the issues we had already prepared for and researched while on Sunday we were given crisis scenarios which we had to debate as if they were unfolding at that very moment – including one huge crisis in which everyone at the conference took part in one debate, called General Assembly. More information on what we were debating and how the weekend was structured can be found on http://mun.mcsoxford.org/ . It was my first conference, and it was an amazing experience – I feel like I improved so much over the course of the weekend by getting to debate with some really talented people. Everyone in my committee was really welcoming and supportive, and the relaxed atmosphere made me so much less nervous to stand up and talk. Despite this, the quality of debate was outstanding and everyone was able to contribute. Awards were given out at the end for the commended, highly commended and best delegates in each committee and delegation as a whole (a delegation is the entire group of people that represent one country across the different committees). Larkmead and St Helen’s and St Katherine’s joint group did incredibly well, picking up many awards including one best delegate in the Human Rights Committee. I myself was awarded highly commended delegate in my committee and was part of the delegation of Russia, which got commended delegation. Overall, I am so proud of our group and I can’t say enough times how much I enjoyed it and how much I learned. I can only urge you again to give MUN a try so you get the chance to go to a conference such as this one in the future!

If you’re in Year 10 or above and like the sound of MUN so far, feel free to come along and try it out – our meetings are every Tuesday from 4:10 until 5 o’clock over with a group at St Helens and St Katherine’s, and we usually meet in the LRC at around 4 before walking over to meet them. Otherwise you can email Miss Hewitt with any questions you may have.

Joseph Mutch