When looking back at the year 2016, it can safely be said that there were a number of events that made it look like a turning point away from progress. In other words, 2016 had some crap points throughout. Apart from the deaths of a number of beloved idols and one unfortunate gorilla, the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union in what was thought to be the most politically unreasonable event of the year before the United States decided that they could do one better.
In these difficult times, it is more important than ever to keep up communication and to attempt to come to a solution. This is especially true for students, the generation that will shape the future. In order to hone vital skills, student life offers a number of opportunities. One of these is the Model United Nations, or MUN. Any MUN offers an unforgettable experience to a student wishing to participate and it gives a taste of what the world holds outside of university.
MUNs give students a unique opportunity to discuss important current events from a standpoint other than their own. In order to achieve this, students are assigned a country or individual politician and must then represent the assigned party’s opinions in an international committee or institution. This results in often ridiculous situations where students ferociously defend a standpoint which they personally do not share and may even be completely opposed to. This creates the opportunity for participants to realise and understand the position of their opponents and on a more general level to appreciate the diversity of opinions. The entire aim of the work done by students at an MUN is to come to a compromise between all parties and then present to the organisers a resolution or paper in which they outline what action they would take regarding a certain global crisis. Whilst the knowledge of the students in regards to the subject cannot be compared to that of real representatives, the proposed solutions and ideas are truly remarkable and reflect the appreciation of the students that they are indeed the future.
Apart from the committee sessions which grind on during the day and often leave the participants weary, there will be no time for sleep. The organisers of the MUN usually create an entire social program in order for the participants to enjoy the city they find themselves in and to get to know their colleagues on a more personal level. Recently, HamMUN 2016 wrapped up and several members of UNSA Maastricht attended, representing both delegates and the press. Here are some of the experiences of those members:
Fiona O’Hara – Press Member
Being a member of the press team at an MUN is a unique experience, in more ways than just the fact that you don’t have to pay a delegation fee. It is a great way to get a feel for the world of the UN through different eyes, not just from the perspective of one country in one committee. Your job as a press member is exactly what you would expect: reporting on the events taking place in the MUN, exciting debates, funny blunders, gossip, punishments, and sometimes (if the organisers don’t decide to censor you) the late night shenanigans of the socials. You travel between the committees, usually you are assigned at least 2 committees to cover, and the press room at a high pace; there is definitely a high intensity feeling running all around the conference, there is never a dull moment as a wannabe reporter.
I have only ever attended a MUN as a member of the press. I don’t find the delegate experience as my cup of tea, seeing as the idea of being a politician stresses me out more than anything; but reporting on their actions, that’s what I find exciting. At the 3 different MUN conferences I have had 3 very different experiences in the press team. Each head press has put their own spin on how we get words out there, which I think is the best part. Being a press member gives you a unique creative outlet, that lets you practice the kind of journalist you want to become, through honing your writing skills to composing the perfect tweet.
HamMUN was an amazing experience as a member of the Press Team. I covered the European Parliament and the G20, which both proved to be exciting committees to report on, especially considering Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen would be discussing Brexit in the EP (let’s just say I had plenty to write about…). From the strange bickering in the EP to the G20’s plans to colonise the moon, I was definitely kept busy and I had the most exciting MUN experience to date.
I would recommend MUNs to everyone, even if you don’t see yourself as a delegate. Before I ever went to an MUN, I did not see the appeal, but I gave it a shot and now I can safely say they have been the most incredible experiences I’ve had so far.
Sara Profeti – Human Rights Council
Are you a beginner MUNer or simply in need to get more debating courage? Fear no more! In the Human Rights Council Committee of HamMUN you will have the perfect chance to (re)learn rules and train your confidence. As a big committee, it has its perks: unbelievable cultural diversity, higher chance to encounter delegates dressed in school uniforms of debatable fashion taste, and guaranteed possibility to make fun of those who get completely lost in the debate or fall asleep. While this committee is usually made of a rough 90% of MUN-Virgins, expect to meet one or two experienced MUNers with their eyes on the awards, but this only adds to the complete MUN feel! So by now I hope you are convinced that if you look for a fun committee which is able to give you the complete picture of how your future MUNs will be, then you should definitely try it out!
Eszter Sailer – United Nations Environment Programme
Having experienced only one MUN as a Press member, I had my fair share of fear walking into the committee room. But just as the Human Rights Council, UNEP was made for beginners. Almost 100% of committee members raising their hand upon being asked if it was their first time at an MUN reassured me that I had nothing to fear of. Yet having said that, it is also true that you are the one responsible for how hard you make it for yourself.
Even as a beginner, you can aim for success and do everything in your power to get a working paper to become a resolution and even throw over the plans of more experienced MUNers. Or, like me, you can just sit back and relax, and observe the ins and outs of the committee; ‘see how the important people do it’. The tailored events for students in the evening does wear you out, no matter how much of a party-goer you are, so even if you want to do more input, it is okay if you do not manage to do so (hiding behind your scarf and not putting yourself on the general speakers list is a solution for example).
UNEP itself was extremely interesting to experience. Sure, once you get to the point where you are discussing a resolution, it can become boringly administrational and nitty-gritty, but those nitty-gritty details make up everyday life as well. It is important to pay attention to that too, and not just to the idealistic debates about solving desertification beforehand. Moreover, the fact that UNEP does not have any binding powers with its resolution, does not mean that ideas in the room are disregarded. It is important to find the committee’s way through the power organisation of the UN both internally and externally. It might not be the most exciting committee ever, however, ultimately, the environment is what we live in, the earth has to bear us and someone has to take care of it.
Whether you are an experienced MUNer, or a total newby, whether you want excitement or just a relaxed session where you can learn a lot, UNEP is a great place for that. Do not be afraid of using your voice and notes, but taking it easy is not a problem either. In the end it all boils down to having diplomatic fun.
Lena Bunselmeyer – Press Member
My very first MUN! For me, the experience began a week or so before the official start of the MUN. I was in a changing room of some store, sweating, desperate, admitting to myself that I had no idea what a goodpantsuit was actually supposed to look like. A week later, I was getting to Hamburg on a very long train ride, taking vague expectations with me as well as a business-casual wardrobe which definitely couldn’t reach the standard set by my fellow HamMUNers – but hey, I was press, right? Plus, I had sworn to myself that I would not try on any pants with a pleaded front any time soon.
Arriving at the conference, it took some time before I had a basic sense of orientation, and before I realized the importance of mobile internet for the weekend. Once I had found my group however, all the anxiety went away, and I got to meet a team of super sweet people which were always there to guide me through the experience from that moment onwards.
Generally, meeting so many new people at the conference and on the socials was so much fun, especially in the setting of the MUN. “Intense” is probably another good word to describe the experience – as press member, I was running back and forth during the sessions, which are interrupted by lunch at the Mensa and followed by a social, and after that there is usually only a couple hours left until one has to get up again and prepare for the following day.
Luckily, I was allocated to covering the “Crisis”. It was really not what I thought it would be: Instead of a minor political incident I got to see delegates trying to handle a humanitarian catastrophe on American soil, and I felt like it was the most exciting and bizarre thing at the entire conference. As press team member, you can barely miss out on anything in any case, since press delegates are the only ones who get constant access to extensive reports and funny observations on what is happening elsewhere at the conference.
Therefore, if you haven’t been to a conference yet and who would like an outsider’s perspective before becoming a delegate yourself, the press team is the place for you!