Have you ever thought about working at the United Nations? In case of any doubts, here is a small career-orienting test: If by the end of this article you become interested in it, leave aside any hesitations and apply! Model United Nations (MUN) are simulation conferences of the United Nations that recreate the atmosphere of the real conferences that take place either at the headquarters in New York or in the main offices around the world. It started back in 1946 and nowadays about 440 universities and over 6,500 students all over the world take part in such events. Of course, Germany and Bayern in particular are active proponents of these activities. One of the major conferences here is bayernMUN that is open to any student throughout the country.
Each year in February (this year from February 26th-28th, 2016) a small town near Nuremberg, Neuendettelsau, becomes a welcoming host of bayernMUN. This conference is organized by the FAU in cooperation with the non-profit organization “United Nations Society Nuremberg” and the “Diakonie Neuendettelsau”. So in 2016 I had the wonderful opportunity to attend this event and to figure out how the major decisions in the UN are usually made.
Why is it called ‘simulation’?
The answer to this question was brilliantly given by Oliver Paulick, Chairman of the conference, in his opening speech. According to him the word ‘simulation’ can have two meanings. One is connected with childhood. All children like to play games of different kinds that in one way or another resemble or simulate real life and are, in fact, miniature versions of real life games. Thus, the main purpose of such games is a “preparation for the real world”. The second meaning refers to role models. Simulation means creating an ideal prototype; that’s why MUN encourages its participants to be “better than the real thing, better than the UN”.
How does the conference look like?
The main purpose of MUN conference is not only to make students familiar with UN procedures but also to develop their soft skills like self-awareness, public-speaking and teamwork. You get a chance to practice working according to the Rules of Procedure and delivering speeches in front of a large committee. The whole conference is held in English (including the informal conversations between participants during breaks) so even if you are a foreigner you can participate in it. The participants are called delegates because they represent a certain country. The conference itself consists of the official opening with a few invited speakers, checking the list of the present countries (called ‘roll call’) and the committee sessions themselves. The latter are the places where the countries try to agree about certain questions and find the best solutions through discussions, speeches and voting. Looks simple but you should learn specific terms and greetings to be able to understand what is happening. Let me introduce a few basic ones:
- suspension (of the meeting) – a break during the meeting for informal discussions in small groups
- motion – a suggestion or proposal
- adoption of the agenda – countries agree on the order of the topics they are going to discuss
- “Present” or “Present and voting” – a standard response during the roll call. The second variant means that the country must vote each time and cannot abstain
- “Honorable Chair,…” or “Honorable Chair, Fellow/Esteemed Delegates” – each time a country wants to suggest or simply say anything it should begin with this greeting.
The agenda (list of topics) is also an important part of any conference. This year it included 3 main topics: UN sanctions, climate change and the rights of refugees. During the session any country may suggest to take a break in order to eat something (such breaks are not included in the schedule) and to communicate. An interesting fact, even during simulations all students act responsibly and don’t waste their time on chatting but actually talk about the important things.
Of course, there is a special dress code for such events, namely Western business attire, meaning that you have to wear an official suit or blazer with a blouse or shirt.
A bit of statistics…
Our university takes part in such simulations since 2008. Since this year a special project, FAUMUN, helps students to learn more about the UN as well as develop new skills such as social and communication skills, presentation and negotiation skills and other. BayernMUN 2016 invited delegates from different groups around Germany, namely LauMUN, FAUMUN, FAU-Blockseminar (FAUMUNsecondary programme), Universität der Deutschen Bundeswehr, Universität Passau and others. In total 46 countries were present at the conference. Each country was represented by two people, so there were about 92 delegates overall.
During the speech period each speaker had only 60 seconds to introduce his/her ideas. The simple majority (minimal number of votes to make a decision) of 23 votes could decide whether to approve some suggestion or not.For participation in bayernMUN you’ll have to pay some fees which may vary but in 2016 they were 69 euros and covered participation, conference materials, lunch (Saturday/Sunday), dinner (Friday/Saturday), snacks and beverages during sessions.
In most cases the next step is the National MUN in New York at the headquarters but this option is up to you. It depends on your personal willingness and financial situation. Usually to take part in bayernMUN you should have some basic knowledge about such events. That’s why it is very reasonable to begin with mini-MUN (mini conferences) at the FAU.
A perfect solution for the students of the FAU would be to join the FAUMUN project which offers a number of special trainings, seminars and mini-conferences. Registration period usually opens in May so you still have time to participate. For further information check their official website.
Hereby I confer upon you the title of a “delegate”!
And welcome to the family of the UN delegates!