The Model United Nations Culture – Reality or a Facade?

Model United Nations, commonly known as MUNs in everyday language, have gained quite some popularity in recent years. People in vast numbers tend to participate in these conferences, held by various colleges and schools across the country. Inspired from the concept of functioning of the UNO (United Nations Organization), the concept of an MUN is to cater to a large population and help them understand world problems from a larger and broader perspective, thus making them think diplomatically and analytically towards finding solutions to these problems on a larger scale.

So the format of MUNs throughout the country is more or less the same. The conference simulates various committees, that may or may not be UN organizations, but are important in terms of discussion of world problems. Various countries and portfolios, represented by delegates are simulated in these committees. There is intense debating covered over a period of 2 or 3 days, wherein delegates, representing their respective country/portfolio, take various stands in terms of their allotment, and debate formally over matters of serious importance.

MUNs have various aspects to it. One can participate as delegate, one can be in the organizing, or a part of the Executive Board (the Chairs, Vice-Chairs, Rapporteur, Scribes of various committees). Every aspect provides a completely different experience altogether. Being a part of MUNs has become very common, especially in cities like Delhi, and the Delhi circuit of MUN’s have come a long way in terms of quality and development of the concept of MUNs.

Model United NationsBut the question that arises is that, do these MUNs lead to quality level debating, or have these been reduced to ‘which college organizes the best MUN’ or ‘I have done 50 MUNs, how many have you done?’ 50 MUNs is great, only if it teaches us something valuable, and helps us be more sensitive to world issues. Otherwise the concept of an MUN becomes reduced only to a few awards and a braggadocio concept. On the other hand, MUNs are an amazing platform not only to meet people (and eat good food), but also help in confidence building in terms of speaking and development of one’s personality. It gives school children, for example, exposure at a college level, and many a times, the school kids do so much better than the college kids! MUNs prove to be an amazing platform for quality level debating and providing a deeper understanding of issues otherwise unknown to many. MUNs require intensive research work, which not only increases awareness, but provides an in depth analysis and understanding of various aspects of world politics diplomacy. Hence it has its various perks as well.

Concerning this, we consulted a few people who have been in this circuit for long, and have explored all aspects of the same. Their experience and comments on the issue have provided us a valuable insight of whether MUNs involve quality level debates nowadays, or have been reduced to ‘talking shops’ and/or ‘money-centered conferences’.

“MUNs and Youth Parliaments are probably the most popular debating formats in the Delhi University Circuit today. Having been closely associated with the format for over 2 years now, I can certainly say that there are multiple incentives that this format offers. Getting to debate real issues, in the real formats, with the real portfolios and stakeholders rightly put in the form of committees, is something that makes up for the very essence of debating.

During the past 2 years, I have witnessed how competitive this format has grown into. Today, we have multiple conferences being organized on same dates and the level of debate has literally gone beyond the level of a normal debating competition out there. Agendas are gradually becoming more technical and more legal in nature, and as a consequence, the substantial value of the discourse rises. Unlike other debating formats, this is something that has gone beyond the NCR tag and has actually managed to establish itself in small cities out there.

However, the impact of this culture is wide, and it is not just positive in nature. This format has a lot of money involved and thus, it becomes very important for the new comers to choose wisely where they want to invest their money and time. Multiple conferences are organized every week and the level of accountability has dipped down dangerously, mostly because of independently organized conferences that have no allegiance to any institution.

The format offers maximum scope of learning if done honestly. Interestingly, the learning goes much beyond public speaking and covers a comprehensive understanding of research, diplomacy and governance.”

-Yashdeep (Former President at The Debating Society of a DU College)

“I see MUNs as not just another ECA, but as part of the larger exercise of nation building. Here’s one activity that is not about simply debating, or simple researching or simply presentation: It’s about combining all of those things into one, and using that amalgam to negotiate. This is a skill we need not just as successful individuals, but one that every nation needs to have good diplomatic ties with nations around the world. MUNs hence are as real as that.

I find it really ironical: The dubbing of an activity most real to life as ‘nothing more than a show’ by people who’ve perhaps known nothing other than the same old traditional, rather dumbing activity of debate.

MUNs are real, they are challenging and more than anything, they open your eyes fully to the world around you. It is hence that I strive for such a sculpting activity as an MUN.

In the recent days, there has been a general decrease in the level of discussions at the average MUN. I remember my first MUN back in school time when we had spent more than a month researching the agenda, and still felt that the research was wanting. Today the scene’s somewhat different. Because of the rise in the number of MUN conferences across circuits, the dilution in its standards was perhaps inevitable.

Having  said that, there is now a surge again ‘to go back to old school days of MUNs’ by raising the bar high.  And being an optimist at heart, I ardently desire and hope this will take the circuit to even higher heights.”

-Anna (Former Secretary General at The Ramjas Model United Nations Conference; Has been a part of the Executive Board of various MUN conferences)

MUNs are thus something that can never go out of fashion. There will always be million problems to ponder, and millions of MUNs to discuss the same. This so called MUN culture is hence a healthy once, moving towards defining Model UN in much broader ways in the future.

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