SU Model United Nations Preps for Success
Suffolk University’s Model United Nations club started off the year with the ball rolling, acting as mentors in a one-day conference at Suffolk’s Sargent Hall in early October. Organized by the non-profit United Nations Association of Greater Boston, this event was meant to give middle school and high school students an introduction to the world of Model United Nations (MUN).
The kids were assigned countries from around the world, as in a typical MUN conference, and debated the topic of the current refugee crisis. Ten Suffolk students acted as mentors, aiding the kids with their public speaking skills and facilitating the discussions.
“It was an incredibly enriching experience to observe such bright and well-mannered kids discussing such an important topic,” said Omar Hernandez, president of Suffolk University Model United Nations (SUMUN). “We all regained a bit of faith in humanity.”
Mariana Soto, vice president of SUMUN (previously called Suffolk University International Affairs Association), was also impressed with the younger kids’ performance at the conference.
“It’s just really incredible to see the amount of ideas and the amount of progress that kids have,” said Soto, adding that MUN is “a good way to teach about international affairs.”
While this event only lasted one day, typical MUN conferences span at least three days. Each school participating sends student delegates, who are paired and assigned to a committee like in the real UN. Committees include the General Assembly, Security Council, UNICEF, economics, and more. The only difference between the actual UN conferences and MUN is that all the committees meet at the same time during collegiate conferences.
Before a conference, clubs are sent a randomly assigned country, committees, and around three topics. Students attending the conference must research their country’s viewpoints on each of the topics, and also prepare an ideal agenda. At the conference, however, other countries can vote to have a different topic discussed first – a topic you might not have dedicated much research time to.
“Because the conference is limited, there’s a limited amount of time, sometimes you don’t go past the third or second topic, even though there might be four,” said Soto, “so you have to really adapt.”
This year, SUMUN is increasing their preparation for each conference. Previously, meetings would be purely logistical discussions, and conferences would be won mostly off of individual knowledge and previous MUN experience. Now, meetings are more interactive, including activities to help members develop useful skills.
“We always try to come up with activities and ways that we can include the members, whether that’s a mock debate or little drills about public speaking,” said Soto. “It’s a lot of fun.”
One activity, called Debat-a-Ball, is where students throw a ball around and debate a topic. You state your argument or answer a question when you catch the ball. Other activities include actual debates in teams, or discussions about research for the next conference.
A lot of this positive change towards more productivity is thanks to a new executive board, who Hernandez says is one of the best they’ve ever had.
“They all know what they have to do and they do it very well,” he said. “They’re so smart.”
Soto says she enjoys working with her peers on the e-board because they’ve become good friends throughout their time with MUN. They hope to get the newer members of the club to feel just as comfortable with their peers through doing icebreakers and encouraging participation.
“I think we’re getting to that point… As time moves on, it’s easier to feel more comfortable,” she said.
The club members should be well prepared by the time their first conference starts. The Northeast Regional Model Arab League, held at Northeastern University, is quickly approaching – it starts this Friday, November 4th. Last week, the club skyped with Dr. Robert Rabil, one of the leading experts in Middle Eastern affairs, to help prepare.
This conference functions like any other MUN event, but only includes countries in the Arab League. Last year, Soto was representing the United Arab Emirates on a committee talking about the problem of economic diversification. If oil is driving the economy, the country will suffer when oil prices drop. Thus, what can they do to add diversity to their income? Their discussion also covered tourism, ISIS, and the refugee crisis.
This year, SUMUN will be representing Syria and Tunisia. When you have a larger delegation, like Suffolk does, you’re more likely to have a country that’s present in more committees, like Syria.
Since you have to reflect the standpoint of the country you are representing, sometimes you must go against what your home country thinks, or what your personal opinion is. For example, historically, Cuba would never agree with the United States.
“The past few years have shown that that might be changing in the future,” said Soto, “but for the longest time, if you were Cuba, you would just simply not agree with the US.”
Along with the Northeastern conference coming up, SUMUN will be able to show their diplomatic skills at the Harvard Model United Nations in February and the National Model United Nations in March. The national conference, held in New York and organized by the actual UN, is the largest conference, including around 3,000 delegates from all over the world.
Soto recalls the national conference as being very “intense,” with days stretching from 8 am to 11 pm, including a couple breaks for meals. Still, she said the international aspect made it very interesting.
At each conference, students have the opportunity to win honorable mentions or a “best delegate” award within each committee, which is usually 20 to 30 people.
“It’s very competitive, and when a conference is first starting, you’re always trying to prove to the committee that you’re the main delegate,” said Soto, describing her relationship with MUN as a “love-hate relationship.”
“It teaches you so much that it’s worth it,” she added.
Hernandez also loved the educational aspect of MUN, saying it’s great to meet so many people interested in world topics.
“You learn a lot from the people you surround yourself with,” he said.
Currently, SUMUN has around 20 members, including students from every year at Suffolk. They meet every Tuesday from 12:15 to 1:30 pm in Sawyer 1023.
“We have a great amount of people that are involved this year and we welcome whomever wants to join,” said Hernandez. “You learn so much from people at the club… They’re all so knowledgeable about the same topics or other topics related, so you make yourself a more well-rounded person.”