Model United Nations
Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an educational simulation and/or academic competition in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations. MUN involves and teaches research, public speaking, debating, and writing skills, in addition to critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities. Usually an extracurricular activity, some schools also offer Model UN as a class.
Participants in Model UN conferences, referred to as delegates, are placed in committees and assigned countries, or occasionally other organizations or political figures, to represent. They are presented with their assignments in advance, along with a topic or topics that their committee will discuss. Delegates conduct research before conferences and formulate positions that they will then debate with their fellow delegates in committee. At the end of a conference, the best-performing delegates in each committee are sometimes recognized with awards.
Model UN participants include students at the middle school, high school, and college/university levels, with most conferences catering to just one of these three levels (high school and college conferences being most common). Delegates usually attend conferences together as delegations sent by their respective schools' or universities' Model UN clubs, though some delegates attend conferences independently.
- 1 History
- 2 Conference
- 3 Committees
- 4 Organization
- 5 Model UN by region and country
- 6 Notable participants
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Model UN began as a series of student-led Model League of Nations simulations. It is believed that the first Model League of Nations conferences were held in the 1920s, before transitioning to Model UN after the formation of the League's successor organization, the United Nations, in 1945. Today, some Model UN conferences include simulations of the League of Nations among their committee offerings.
It is disputed which conference was the first Model UN conference held in the world, with the major claimants being Berkeley Model United Nations (BMUN), Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN), and National Model United Nations (NMUN NY). However, it is clear that the first was held some time in the early 1950s.
In recent decades, Model UN has spread to East and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa, with major conference organizers such as Harvard and THIMUN establishing additional conferences in these regions to meet burgeoning demand. The Ivy League Model United Nations, an arm of the Model UN at the University of Pennsylvania, hosts conferences for high-school-aged delegates in India and China, as well.
In order to maintain decorum, most Model UN committees use parliamentary procedure derived from Robert's Rules of Order. However most crisis committees forgo the formality of parliamentary procedure so as to ensure smoother operation. In addition, recently the United Nations has spearheaded efforts to introduce new Model UN rules of procedure that are more closely aligned with those used by the actual UN. Since there is no governing body for MUNs, each conference differs in the rules of procedure. The following rules of procedure apply to general MUNs but may not apply to every MUN:
MUNs are run by a group of administrators known as the dais. A dais is headed by a Secretary-General. Each committee usually has a chair (also known as moderator), a member of the dais that enforces the rules of procedure. A delegate may request the committee as a whole to perform a particular action; this is known as a motion. Documents aiming to address the issue of the committee are known as resolutions and are voted for ratification.
MUN committees can be divided into three general sessions: formal debate, moderated caucus, and unmoderated caucus. In a formal debate, the staff maintains a list of speakers and the delegates follow the order written on the 'speaker list'. Speakers may be added to the speaker list by raising their placards or sending a note to the chair. During this time, delegates talk to the entire committee. They make speeches, answer questions, and debate on resolutions and amendments. If there are no other motions, the committee goes back to formal debate by default. There is usually a time limit. In a moderated caucus, the committee goes into a recess and the rules of procedure are suspended. Anyone may speak if recognized by the chair. A vote on a motion is necessary to go into a moderated caucus. There is a comparatively shorter time limit per speech. In an unmoderated caucus, the delegates informally meet with other delegates and the staff for discussions
Resolutions are the basis of all debate. They are considered the final results of conversations, writings, and negotiations. Resolutions must go through a draft, approval by the dais, and consequent debate and modification.
Traditionally, English has been the official and working language of most conferences, but, as Model UN has become more popular around the world, and as conferences in countries such as the United States have sought to appeal to underrepresented minorities (such as the Spanish-speaking community), committees using languages other than English, or which are bilingual, have become common. It should be noted, however, that this is still not yet a mainstream phenomenon, especially not in the United States, where most bilingual or Spanish language committees are found at conferences hosted in Puerto Rico or the South. Certain conferences will sometimes have selected committees run in languages related to their topics: for example, some Middle Eastern committees may be run in Arabic.
Nearly all Model UN conferences require delegates to wear Western business attire (WBA), as dressing professionally is an important way to show respect for the nation, organization, or individual one is representing, as well as for the rest of one’s committee. At some conferences delegates may be allowed to dress in a manner that reflects their committee and topic or their assigned nation, organization, or individual (provided their portrayals are accurate and appropriate), however this is less common.
The number of possible committees in Model UN is very large, limited only by the creativity and vision of conference organizers. In spite of differences in type and topic, most all committees share a few common characteristics. An example of this would be a dais (also known as a committee staff), which facilitates the smooth running of a committee. A dais is headed by a chair and/or director who presides over the committee, maintaining decorum, ensuring delegates follow the established procedures in committee, and guiding delegates through the resolution or directive-writing process. Another example of a common characteristic would be note passing, which allows delegates to discreetly communicate with one another and the dais during debate.
Committees in Model United Nations can be divided into a variety of categories, based on
- how they are run (traditional committees and crisis committees),
- when they occur (historical, contemporary, and futuristic committees),
- whether or not they are based on the real world (realistic and fantastical committees),
- who the principal actors are (countries, country subdivisions, organizations, or individuals),
- their powers (executive, legislative, judicial, etc.), and
- their area of focus (political, economic, social, etc.)
- their size (large, medium, small, etc.)
Committees at Model UN conferences can simulate a variety of bodies. From the more commonly simulated six main committees of the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Security Council, to corporate executive boards and national cabinets, Model UN committees reflect the diversity of the delegates who participate in them.
- General Assembly committees (such as DISEC, SPECPOL, and ECOFIN)
- Other UN bodies (such as the Security Council, the ICJ, and ECOSOC)
- Regional bodies (such as organs of NATO, the OAS, or the EU)
Model United Nations committees may be modern, historical, futuristic, or fantastical.
A special committee that does not have a parallel in the actual United Nations which deals with a crisis is known as a 'Crisis Committee.' In this committee, a crisis is given to a team of students and the teams must come up with solutions. The Crisis Committee focuses on a single historical event. The event may be fictional or non-fictional.
MUNs are usually organized by high school clubs or college clubs. Organizations that coordinate MUNs such as the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) are considered important organizing forces.
The United Nations hosts a site called the UN Cyberschoolbus which contains general information about MUNs such as: advice for researching papers for MUNs, starting MUN conferences, and methods to help finding MUNs. The program also has an international Internet forum in which participants can share information. Organizations such as the Osgood Center for International Studies have aided in the creation of MUNs.
Model UN by region and country
Although Model United Nations originated in the United States, MUN clubs and conferences are not isolated to that country. Rather, like the actual UN, Model UN is found in countries around the globe. Because Model UN is decentralized and has grown autonomously around the world, there are significant differences in how MUN is done between regions.
Model UN was first developed in the United States and it is where many of the world's most respected conferences are held. The United States has several regional centers of Model UN, including the East Coast (Northeast), the West Coast (California), the Midwest, the South, and Puerto Rico.
MUN in the Netherlands is almost entirely related to The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) conference, which includes over 3500 participants coming from 100 different countries. Although it is not located near the United-Nations Headquarters in New-York, it is one of the pioneer MUN conferences in the world, since it has been founded in 1968 and located in the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) world city of the Hague. A whole network of conferences is marked by its THIMUN affiliation, a label which basically describes the universality of the procedures that rule the conference and make it part of the UN recognized foundation. In 1995 the THIMUN Foundation was accredited as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. Also, the THIMUN has established its own conferences' network throughout time: THIMUN Qatar, THIMUN Singapore, THIMUN Online MUN (O-MUN) and THIMUN Latin America conferences have been set up from 2005.
Model United Nations is a huge event in the UK particularly at University level, with the larger University conferences including, London (LIMUN), Oxford (OXIMUN) and Reading (RUMUN). Reading University Model United Nations is attended by over 200 delegates from both national and international societies, with links to other universities in Belgium, Germany, France and Russia.
Model United Nations is quite popular in Germany, with numerous conferences held each year at the high school and college levels. Most conferences use English as their working language, though there are also bilingual conferences and committees.
Skagerak and Nesbru Model United Nations (SANMUN) was first organised in 2005 and has been the largest MUN conference in Scandinavia. Particularly high schools with International Baccalaureate are active in MUN.
The largest MUN conference in Latin America is the Brazil Model United Nation's (BRAMUN). Taking place in Salvador de Bahia for the past 5 years, BRAMUN has seen an increase in participants year by year. In 2015, it consisted of more than 600 participants, and 10 committees.
Model United Nations conferences in Australia are typically separated into tertiary and high school levels. At the high school level, the large majority of Model United Nations events are organised by the various state and territory branches of UN Youth Australia, or by the many branches of Rotary Australia. Tertiary events, typically running for three to four days, occur within several Australian states, and are timed to coincide with holiday periods in tertiary semesters.
Model United Nations first came to China in 1995, when the elite China Foreign Affairs University held the country's first collegiate MUN conference. Arriving in Chinese high schools in 2005, Model UN expanded rapidly. Peking University (PKU) students, after attending Harvard's HMUN, organized the first national Model UN conference for high school students in China. PKU's conference was initially backed by UNA-USA, however support was curtailed in 2010 due to the Great Recession.
Between 2005 and 2010, national MUN conferences such as those organized by PKU and the rivaling Fudan University in Shanghai drew the best high school students from around the country, who competed for limited spaces. Over time, lesser-known national conferences, as well as regional and even local conferences for high school students, began to develop and gradually spread to cities beyond Beijing and Shanghai.
In the realm of interscholastic MUN conferences in China, the widely acknowledged top 3 conferences are called "the ABC": Asian International Model United Nations held by rumored Peking University; Beijing Model United Nations held by China Foreign Affairs University, the forthgoer of MUN in China; and China National Model United Nations, held by United Nations Association of China, hosted in different cities annually.
Most MUN conferences in China are organized through private or academic enterprises, however some government-affiliated MUNs have also flourished, and recently, unofficial student-run grassroots conferences have begun to dominate the Chinese MUN scene.
The first Model United Nations conference in India was the Cathedral Model United Nations (CMUN) hosted by The Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai in 1996. Since then, Model UN has become increasingly popular in India, with an estimated 200 conferences held in the country in 2012 alone, most concentrated in Delhi, Mumbai, and South India. As major conference organizers have sought to expand internationally, India has seen the creation of such conferences as HMUN India, which in August 2011 became the first major conference established by a well-known group from outside India.
The first Model United Nations conference in Pakistan was the LUMUN hosted by Lahore University of Management and sciences. Since then, Model UN has become increasingly popular in Pakistan.
A high number of New Zealand high schools operate their own MUN events, with UN Youth New Zealand functioning as a managing organisation. UN Youth NZ also organises regional and national events, along with Aotearoa Youth Declaration, the Pacific Project, and New Zealand's THIMUN delegation.
Under the auspices of the Israeli Model UN Association, Israel has a vibrant scene of smaller, local conferences, with a focus on Crisis simulations. The international Israel Model United Nations conference was discontinued in 2014. Since then, two other international conferences have been founded in Israel, HolylandMUN and the TAUMUN Joint Cabinet Crisis.
The largest city in Turkey hosts particularly many High School level conferences, among them Kabatas Model United Nations Conference, Yeditepe Model United Nations Training and Development Conference, and ITU International Model United Nations.
Model UN builds skills that are useful in a wide variety of fields, with many participants having gone on to become leaders in diplomacy, politics, law and the media.
When I was an undergraduate at Stanford, I was twice a delegate to the Model United Nations and once a member of the Secretariat (when Stanford was the host). Students are enthusiastic role-players. We had to learn how nations and their representatives could work with others. We learned about how the United Nations (and international relations) worked in practice. The experience was valuable; the conferences were educational; and it was great fun. I am delighted to learn more than half a century later the Model UN is still going strong. I should think that in today’s great global conversation it offers ... students an even more valuable experience.—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
- Kiyotaka Akasaka, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
- Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
- Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
- Chelsea Clinton, former first daughter of the United States
- Tom Donilon, former National Security Advisor in the Obama administration
- Samuel L. Jackson, American actor and producer
- Suzan G. LeVine, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
- Stephen M. Schwebel, former judge and president of the International Court of Justice
- Ryan Seacrest, American television personality, best known as host of American Idol
- Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges in NATO
- Joel Stein, American journalist, former writer for the Los Angeles Times and regular contributor to Time
- George Stephanopoulos, television journalist and former adviser to U.S. President Bill Clinton
- Rainn Wilson, actor best known for playing Dwight Schrute on NBC's The Office
In popular culture
As Model UN has become more well-known, numerous references to the activity have appeared in popular culture. At times inaccurate, the depiction of or reference to the activity in the mainstream media and the entertainment industry, in such shows as Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, and Jeopardy, raises the profile of Model UN, and shows how it is perceived, while also shaping the perception of the public in the process.
- Winning London: A 2001 film starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Winning London is the only known blockbuster film to center on Model United Nations. As a result, it has become somewhat of a cult classic for Model UN teams around the world.
- Whiplash: A 2014 film starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, Whiplash has a brief reference of Model UN.
- "Sixteen Military Wives": A song by The Decemberists released in 2009, the accompanying music video is a caricature of Model UN, intended as a criticism of the Iraq War.
- "Geography of Global Conflict": A 2011 episode of Community in which Annie Edison forms a Model UN team with the study group.
- "The Treaty": A 2011 episode of Parks and Recreation in which Leslie Knope runs a simulation of the Security Council.
- The Simpsons: Springfield Elementary has a Model UN club and two episodes have featured the activity, notably the 1998 episode "Das Bus."
- Best Delegate
- Boys State
- Experiential learning
- Global civics
- Global Classrooms
- List of Model United Nations conferences
- Mock trial
- Model Arab League
- Model Congress
- Model Crime Investigations
- Model United States Senate
- Moot court
- United Nations
- United Nations Association of the United States of America
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