When Model United Nations becomes more than a simulation

Model United Nations is an academic and educational simulation of the United Nations. Bringing high school students together, they learn about diplomacy, international relations and the United Nations in general. By the end of the conference, each committee votes on a resolution that delineates the approach that should be taken to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

As part of the International Relations Council in my school, I participated in the Harvard-Model United Nations(HMUN) that took place last month in Boston, MA. I was representing Greece in the Human Rights Council.

I arrived at the conference with a beginner’s mindset: Though it was not my first MUN experience, HMUN -as many people warned me-was “one-of-a- kind”. Indeed, it was.

For the four days of the conference, I was discovering the wonders of diplomacy and politics while practicing my public speaking and lobbying skills. I grew so much that I decided to share the lessons I learned from this opportunity.

A liberal institution with realist drives

From the start, certain delegations monopolised the discussion, and before you have time to even take your seat, became the first decision-makers. Although these “bullies” -aka Japan, U.S.A. and China- claimed being cooperative and inclusive, they only cared about increasing their own power. Other countries such as Albania, Kazakhstan and Brazil were trying to be active participants in the process of resolution writing. No matter how inventive their ideas were, they were marginalised from the conversation. Similarly, the small countries, completely forgotten, gave up easily and remained silent for the rest of the debate. Their presence was only noticed when the voting procedure took place, and they allied with either one of the two Blocs: U.S.A. or China (depending on who was faster in convincing them to vote for their resolution).
Connecting the pieces together, we can easily discern the paradox in the United Nations and the conference dynamics: What is supposed to be a platform for “liberal”, collaborative and exhaustive discourse soon becomes the playground for the most powerful countries to exert their authority, thus exposing the world’s realist side.

The resolution reflects the strategy of powerful countries

Building off my previous point, it is highly predictable that the resolution would be owned by the monopolising countries. Indeed, the solutions were influenced by these nations’ policies and worked hand-in-hand with their agendas. Our topic was “Institutionalised Racism in Design and Practice”. One of the prominent aspects of racism is xenophobia against migrants in European countries. Although many “small” delegations were heavily affected by this issue, and earnestly insisted on addressing it, only the solutions proposed by the U.S.A. and Japan ended up passing. Looking closer at their resolution, you can easily notice their strategy of “We are not treating the problem, we’re just showing the world we are doing something”.

People listen to your voice, not your ideas

At the awards ceremony (which surprisingly was the main motive for most of the participants), I was personally surprised/disappointed with the selection of Best and Outstanding Delegates. The winners of the prizes were undoubtedly great public speakers. Nonetheless, the content of the speeches itself was of utmost vacancy and absurdity. Unfortunately, the audience does not care about how constructive and original your contribution is, but rather on how pleasant it sounds to the ears. This abridges the power of the message to the power of the voice, which is distressing in the world of diplomacy.

All things considered, Harvard-MUN was a very unique and eye-opening experience as it introduced me to the “real business”: The maze of diplomacy and international relations. Even though I had to learn the hard way, I grew during these four days and developed life-long skills. Will I come back again? Definitely. Will I adopt a realist ideology in order to ensure an influential position? Most probably.