[By: Alena Nadia]
As the profile pictures of your friends and favourite social media influencers increasingly change into a screenshot of “Mattar blue” that has become synonymous with the struggles of Sudanese protesters caught in their capital city’s brutal crackdown, having an understanding of the role and influence that the United Nations has in global politics, has become key.
Taylor’s hosted its annual Model United Nations conference on the 28th to 30th June 2019 and it was a golden opportunity to really find out what MUN was about. Model United Nations, otherwise known as MUN, .is a student-run simulation of the United Nations where students—otherwise known as ‘delegates’ in the world of MUN—are educated on the intricacies of international relations. During the conference, delegates could actively participate by finding solutions to pressing global issues from the standpoint of an assigned country.
According to Yong Wenn Sern, Secretary-General of Taylor’s MUN, MUN was misconstrued as a “competitive debate,” but in reality, it is beyond just winning.
“In MUN, it’s more on testing your diplomacy and negotiating skills to ensure that your agenda is being agreed and passed with agreements from all parties,” explained Yong.
This year’s MUN conference aimed to push boundaries and facilitated an intellectually and academically challenging experience for participants with their councils and topics. Furthermore, it provided a wholesome social experience for the delegates outside their committees. With this in mind, it made sense that the theme of the conference was ‘New Heights’ which highlighted the club’s values of constant growth, innovation and avoidance of stagnation, as said in a statement released by the club.
It read that “Once we stop or take a rest from being concerned about current global affairs, we run the risk of worsening international dilemmas.”
As such, MUN regards awareness of politics and international affairs to be the needle that can weave our socio-political fabric that it is necessary to improve international relationships.
For Millennials, politics may seem drab. We were also told from young that politics was taboo, within Asian culture, and could only be discussed when we are much older. The reality is, we need to care about politics because it affects all of us in the way we live, think, and act. It impacts our welfare, our cultural values and the educational opportunities handed to us. In the words of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle: “Man is by nature a social animal”.
Taylor’s MUN has empowered young people to empathetically explore politics, especially when Malaysia’s voting age is in the process of being reduced from 21 to 18 years. It has exposed students to a plethora of perspectives —ones that might even contradict their own view of the world, from a young age which enabled them to empathise with the lives and issues of millions worldwide. Moreover, it should be noted that MUN is not only for the politically driven social scientist but it is truly a multidisciplinary extracurricular for anyone. The limitless breadth of topics covered in conferences provided the chance for its students to explore issues beyond their scope of learning at school and simultaneously build up invaluable and transferable life skills such as negotiating under pressure, networking and public speaking.
Delegates also often fly from all over the region to attend prestigious conferences and is an ideal place to meet friends who hail from a variety of backgrounds all over the world.
“One of my favourite experiences was attending a MUN conference in Thailand, CHULAMUN,” shared Yong.
“I got to experience Thai hospitality, [and] besides that, for a country where English is not their first language, the passion for international relations and the passion to learn new things is something I rarely see in youths these days,” he mentioned.
There is also a theatrical sense to MUN where areas of improvisation and creativity are explored. One could even attempt an ad-lib of the standard speech by crowd-pleasing jokes or dress up for the occasion as a completely different persona during conferences. In the same way that thousands of people flock to events like Comic-Con, many flock to Model UN conferences because they simply enjoy immersing themselves in the role-playing aspect of the conference. At every conference, you are bound to meet that one delegate who takes the cultural stereotypes of their assigned country a little too seriously—the Greek gods in togas, the Kim Jong-Un impersonators, the Donald Trumps.
“To people who are vaguely aware of Model United Nations but don’t take part in it, it might seem like a cult,” explained Hannah Aziz, who is a keen observer of MUN conferences despite never taking part in a MUN conference herself as a delegate.
“In actual fact, they’re just very enthusiastic about what they do in MUN,” she clarified.
That being said, MUN should be an extracurricular activity that everyone should try out at some point in their student career; be it as a chairperson of a committee, a delegate, an admin or as an observer. If there is anything that can be guaranteed in life, MUN is certainly far from being mundane.
Photography by Taylor’s Model United Nations Club on Facebook