Model United Nations: Setting the Bar for Years to Come

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by Maggie Shapiro ’11, Photography Editor, The Phoenix

“We really want to set the stage for the next century of development regarding nuclear technologies,” said Rob Winslow ’12, speaking from the center of a long banquet table in a Times Square Marriot Marquis conference room. Winslow was one of eleven delegates representing Sarah Lawrence College in this year’s National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference. Nine out of the 11 delegates represented Lebanon, and the remaining represented China in the Security Council. This was SLC’s second year attending the world’s largest college-level Model United Nations conference: NMUN-NY.

The MUN conferences are a simulation of the diplomacy mediated by the UN, where students are encouraged to work cooperatively together to foster a stronger international community. A delegation at the conference either represents a Member State, Observer State, or NGO affiliated with the UN. These delegations work together to draft and propose resolution papers on some of the world’s most pressing international issues. Over 20 different committees sat in session throughout the week, discussing topics such as: a 10-year review of the implementations of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, economic development to combat poverty in the occupied Palestinian territories, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

As many as 4,500 students from 300 colleges and universities on five different continents attend the conference. All delegates dressed in the required business attire, and the only conversation that could be heard was between delegates debating their proposed resolution papers in the “proper diplomatic language.”

Since the conference so closely mimics the UN, the atmosphere was naturally nothing less than chaotic. The conference room buzzed with hundreds of people scrambling from one end of the room to the other, while deciphering the differences in the procedure of how to properly run the forums as well as the caucuses. “It has given me a more realistic vision about what the UN actually does. It is exactly what you might or might not envision it to be; it is just people talking. The procedure and decorum one encounters are just a matter of formality. It comes down to just a bunch of delegates in a room, people standing on chairs, people waving their placards, people huddled around one or two computers. And this is how they do it. It has opened my eyes as to why the UN takes so long to get things accomplished,” Zeynep Goksel ’11 said.

Unlike last year’s limited prep time, Goksel and Serena Wuennenberg ’11, the club’s founding Co-Chairs, had all year to prepare, knowing they would be attending in the spring. The club’s chairs approached the Student Activities Subcommittee (SAS), in early February asking for the funding they needed to register for the conference. Subsequently the MUN club had major issues getting the appropriate funding to attend this year’s conferences. The financial problems at Sarah Lawrence are no secret, but in situations like that, they became blatantly apparent.

“The barriers we had to overcome were huge, and it seems like something we shouldn’t have had to deal with. I hope in the future Sarah Lawrence takes into account what it means to have a club like NMUN, and the kind of networking that can happen nationwide and worldwide if you have students participating in these kinds of conferences. This could be a way of opening up job opportunities. It’s so eye opening and so important to be a part of this conference. And it’s an honor. It’s just such a shame that we had to fight so hard to get there,” Goksel said adamantly. Despite the struggle to allocate funding the club expressed its thanks towards the members of Senate. “Without the support of individuals on Senate we wouldn’t have been able to attend the conference and accomplish as much as we did,” said Wuennenberg.

In addition to the numerous perks MUN presents, the National Collegiate Conference Association (NCCA) holds an Opportunity Fair during the conference. This boasted 20 different graduate schools’ representatives, coupled with representatives from NGO and international organizations, offering information about jobs and internships. The fair is strategically set up during the conference, because employers and graduate schools look for intellectual, well spoken, and curious students such as the ones in attendance at the NMUN-NY conference.

The College’s participation in this year’s conference solidified our standing as a school populated by globally-conscious students. “Sarah Lawrence prides itself on the fact that we excel at writing, public speaking, logic, and academia. And this is the perfect place to put that to use,” Nour Rayes ’13 said. Considering the recent drop in applications to Sarah Lawrence this surely seems like an advantageous way in which to reaffirm the college’s reputation and increase the number of applicants.

For the second time in two years, the Sarah Lawrence delegation won the Honorable Mention award, furthering the school’s reputation in the eyes of the NCCA. This bodes well for future conferences, because it increases the chances for Sarah Lawrence to be asked back in the following years. Additionally, it also places Sarah Lawrence in a position that is more likely to be assigned to a country that is a part of the UN’s big five, or one of the more controversial countries.

Besides the obvious benefits it presents to the college, MUN is also a perfect outlet for those students who are interested in a career in politics or diplomacy. For instance, the officials who organize the conference are directly affiliated with the UN. Then, once the conference is over, the secretary general of NMUN-NY reports the outcome to the general assembly of the UN, presenting the resolutions, ideas, and position papers that the student delegates created. The work put forth at NMUN does not simply end with the conclusion of the conference. Rather, it becomes a part of a significant dialogue that can make a difference within international diplomacy, or on a smaller scale deepen the understanding of the complicated modern world that the young students inhabit.