MUN conferences have become more and more popular over the last years. They are aimed at giving young people a platform to not only practice their rhetorical but also their reasoning and compromise skills. Thus, after an entire weekend of intensive discussion inside as well as outside of the sessions, what balance can be drawn? Do MUN conferences really provide an adequate setting for developing creative solutions concerning the most pressing issues of our times? Or do they just offer another platform for empty monologues and ego-centred self-promotion?
The answer is simple: Yes. No. Maybe. While the conference offered a perfect occasion to practice one’s rhetorical skills, it also provided an insight into how work and life of diplomats looks like. What is this supposed to mean, you may wonder? Lots of talking, little progress. Do not get the wrong image. This surely does not insinuate that conferences of such profiles cannot teach the participants important lessons, nor that diplomacy is dispensable. Quite on the contrary, one could argue the exact opposite of that. Such conferences prove how much effort has to be dedicated to achieve efficient human communication, especially when large groups with different interests assemble and try to reach consensus. After all, the UN is constantly criticised for its inefficiency.
Furthermore, one needs to keep in mind that MUN conferences, depending on their size, simulate committees of 10 to 40 delegates. Considering that in reality the UN has 193 member States, reaching consensus might seem impossible for someone having participated at a MUN. So maybe the establishment of a more efficient communication process is required before working on resolutions concerning warzones and epidemic outbreaks.
Despite this critique, it is undeniable that UN simulations are extremely enriching. They enable students to think outside the box; to leave their desks and books for practical hands-on experience. And while this article criticises the sometimes context-less tirades of monologues some delegates tend to hurl at each other, it also seeks to praise the creativity and compassion that is shown when a consensus is actually reached and innovative resolutions are passed. It is astonishing what can happen when bringing together young, interested people. The vast majority of them do not have any experience of how working in a multinational organisation works, but maybe that is the point. Maybe, especially because they are not biased towards multilateral collaboration, since they have never experienced it up close, they keep themselves open-minded while debating.
Needless to say that it is easier to come to a fictional agreement, than signing a valid resolution that can affect the lives of thousands. No one should be as simple-minded as to range MUNs on the same level as real UN work. However, it is a shame that the creative work, resulting from two days of debating, remains hidden. Although the UN appreciates the organisation of MUNs and helped establish guidelines for participating students in previous years, the institution is not interested in the outcome of the conferences. Why not recognise the students’ efforts by giving the most innovative contributions a platform to be recognised by the United Nations? Not only would such an idea motivate students even more to find solutions, but it might even encourage UN diplomats to acknowledge new perspectives.
By Cosima Sagmeister