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On May, 6-8 the first MUN (Model United Nationssimulation)for university students was held in Venice. The event was hosted by the Venice International University (VIU). The university's campus is located on one of the picturesque Venice lagoon islands – the Island of San Servolo.
The VeUMUN 2016 was organized by the joint efforts of VIU students and professors in collaboration with the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, the Venice Diplomatic Society (VDS) and Europe Direct - a European Commission information network. The Model united ambitious students from three universities (VIU, Ca’Foscari and University of Padua) to run a three-day meeting that simulated work sessions of the United Nations.
The ongoing Syrian conflict was put on the VeUMUN 2016 agenda as one of the most urgent and pressing issues with which the international community is struggling today. During the three days, the participants were required to act like real diplomats and represent the position of an assigned country regarding various problems of the Syrian crisis within 4 UN committees:
- The Security Council which developed the Resolution for the Permanent Cease-Fire in Syria;
- The Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (SOCHUM) which drafted a Resolution on measures for Protecting Syrian Artistic and Cultural Heritage;
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which produced a Resolution on the topic: “Out of Camps Policies: How to Implement Refugee’s Integration into the Job Market”;
- UN WOMEN which developed a Resolution concerning refugee camps while focusing on the prevention of gender-based violence against women.
HSE Master’s program student Marina Chashko participated in the Venice University MUN as a representative of the New Zealand delegation in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. Marina talked about her experience and explained why taking part in MUN is critical for all young people interested in the current international situation, even for linguists:
“First of all, I would like to thank my home university Higher School of Economics (Moscow) and my welcoming Ca’Foscari University of Venice for giving me this unique opportunity to become a part of such an internationally significant event. Since I am not a permanent Ca’Foscari student and do not have a lot of experience in dealing with international issues, I was surprised and, at the same time, pleased to receive an invitation to become a MUN delegate. I think my example proves that the candidates’ selection process was held quite objectively, and that organizers of the MUN followed the desire to choose the most motivated students who would be eager to work on the topic. I appreciate this approach deeply.
Despite the fact that there were not many foreign participants, all delegates had conducted detailed research on their assigned countries before the event and performed well. This contributed to the diversity and effectiveness of the VeUMUN and made it a real international discussion platform. As a result, all of us felt free to express our thoughts and points of view even if they differed greatly, and I believe this is the real key to success for the UN Model.
Undoubtedly, being a MUN delegate is a big challenge. As you are not allowed to represent the country you came from, thus, you can be assigned any other member state. This fact, on the one hand, makes the Model such an interesting and objective game, and, on the other hand, transforms it into a difficult task. Every delegate should be aware of general historic facts, cultural aspects, the economic situation, internal and external policies of their state. At the same time, delegates are required to be able to present the country’s position and discuss steps that were undertaken by his/her country concerning the Model's Agenda. Conducting research on the history of New Zealand's collaboration with the UN and its position and role on the global stage, as well as studying the issue of protecting Syrian cultural and artistic heritage – all of this resulted in both deeper understanding of international affairs and priceless life experience.
Concerning the event’s organization, I should admit that the whole process really drags you in. Once you are there, you are not able to get off this amazing ride. You take part in sessions which are strongly restricted by regulations just as those in the real UN. The Model events are covered by a group of students who play the roles of journalists and photographers sneaking around and taking interviews, photos and making reports. It makes the whole event look impressive and trustworthy, and makes you feel like a real UN delegate. VeUMUN 2016 media-support was organized by members of the Venice Diplomatic Society and the independent global youth organization SAIA. What is more, during breaks we had a chance to consult MUN university professors, specialists in international relations and “General Assembly members”. We could also ask more experienced Model members for advice – “committees’ "chairs" and "co-chairs” who moderated the sessions of each working group.
The working language of the Model is English. In order to deliver a speech on your country’s position, to make an announcement or remark, you have to follow special procedure which is strictly limited in time. By the end of two and half days of exhausting sessions, all 25 members of your committee should arrive at a clear consensus and submit the final Resolution with viable suggestions to the General Assembly to be approved.
At this point a desire to protect your own interests and, at the same time, to call other members to support your ideas disciplines you, forces you to think extremely fast, to explain your thoughts clearly and resolve discrepancies on the spot. For me, as for a linguist currently studying and working with foreign languages, the Model was pricelessly valuable in terms of developing linguistic, discursive and socio-cultural competences, which are the basic components to form my foreign language communicative competence.
Such a grand-scale event can definitely not be limited to the work within sessions. The delegates continue their dialogue outside closed doors. When taking part in the Model, you meet so many enthusiastic, talented and, what is more important, concerned young people who you exchange your opinion and share this unique experience with. Coincidentally, on the last day of the VeUMUN I had my birthday and I was happy to receive diplomatic notes with warm congratulations from my colleagues during our working sessionsJ. I hope my chair and co-chairs will never know about it.Having gone through this experience, I can confidently say that the UN Model is not just a game, it is a strong wish to change this world for the better and a huge professional breakthrough for all of us”.
Moscow International Model United Nations;
MyMUN.net - useful source for checking information about all existing MUNs and for applying to participate;
TheChangetheWorldModelUnitedNations (CWMUN) – Italian global program involving more than 2500 students every year, in which they debate the major issues of the international political agenda.