Over 2,000 students from all over the world recently gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the 21st World Model United Nations Conference. Also known as WorldMUN 2012, it is an annual student simulation of the UN.
The local and international students attending the mini-UN came to debate, negotiate and solve challenging global issues, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the European debt crisis. During the five-day conference, they tried to bring a fresh perspective to global politics. To do so, they emulated global leaders through role play.
But students at WorldMUN faced another challenge: they had to represent a country that was not their own.
Sabri Bezzazi, a Tunisian citizen who studies in Lebanon, represented the Netherlands in a mock Economic and Financial Committee.
“Even though I’m portraying someone else, it’s through making blocs and alliances with other neighbouring countries that we will find a way towards creative solutions,” Bezzazi said.
Becoming a diplomat, however, is not easy.
Mariana Guasch, a participant from Spain, worked as an adviser at WorldMUN 2012. She said she studied eight hours a week to pass the test to become a diplomat for Spain. Coming to Vancouver was a welcome break in her long days.
She discovered the “WorldMUN spirit” last year while participating in the WorldMUN 2011 summit in Singapore.
“It’s a spirit that takes you over during five days of committees,” said Guasch. “You sort of feel that what you’re doing here has a meaning.”
University of British Columbia students partnered with students at Harvard to organize the event. The rules, set jointly by Harvard and a different partner university each year, state that students of the two organizing schools cannot participate as delegates, but can be chairs or assistant chairs within the committees.
UBC student Elaine Chin was an assistant chair at WorldMUN 2012. She viewed UBC hosting the event as a “privilege.”
“You can participate as a delegate in any WorldMUN every year, but you only get one chance to be an assistant chair or to be on the hosting committee,” said Chin.
Participants are expected to research and understand the country they represent.
Elena Allendorfer, who is from Germany, represented Switzerland. As a student of international history, she said she was not a typical participant.
“I’ve put a lot of efforts and preparation into this since I’m not a law student,” said Allendorfer. She said she was very impressed by the performance of other students, whom she described as “very well prepared about international law.”
WorldMUN provides more than just internal legal experience. Many students see the conference as an opportunity for networking and as preparation for a future career as a diplomat.
Indeed, many of the students want to work with international organizations like the UN in the future. They hoped this experience in Vancouver would give them a better understanding of each other and of the world.