WRITTEN BY: Melika Shafiee Nyestanak, University of Toronto Model United Nations (UTMUN)
Photos By: Sydney Bradshaw, University of Toronto Model United Nations (UTMUN)
Model United Nations. The name may seem self-explanatory, but to most, it appears uncertain and extremely daunting. At least, that’s how it appeared to me before I joined MUN for the first time in grade 12. By that point I had decided that I could no longer justify my irrational fear of MUN and that it was time for me to join. By the time I had graduated, however, I had only been able to convince myself to attend one conference – the University of Toronto Model United Nations (UTMUN).
Almost every student I ask recounts the same experience during their first conference – the first day is absolutely nerve-wracking, but by the last day you will have a deeper appreciation for all politicians; which was my experience precisely. The first day is spent trying to memorize all the rules, of which there seem to be many, but by the second day you realize that in fact, there really are no rules. Want to go attack the country next door because the shirt that delegate is wearing is just not your style? Go for it! Are you an environmentalist and want to champion your green agenda by cutting off economic ties with all oil-producing nations? That’s cool! Model United Nations gives delegates the opportunity to manipulate international law to their every whim, and essentially, change the course of history if they so desire. That’s the point that converts most people into doing MUN – all studies of global politics or law teach us the theories of what should be done and the proper structures within which to implement them. MUN shows you all that possibly can be done and lets you decide how to go about doing it. Granted, this may lead to some unexpected consequences, such as entire populations being wiped out by Zika virus, or the Emperor’s cat being assassinated by a rebel group, but regardless of the consequences, lessons will be learned, and I assure you no real harm will be done.
The benefits of a MUN extend even beyond the delegates, as it can also be extremely fulfilling for the staff, or the secretariat, to run an MUN conference. This year as a secretariat member of UTMUN, I had the incredible opportunity to run and organize an educational experience for students that truly appreciated and engaged in the conference. It’s hard to explain exactly who rewarding it feels when you walk into a crisis committee to make a quick announcement, and none of the students pay any attention to you, because they’re too absorbed in attempting to contain the Jurassic Park dinosaurs that are running rampant across the world. It’s at that point that you realize all your hard work has paid off. It may not seem worth it, running a conference for over five hundred rowdy high school students, even when you get to put a fancy title on your resume – but seeing your efforts appreciated really does make it all worth it in the end.
For all you willing participants, I assure you, Model UN can very easily become an addiction.