Simulating World Diplomacy
The "Model United Nations" (MUN) conferences allow students to emulate the working methods of the real United Nations (UN) in New York. At MUN conferences, you get to play the role of a national delegate, discuss international issues and become acquainted with people and cultures from around the world. Many German universities have their own MUN project groups.
by Rahel Klein
Participants of a MUN, Foto: Klein/DAAD
Jay Melone comes from the United States, but today he represents the interests of Kazakhstan. Dressed in a grey suit, blue-white plaid shirt and black tie, he walks through a room of students, trying to convince other "countries" to support his ideas. His mission: to collaborate with other nations and find a solution that will help refugees worldwide and safeguard their human rights.
Jay is a participant at a "Model United Nations" (MUN) conference. In this case, the word "model" signifies a kind of simulation game, in which students are supposed to simulate the work of the United Nations as closely as possible. This explains the dress code; men wear suits and ties, and women wear dress coats with skirts or trousers. The 28-year-old American enrolled in the master's degree programme "Roads to Democracy" at the University of Siegen in October 2011. This kind of simulation game fits his studies perfectly. "It's a great chance to get a practical idea of how an institution functions, which is rather complicated and difficult to understand," he says.
Jay with delegates of other countries, Foto: Klein/DAAD
Like the "real" UN, the Model United Nations is comprised of various committees, such as the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, each of which discuss up to three current international problems. The goal of each committee is to pass a resolution - in other words, a law - to address the problem. Normally, students never represent their native countries. After all, the idea is to become familiar with the positions of a foreign country. MUN conferences are held everywhere around the world. The conference language is always English. The world's largest conference, the "NMUN", takes place each year in New York, at which some 5,000 students from around the globe participate and even get the chance to visit the real UN.
MUNs at German universities
MUN conferences are held at over 30 universities in Germany. They generally take three to five days and are held throughout the year. The universities often have project groups which attend national and international conferences in order to better prepare and organise their own conferences. The largest MUN in Germany is the "HamMUN" in Hamburg with challenges suitable for both beginners and experienced participants. Smaller conferences, like those in Siegen ("SiegMUN") and Bonn ("BIMUN"), are particularly suited for beginners to "learn the ropes". A workshop usually takes place at every conference in which the organisers explain the most important rules and procedures. And if you're interested in journalism, many MUNS offer you the chance to participate as a reporter and write for the conference media about the most important developments in the debates. For more information about the MUN, and dates and venues of upcoming conferences, visit the website of the Model United Nations in Germany.
Preparation for professional life
Discussion about resolutions, Foto: Klein/DAAD
Keerthi Sreerangaiah has also participated at MUN conferences. The 23-year-old Indian woman represented Colombia on the Security Council at the "SiegMUN" in 2011, where she discussed the war in Afghanistan. Her example shows that Political Science students aren't the only ones interested in the project. She received her master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Siegen. Participating at the conference helped her immensely. "I would like to become a project manager. And managers have to work with people, they have to define goals. These are skills you can learn at the conferences," she says. In addition to "lobbying", i.e. selling your ideas to people, the delegates regularly hold speeches in front of the entire committee. Keerthi liked the fact that each nation's representative had the opportunity to express their opinion and learn how to speak in front of large groups. In this way, the students can improve their rhetoric while becoming acquainted with the most diverse cultures and viewpoints. Although the conferences are chockfull of formal debates and deliberations, they always include recreational activities which allow participants to make many new friends and acquaintances.