MUN in the time of COVID
As with everything else on campus at this time, the IC Model UN team is waiting for more clarity before committing to any events in 2020-21. Still, even if we are unable to participate in conferences, there will be opportunities for learning more about international organizations, negotiation, and topical areas.
The college-level Model UN system is a simulation of the United Nations, first held at Harvard in 1955. The Ithaca College Model UN team team was created in 1983. Prof. Marty Brownstein, Politics, advised and cultivated the team until his retirement. The Politics Department sponsors the team, and faculty advisor Juan Arroyo works with students to prepare for these conferences.
Each participating college is assigned a UN member state or role to represent at the MUN. The delegates may participate in simulations of the large General Assembly committees, but also many smaller committees. Before the conferences, the team meets twice a week and sometimes on weekends. The delegates share information on our assigned member state, they practice writing and presenting position papers, writing draft resolutions, and simulate committee meetings and voting.
The conference committees can address many kinds of issues: UN reform, maritime piracy, birth control, education, deforestation, responses to internal conflict, and much more. Our delegates do their own research to become familiar with the topics. More importantly, they have to learn how our assigned member state is affected by that issue, and the position of that government in response.
To prepare for conferences, students take advantage of library and on-line resources, but we also benefit from conversations with Ithaca College faculty, or other specialists or natives to provide some background on our assigned state. We have enjoyed presentations from two Belgians, a Bosnian family, an IC faculty member who visited Bhutan, and Cornell specialists on Thailand, the Middle East, and Peru. We have also used Skype to hear directly from the EU delegation in NYC and the Spanish mission to the UN.
At the conference itself, our students have to convince the delegates from other nations to support a resolution that is consistent with our state's positions, or block those that do not serve our interests. The debate is held in committee, moderated by the chairs. The process also includes un-moderated caucuses, during which smaller groups of delegates meet, bargain, argue, cajole and compromise (maybe) in order to get a satisfactory resolution.
Ithaca College students have been recognized for their performance at MUN conferences. A short list is available in the sidebar to the right.
Finally, we also try to immerse ourselves a little bit in the culture of our country, by watching movies or through food! One semester a guest treated us to genuine homemade Belgian waffles, and we have also enjoyed Bosnian börek, Peruvian ceviche, Mexican enchiladas, Spanish churros, Thai pad thai, and more.
The MUN process is all about simulation and role-playing, but the learning, team-building and resulting friendships are very real.
by Juan M. Arroyo