The Model UN Circuit in North America - Where it all Started!
Founded and popularized in the United States, Model UN has had a long and diversified
history in North America. Many of the world’s most respected and influential conferences span North America, with different regions practicing various styles of Model UN. Because the scope of these conferences is limited only by the imagination and vision of the respective organizing committees, conferences differ greatly by size, theme, and committee type. While every Model UN conference has its own rules of procedure, most conferences follow some variation of the globally dominant North American parliamentary procedure, sometimes dubbed “Harvard procedure”. However, it is important to note that while parliamentary procedure commands the North American and global Model UN circuits, the actual United Nations does not in fact use parliamentary procedure.
In 2009, the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) began to run its own conference, Global MUN, and subsequently developed UN4MUN rules of procedure, which seek to accurately simulate UN procedures and practices.
The following list of conferences is short, and certainly not exhaustive of all the
extraordinary conferences in North America. While there are a great number of influential and well-established conferences, the following conferences have been selected for a combination of their global and regional influence as well as from my personal experience.
Stanford Model United Nations Conference (SMUNC)
Stanford Model United Nations Conference (SMUNC) is a longstanding conference, famous for being a fun, crisis-driven, non-conformist, drawing 600 high school delegates to the prestigious Palo Alto campus. Some of SMUNC 2015’s crisis committees included “Black Panther Party for Self-Defense” and “Stalin’s Politburo”. Previous coverage of SMUNC showcase some of SMUNC’s inventive spirit: crises have included apocalyptic zombie alien invasions and Rome and Carthage getting their hands on nuclear weapons.
National Model United Nations (NMUN)
National Model United Nations (NMUN) is the largest and among the most prestigious
collegiate-level UN simulations in the world. In 2015, NUMUN attracted 6600 student
delegates from 130 UN Member States and 49 U.S. states. NMUN holds conferences in New York, Washington DC, and Portland, and since 2008, has expanded internationally to host conferences in 9 countries outside the United States. NMUN’s guiding principle is cooperative, experiential learning that allows students to learn about contemporary
international issues and to advance understanding of the United Nations. NMUN
emphasizes that diversity is key to its success, and its conference make-up proves its
point—more than 50% of NMUN’s participants are from outside the United States. Like
NHSMUN and WIMUN, NMUN also allows participants to sit and debate in the United
Nations Headquarters in NY.
Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN)
Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN) is a traveling conference led by Harvard University in conjunction with a local university team from a host city. Annually, over 2500 university students from over 115 countries attend WorldMUN in a different global location. WorldMUN has been hosted in 23 cities in 6 continents, including Geneva, Beijing,
The Hague, Taipei, and Melbourne. WorldMUN 2015 was held in Seoul, South Korea, and WorldMUN 2016 will take place in Rome, Italy. WorldMUN’s partnership with The
Resolution Project, a nonprofit founded by WorldMUN alumni, encourages interested
participants to compete for grants in a social venture challenge, allowing them to
implement creative solution in areas such as healthcare, education, water, and technology.
WorldMUN includes many conference trips and workshops, providing participants a
chance to explore the host city and culture and interact with elected officials, diplomats,
Johns Hopkins Model United Nations Conference (JHUMUNC)
Johns Hopkins Model United Conference (JHUMUNC) is one of the largest high school
conferences in the United States, drawing over 2000 delegates and running over 30
committees—two-thirds of which are crisis committees. I’ve staffed JHUMUNC for 3 years, and can attest to its breadth and depth of committee offerings—both conventional and innovative. Delegate kidnappings and futuristic trials of Kim Jung Un occur side by side with substantive debate of the world’s biggest issues. Some of JHUMUNC 2016’s crisis committees include: “The Cabinet of Francis Underwood” inspired by Netflix’s acclaimed House of Cards, and a joint crisis committee, “The Battle for Mount Olympus,” betting the Titans against the Olympians.
National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN)
National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) stands as the largest high school Model UN conference in the world, with 3500 students from over 40 countries gathering in New York City every year. Whereas many other conferences are becoming increasingly crisis-driven, NHSMUN prides itself on committing to traditional UN committees and promoting substantive debate on pressing global issues. I remember attending NHSMUN as a 14 year-old, meeting young students from all corners of the world. NHSMUN also hosts its closing ceremonies in the UN General Assembly Hall, providing high school students the opportunity to experience sitting and participating in the real seats of the UN.
WFUNA International Model United Nations (WIMUN)
The WFUNA International Model United Nations (WIMUN) is the most accurate simulation of the United Nations in the world as it uses UN4MUN rather than parliamentary rules of procedure. WIMUN is located at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City and is run by the World Federation of the United Nations Association (WFUNA) in close partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI). I had the pleasure of serving as an Ambassador on a truly global Secretariat team from 6 continents, and was elected Vice-President of the General Assembly for WIMUN 2015. Over 300 students from 50 different countries at both the high school and university levels participated in WIMUN 2015, focusing on consensus rather than competition in discussion of the post-2015 development agenda.
Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY)
Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY)—pronounced “sexy”—lives up to its name. A
unique conference on the college circuit, SCSY runs entirely crisis-based committees, and prides itself on its dynamism and imagination. SCSY 2015 featured committees including “Hip Hop Illuminati” in which delegates represented artists such as Rihanna, Kanye West, and Beyoncé, and “The Cartel” where delegates represented members of a Latin American drug cartel with positions including “Supplier” and “Dealer.” I represented Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in the “2016 Presidential Race JCC”. Some highlights of the weekend included kicking Donald Trump out of the RNC, Hillary Clinton running away with her Latin boyfriend, Marco Rubio being mauled by a tiger, and Nancy Pelosi giving all the presidential candidates diarrhea.
The Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC)
The Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC) is the largest conference in the Midwest. MUNUC has received national praise for its academic rigor and professionalism, and has distinguished itself as one of the best high school United Nations simulations in the United States. Since its founding in 1988, MUNUC’s purpose has been to educate high school students in the art of debate, negotiation, and public speaking, to introduce the complexities of international relations, and to demonstrate the potential of the United Nations in resolving international issues while also demonstrating its limitations. Unlike many other conferences, MUNUC does not give any Best Delegate
awards, as its award policy is to “create a learning environment for all delegates and not a competitive stage for a few.” Accordingly, the highest award at MUNUC is the Outstanding Award, and recipients are given books that correspond with their respective committee topics in lieu of a gavel.
McGill Model United Nations Assembly (McMUN)
McGill Model United Nations Assembly (McMUN) is Canada’s premier Model UN conference and has grown since its founding in 1989. McMUN’s mission is to challenge students through creative debate, strengthen awareness of global issues, and inspire leaders of tomorrow. McMUN 2015 attracted over 1500 delegates to the historic city of Montréal, Quebéc to partake in committees including “The National Hockey League,” “The Fall of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” and “The Moscow Theatre Hostage Crisis.” McMUN is famous for its post-committee social events, and this past year, delegates explored Montréal’s nightlife with a pub crawl and ended the night at the popular Jet Club.
That's all for my overview of MUN conferences in North America!
Feel free to reach out to me with any feedback, ideas or questions on firstname.lastname@example.org.