Model UN Overachievers - Why Intense Delegates Matter.
"Over-achiever" is a key word in the world of Model UN. Once you have been to a couple conferences you know the type: very intense delegate, clearly hasn’t come to make friends, leaves socials early to go work on drafts, doesn’t appreciate jokes during the interventions, gets angry and frustrated by what he or she calls “the lack of seriousness of the committee” or “the people who haven’t prepared enough” or who “don’t take this seriously”. Most of the time, they have their eyes set on whichever award it is given in the MUN and regard the rest of delegates as obstacles in their way.
Of course, it is always dangerous to generalize. I'd like to make a personal confession, that I myself (Alvaro, the author) have often been characterized as an over-achiever at conferences, with someone in every conference confessing his or her surprise at a social event at how I am actually not a monster. I believe there is a very thin line between taking things seriously at models and being a ruthless Underwoodite wannabe that takes him or herself too seriously. For the sake of this article we will call them the "good over-achievers" and the "mean over-achievers", and I would like to make a case for the former.
Let’s start by making a couple of things clear. Diplomacy is important. The United Nations plays an essential role. The topics discussed in conferences are of the utmost importance. And last but not least: what delegates do in Model UN has a very limited impact. Of course this is not to say that Model UN are not important, which would go against everything United Ambassadors and myself stand for. We believe in the profound, lasting impact Model UN can have in the long term, by educating the youth, raising the profile of the United Nations and creating a global conscience. What I mean when I say limited impact is that the debate is a simulation after all. The topics are of life or death importance, but the discussion is not. Some delegates would do well in keeping this in mind -especially those that end up shouting to one another or, even worse, crying on the corridors.
Nonetheless, one could argue that even though it is a simulation you have to take it seriously and I for one completely agree: by taking part in a Model UN you are agreeing to prepare sufficiently so that you can contribute to the debate and enrich the committee. And this is where the over-achievers, both the good and the mean, are an example to follow, as they have probably pored over every possible document and know what they are talking about. In some committees there is a tendency to give empty speeches, just for the sake of public speaking, and to have someone that knows the nitty-gritty details and have concrete proposals might just save the committee -think Hillary Clinton.
Going beyond the substance, to the formalities, over-achievers are also a reference. After all, what you are doing is convening with other late teenagers-early adults to suit up and pretend you are ambassadors. The protocol of it all is the whole point. Without them, you might as well meet your friends in the closest bar to solve the situation in Syria over beers. And yet, there are both delegates and chairs that seem to think that formalities are tedious and unnecessary: they speak using first person, refer to other delegates by their first names, leave the session without properly asking for permission, don’t stick to the dress-code, you name it. At that point you can always count for an over-achiever to be there with a Point of Order: they really don’t care about being nagging or antagonizing the committee. They are not there to be cool. They are there to solve global crisis, and they won’t be tolerating any of your casual use of first person. Sometimes, it’s just what the committee needs.
Another aspect that benefits from the over-achievers is the overall quality of the documents. Let’s be honest: when you have been debating something in circles for hours and nobody seems willing to move an inch, or when the final session is about to finish and the formatting of your draft resolution is not ready to submit it to a vote, most people is ready to look the other way and incur in a little breach of protocol. Who cares if this resolution would never be passed in a real Security Council because of this one clause? Or because the operative clauses don’t all start with the correct headings? Let me tell you who: the over-achievers. In a MUN in France we once stayed in session for forty more minutes -missing lunch- because certain delegates wouldn’t let the chairs introduce a draft until it was perfectly formatted and worded. At that moment I think most of the committee hated them, but looking back on that episode, it is clear that the resolution we ultimately passed was of a much higher quality than it would have been if we had taken the easy way out. And who cares that we missed lunch, I guess.
This article tries to illustrate the ways in which the over-achievers, the delegates that take everything too seriously, can actually be an asset for the committee. However, I can’t conclude it without making a quick reflection on the raison d’être of the Model UN and double down on the difference between the mean over-achievers and the good over-achievers. Both types push the debate forward in the ways that have been described above, but only one truly understands the whole point of doing Model UN. Whenever in the future you are representing your own country in an international forum and there are high stakes at risk and you have a very concrete set of goals you have to achieve at all costs, yes, of course, be ruthless, do whatever it takes (within certain confines of decency and humanity, it is understood).
But Model UN is not ultimately about that. Of course passing a resolution is important, and winning an award is satisfactory, but the most important part of a conference should be about the connections. And I am not talking about networking, but about human connections. Meeting new people with similar interests, that are passionate and engaged, that think differently than you do, that can challenge the way you see the world and open your mind up to new possibilities… This is what ultimately, good over-achievers get and mean ones, sadly, do not. Try to be part of the former. That's how you reap the benefits of being an MUNer.
Credits: Alvaro Gomez Del Valle, United Ambassadors Content Associate.