My first MUN experience was in Abuja, Nigeria. There we had to apply to be chosen to represent our school at the conference and most of us were just glad to leave school during the term. During the first session my shoes were torn and I had no way of getting a replacement. I was Uganda in the Food and Agricultural Organisation. I was scared of speaking to other people, let alone in front of the entire conference. We represented a myriad of countries and were a bit confused by the awesome scope of the experience. In time, we would realize that we had learned about the UN, about the topics we were given, but above all, had made lasting friendships that would play a part in our unfolding future. It is with that awareness that I now see MUN-ing actively.
The amazing thing about MUN, and I find myself retelling this whenever I try to explain this costly addiction that takes me away most weekends to my friends or family, is the incredible balance between aspects that develop us completely. Above all they are an academic exercise, which expands our knowledge of topical issues and political realities. We are shown the current climate and in our own naïve way, lay waste to it by partnering and negotiating in spite of that. We also have a robust social experience, which also creates a close-knit community of cosmopolitan youth across the world. And somewhere, somehow, we find ourselves at the same large gatherings or well-hidden gems, going through the same circus all over again.
But what happens after? After we can no longer commit to endless weekends on the road and reading/writing endless study guides? When the realities and vagaries of life kick in and we are faced with more responsibilities in an ever changing world? What happens when we can’t motion for caucuses but are forced to see how representatives tied and bound by conventions we easily discarded during our sessions? The answer is perhaps more chilling than we’d like to admit. We find ourselves outside our ‘Model bubble’, and inside the real world. The path forward differs, but it always points forward. We cannot afford to abandon the ideals and the values that we hold and learn at MUN conferences. The undying belief that we can achieve in binding and long-lasting resolution in a weekend, the critical thinking that issues that seem unsolvable to actual diplomats can be resolved by the youth, and yes, the hope that we can eventually retire to socials and ceremonies regardless of whether we were the DPRK or South Korea, Russia and the United States…and still be on good terms.
I once read a speech by a Secretary-General at an MUN conference, where they wondered if the world would be a better place if the likes of Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and other world leaders had done MUN in their youth. If they had taken the time to represent other countries and learn from their history and culture, and their unique political climate. To seek bridges and be willing to bend a bit backwards, to surge forward together. That’s an answer we might find in our generation. At many MUN conferences across the UK, I’ve seen delegates with tremendous insight into topical issues, with an amazing capacity to bring delegates into a unifying bloc and likewise those who just want to cause chaos because it’s ‘fun’. But more than anything, I have seen future leaders. And this movement is even more pervasive because it can cut across different professions. Future Engineers, Doctors, Architects, Scientists, Lawyers, Businessmen and what have you are involved in MUN. So this is a potential movement that isn’t just political, but could be from a health perspective, or international business or basic industry practices.
Finally, and a bit of a personal perspective, MUN can help you see where your passions are. People have changed courses, career plans and even continents because topics or research have revealed different passions that define them to differing degrees. So while technically MUNs are conferences, they are also experiences, and we also take part in a movement. And by and large, for better or for worse, it can change the world.
Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, is serving as Secretary-General of LIMUN 2017, leading the team that organized the first "fully multilingual" edition of London International Model United Nations. - ie: committees held in the 6 official UN languages. He also worked on the central team of United Ambassadors in 2016/ 2017 as content contributor/ associate.