If you're active in the Model UN Community, you must have encountered the question: What is UN4MUN? We're here to clarify that.
UN4MUN is a program introduced by the United Nations Department of Global Communications in 2009 with an intention to bring Model UN simulations closer to how the real UN functions. The term symbolizes accurate simulations of the UN, ie: Rules of Procedure which accurately reflect the decision-making process of the real UN. The leadership of the program at the UN transitioned in 2015. Today, the name of the office interacting with Model UNs at the UN is "The United Nations Model UN Programme."
Figure 1: UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations in New York, 2018.
Accurate simulations of the UN have significantly evolved over the past few years. Since 2015, United Ambassadors has been pioneering UN4MUN by improving the existing simulations and creating entirely new committee simulations that include the International Court of Justice, the ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum, and today, many others.
Since 2014, United Ambassadors has been holding world-leading educational programs on accurate simulations of the UN. Between 2016-2018, United Ambassadors co-delivered 4 joint UN4MUN workshops in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Global Communications for educators and students worldwide.
Today, United Ambassadors is continuing to pioneer the development of the world’s most accurate simulations of the UN, as well as initiatives to engage youth in Model UN with the SDGs. They are being implemented at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference in Geneva and New York.
Figure 2: UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations in London, 2017.
So, how have accurate simulations of the UN evolved since 2015? Before 2015, the differences between the Real UN and Traditional MUN were categorized as follows:
1- The Rules of Procedure: Traditional Model UN follows the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure whereas the real UN applies General Assembly/ Security Council Rules of Procedure.
2- The Leadership Structure: The UN Secretariat is one of the 6 main organs of the UN, and each one of the other organs (like the General Assembly) has its own leadership structure. General Assembly Chairs are elected, and the Security Council Presidency rotates monthly among the 15 Member States.
3- The Negotiation Process: Consensus is the main driver behind the negotiation process in the General Assembly and most main UN Organs.
Read the article: What is UN4MUN?
Figure 3: UN4MUN Workshop by United Ambassadors and the United Nations in Geneva, 2018
However, after I spent time studying the UN system, and after organizing a few editions of UAMUNC, the conference offering the world’s most accurate simulation of the UN, I found the differences to be much broader and more complex than the three points listed above.
Read also: The Leadership Difference at UA-MUNC.
The main differences between UN4MUN before 2015 and UA-MUNC, the world's most accurate simulation of the UN, today, include:
1- New Committees and Improved Simulation:
The United Nations has 6 Main Organs and 15 Specialized Agencies. One cannot claim to be offering the most accurate simulation of the UN of they are simulating less than 5% of it. A critical difference is that before 2015 (when UA was founded), UN4MUN offered core simulations of only the General Assembly and the Security Council.
In late 2016, United Ambassadors important developments were added to the existing version of the UN4MUN Security Council in collaboration with Mr. Brenden Varma, the new Model UN focal point, who had previously worked in the Security Council Affairs Division. The GA simulation was adapted and refined at UA-MUNC 2017.
Starting in 2017, I began reaching out to UN officials at various UN organs to initiate the development and introduction of multiple new committees in UN4MUN.
As a result, UA-MUNC today offers accurate simulations of:
The International Court of Justice
The High-Level Political Forum under the auspices of ECOSOC and GA
The ECOSOC Commission on the Status of Women
The ECOSOC Commission on Science and Technology for Development
The UN Human Rights Council.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees: Global Refugees Forum.
Before these developments, before 2015, UN4MUN simulations covered less than 5% of the real UN.
Figure 4: The International Court of Justice at the UN4MUN Workshop in New York, 2018
2- The UN rapidly evolves, and accurate MUN simulations should keep up.
The United Nations is one of the most dynamic, fast-paced, and internally complex systems in the world. This means one thing: It changes rapidly.
Since 1945, the United Nations has gone through notable shifts, mainly because of the changing times and the nature of international discourse which paved the way for new goals for the United Nations. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda (SDGs) in September 2015, the UN has gone through a rapid evolution. All UN Member States mobilized around the advancement of collective efforts towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This led to the creation of new lobby groups within the UN system and collaboration between multiple stakeholders within the UN and between the UN and civil society. For example, to help achieve SDG #16, Brazil, Sierra Leone, and Switzerland collaborated on an initiative called “Pathfinders to Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies” at the 72nd General Assembly. Many other countries joined this initiative later. Read more at www.sdg16.plus. At the High-Level Political Forum of the ECOSOC and General Assembly, Major Groups and Other Stakeholders like Women, Children & Youth, NGO’s, and Business & Industry are invited to communicate and collaborate with UN Member State Representatives on the 2030 Agenda. These are relatively recent developments at the UN. The evolution of UN4MUN simulations should keep up with the trends that take place within the UN system. This is precisely why United Ambassadors is labeled as a “cutting-edge” simulation. We are committed to keeping up with the way the UN decision-making process periodically evolves.
3- Consensus is important, but it’s not everything.
Despite popular belief, Consensus is not ubiquitous in all UN organs and committees. The International Court of Justice, for example, does not make decisions by consensus. Quite the contrary. Votes on Judgments are rarely ever unanimous among judges. In the ECOSOC HLPF however, Consensus on the Ministerial Declaration is actually mandatory. The Security Council votes on every resolution, but votes are usually unanimous. (Vote by acclamation).
The introduction of new committees by United Ambassadors led to the discovery that at the real United Nations, Consensus is certainly a primary and central goal, and it is ingrained in the values surrounding the negotiation/ decision-making process. However, it is not always achieved, and in some organs like the International Court of Justice, consensus is neither expected nor encouraged.
Figure 5: The International Court of Justice at UA-MUNC New York, 2018
4- Yes, Crisis is possible, even in UN4MUN.
Crisis committees are one of the most popular components of traditional Model UN conferences. While it is not possible to put on a full crisis simulation in an accurate simulation of the UN, some components of it are to an extent, possible. United Ambassadors is introducing the first crisis simulation in the Security Council at UA-MUNC Geneva 2019. While maintaining the most accurate simulation of the Rules of Procedure, or decision-making process of the real UN Security Council, the committee topic will build upon historic facts and add one or two fictional developments that are predicted, and that the Council will have to react to/ address on the first day. For example, in addition to the past shootings/ attacks on places of worship, there will be another one, larger in significance and magnitude. What will the Security Council do in response? This allows for the maintenance of accurate RoP’s, as well as referral to real events with one fictional future event added to the simulation. It is also important from an educational perspective as students will be tasked with the challenge of discussing complex, oftentimes emotionally challenging issues from a critical lens, and exploring ways to address them.
5- Educational value is emphasized: Leadership development is the main goal.
Read also: The Leadership Difference at UA-MUNC
It is important to remember the purpose of Model UN. Model UN is primarily, an educational activity aimed at developing the skill-set of its youth participants. At United Ambassadors MUN Conferences, the educational value of our programs, and their ability to develop leadership potential is our main goal, beyond the simple accuracy of the simulation.
6- MUN should be FUN, and so should accurate MUN simulations.
FUN is a defining characteristic of UA-MUNC.
In addition to achieving the learning goals, the educational value, and the checklist of accuracy in the Rules of Procedure, UN4MUN, at United Ambassadors, must also be fun.
Figure 8: UA-MUNC Geneva 2018
Finally, and most importantly:
7- MUN Should Engage Youth with SDGs.
Accurate simulations of the UN are not just about Rules of Procedure, although this is an important component. Accurate Model UN simulations should also provide a platform for youth to meaningfully engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. MUN should create global citizens working to advance the SDGs every day. That is the mission and premise upon which United Ambassadors was founded in 2015. Since then, it has been pioneering initiatives in the Model UN industry that promote youth engagement with the SDGs. The MUN Youth Assembly, which was launched in 2015, has now become #MUN_Action. This is a committee at UA-MUNC where real conversations around youth engagement with the SDGs take place, and real resolutions are adopted with concrete solutions and action plans that can be implemented in real life.
Figure 9: The #MUN_Action Committee at UA-MUNC New York 2018.
This is solidified through the MUN Hall of Fame, which was introduced by United Ambassadors in 2017 to recognize Model UN youth, educators, or conferences that have contributed positively to the promotion and advancement of the UN SDGs.
From the MUN Youth Assembly to #MUN_Action Committee, we are committed to making Model UN simulations meaningful and to providing our participants with opportunities to have real impact. All this, while providing the world’s most accurate, cutting edge, innovative and fun simulations of the United Nations.
Figure 10: Maria Fare from the SDG Action Campaign delivering expert session to UA-MUNC delegates NYC, 2018
In conclusion, UN4MUN has come a long way since 2015. United Ambassadors is continuing to pioneer the development of the world’s most accurate simulations of the UN, as well as initiatives to engage youth in Model UN with the SDGs. They are being implemented at the United Ambassadors MUN Conference (UA-MUNC) in Geneva and New York.
We look forward to all the upcoming editions of our conferences, and hope to see you there!
Want to join our next conference? You cannot miss the 2019 edition of UA-MUNC.
Register here today. https://www.unitedambassadors.com/uamunc-geneva
Nabila Elassar, Founder & Academic Director, United Ambassadors at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Graduation Ceremony, June 16th, 2019.