Model UN takes on real world issues in virtual world of national convention

Students converse and debate over resolutions in committees virtually at BruinMUN, held on Saturday, November 6th, and Sunday, November 7th. “Working with other students at this conference and making resolutions helped teach me problem solving and cooperation skills which are very important in Model UN,” junior team member Hanitha Puranam said. Photo courtesy of Hanitha Puranam.

Members of East’s Model United Nations team competed this past Saturday, November 6th, and Sunday, November 7th, in the virtual BruinMUN (Bruin Model United Nations) conference hosted by the University of California-Los Angeles.

Model United Nations (MUN) is an extra-curricular activity in which students partake in a simulation of the intergovernmental, global organization, the United Nations. Members learn the policies and procedures of the United Nations and then participate in conferences in which they act as delegates assigned to different committees that cover a range of political, social and economic issues. Together with other students from around the area (or sometimes world) they work together to resolve these issues. 

The MUN team is not doing any in person conferences this year, which means that they cannot attend many of the conferences that they have in previous years. 

BruinMUN is completely virtual, therefore making it inclusive to schools and students who aren’t able to attend in-person.

The vice president of the MUN team is junior Aanya Roy who has been a part of the team since her freshman year. Her role as vice president entails presenting at meetings, reviewing position papers for delegates, and helping to prepare the team for competitions. Roy did not compete in this conference because only the newer members of this team applied to be in it.

“[The people] who’ve applied for BruinMUN this time are novice members. But since they’re all novice members they’re all enrolling in the novice competition which isn’t actually offered by all competitions. So it’s getting our newer members a little more accustomed to that,” Roy said.

The MUN team has been training its new members for this conference by teaching them the basics of how it works and also by holding a mock debate.

The students also have to prepare position papers before they are able to compete. A position paper is an argument written about what the country’s stance on the topic is and possible solutions. According to junior Hanitha Puranam, a sense of insecurity for the novice contenders was only natural.

“I felt like the information in my paper was not enough and that I could’ve included more details overall,” Puranam said.

Another member, junior Summaya Fatima, also in her first year on the team, acted as a delegate from Mongolia in the novice competition.

“Going into the conference I feel a bit prepared but there’s always so much research to do. And there’s only so much I can do to be prepared. So I’m a little nervous but excited to be a part of it,” Fatima said.

MUN sponsor and Social Studies teacher Rebecca Walters indicated in the days leading up to the event that the team was doing very well this year.

“We have an experienced [executive] board who have really taken the lead in training new members, plus our membership has grown,” Walters added. “Once we are able to begin participating in conferences again in person I think we will accomplish great things.” 

Over the course of the weekend, sophomore Geetam Gambhir represented Portugal and was part of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) committee.

“Our topics were ‘Developing Effective Frameworks for International Disaster Management’ and ‘Addressing the Yemeni Conflict.’  It started with some speaking from the preset speaker’s list, but then got quickly into moderated (mods) and unmoderated (unmods) caucuses. Mods are for speaking on a specific topic,” Gambhir said. “Unmods are for forming blocs (or groups) and resolution writing. That continued on for around 2-3 hours. After that, resolutions were introduced, a Q&A session happened, and the resolution was taken up for a vote.” 

Though Gambhir’s first resolution was not passed by the committee, he said that he learned a lot from his first MUN conference experience.

“I was definitely very nervous coming into the conference, but over time I was wanting to speak more and more and I was overall more confident than when I started,” Gambhir added. “Some of the more experienced members in my bloc helped me in writing the resolution, which I do greatly appreciate.” 

Writing resolutions, debating and voting in these committees took up a lot of time. Each day ran from about 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. in the evening. 

Freshman Krisha Majmundar acted as a delegate from Venezuela from the United Nations Environment program. Part of her responsibilities was to give speeches about the circular economy, trade, and global tourism.

“It was not as bad as I expected. I learned a lot from this conference since I got to experience how the Model UN works. I feel like I did well since my resolutions were passed and I spoke during moderated caucuses and for the general speakers’ list,” Majmundar said. “I am actually glad that my first conference was virtual since I could use my resources and learn while experiencing.” 

Because this experience is virtual, it’s not very similar to the actual experience students would have attending an MUN conference. Roy, who has been to both in-person and virtual conferences in her time in MUN, said that the differences are significant.

“I guess not having to worry about standing up or looking at everyone at once, makes it a little easier to talk. I won awards in my in person conferences in freshman year but I’ve won more in virtual conferences. While it’s easier public speaking wise, it’s also a lot less fun.” Roy added. “And I’m really sad that a lot of our new members don’t get to experience that. You don’t have the interpersonal connection when you are in a virtual conference. It’s just not the same.” 

As this was the participants’ first conference and more of an opportunity for them to learn rather than seriously compete, no one won an award. However, they still did have a lot to take away from this experience.

“BruinMUN was a great way to get exposure on how Model UN functions. It helped me understand how the details, such as position paper and speaking skills contribute to the overall flow of the conference,” Puranam said.

After this conference, the MUN team is looking forward to finding more virtual conferences, but it’s proving to be a little difficult as most conferences are in-person. However, the team intends to attend the Model United Nations University of Chicago (MUNUC) conference next spring. 

Saba Ahmed is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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