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Behind the scenes of a Bond Model UN conference: My tips and tales

Written by Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of International Relations student, Crystal Paris.

You might have heard the term ‘Model UN’ name-dropped in movies or talked about around campus, but what exactly is it? Also known as Model United Nations, and often abbreviated to ‘MUN’, it refers to a simulated United Nations conference where delegates (AKA students) debate for the best interests of their nominated country.

To give us some insight into MUNs, we’ve enlisted the help of experienced MUNer Crystal – keep reading as she delves into this exciting and fast-paced world.

What is a MUN?

At a Model UN conference, student delegates assume the roles of diplomats of various countries, which they’re assigned at random. They’re required to represent that country in the MUN, which is a simulation of the United Nations. Delegates function as the eyes, ears and voice of that country, representing its best interests. The goal of a Model UN conference is for delegates to formulate solutions to current, real-world problems by way of a resolution – which, for those who aren’t yet well-versed in MUN terms, is what the UN calls the formal documents it produces.

Crystal and her fellow delegates participate in the Opening Ceremony for WIMUN 2021, held virtually

What does a typical MUN involve?

Research is at the heart of a successful Model UN experience. Delegates first must research their allocated country and craft an identity from its profile. This helps them to establish the persona they’ll adopt throughout negotiations. Step two is researching the agenda topic of the conference and learning more about the country’s stance on it. Throughout this research process, you’ll not only become one with your assigned country, but you’ll also have the opportunity to learn about a contemporary global issue confronting the international community, which you’ll likely become very passionate about discussing!

After the research stage, delegates step into the negotiation arena. A committee room – be it physical or virtual – will kick off this stage of the MUN with opening speeches, where delegates can use their creative license to explain their country’s policy and the particular issues that, in their country’s eyes, deserve to be focused on during committee discussions.

Following this, delegates will draft and then adopt an agenda, which serves as the blueprint for issues to be addressed throughout the MUN. Delegates are broken into regional and political groupings, where they’ll informally discuss and draft a resolution document containing their proposed solutions to the issue at hand. Then, it’s time to return to the main stage and merge these drafted resolutions.

Behind the scenes of a virtual MUN, held via Zoom

With anywhere between two and five documents, depending on delegate numbers and group allocations, that contain 20 paragraphs at minimum, it’s not difficult to appreciate that this part of the simulation has its intricacies. As a result, it can get quite heated, as delegates find themselves stuck in the crosshairs of negotiating points of contention. This is where the spirit of compromise plays an important role, as consensus and creatively resolving an area of disagreement is the goal.

Finally, once delegates are satisfied with the content and form of the final document, they can choose to be a sponsor or non-sponsor of the resolution – the difference being that sponsors agree with the content of the resolution in relation to their country’s positions, whereas non-sponsors disagree. And then, wham-bam, you’re done – a MUN in a nutshell!

Why MUN?

If you have a passion for international relations, a Model UN conference will provide the platform for your voice to be heard and for you to practice collaboratively finding solutions to wide-ranging global issues. At the same time, there are so many transferrable skills that participating in a MUN will help to strengthen: negotiation, leadership, teamwork, research, oral and written communication, networking, and, lest it be forgotten, the art of diplomacy.

In a Model UN conference, you’ll certainly be surrounded by likeminded individuals. Be this at a peer-to-peer level or with globally experienced, distinguished experts, the Model UN environment really allows you to create quality connections and friendships that span the globe. I can attest to this – the highlight of participating in my MUN, although it was online, was the incredible individuals I was able to ‘e-meet’.

Crystal (third from left) pictured with Bond University’s 2021 WIMUN team

Finally, if you’re really interested in participating in a MUN, you’ll be pleased to learn that Bond’s MUN experiences are for-credit subjects that count towards your degree. The written documents you produce for the conference, along with your participation, can form part of your assessment.

My MUN experience

During my time at Bond, I represented the University in the WFUNA International Model United Nations (WIMUN) New York online conference, which was held early in semester 211. WIMUN is the world’s most accurate and realistic simulation of the United Nations, so it was a very exciting event to be able to participate in! Traditionally, being part of the North America MUN and Study Tour would see Bondies jetting off to New York, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Model UN has had to adapt. As a result, it looks a little different, everywhere.

This year, the Bond delegation engaged in 30 hours of online negotiations, addressing the topic of women and girls and the response to COVID-19. We also participated in 31 hours of professional development, all from the comfort of the Collaborative Lab in the Sustainable Development Building, and on occasion, our homes.

Time zones certainly added an additional layer of complexity to MUNing, and a few of us – myself included – found ourselves struggling to convert EST to AEST! My teammates and I would start negotiations at 5pm and conclude at midnight, and these occurred over two weekends. A few things that got me through the late, late nights of the WIMUN conference – caffeine, our beloved Barry (BondMUN’s wombat mascot!), chats with the team, and dinner, albeit at 10pm.

Crystal and the Bond WIMUN team, pictured with team mascot, Barry the wombat! This year’s team was recognised with the prestigious Best Small Delegation Award

How can you get involved with BondMUNs?

There’s no one way to get involved in Bond’s MUN program, but it certainly helps the consideration process if you’ve had some exposure to negotiation or diplomacy. It’s also important you have an appreciation for the United Nations and what it does.

Students from all degrees can partake in MUNs, however in particular, International Relations students are afforded more opportunities to get involved. There are subjects available that will equip you with the relevant knowledge and skills you need to excel at MUNing. Additionally, the Bond University United Nations Association runs semesterly MUN competitions, open to students from all faculties – so if you’re looking to embark on your MUN journey, this is a good place to start!

Prior to competing in WIMUN, I considered myself a novice MUNer. For anyone looking to get involved with BondMUNs, my advice would be to put your best foot forward, as I did, because it could very well be the first step down the path to excelling at Model UN. 

I’m incredibly grateful for my own experience participating in MUNs, and hope that many other Bondies are able to access the amazing opportunities that the world of Model UN offers.

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