The following article is a guest post from the University of Chicago’s Model U.N. Team and Chomun XIX’s Secretariats. To contact the authors of this article directly please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Model United Nations is undoubtedly a valuable activity. It teaches critical life skills and builds friendships between institutions and individuals. Yet while the Model United Nations circuit affords amazing opportunities, we have come to recognize systemic challenges that we face both as an individual team and as a circuit. This year at Chomun, we are hosting a forum on diversity to begin addressing some of those challenges.
Our conference, ChoMUN, provides an example of particular strengths and weaknesses evident in many of the conferences that we have attended. While there is diversity amongst the periods and topics of our committees, there is arguably not enough diversity amongst delegates and staff to reflect national, and desired, demographic breakdowns.
Model United Nations should be reflective of the inclusivity of the United Nations. In order to embody the goals of the United Nations and the best ideals of our university, we hope to create a conversation about the relative lack of diversity, specifically:
- Gender. While there has been systematic improvement over the last few years, Model U.N. remains an activity that is disproportionately cis-gender male. We have seen this both in our own organization and on the circuit. Increasing female and gender nonconforming participation will make the circuit stronger.
- Race and Ethnicity. We struggle with being racially nonrepresentative, often having participants primarily from only a few ethnic and racial backgrounds. Though the represented ethnicities differ from school to school, we have found institutional homogeneity to be a circuit norm.
- Socio-Economic Background. There are economic barriers to entry and continuity for competitive Model U.N. This activity is most accessible to wealthier students with the financial means to travel and compete. Despite the fact that some schools subsidize part or all of the overt fees, hidden costs such as food, clothing, and transportation produce significant impediments to participation.
These issues extend far beyond Model U.N., and we need to address them where we can. Some actions the UChicago Team has taken over the last year, or have planned for implementation in the 2016-2017 school year, include a Model U.N. Scholarship Fund for low-income students that will cover all conference expenses; a Women in Model U.N. internal working group; an effort to partner with faculty and race and ethnicity-focused student groups to increase campus communication and membership diversity; and a Sexual Assault Policy for ChoMUN and our Team. These actions are in no way exhaustive. There is still a lot to do in order to fully address the problems. We recognize, however, that if we have taken steps to address these systemic challenges, it is likely that other teams have as well. We have an opportunity to learn from one another.
We invite the circuit to participate in our open forum at ChoMUN on Friday, April 22nd, from 10:30am to 12:00pm, before Friday’s first committee session, to discuss these issues. While we hold no illusions that this singular meeting will solve any entire problem, we hope that the discussions generated by this forum will be helpful in addressing these concerns.
Two individuals will be moderating this discussion. Following the discussion, we will distribute minutes to the participants. We do not intend for this discussion to produce any sort of document. However, we believe that the discussion itself will be powerful enough to drive change on the circuit, especially if it is followed up at future conferences.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions about this forum, or to add potential items to the agenda. If you are not attending ChoMUN, we are also happy to devise alternative information sharing means.