Berkeley Model United Nations Celebrates 60th Year as the First and Oldest MUN Conference in the World

by Ryan on March 12, 2012

Over 1,500 high school delegates attended the 60th annual session of the Berkeley Model United Nations Conference (BMUN). BMUN was founded in 1952, making it the first and oldest Model UN conference in the world, and its 60th session marks its “diamond year.”

Click the button below to learn more about:

  • Opening Ceremonies: Celebrating 60 Years of Model United Nations
  • Best Practices: Innovations in Outreach and Technology
  • Featured Committee: The African Union
  • Closing Ceremonies: Rapporteur Speeches and School Awards
  • Plus pictures and video of delegates and staff in action!

Opening Ceremonies: Celebrating 60 Years of Model United Nations

At opening ceremonies, Secretary-General Jason Keovichit kicked off the conference by speaking to the historic significance of BMUN 60, calling it “a testament to six decades of excellence as the world’s premier — and very first — United Nations simulation.”

Jason was soon followed by keynote speaker Gillian Sorensen, Senior Advisor at the UN Foundation and former Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations. Ms. Sorensen called upon the BMUN delegates to take the lessons they would learn this weekend and apply them to their lives at school, in their communities, and beyond. The UNA-USA East Bay Chapter arranged for Gillian to speak at BMUN.

The UNA-USA East Bay Chapter arranged for UN Foundation Senior Advisor Gillian Sorensen to serve as the BMUN 60 keynote speaker

Opening ceremonies also featured a speech by Mike Foulkes, State & Local Government Director at Apple Inc. and a BMUN alumnus. He shared his story of how he attended BMUN 29 years ago and how it changed his life, inspiring him to attend UC Berkeley and study politics. Mr. Foulkes also made the most memorable moment of opening ceremonies, showing the audience three items from prior BMUN conferences — a rules of procedure document, a placard, and a BMUN T-shirt — to make the point that all three of these items have changed over the course of many conferences, but what they each represent — learning about the world (the rules), giving every student a voice (the placard), and having fun (the T-shirt!) — has remained constant through the years.

And in honor of its diamond year, the BMUN Secretariat announced that this year’s conference cause would be the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a “charity aimed towards providing accessible primary education in regions of Africa affected by the diamond trade.”

Best Practices: Outreach, Technology, and Press Corps

Model UN conferences differ from one another around the world. The most experienced and well-run conferences employ “best practices” that other conferences can learn from. Being the oldest Model UN conference in the world, what can BMUN teach other conferences? And did this year’s BMUN pick up on best practices from other conferences?

I know from meeting many delegates and advisors around the country that the most difficult part of Model UN is just getting started, which is why I was particularly impressed with BMUN’s outreach efforts, led by Under-Secretary-General of Outreach Angela Roh. Before the conference, members of the BMUN Secretariat provided Model UN training for different schools in the San Francisco area. BMUN also hosted a training workshop in mid-October that was attended by 250+ delegates from 20 schools. During the conference, Angela gave a presentation on “Building Your MUN Program” geared towards new advisors. And from speaking with several advisors, BMUN’s pre-conference support — handled by USG External Relations Ginny Sklar, who was last year’s USG Outreach — was very helpful and responsive.

BMUN Under-Secretary-General for Outreach Angela Roh hosted a presentation for new advisors on "Building Your MUN Program"

I also liked how the conference used technology to augment its outreach efforts. The BMUN website contained various resources to help delegates and advisors prepare for the conference, including a series of training videos. Each committee had a blog on the BMUN website, giving delegates a chance to comment on their topics and interact with their chairs before the conference even began.

And I was happy to see BMUN launch its first-ever Press Corps committee. Delegates represented different news groups, such as the BBC and Al-Jazeera, and visited various committees to write stories and take pictures, which they posted online. I’ve noticed more conferences offering Press Corps committees, which is a great way to share the stories taking place in each committee with an audience throughout the conference and beyond.

Click here to visit the BMUN 60 Press Corps blog

The Press Corps committee receives a briefing from NATO

Featured Committee: The African Union

The African Union discussed the topics of gender equality and weapons trafficking, as well as a crisis on gender-based violence and genocide in Sudan. Head Chair Ginny Sklar (who also served as USG External Relations, and who will serve as next year’s Secretary-General) drew from her passion for African studies and her experiences studying and working to promote female empowerment in Kenya. The committee was also led by Vice Chairs Sameera Salari and Paige Xio Alvarez.

Click here to read about the African Union on the BMUN 60 Press Corps blog

The delegates in the African Union

Closing Ceremonies: Rapporteur Speeches and Awards Results

A BMUN tradition, the delegates of each committee selected two rapporteurs to give a speech during closing ceremonies. Many rapporteurs dedicated their speeches to summarizing their committee’s discussion, recognizing the hard work of other delegates, and thanking their chairs. A few rapporteurs expressed these sentiments in the form of rap songs. But my favorite rapporteur speech came from the International Court of Justice — after discussing the issue of whaling rights all weekend, the two rapporteurs decided to read a “letter from a whale,” with one of them making whale sounds and the other serving as translator!

Closing ceremonies ended with the Head Chair of each committee announcing individual awards, followed by Secretary-General Jason Keovichit announcing the school awards. BMUN gives three tiers of school awards — one award for a new school, three awards for schools that have Model UN as a club, and three awards for school that have Model UN as a class. And the awards went to…

Best New School Award:

  • Upper Canada College (Toronto, Canada)

Best Club Award:

  • California High School (San Ramon, California)
  • The Dalton School (New York, New York)
  • St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago, Illinois)

Best Program Award:

  • Mira Costa High School (Manhattan Beach, California)
  • Huntington Beach High School (Huntington Beach, California)
  • Cerritos High School (Cerritos, California)

The Dalton School received the Best Club Award, as did California High School and St. Ignatius College Prep

Cerritos High School received the Best Program Award, as did Mira Costa High School and Huntington Beach High School

Congratulations to all delegates, advisors, and staff on a wonderful conference! And thank you to Jason and the BMUN 60 Secretariat for having me visit!

What did you think of Berkeley Model United Nations? Leave a comment below!

Click here to see more pictures of delegates and staff in action

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  • Anonymous

    Hi. I was wondering since BMUN doesn’t do tiered delegation awards (like other conferences do by having Best and Outstanding delegations), as well as no separation between small and large delegations, is it possible to see who won this conference.

    • Kevin Felix Chan


      The schools that are listed all “won” this conference. I know I received several emails last night from schools that were worried about how conferences that give out multiple delegation awards without separating by size such as BMUN and NHSMUN would affect the rankings. We have been collecting full awards data for all the top conferences so we will differentiate them (e.g. who placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) for rankings purposes only.

      But for now, perhaps this is a lesson for all the competitive schools to understand that not every conference sees it fit that only one school “wins.” That is the mentality of a school that treats MUN as an academic competition rather than an educational experience. Model UN doesn’t have to be about beating everyone else; at most conferences there are multiple delegations that deserve recognition and are oftentimes very close in terms of individual awards and I think it’s better that conferences choose to recognize that. Congrats to ALL the schools that received delegation awards!

      • Michael Scott

        Seeing how Best Delegate itself introduced a Rankings System that rates the quality of Model UN teams, and bases its rankings on RESULTS that teams achieve (i.e. winning) when going against one another at conferences, it seems disingenuous for Best Delegate to claim that teams interested in how a particular conference’s results will be weighted in the rankings somehow need a lesson, that they don’t understand MUN, or that these teams are inherently overly competitive.

        It would be great for multiple conferences to present more awards for all of the hard work put in by delegates. But that is currently not the case. And even if it were, you state that you will break down the awards “for
        ranking purposes.” So you are actively supporting and promoting the competitive nature of MUN, are you not?

        Best Delegate is making unfair judgements about the motivations of teams who have such questions.

        I think the mentality of the schools BD mentioned might just be that they want to more clearly understand a playing field dictated by others who are virtually never transparent as to their criteria and deliberations.

        What’s with the black and white, all or nothing mentality? Why can’t Model UN be both a competition AND a learning experience? Because it is, in every conference that I’ve attended. Is Best Delegate insinuating that conferences should not be competitions? If so, then do away with your rankings system.

        Doesn’t only one team get the Best Delegate number one ranking? Your chastising teams for being competitive seems a little bit hypocritical don’t you think? I really like the Best Delegate site and the interest it is
        generating for those of us involved in Model UN. But BD should be careful about what it writes about teams.

        Maybe BD should be challenging the conferences themselves instead of the schools and delegates who are dictated to and influenced by the conference organizers.

        • Kevin Felix Chan

          Hi Michael Scott,

          Thank you for pointing that out. I have apologized to ChristmasJones and it was wrong for me to lump his question with all the other ones I had received through email and twitter.

          The point I wanted to get across to everyone else though is that we should be able to appreciate that multiple schools put in a good effort and the conference chose to recognize them equally rather than immediately separate them by tiers. Let the schools enjoy their accomplishment of being named one of the best teams without having to degrade it as it being actually 2nd or 3rd place.

          I think we need to clarify two things:

          1. The original intention of the rankings was not to promote competition. It was meant to publicize teams that did well across the circuit and across the year based off the only metric we have (awards), particularly those who didn’t win delegation awards, because we recognized this lack of transparency. If the rankings promote more competition at a detriment to the MUN experience and/or have failed in its mission to publicize the achievements of the circuit or have shifted the focus too much to competition, then something must be changed. In my opinion, I do think something should be improved about the publicity system (whether they be rankings or some other method).

          2. Everyone learns something from every MUN conference. That’s the nature of a simulation. But many of the simulations that we’ve seen are designed (either intentionally or unintentionally) to be competitive and have not taken any theoretical effort to be educational from the perspective of a teacher, not the delegate. This goes for both conferences that bill themselves as competitive or educational. As we’ve engaged in more discussions with educators around the world and as we’ve started teaching in our own classrooms and at workshops, we realize that while everyone learns at every conference, the learning experience may not be optimal or designed in a way that the conference organizers intended. What needs to be clarified is when we say educational, we mean conference organizers understand specifically the educational theories they are intending to design in a conference and where learning is the focus. In contrast, a “competitive” conference is where learning is a residual outcome of the competitive experience. I realize we haven’t written an article about this yet and we haven’t gotten a teachers’ perspective on it yet so this is something that needs to be expanded further in the future. Model UN can be both educational and competitive, but only a minority of conferences truly understand how to do both well.

    • Ariel Jo

      Huntington Beach won the most gavels, if that’s how you’re ranking schools…

    • Kevin Felix Chan

      Hi ChristmasJones,

      First, my apologies for my original comment. As Michael Scott pointed out, it was wrong for me to assume your intentions for wanting to see who won the conference. In terms of answering your question, Berkeley has mentioned that they will post up the full awards list so it should be public. We don’t have a tally at the moment.

  • Anonymous

    Congrats to BMUN 60 on running a good size conference of 1500 delegates. They also attempted to deal with pre wirtten resolutions. First conference to actually give this issue more than lip service. Many schools are now compiling resolution data bases for pre written and plaigarised work. We also enjoy the conference being on an actual university site. Berkeley itself as a destination is always a great experience. Most chairs were competent and topic knowledgeable. This was easily measured by the blogs and various comments from all concerned. Really hope BMUN moves into the technology age for MUN. Tech for knowledge and communication it has the people and ability to do so. Looking forward to BMUN 61.

    W. KNutson and R Timberlake

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