The following is an article submitted by Talha Yousaf a high school student at Aitchison College in Lahore, Pakistan. His school sent a five member delegation to the prestigious Berkeley Model United Nations Conference 2013 and received 3 Outstanding Delegate awards and 2 Commendations en route to winning the ‘Best New School’ Award.
It started with a dream, as clichéd as it may sound. Our high school, Aitchison College, had sent various students to international events and conferences before, but not to the USA. With the hopes of our school resting on our shoulders, we completed the grueling 40 hour journey from Lahore to San Francisco and arrived in Berkeley at 4 am. The Conference was in a mere 2 days and with such little time, not to mention the enormity of the situation we found ourselves in, our hopes of winning an award were quite bleak. As we all returned to our room the night before the Conference, there was a palpable tension in the air, it was our teacher accompanying us all the way from Pakistan who saved the day. She reminded us that it was not about winning, what mattered was that we were representing not only our school, but rather our country at such a prestigious institute and at a Conference of such magnitude. My parents offered similar advice; they told me to be thankful for being blessed with this opportunity and just do my best.
The first thing I noticed on the day of the conference was the amount of students standing in front of one of the University buildings. It was unlike any sight we had seen before; the maximum amount of delegates one could hope to see in a Pakistani Model UN conference would be around 700. In Berkeley however, we saw over 1800 delegates assembled in front of one of the University’s buildings. The 5 of us parted ways as we crossed the iconic Sather Gate, famous for playing a part in many revolutions and campaigns as we had been told, where we muttered a prayer to achieve something which could bring a new dimension to Model UN in our school and Pakistan.
The level of debate was tremendous, but it was not quite different from what my co-delegate and I were accustomed to facing in Pakistan, where Model UN Conferences focus a lot on debate and logic. The real test lay in our ability to adapt to the rules of procedure, which had substantial differences from those in Pakistani conferences. Coupled with the fact that the General Assembly committee we were participating in was composed of nearly 300 delegates, a mammoth amount, the shortage of time in the form of only 4 committee sessions to pass resolutions on both topics made our task all the more difficult. The first day passed with us making our voices heard amidst the 300 delegates only once in formal debate, but the impact was obvious. We were also delighted to notice that our school uniform, which consisted of a blue lined blazer, had made it easier for people to remember our country and the points we proposed, so since the start we were able to dominate during informal debate.
The defining moment in our committee was when the chairs announced that our committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was going to have a joint inter-committee crisis with the Disarmament and International Security committee. This crisis required dual delegates to split into the two committees, so that my dual delegate (Mirza Yahya Baig) was sent to represent our country (Kazakhstan) in the Disarmament and International Security committee all by himself and I was to do the same in Special Political and Decolonization. Both of us managed to play very important roles in solving the crises by resolving the differences between the key countries and helping to design a resolution that could placate all sides involved. The crises helped cement our position as one of the leading countries in the committee, and we were able to pass back to back resolutions in the following two committee sessions.
After the time for the last committee session elapsed on Sunday the 10th of March 2013, all five of us had comfort knowing that we had done our very best and that given the sheer size of the conference, in terms of both the number of participants and prestige, we had performed much better than expected. As we took our seats in the Recreational Sports Facility adjoining Kleeberger Field House, we could not help but mutter a prayer for our success. One of our team members, Abdullah Suhail Mannan, was selected as the Committee Rapportuer of his committee, so he joined the other selected students assigned to present speeches summarizing the resolutions each committee had passed. We all greatly enjoyed the cheers raised by delegates when Abdullah mentioned during his speech that we had come all the way from Pakistan to participate in this conference.
During the awards ceremony, the duo of Junaid Khalid and Afraz Arif Khan from our delegation managed to win a Commendation award in the Social Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. When the awards for the Special Political and Decolonization committee were announced, much to my great delight, my co- delegate Yahya Baig and I won an Outstanding Delegate Award. Our fifth and final remaining delegate, Abdullah Mannan, also won the Outstanding Delegate Award in the United Nations Development Group. Just when we thought things couldn’t have been any better, it was announced that the award for the ‘Best New School’ this year went to Aitchison College Lahore from Pakistan. As we heard the name of our school being announced, we could not control our jubilation and started cheering loudly, basking in the glory of having made not only our school, but also our whole country proud. At a time when Pakistan is notorious for acts of terrorism being committed within the country, it was very fulfilling for me to know that we had presented the real side of Pakistan to the world, that we are a nation full of talented people who are capable enough of winning something on an international scale if given the opportunity.
Altogether Berkeley Model United Nations 2013 was a very beneficial experience for all six of us including our teacher. It gave us the chance to meet people from all over the world, hear different perspectives about relevant global issues, expand and broaden our horizons, and most of all present our country the way it is supposed to be presented. The reason why I am so passionate about Model United Nations is because it lets the truth about every nation be heard, and gives a perspective on every country beyond what we all hear on television or read online. By acting as the diplomats of different countries, we learn to accept the diverse views which make our global community so unique. What we gained from this conference was the experience of representing our country and making all the people back home proud of our achievements, as well as the knowledge we were exposed to during the conference.
Only recently we were informed that Aitchison College has been declared as one of the top 25 international high school MUN teams in the world. Knowing that I played a part in bringing such glory back home is a feeling which can’t be described in words, and the rest of my team mates feel the same way. Hopefully this has opened up the avenue for more schools from Pakistan to participate in international Model UN Conferences and showcase the spirit of diplomacy and international relations which has become such an integral part of the youth of Pakistan. It started with a dream, and look where it has brought us now.