From the moment I walked into the Hilton Hotel of Chicago for this year’s Chicago International Model United Nations (CIMUN) Conference, I was treated like a real delegate from the Republic of Singapore. For those who have never been to this conference, this is CIMUN’s specialty – an intense real-world diplomatic simulation. This year CIMUN boasted 25 innovative committees, a staff of students, post-graduates, and professionals from over 50 colleges and universities, and hosted approximately 1,100 students from 40 schools. Moreover, the conference sponsored the same charity as last year, helping raise funds for an NGO that works towards providing access to clean water for people in developing nations. For this conference recap article I will be giving you my honest perspective on the conference from the viewpoint of a delegate competing at the conference.
Some of the best qualities of CIMUN are how well run it is, perhaps due to the fact that it is organized by the Model United Nations Organization (MUNDO), which in turn gathers its staff from universities across the world. This diverse group of college students brought different experience levels and perspectives on Model UN. This is especially true in terms of the quality of dais members in each committee, which was evident in the conversation I had with Azeen Khan, a graduate student at John Hopkins University and the President (equivalent to a “chair”) of the Historical General Assembly. This was Khan’s fifth year staffing CIMUN and when asked about what kept bringing him back to CIMUN each year, he answered that “it’s the immense work that the delegates do, especially on the last day when they pass their resolutions…it just feels good.” This is a great example of the way CIMUN approaches their conference: they are there to catalyze an intellectual debate and they love to see the delegates pour their heart and soul into accomplishing this task. This is definitely evident in the conference’s treatment of delegates from the fancy banquet, where delegates sit with their committee rather than their delegations, to the head delegate system. The head delegate system allows for each school to select the strongest competitor on their team to be the leading representative of the country they have for the conference, granting them the power to speak, vote, and make a point or motion in all committees where their country is present. As the Head Delegate of Singapore I loved the ability to support and speak on the behalf of the delegates from my school in the IAEA committee to defend their working paper, which was receiving backlash from other nations at the time. Thus, the head delegate system allows for realistic diplomacy as the leading diplomat from each nation ensures their delegates are following the correct policy and are promoting their country’s solutions.
Another key aspect of CIMUN was the technology they utilize. On the delegate side, this is one of the only high school conferences in the Midwest that enforces the use of computers in drafting and submitting working papers and resolutions. This was a transition I was worried about after being used to the paper system, but it was surprisingly easy and less stressful, especially in the Historical General Assembly with over 100 delegates in the room. Moreover, each room had a screen that was used to project these resolutions and other important documents. What was most interesting about the usage of a screen in each room was that across the screen a “ticker tape” banner would emit updates, crises, and actions occurring in other committees. It was fun to be working on the topic of chemical weapons in HGA and then casually read that the International Olympic Committee had decided to have the games in L.A. on the screen. Sometimes these updates were extremely relevant to our committee especially with the suspected trade of chemical weapons to Iran by the USSR. Behind the scenes, all dais members and CIMUN staff were connected through a chat system created by Greg Young, the Secretary General of CIMUN. Utilizing their own innovative technology produced fluid transitions and communication amongst the committees.
Lastly the crisis and simulations department of CIMUN was outstanding because of the immense work they put into making each crisis committee incredibly interwoven. Kali Croke, a senior from Glenbrook South in the India Cabinet reflected on how impressed she was with the crises in committees: “despite two crises going on at the same time amongst the cabinets, we were still able to talk and communicate in a way that I have never experienced at any other Model UN conference.” In every crisis committee two press releases and one communiqué were permitted per session, allowing for realistic limited communication, mirroring the manner in which nations communicate on crises around the world. Croke was able to be a permanent member in the ASEAN committee after negotiating India’s membership, thereby becoming a liaison between the India cabinet and this small committee of Asian states. This is the type of innovative communication that completely altered the discourse in each committee on an hourly basis whether a country cabinet was attempting to broker an economic trade deal with China or simply deny Russia’s invitation to peace talks; there was never a dull moment for CIMUN’s crisis team.
This section is geared toward providing pieces of constructive criticism for an overall amazing conference. Nonetheless, I believe its important to note that not every conference is perfect and there are always areas to improve. First, as a delegate I was disappointed with the background guides for the committees. In comparison with other competitive four-day conferences in the Midwest like MUNUC (Model United Nations University of Chicago), CIMUN’s background guides were around 17-20 pages for three topics while MUNUC produces 40 page background guides covering on two topics. Thus, with background guides that did not delve into the depth of topics, in-committee debate reflected this same basic understanding of the topics by the Dais and the delegates in the room, often causing periods of monotony in committee.
Moreover, in each committee there seemed to be no uniform parliamentary procedure in comparison to what is typically normal at a Model UN conference. For example, at every conference it is typical that the nation that motions for the moderated caucus that is passed gains the first speech, however in committee the chair did not often grant this right. Throughout the four days, delegates who normally were used to having this right of the first speech did not grow accustomed to the change in rules at CIMUN, hinting that perhaps committee could have been more fluid and less confusing if the dais were to follow the same parliamentary procedures that other conferences utilize. Futhermore, most delegates felt like their chairs seemed to decide upon which parliamentary rules they wanted to follow and which they wanted to ignore. Thus, there needs to be some work on producing a uniform parliamentary procedure in all committees to mirror the same style of debate that delegates are used to at other conferences.
For individual committee awards CIMUN gives out Best Delegate (selected by each committee’s chairs), Outstanding Delegation, Honorable Mention, and an interesting Delegate’s Choice Award (voted on by each committee’s delegates). Below you will find the ranking for overall delegation awards. Congrats to all who competed, it was truly a difficult conference!
- 1st Place Delegation: Turkey (Carl Sandburg High School)
- 2nd Place Delegation: Luxembourg (William Fremd High School)
- 3rd Place Delegation: Norway (Glenbrook South High School)