How Model United Nations Taught Me How To Lose

by Richard Zhao on February 2, 2017

Image result for model UN ceremony


Your heart is pounding, you feel a little bit nauseous, you think to yourself and all of the expectations your peers and team mates have of you. All the expectations you have of yourself, and as you see numerous delegate go up to collect their award faces gleaming, some of them you are friends with, some of them you are not. As you patiently wait for the secretariat to call for your committee, you feel this sudden rush of adrenaline. And in that instance, time mysteriously slows down, you lose sensation in your legs, you start to feel your hands getting clammy, as you have never wanted any other person to call your country assignment and school name as badly as this moment, and on that podium.

But as she calls out award winners in your committee from verbal to best, each passing award only contributes to the anxiety, and finally the last and most coveted award your body gets hit with numbness, you sit in your seat wanting to sink. And just when you thought this moment could not get any more anxious, the chair calls a delegate from the opposing bloc. You show composure, as the wave of anxiety dissipates but only to be followed by a wave of disappointment, in spite of this you show composure, you show sportsmanship and maturity, as you both accept and realize, it just wasn’t your day.

Best Delegate doesn’t advocate nor does it teach an aggressive means to win awards – above all else our values have always been about diplomacy, peacemaking and learning. Although I would personally advocate the idea that MUN is so much more than just winning awards,  it would be ignorant of me to fail to arrive at the conclusion that many delegates participate in Model U.N. for the purposes of winning awards. And there is nothing wrong with that, we are inherently competitive as humans, and the feeling to be rewarded of hard work both prior and during the conferencing days is an absolute sublime sentiment.

The issue is that Model U.N. is like any competitive competition or sport – there is a defined goal and a finite amount of awards to participants. There will always be a victor and the runner-up. And throughout my Model U.N. career, I have experienced the feeling of loss and disappointment. I have seen what it can do to cripple an individual’s confidence, and I wish somebody were there to tell me after the aforementioned closing ceremonies the same thing that I know now, after gaining exponentially more experience – “It’s okay.” In fact, it’s natural to lose. Because if we won all the time, that would rob us of the joy of victory.


Winning isn’t everything

Although we might believe the pinnacle of measurement for a “strong delegate” is how many gavels or awards they have, this method, although simple, isn’t all-encompassing in the slightest. For starters, depending on which region of the world you live in, you might only be able to go to 2 conferences per year, while another individual active within the Indian Model U.N. circuit could attend up to 15 conferences in a year. My point being, the numbers are skewed towards individuals who simply attend more conferences, and though one can argue number of conferences attended correlate to experience and result in skill level, I’m sure you can all think of some individuals who have attended 5 conferences or less to be considered a better delegate than somebody who has attended 10 or more.


How do we judge a delegate’s skill level?

So, one might ask how do we accurately gauge delegate skills if not judging by the amount of awards won? I know personally, both as a high ranking officer of my Model U.N. team as well as having been a chair, the delegates who have particularly impressed me are individuals who can harness positive and diplomatic ties with others all the while contributing to the committee in an impactful fashion. I know some will not agree with my philosophy, and that’s okay. But an accurate opinion should only be formed after we integrate the delegate’s quantitative aspects of award-winning alongside first hand or even second hand accounts of the delegate’s actual experience – only then will we be able to arrive at an accurate and sensible conclusion.


How can we bounce back from a tough loss?

As a veteran Model U.N. delegate, I’ve recognized that there are times when you are beaten fair and square, and during those times we learn from the delegates who have simply outclassed us at any given turn. But I also recognize the times when you believe you were “robbed” of an award. If the latter applies to you, I’d like to invite you to take a step back, evaluate and think critically. Although, there are certainly chairs who have made oversights in their evaluation, it’s important to understand that your perception of this supposedly undeserving candidate is only one of many. From personal experience, talking to your chairs and asking them for feedback can be a very powerful tool for self improvement, it will also act as a way to give you some closure so you can move on to the next one!


How to become better

Each conference comes with its own set of difficulties and unique challenges to face, that’s what makes Model U.N so addictive and fun. Self-reflection is a great way to cement the lessons and skills you’ve learnt over the weekend. Keeping a journal and recording all of your Model UN adventures is a great way to keep track of the mistakes you’ve made and how to correct them. The journal also acts as a tremendous way to note down all of the adventures and memories of your trip, which is a huge plus. Possible questions you should seek to answer can be along the lines of “What were some obstacles you ran into and how did you address them?” and, “Which delegates were particularly strong in your committee, and why?” Additionally, you should analyze your own speeches, and record positive instances, for the time you killed a question during Q&A, or how you successfully merged two seemingly polar paper by being diplomatic and embraced the art of compromise.


Bottom line

Ultimately, I leave you with this anecdote. Once upon a time at a highly competitive conference, after three days of challenging debate, it came down to the Saturday afternoon session. That session would determine who would win and who wouldn’t. As delegates fiercely represented their views we didn’t even realize that the delegates sitting across and around the very same table, were subject to discrimination and marginalization in their lives. It really put things in perspective how the committees we simulate might be just that, a simulation. But to some, they are as simple as life or death. Your battle isn’t with the other delegates, the real battle starts when your last committee session ends.

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