NHSMUN: The Largest Conference in the World Proves Quantity Doesn’t Always Sacrifice Quality

by Bill Kosmidis on April 4, 2016


The United Nations General Assembly hall where delegations gather for closing ceremonies on the last day of the conference (Photo courtesy of Arley Titzler)

The United Nations General Assembly hall where delegations gather for closing ceremonies on the last day of the conference (Photo courtesy of Arley Titzler).

NHSMUN 2016 began in style with the United States’ Ambassador to United Nations as its keynote speaker. Ambassador Samantha Power delivered her speech on the stage of the Hilton Grand Ballroom, greeting the thousands of delegates at the conference’s Opening Ceremonies; she spent the first part of her day passing a unanimous, landmark Security Council Resolution imposing sanctions upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and ended her evening delivering an impassioned and encouraging speech to a ballroom of high school students from around the world. Throughout the speech, she graciously took questions from delegates and provided her thoughts on a variety of impactful issues, including the future of women in the UN and the toughest challenges the world faces in the next decade. “It was an incredible honor to have her and an experience that no student, faculty, or staff member will ever forget,” said Costanza Cicero, Secretary-General of NHSMUN 2016.

Samantha Power delivers the keynote speech at the opening ceremonies of NHSMUN

Samantha Power delivers the keynote speech at the opening ceremonies of NHSMUN.

Scanning through the ballroom during Opening Ceremonies, I was astounded by the impressive number of international delegations present. With delegations from Australia, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, just to scratch the surface, NHSMUN demonstrated its continuous commitment to providing a conference with diverse and thoughtful perspectives. Delegates debated and collaborated, creating resolutions that truly encapsulated the diversity of viewpoints in an educational stimulation unlike any other, with substantial contributions that shattered public speaking inhibitions and language barriers alike. NHSMUN 2016 grew in size once again as demand both in the United States and abroad continued to increase, bringing in a total of 3800 delegates—the top talent from across the country and globe, assembled together for a few short but intense days of debate in the New York Hilton Midtown and United Nations Headquarters.

Substantive Programming

Of course, the true draw of NHSMUN is its stellar substantive programming and philosophy, and this year was no different. As war, terrorism and resource scarcity divide countries and communities, NHSMUN 2016 continued its time-honored mission to emphasize collaboration and compromise on compelling and often divisive issues. From debating the UN Peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan, to preventing the growth of sex trafficking in the CSW, to understanding the effect of cryptocurrencies on criminal activity, delegates at NHSMUN experienced the challenging task of finding common ground on issues where incentives and tough geopolitical realities are not often aligned.

In the words of NHSMUN 2016 Director-General Shaan Pattni, “With guidance from our world-class staff, delegates were able to experience the frustration of their real-world counterparts and understand how communication, collaboration and compromise can overcome the most difficult problems.” Throughout the conference, the rich level of debate across all of the committees reflected the intense preparation efforts that both delegates and NHSMUN staffers put into the substantive material. Through NHSMUN’s topnotch Background Guides and Update Papers, as well as its Country Profiles Directory, delegates are provided with comprehensive, high-quality research to supplement their own preparation.

A central focus of NHSMUN 2016’s topics was using sustainability as an approach to protecting the livelihoods of the planet and its inhabitants, preventing the depletion of valuable resources, and promoting sustainable economic development. From preserving marine biodiversity in the UNEP, to reducing the environmental effects of trade liberalization in the WTO, to promoting sustainable urban growth in Africa in UN-HABITAT, the 31 different NHSMUN committees showed students that to achieve steps toward sustainability requires a patient and thoughtful problem-solving approach. Delegates represented countries with differing opinions and levels of commitment to certain sustainable solutions, and in the process delegates, staffers and faculty advisors alike learned about the rewards of compromise and consensus.

Over 350 Delegates debate Poverty Eradication in India in ECOFIN, one of the General Assembly Mains Committees at NHSMUN

Delegates in ECOFIN utilize the note-passing system to communicate with other nations in the committee.

Like every year, some of the highlights of the substantive programming, bringing together some of the best MUNers from around the world, were the Crisis committees. Two midnight crises occurred in the Security Council and Historic Security Council respectively, in which delegates were asked to solve a complex crisis in the early hours of Friday morning. The Security Council dealt with the international implications of escalated Yemeni-Saudi relations, while the Historic Security Council attempted to quell a fiery rebellion in El Salvador circa 1988. Delegates debated, discussed and then acted decisively to resolve the problems put forth before them. In addition to two midnight crises, NHSMUN ran two continuous crisis committees in the form of the Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) and the Organization of American States Multidimensional Task Force. The latter was a unique departure from the militaristic and security crisis committees of other conferences, as the committee was focused on the Construction of the Nicaraguan Canal. Delegates represented local and global stakeholders from political, social and economic spheres, advocating for their specific responsibilities to influence the events of an issue both highly relevant and complex.


The National High School Model United Nations Conference (NHSMUN) is the largest single location High School MUN Conference in the world, hosting more than 3,800 high school students and faculty advisors in New York City, as well as an all-volunteer staff comprising 108 college-level committee directors, administrative staff, operations coordinators and the secretariat.  Other than being the first conference of its size, NHSMUN is also a trailblazer in providing an educational experience appealing to delegates of all skill levels. While small crisis committees provide veteran delegates the chance to hone their MUN prowess and engage in late-night crises, students new to MUN can gain exposure to debate in General Assembly committees in which all member states of the UN have equal representation. This year NHSMUN had 31 committees allowing delegates to research, debate, network and resolve the world’s most pressing international issues from March 2nd-5th.

IMUNA Logo_0

The International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA) is the driving force behind this four-day conference. IMUNA is an educational non-for-profit organization that facilitates Model United Nations around the globe, with its Board comprising former avid MUNers, now a diverse group of young professionals, eager to enhance the future of educational simulation through their personal experiences as debaters, committee directors and conference leadership staff. This organically stems from the fact that IMUNA strives to build on its young staff’s relationships and futures, carrying them forward to ensure a diverse and evolving representation that will serve a diverse and evolving educational market. As a former delegate at NHSMUN in 2014, and now serving as a Substantive Assistant Director for NHSMUN 2016, I can attest to this being an incredible contributing factor in NHSMUN being one of the most successful conferences I have ever seen.

One of opportunities that NHSMUN is most proud to provide to its attendees is the chance of meeting with current United Nations representatives and staff. In fact, delegates get to attend Mission Briefings from the country they are representing at the conference, interfacing directly with esteemed diplomats with decades of real-world experience. Delegates and Faculty Advisors have remarked time and time again how this opportunity has made an incredible impact on them and their experience as attendees.

The Vision

This year’s NHSMUN was led by Secretary General Costanza Cicero and Director General Shaan Pattni, the two central leadership roles that in addition to coordinating the entire conference, determine both the focus and goals for NHSMUN. In an interview with Ms. Cicero, we discussed the vision she and her senior staff had for NHSMUN 2016. As her main objectives, she stressed upon “streamlining operations and refocusing on our core mission of providing an enriching educational experience to our participants.” This year’s staff also prioritized a more user-friendly atmosphere for delegates by upgrading their social media presence through a renovation of the conference website, posting more content on the conference Facebook page, generating more tweets from individual committee Twitter accounts, and even by creating a new Snapchat geofilter for the conference.

The full staff of NHSMUN 2016

The full staff of NHSMUN 2016.

These enhancements, along with NHSMUN’s intense focus on customer service and attention to logistical detail, collectively created what many long-time faculty advisors and delegates identified as the smoothest and best NHSMUN conference they had ever experienced. As the widely regarded and long-time FA from Mira Costa High School, Robert Timberlake, commented on NHSMUN’s Facebook page, “NHSMUN sets the standard that MUNUC, BMUN, HMUN and NAIMUN need to follow. Smooth, knowledgeable, focused and elite. You guys are what others hope be.”

There is very exciting news for all MUNers, MUN aficionados and long-time NHSMUN attendees. After a thorough review of faculty feedback and careful deliberations, IMUNA is thrilled to announce that NHSMUN will hold two (identical) sessions in 2017: one from March 10-13, and the other from March 15-18. Both sessions will be held at the New York Hilton and the United Nations Headquarters, and both will have the same schedule and activity patterns to provide two equal experiences to serve more students without compromising quality at all committee levels. This will not only allow for the shortening of the otherwise incredibly long wait list, but it will also dramatically improve the experience of delegates in committee, as sizes of the larger committees will be reduced. Needless to say, participation and substantive quality will be greatly enhanced, and IMUNA is excited for an increased level of engagement and academic rigor, particularly regarding the plans to integrate guest speakers with content area expertise—UN officials, academics, NGO workers, government officials, and political figures, among others—into the simulation. These leaders will come to the conference and share knowledge with the delegates, adding an additional opportunity for students to receive the latest and most relevant perspectives from those involved in the global issues process in the real world!

To find out more about NHSMUN 2017, be on the lookout for information on the NHSMUN website, www.nhsmun.org, or email sg.nhsmun@nullimuna.org. Registration for NHSMUN 2017 will begin on October 1, 2016, but new schools are encouraged to contact the NHSMUN team in advance to express their interest in attending. Next year’s Secretary General and Director General will be Jennifer Padilla and Nika Arzoumanian.

The Awards

(the following information was provided by NHSMUN and can also be found on their website)
It has been the longstanding policy of NHSMUN to de-emphasize awards during the conference, recognizing, in most cases, entire delegations, rather than individuals in a committee. NHSMUN has several types of awards. The first is the Research and Preparation Award, presented for excellence in Position Papers, all of which must have been turned in on time. The second type of award is based on performance during the conference. Taking sizes of delegations into account to ensure fairness, the awards fall under three categories: the Award of Distinction, the Award of Excellence, and the Award of Merit. We will also recognize the achievements of delegations who speak English as a foreign language. In addition to the delegation awards, NHSMUN will also present certain delegates on the Specialized Agencies with performance awards, the categories of which are the Award of Distinction, the Award of Excellence, and the Award of Merit. There will be one recipient of each award per committee. All delegation awards, on the other hand, are presented during Closing Ceremonies at the United Nations Headquarters. The following schools were recognized at NHSMUN 2016:

Team photo of the Delegation from Glenbrook South High School

Team photo of the Delegation from Glenbrook South High School, honored with the Award of Distinction (photo courtesy of Grace Kilpatrick).

Award of Distinction: Glenbrook South High School
Award of Distinction: Mira Costa High School
Award of Distinction: Horace Mann School
Award of Distinction: Richland Northeast High School
Award of Distinction: Rochelle Zell Jewish High School (formerly Chicagoland Jewish High School)
Award of Excellence: Cerritos High School
Award of Excellence: Franklin High School
Award of Excellence: Radnor High School
Award of Excellence: American Heritage Plantation
Award of Excellence: Instituto Andes
Award of Merit: East Brunswick High School
Award of Merit: Highland Park High School
Award of Merit: Westminster School
Award of Merit: Centennial High School
Award of Merit: Hillfield Strathallan College
Outstanding Achievement – Foreign Language Delegation: Gimnasio de los Cerros
Outstanding Achievement – Foreign Language Delegation: Colegio Hacienda Los Alcaparros
Outstanding Achievement – Foreign Language Delegation: Colegio Williams
Outstanding Achievement – Foreign Language Delegation: Espoon Yhteislyseon Lukio Upper Secondary School
Service Learning Project: Carlisle HS
Award of Distinction – Research and Preparation: Woodstock Academy
Award of Excellence – Research and Preparation: New West Charter
Award of Merit – Research and Preparation: Cerritos High School


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