The Georgetown International Relations Association (GIRA) hosted the 51st session of the North American Invitational Model United Nations (NAIMUN) conference this past weekend from February 13-16th in the Washington Hilton in Washington DC. Despite a snowstorm that unfortunately caused many schools to cancel or show up late, roughly 2,000 delegates still made the trip to NAIMUN.
This is the first time Best Delegate had three media team members liveblogging a conference, and that enabled us to see different perspectives of this major conference. NAIMUN is a major Model UN conference, but it definitely has its distinguishing features. This includes a heavy emphasis on philanthropy, simulations of many crisis committees, welcoming all participants into the NAIMUN family, and an emphasis on maintaining an educational perspective despite the naturally competitive environment of such a large conference.
We included several photos from the conference in the liveblog below, but having more team members definitely allowed us more time to take photos in each of the committees. Check out all the action in the links below!
And lastly, besides being able to work together in person, it was also great to meet students who had attended the Best Delegate Model UN Summer Programs from the past two years participate at NAIMUN.
One of the unique aspects of NAIMUN is its philanthropy initiative. Every year, NAIMUN selects an organization to fundraise for, in an effort to show students the influence they can have on real global issues. This year, NAIMUN selected “Room to Read,” an organization that focuses on increasing literacy in poverty-stricken countries. John Wood, the founder of “Room to Read” spoke to delegates regarding the efforts of this organization, which has already created 16,000 libraries, donated 13.3 million books, and helped 8.8 million children gain access to the libraries and books. Wood described the effect of his organization as going beyond just literary while promoting local empowerment. Room to Read’s ultimate goal in addition to literacy is to reduce poverty and gender discrimination internationally. The goal of Room to Read is to impact 10 million children by 2020, thereby having a sustainable impact on developing countries.
Quotes from John Wood:
“There’s no ticket out of poverty without education”
“Bold goals attract bold people but bold goals also attract other bold people”
“Action is better than talk”
“World change starts with educated children”
NAIMUN is one of the most successful conferences in the world at raising money for philanthropy. First, they invite a keynote speaker to speak during a mandatory dedicated session on philanthropy so that all delegates are educated about the charity from its primary source. In this year’s case, it was Room to Read CEO John Wood. Second, the Undersecretaries-General and Chairs do not just promote the charity by paying lip-service to it, but instead are engaged by actively offering to do something such as dancing, singing, or getting pied in the face in front of committee if their committee can meet certain targets. Other delegates volunteer to get into the action as well. Third, envelopes for the charity are passed around in committee rather than having a box in the front of committee. And finally, NAIMUN experimented with technology by accepting Dogecoin for donations this year.
NAIMUN gives delegates the opportunity to participate in fast paced, rapid-fire debate through their wide range of crisis committees. The NAIMUN crisis team team created several spreadsheets, timelines, and press releases to maintain the momentum of every committee. NAIMUN crises are delegate-driven, and the staff ensures that no position in committee is neglected. Crisis analysts were assigned to every crisis committee to further the efficiency of updates as well.
Sam Brothers, the Undersecretary-General for the US National Security Apparatus, discussed more about crisis here.
There is a concept at NAIMUN called “the NAIMUN family.” Everyone who participates at NAIMUN is part of it: the Secretariat, the staff, the advisors, and the delegates.
NAIMUN emphasized the educational side of the conference both in committee and outside of committee. We interviewed several NAIMUN Secretariat members on what they hoped delegates would learn from their NAIMUN experience. Outside of committee, delegates could participate in embassy briefings, government agency tours, Georgetown tours, the social justice roundtable, plus Hilltop Madness and the Delegate Dance.
Here are some more photos from the conference!
Best Large Delegation: Horace Mann School
Outstanding Large Delegation: Mira Costa High School
Best Small Delegation: West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North
Outstanding Small Delegation: School Without Walls
NAIMUN was expected to be extremely competitive with thirteen National Top-25 teams plus fourteen more Regional Top-25 teams scheduled to be in attendance. Many teams including some notable top-ranked teams had to drop out or arrive late due to the inclement weather, but that actually made for a less cutthroat experience and also allowed a long tail of teams to have individual delegates stand out — over 60 teams had at least one individual delegate award. And despite the smaller size than usual, the quality of competition was still on par with the largest conferences in the nation.
The Horace Mann School and Mira Costa High School once again renewed their national rivalry that started at NAIMUN 2012. This time it was extremely close, with Mira Costa leading the weighted score throughout the closing ceremonies until Horace Mann’s gavels in the crisis committees put them on top after the very last committee announcement. The relationship between the two was also a lot more diplomatic — delegates from the two schools were taking photos together and the advisors shook hands and commended each others’ teams after closing ceremonies.
West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North was able to make it to DC when many of its fellow New Jersey public schools had to cancel the trip. NorthMUN fielded a small delegation with a very high awards ratio to take home the Best Small Delegation. School Without Walls from Washington DC is only in its second year doing Model UN but also had a high awards ratio to receive the Outstanding Small Delegation.
A pair of schools from Florida, Gulf Coast High School and Port Charlotte High School, went head-to-head on the national stage for the first time and both contended for a large delegation award. Gulf Coast finished third overall in terms of weighted score with the larger team and Port Charlotte finished a very close fourth overall in terms of weighted score. However, Port Charlotte had the smaller team and finished third under NAIMUN’s delegation awards formula which takes ratios into account. Other schools that were consistently recognized for individual delegate awards across many committees included Rock Bridge High School, Winston Churchill High School, St. Alban’s School, Radnor High School, Canterbury School of Florida, Rutgers Preparatory School, and Woodstock Academy.
That said, congratulations to all the delegates on a successful learning experience. If delegates can walk away feeling like they have grown, then that is the more worthwhile award than walking away disappointed because of some external evaluation that you could not control. As NAIMUN Secretary-General Pavan Rajgopal said during Closing Ceremonies, “personal development is better than a sheet of paper or a functionless wooden hammer.”
Thank you to Secretary-General Pavan Rajgopal and Executive Director Sarah Pemberton for having us visit! Thank you to all the hospitable Georgetown Secretariat and staff members for making us feel welcome and connecting us with various story lines.