The following is my, Beatriz Martínez-Godás, personal experience and opinion, and in no means does it represent the opinion of Best Delegate.
As a delegate, one doesn’t think much of the countries you represent and interact with. You know their GDP’s, whether they signed the NPT, their population and literacy rate, but very few times do you have the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in a distant, unknown culture and truly put yourself in their shoes. One would think that Model UN creates a sense of international community, as it should, but rarely do delegates get the chance to create real life diplomacy with foreigners as I did.
When the director of Freedom House spoke at the NAIMUN 50 Opening Ceremonies, what was thought to be a discourse on transparency and international community quickly turned into an unexpected, prejudicial discourse on backwards opinions of countries such as China, Russia, Libya, etc. Ideals that quite frankly are stuck in Cold War mindsets were passionately said to around 3,000 delegates from countries all over the world, including China. As the statements made by the guest speaker became more and more biased and offensive, delegates from China decided to take a stand against this sort of ignorant mindset and peacefully and quietly exit the ceremony.
As a delegate from Puerto Rico, I was shocked throughout the whole discourse by the audacity presented by a man of such seemingly esteemed position. When the delegates stood up and left, to the disgrace of many North American delegates around me and shock of some of my fellow teammates, I stood up and left too. I heard delegates from China, choked up and flabbergasted, say how they could not believe the ignorance and disrespect that this man had shown towards their home country. One stated: “This man is stuck in a Cold War mindset. He does not see how China has progressed. We speak English better than he would ever speak Chinese, and that says a lot”. Tears were brought to my eyes as these humble delegates started to apologize to us for leaving, when their exodus was the most honorable way to stand up for their country. I felt ashamed and disgraced, for we are the ones that should apologize to them. For many of them, this is their first time coming to NAIMUN, first time coming to the United States of America, and the lack of respect shown to them was unacceptable. As one of them asked me for a hug, with tears in my eyes I embraced my international peers and convinced them, along with our moderators from Puerto Rico, that they are not alone, that their stance was honorable, that they would be heard, and that we would not let this stand. We all came back in together, after this man had left, and concluded the opening ceremonies.
How are we supposed to promote international unity and peace if even our Model UN competitions attack and insult what is foreign and unknown? How can we impose our own “democratic and peaceful” ideals without fully comprehending that of other countries? It was not until I heard their stories and felt their pain that I truly understood the meaning of diplomacy, to be able to interact with foreigners yet still identify with them, and negotiate with them respectfully. It is what the United Nations stands for, and it is what each and every one of us should uphold as we go to represent the nations that we do. Countries are not statistics, they are not numbers and facts, they are bodies made up of people who love their nation, and sometimes even people who don’t, but we should all get to know and understand before we walk up to that podium and state our policies, to do so with as much pride as we would for our own home country. A phrase comes to mind when thinking back on the events that happened: “Hoy por ti, mañana por mi.”, Today it may be them, but tomorrow it could be us.