(This conference recap was provided by Avik Chakravarty, Program Manager for Best Delegate)
The Regional High School Model United Nations Conference (RHSMUN) took place this year from December 10 – 13, 2014, in San Francisco, California. Contrary to the sunny California stereotype, this year the conference began in the midst of one of the harshest storms to hit the West Coast in over a decade. This challenging climate caused many San Francisco businesses to temporarily close down, and power outages were rampant across the city. Against these great odds, RHSMUN marched on without skipping a beat. It stands as a testament to the organizational prowess of the secretariat that—even with blackouts in the very hotel that housed the committee rooms—this four-day conference ran as smoothly as ever.
Many aspects of RHSMUN (run by the parent organization, International Model United Nations Association, IMUNA) exhibited several best practices in MUN conference organizing. What stood out most to me was the encapsulating sense of professionalism throughout the conference. For advisors and delegates alike, committee experiences were molded by skilled and well-trained chairs. I personally attended as an observer, and it was obvious that the chairs placed equal priority on ensuring a good experience for advisors as well as delegates. As soon as I stepped into a committee room, I would be approached within minutes by a welcoming chair.
Apart from their precision in execution, the dedicated RHSMUN secretariat made some notable improvements this year to maximize the delegate experience:
Expanding into ECOSOC
This year, RHSMUN expanded their committee selections by adding several committees from the Economic and Social Council. New committees include the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. These additions increased the variety of subject matter discussed at the conference, and was thereby able to appeal to a greater variety of delegates.
It was clear that the chairs of each committee were well trained in procedure, but at the same time, they were afforded a considerable degree of autonomy in their control of committee. This allowed certain chairs to implement customized strategies to enhance the experience of their delegates.
For example, the chairs of the DISEC committee devised a way to help direct their delegates in developing realistic and accurate solutions. At the beginning of committee, the chairs opted to start with a lesson on the mandate of DISEC. This lesson taught the delegates about the actual scope and jurisdiction of DISEC’s powers. In this way, the chairs were able to set expectations for the delegates, and found that many ambitious and unrealistic ideas quickly vanished. While it is not traditional to have a political science lesson during committee, the chairs elected such a path for the benefit of their delegates. As a result, everyone enjoyed an enriched and realistic committee experience.
From talking to various members of the RHSMUN secretariat, it became clear to me that they were very community-oriented. Many of you who have staffed an MUN conference may be able to empathize; it is not uncommon for MUN organizations to have a ‘family’ culture among their members. But, it is less common for this culture to be present at a conference in which the staff come from a multiple different universities. For many of the RHSMUN secretariat, the first day they met one another in real life was the week of the conference. Yet, they expressed such a familiar attitude when interacting with one another, and this cohesion is a fundamental reason why the conference was a success. The conference ran like a well-oiled machine because the secretariat were both well-trained and very comfortable with one another. They could depend on each other, and this was evident in the result.
RHSMUN 2014 was an excellent conference. In the face of adverse conditions, the RHSMUN secretariat were able to log another successful IMUNA conference in the books. I was enthralled by the professionalism of the chairs, and truly enjoyed observing committees. It was clear that delegates were there to learn and grow, not to compete and win. I would recommend RHSMUN wholeheartedly to any high school delegate who is looking for a challenging educational experience next year.