Over the weekend of March 19-22, 2015, The George Washington University International Affairs Society hosted its seventeenth session of the Washington Area Model United Nations Conference. WAMUNC brought together approximately 1,350 delegates from across the United States and around the globe including students from Mexico, Greece, and South Africa. Students participated in an array of historic committees, specialized bodies, international organizations, and crisis simulations. This year, WAMUNC took place in the iconic Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park, which has hosted famous figures from Bush to the Beatles. Drawing upon the unique features provided by its location in both the Omni Hotel and in D.C. itself, WAMUNC boasted several politically-themed committees, such as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Campaign 1960, the West Wing, and the dueling Democratic and Republican National Committees. Facilitating the action were nearly 200 WAMUNC staffers, who tirelessly crafted crises, moderated debate, and planned events for the delegates throughout the weekend.
Opening Ceremonies featured a keynote address by Chilean politician and statesman Jose Miguel Insulza, who is currently serving as Secretary-General of the Organization of American States. Insulza’s many accomplishments include serving as Political Advisor to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Director of the United States Studies Institute in the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), and in several teaching positions at various universities in Latin America. During his remarks, Insulza highlighted and addressed issues such as poverty and inequality, violence and drug trafficking, human rights, and democracy, and suggested that the OAS plays an even more important role today than it did ten years ago.
Philanthropy at WAMUNC
Following the success of last year’s fundraising campaign (in which over $5,000 was raised), WAMUNC selected Instituto Mundo Libre (IML) as its charity of choice for the second year in a row. Throughout the weekend, WAMUNC staff and delegates raised funds to support the work of IML in providing access to education and other opportunities for at-risk adolescents in Peru.
In WAMUNC tradition, delegates were given the chance to embark on staff-led excursions into D.C. on Friday morning. Exploring the vast array of political, historic, and cultural attractions D.C. has to offer, WAMUNC staff and delegates toured various embassies, the State Department, Capitol Hill, the National Democratic Institute, the Monuments, and other noteworthy landmarks.
This foray into the D.C. scene continued on Friday afternoon, when delegates were treated to a variety of in-committee speakers from the State Department, USAID, embassies, and other organizations in the D.C. area.
Best Delegate Interview with WAMUNC Delegates on their Midnight Crises
Another WAMUNC tradition is the “midnight crisis,” an action-packed session for crisis committees that takes place late Friday night and into Saturday morning. Speaking in his role as Domenty Kharebov in the Russian Mafia committee, Keelan Meehan, a delegate from Glenbrook South High School, shared his midnight crisis experience with Best Delegate, saying, “The Putin Administration cracked down on our operations throughout Russia, so within Moscow all of our drug trafficking, arms trade, and other operations were shut down and destroyed. They also killed off our leader, leaving us leaderless. So what we were discussing in the midnight crisis is what to do with this new power vacuum. Do we choose a new leader, do we find someone from the outside, do we choose from amongst us? While I was personally vying for a democratic coalition, it ended up being overthrown by a military coup.”
Meanwhile, another Russian-themed crisis was brewing for Keelan’s teammate Billy Kosmidis in the Ad-Hoc Committee, which centered on a German rebel youth movement in the late 1960s. Describing his midnight crisis, Billy stated, “Our crisis was that Vladimir Putin, who was a 15 year old boy at the time our committee is taking place, was found in the rafters of the bunker where we were having our secret meeting. This was historically accurate in that young Putin did work for the KGB, though he never infiltrated a democratic revolt meeting like ours. In our crisis, we found young Putin, and it was up to us to decide what we were going to do with him. We ended up capturing and questioning him, and found out who the moles were in the room who ratted us out to the KGB and the Stasi.”
After grappling with crises late into the night, delegates in crisis committees were given the Saturday morning session off to recharge for the next round of committee.
Best Delegate Interview with Melissa Miller, Secretary-General of WAMUNC XVII
As the penultimate day of committee began, Best Delegate caught up with Melissa Miller, Secretary-General of WAMUNC XVII, to get her take on how the conference was unfolding. Below are some of the highlights from the interview.
Best Delegate: First and foremost, what is unique about WAMUNC?
Melissa: I think WAMUNC is unique because of our attention to detail and to each individual delegate and advisor at the conference. I’ve read every single background guide thoroughly, edited each one, and gone over every committee topic, and we’re working hard to make sure that everyone’s being called on fairly, and that everyone is comfortable and happy in their committees. I hope that every single delegate leaves this conference feeling like they did well in committee and enjoyed themselves.
Best Delegate: Are there any committees you’d like to highlight?
Melissa: We have a lot of cool American-themed committees this year, especially considering our venue at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, which has held every inaugural ball up through President Clinton’s. For instance, we have the John F. Kennedy Presidential Campaign 1960, which is actually held in the John F. Kennedy Presidential suite here at the Omni to simulate the experience of running a campaign out of a hotel room. I know everyone’s gearing up for the election, so we also have a joint DNC-RNC 2016. It’s really exciting for delegates to be able to directly engage in politics here in Washington, just like our students at The George Washington University, who frequently work on these campaigns themselves and are able to give advice and input based on their actual campaign experience and political experience.
Best Delegate: What do you hope the delegates at WAMUNC get out of this weekend?
Melissa: I hope they leave this conference saying that they’ve learned a lot about whatever was happening in their committee or their topics. At the end of the day, the purpose of Model United Nations is to learn more about the world, more about different topics. It’s not about awards and being competitive, it’s about learning and making friends. So if my delegates can say that they’ve met some really cool people at WAMUNC, that they’ve been able to connect with them and take something new home, that’s what I want.
Best Delegate: Is there anything you would like to share with us about your personal MUN journey and what led you to want to be Secretary-General of WAMUNC?
Melissa: I’ve done Model UN for 8 years, so I’ve served as a delegate, I’ve served as a faculty advisor for schools, I’ve been a chair, and now I’m on secretariat, so I’ve been in every single role there is to have at a conference. I think that uniquely equipped me to run this conference and make sure that I can put myself in the shoes of everyone here, especially with their questions and concerns, and that also helped me plan to make sure I know what delegates and advisors need and want, so when I need to fix a problem, I can think about what they’re thinking at the same time.
Best Delegate: One of the aspects of WAMUNC that we find most interesting is the Friday morning programming. Could you tell us about WAMUNC’s Friday morning excursions into D.C.?
Melissa: We think it’s really a shame for people to come to Washington and for us not to give them time to experience Washington, especially considering most Model UN conferences have very aggressive schedules, so we sequester Friday morning for delegates. We have a list of excursions that we go on that are set up by our GWU staff. We usually get contacts for these excursions from our own academic programming during the year through our umbrella organization, the International Affairs Society. About every month we either go to an embassy, have an ambassador speak on campus, or have some other official in D.C. come and speak to us; we have a lot of very aggressive academic programming, and that’s why we’re able to put together these programs for you guys at embassies, think tanks, the State Department, and so on.
Best Delegate: Is there anything else you would like to share or highlight about WAMUNC?
Melissa: Even if you don’t get to go somewhere in DC, we’ll bring it to you with our Friday afternoon speakers. I know a lot of other conferences do Friday afternoon speakers, but it’s just especially unique here because a lot of these speakers are GW professors, and they have relationships with the students here, but they also work at the State Department, at USAID, or have been ambassadors in the past, so that adds an element of realism to the experience. Also, my entire staff, not just my secretariat, but every person from crisis directors to the chairs have put a lot of work into these committees, and it’s just amazing to see all our work come to fruition this weekend.
If you are missing WAMUNC already or feeling nostalgic about your high school MUN days, you can check out WAMUNC’s Closing Ceremonies video below:
After a weekend of intense debate (and fun!), the following delegations were recognized for their superb performance:
Best Large: Stuyvesant High School
Best Small: Glenbrook South High School
Outstanding Large: West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South
Outstanding Small: South African High Schools
Best Delegate Model United Nations Institute Scholarship Recipient
Dev Bhojwani from Schools Without Walls in Washington D.C. won an $850 scholarship to attend Best Delegate’s Model United Nations Institute Program this Summer!
To learn more about the MUN Institute and how to get involved, visit: http://mun.bestdelegate.com/high-school/programs-locations-dates/
Congratulations to Dev and to all delegations for their awards!
Social Media Coverage
For more conference coverage, check out our Facebook photo album taken live at WAMUNC, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see our posts from the conference!