The guest post was written by Lucas Wintrebert and provided by Quentin Crozat, President of MUNwalk Sciences Po Lille.
Model UN has grown to become quite popular in America since its inception, but it has taken much longer to become popular in Europe, particularly France. Despite this, French universities are making up for the delay by hosting major Model UN conferences, developing strong Model UN programs, and fielding winning Model UN teams.
Major MUN conferences in France
Model UN conferences are organized in France but the working language of most conferences is English. Students from around the world participate. For example, the yearly PIMUN conference (Paris International Model United Nations), is organized by three famous French schools: Sciences Po Paris, University of Panthéon-Assas and University of Panthéon-Sorbonne, involving over 500 international students. Also, other institutes of Political Studies (Sciences Po) organize MUNs, such as Sciences Po Lille that organized the NMUN Europe this year, where 300 students attended from over ten different countries.
Not just French universities, however, can be credited with popularizing Model UN in France. High schools are also getting involved in MUN, however it is limited to mostly International high schools or with English-speaking sections, such as the Lycée François Premier in Fontainebleau. Most of the 200 participants of the conference were French-speaking students. In plain, universities and French schools are getting involved in the “MUN culture”, even students who do not speak English as a native language.
The development of the “MUN-culture” in France is both viewed as a means to improve English knowledge for French students and an opportunity to share common values and experiences with students around the world.
Major French MUN programs
Due to the cost of attending overseas conferences, the growing involvement in Model UN is often very selective and training is intense. The aim of the training is to make students comfortable with the procedural rules and debate style in order to maximize the chances of success in actual conferences.
MUN associations are blossoming among French schools, whether it is at HEC, ESSEC or in Assas with the AMUNA association. More and more follow the example of the two Sciences Po, leaders in this domain: Sciences Po Lille (with the MUNWALK association) and Sciences Po Paris. Other Institutes of Political Studies have also started their own associations, such as Sciences Po Lyon who just launched its own MUN club or the “BATNA” club at Sciences Po Rennes, and at last the French Association for United Nations (AFNU) in Sciences Po Aix.
Overall, in France Model United Nations conferences are run in English. However, there are some committees are held in French. These conferences are usually composed of General Assembly committees alike HNMUN but also some crisis committees (the Arab League, NATO…) and specialized agencies (European Central Bank, Union for the Mediterranean, WHO…)
As the Sciences Po Lille rankings (among the top 20 world teams) show, it seems that the French schools MUN training programs tend to become as efficient as in other international schools.
French Achievements in Model UN
French schools’ ambition and tenacity does not just limit itself to participation at MUN conferences as delegates. Wanting to get even more involved in the Model United Nations community, some of have even chosen to become Chairs at the NMUN-NYC 2012, and hope to participate more actively in NMUN (Sciences Po Lille’s Théo Thieffry, for example).
The French schools started out with very little involvement in Model UN, with minor participation at a few MUN conferences. However as interest grew they sent out more and more students and represented more and more influent countries (Italy for Sciences Po Lille at NMUN-NYC 2012, Turkey for University Panthéon-Assas at WMUN 2012…). The growing number of students has allowed French schools to improve the number and the prestige of awards they earned in MUN conferences.
In 2012, Sciences Po Paris was awarded the Oustanding Delegation in the NMUN-NYC and Sciences Po Lille was awarded at three MUN conferences in LiMUN (Best delegate), WorldMUN (Best diplomat) and New-York (two Outstanding position papers and Distinguished delegation). This international recognition in MUN goes along with a larger institutional recognition. Students were also able to get advice from the French UN ambassador’s staff as well as the French Consul in Boston.
However, the French success at MUN conferences is not only based upon participation in those conferences. The international aspect of the French MUN conferences (such as the Lille NMUN which involved over 25 different international universities) highlights the fact that French schools are becoming bigger contenders in the world of international Model UN.