This is a guest post by Ehab Ansari, the debate coach at The Lyceum School in Pakistan.
At the heart of Model UN is diversity. Representing a variety of nations, possibly with viewpoints contrary to your own is part of the allure for many. It’s no surprise then that Model UN has a strong following outside the North American region; only recently did Best Delegate write about the fan following they had in places as far apart as Venezuela and Turkey.
This brings us to another seemingly far-off nation: Pakistan. Let’s face it- Pakistan does dominate the news ticker, but for all the wrong reasons. With so much negativity in the media, we don’t get to hear much about the triumphs Pakistani students achieve, especially in the realm of Model UN. For instance, how many knew that LUMS, a university in Lahore, has won the Best Small Delegation award for 5 consecutive years at Harvard WorldMUN (last year, they narrowly lost to Yale)? Or that out of the 40 university students from Pakistan that participated at WorldMUN last year, eleven bagged the Outstanding Diplomacy award? In a similar vein, high school students have also done remarkably at Model UN, against all odds. Thus begins the story of a Pakistani high school delegation and its journey to HarvardMUN 2012.
The Lyceum School is a high school in Karachi, a southern city and economic hub of Pakistan. The school’s Debate Team originated in 2006 with fourteen students competing in the Lahore University Model United Nations and winning the Best Delegation award. It remains the only team to have won the coveted award at LUMUN thrice in a row and has returned from the likes of Harvard WorldMUN and Istanbul International MUN victorious. The Lyceum Debate Team has also participated at HMUN 2010 and HMUN 2011, bagging a total of 7 awards at the conferences.
At HarvardMUN 2012, The Lyceum School will be representing France in twelve committees: DISEC, ECOFIN, SOCHUM, SPECPOL and Legal; alongside the European Union, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, Futuristic General Assembly, the Historical League of Nations, the United Nations Special Summit on Peacekeeping, and the United Nations Security Council.
With HMUN 2012, the team started anew with equal parts juniors and seniors, little Model UN exposure to boot and big shoes to fill. Only the Debate Society Head, Beenish Saeed, has prior international experience under her belt, having won in the Legal committee at HMUN 2011. For most, Harvard will be their second or third conference. For a few, KHI-BOS will be their first international trip.
Not everything has run smoothly on the journey to HMUN2012. The US visa process was rife with paranoia; cultural baggage happened to get in the way. Though much of the paranoia subsided as the students started receiving their visa-stamped passports back, one delegate still had to be replaced on account of visa processing delays. To conquer the logistics of sixteen students and two faculty advisors on a week-long excursion living out of a handful of hotel rooms, the team owes much to Harvard and Hilton. The Secretariat went the extra mile to accommodate the delegation, both in terms of financial assistance and in empathy. Hilton was chosen by virtue of its stellar sales representatives, who tried their best to make the stay as affordable as possible. To be honest, free WiFi may have also been a factor; the audible stress laid on on-site research and sightseeing after sessions was deafening.
“Any luck with sponsors?” is how members have grown to greet one another. The cost of the trip leans to the tune of $45,000 and the team counts on sponsors to chip in and bridge the gap where needed. To that end, local pharmaceutical companies have donated generously to the cause. Yet, every sponsorship rejection raises the cumulative blood pressure of the delegation; with a handful of weeks left, money still needs to be raised and costs still need to be cut.
Euphoria ran high for the first few weeks, and still reappears in passing comments about a dreamy, snowing Boston in January, and the abnormally close proximity to Harvard and MIT earns a few squeals from the hopefuls amongst the students. But the numbing scope of the conference has given way to a sense of urgency. With the itinerary falling into place, and mid-term examinations recently ending, preparation is in full swing. The team follows a rigorous calendar, alternating between briefings on strategy and the intricacies of topic areas, to mock sessions bringing together the 40-strong team to chart its progress. On occasion, alumni and debate veterans drop in to critique and raise spirits. The Lyceum Debate Team tradition has been to work hard no matter what the odds; the HMUN delegation is trying its best to do justice to it.
At Harvard Model United Nations 2012, The Lyceum Debate Team has its eyes set on the awards. However, the delegates also understand that the awards are not the be-all and end-all of MUN. The mere fact that the team is participating at such a prestigious conference bears testimony to their unwavering dedication and effort over the past couple of months. Therefore – no matter what the outcome- the team will return to Pakistan triumphant.