What is Model United Nations?

by Ryan on November 4, 2007

Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an extra-curricular activity in which students typically roleplay delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. This activity takes place at MUN conferences, which is usually organized by a high school or college MUN club. At the end of most conferences, outstanding delegates in each committee are recognized and given an award certificate; the Best Delegate in each committee, however, receives a gavel. Thousands of middle school, high school, and college students across the country and around the world participate in Model United Nations, which involves substantial researching, public speaking, debating, and writing skills, as well as critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities.

For example, my senior year of high school, I attended the 2004 National High School MUN Conference (NHSMUN), held at the Hilton Towers Hotel in New York City. My friend, Shebli, and I co-represented the Syrian Arab Republic on the United Nations Security Council. Students from other high schools such as Stuyvesant High School, Horace Mann School, and University of Chicago Preparatory School represented the United States, China, and the other member states of the Security Council. For four days, we debated the security situation in the Republic of Georgia. Every student gave speeches detailing their country’s position on the topic and offering possible solutions. Our chair, Dave, moderated our debate; he was a student from the University of Pennsylvania. By day 4, we had written a resolution, a document that described the Security Council’s stance on the situation in Georgia and the actions that the committee had resolved to take. The committee voted in favor of adopting the resolution. At the end of the conference, Dave recognized Shebli’s and my leadership in committee by awarding us Best Delegate.

Part of what makes Model UN great, though, is that it is rapidly re-inventing itself. Today, many MUN conferences hold simulations that are not UN committees. In addition to simulations of the Security Council and General Assembly, many conferences are running simulations of the US National Security Council, where delegates represent President Bush and Condoleezza Rice. Many conferences feature a Joint Cabinet Crisis, where two or more committees of delegates are linked together, and the actions taken in one committee affect the other. For example, my conference, the Security Council Simulation at Yale (SCSY), held a simulation of the Korean War, where delegates roleplayed the ministers of the American, Soviet, and Chinese cabinets in 1950. Princeton’s college conference has taken this idea to an entirely new level; every committee at their conference is part of the same Joint Cabinet Crisis.

With so many changes to Model United Nations over the years, there’s a need to not only define MUN but to keep track of its changes. And that’s what I hope to do with this website.

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