Vancouver Model United Nations is arguably Canada’s most prestigious Model UN event.
Students come from all over the world to attend the conference; in my committee alone we had students from Hawaii and San Francisco.
Students in my delegation from Thomas Haney secondary debated in various committees, from the African Union and the United Nations Environmental Program, to the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee and the UN Security Council.
Most committees are modeled after United Nations committees, but some are not– in the past I have participated in House of Commons simulations and other delegates from THSS have competed in both historical and war cabinets.
On Jan. 19, co-head delegate Emily Kingsman and I lead a group of over 30 Thomas Haney students to downtown Vancouver for the three-day event.
Kelsey Lucente is a seasoned MUN-goer who has debated in the House of Commons and fought for the British in a new version of the American Revolution (spoiler alert – she and her bloc defeated good old General Washington).
At VMUN 2018, Lucente represented Japan in the UNEP, debating mining in the arctic and the effects of fracking.
“They were … ‘interesting’ topics. We were fighting about First Nations rights,” she said.
The committee discussed and debated, coming to the conclusion that mining in the Arctic should not interfere with ancestral rights.
Lucente stood before the Model United Nations Environmental Program committee and proposed that, “The First Nations groups be given observer status on the committee so they can know what countries are doing in the Arctic and have a say in it.”
While some solutions and proposals like Lucente’s seemed reasonable and helpful, others, were not.
One delegate put forward the idea that “they should mine everything out of the Arctic, but spend more time after building it back up,” added Lucente.
Every committee has ‘out-there’ proposals – sometimes because of certain countries’ positions on issues, sometimes because of the personalities of delegates, but always they lead to interesting debate, and even compromises.
When asked what she would say to delegates who are still wet behind the ears, or those thinking about attending a Model UN for the first time, Lucente had one simple piece of advice for those sitting terrified at the back of a committee room filled with a hundred people:
“Don’t be afraid to talk. The longer you wait, trying to think of something intelligent, the worse it’ll be. It’s just a bunch of teenagers, not doctors or professors.”
Yes, there is fun and camaraderie, but we talk about important issues and have meaningful debates on possible solutions. The fun we have in committee is juxtaposed against all of the preparation and hard work that’s done by delegates and staff. Students attending the conference have to work towards creating resolutions; writing papers outlining solutions to real-world problems that must be passed before the entire committee.
Resolutions must be written by multiple delegates and have at least 15 signatories, or supporters. Sometimes signatories don’t even agree with the resolution – they just want to see it debated – so it can be hard to tell who one’s real allies are.
That’s where social networking comes into play.
Debates flow into conversations in hushed tones outside the committee rooms where countries form blocs and try to sway the general opinion their way. These debates and discussions lead to the writing of resolutions, which leads to a vote, which leads to a solution.
Historically, some resolutions written up by students at Model United Nations conferences have actually been put before real United Nations committees.
Over 1,000 delegates attended VMUN 2018, and Thomas Haney’s delegation was lucky enough to take home two awards. I had the pleasure of reconnecting with students from former MUNs and meeting new friends, including Maple Ridge secondary’s head delegate Aidan Scarcella, who was also successful in debate.
It all comes down that essential balance – fun and knowledge. Both are to be had at Model UN.
Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney and head delegate of the Model UN Delegation who writes about youth issues.