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McMUN 2012: A Weekend of Debate and Diplomacy

This past weekend, Model United Nations (MUN) aficionados from the world over travelled to Montreal to engage in diplomacy, debate and discussion. Simulating the structure and format of the United Nations (UN), McGill’s team (McMUN) provided its delegates with the opportunity to be a part of a General Assembly (GA), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Specialized Agency (SA), or Crisis Committee.  While GAs and ECOSOCs naturally constituted of few hundreds of delegates, the SAs and Crisis Committees focused on providing a much smaller group of delegates with an equally rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience.

January 26th saw 1,800 delegates and staffers come to McMUN’s opening ceremony to witness 2012 Secretary General Nir Kumar launch the theme of the conference, “Information: IR’s New Currency.” Kumar stressed the importance of communication in a world where diverse groups of people share in the desire to make a change to better the world.  Earnest participants then had the opportunity to listen to McGill Law alumnus Beryl Wajsman give the keynote address. Wajsman is a prominent social activist and recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. award for his promotion of human rights. He reflected on the conference theme and expressed his view on the need for youths seeking change to engage in action. Then, with a tap of the gavel, delegates officially began the conference with a debate. For some participants that meant representing a wide range of public individuals as diverse and colorful as media personality Perez Hilton or President of North Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir.

Indeed, McMUN 2012 boasted an extremely diverse group of committees, including the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the 2012 Convention for Media Strategies, and the Triple Joint Libyan Crisis which simulated a discussion on the current situation in Libya. Today, the world is globalizing at a fast pace and academic disciplines are progressively overlapping. Accordingly, it is quite understandable why the secretariat chose to cover so many geographical regions and spheres of interest.

Amongst General Assemblies, the World Economic Forum stood courageously at the frontline of creativity this year by digitally running all their committee sessions.  Delegates were encouraged to use means of digital technology to help stimulate discussion and coordinate topics within their industry groups.

Another committee to catch the attention of many was the very relevant, effective and well-crafted South Sudan Nation Building Summit, a Specialized Agency Committee.  This Summit puts delegates in the shoes of characters, including various ministers of South Sudan, foreign ministers of China and Russia and the American Secretary of State. A set of rules of procedure was specifically designed in order to allow delegates in a committee simulation as realistic as possible. These rules culminated in delegates designing and agreeing upon numerous articles, addressing human rights, aid dependence, and health. Together, they led to the creation of the young nation’s Constitution. In the midst of moderating debate on the topic of health during committee session, dais members were stunned to discover that the ministers of the South Sudanese cabinet, thousands of miles away from Montreal – in Juba, were holding remarkably similar discussions.

As the fourth and final day of committee session ended, debate came to a close. At the closing ceremonies, Georgetown received the award for the best large delegation while the equally competent United States Military Academy at Westpoint accepted the award for the best small delegation.

And, so, just like McGill, thousands of universities and institutions around the world will continue to bring students together to discuss pressing issues at MUN forums. All of this makes one wonder: will it only be a matter of time before our leaders start drawing from the fresh thinking of today’s youth to resolve critical matters of global importance?

–  Nikita Pillai

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