Modelling the United Nations
For most young people the United Nations is something that you just see on the news, but for a group of students from around the Asia Pacific region, the United Nations became real as they participated in the 2012 Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference (AMUNC) (new window), which took place between 8 and 13 July with the theme "Rights, Recognition, Responsibility".
The conference is set up as a mock-United Nations in which each person is given a country to represent for a week. They research that country and then take on the role of diplomats, joining committees to debate world issues and trying to develop solutions to current international issues.
The 2012 AMUNC committees were hosted at La Trobe University's Bundoora campus in Melbourne, where the students experienced diplomacy and international affairs first-hand.
I spoke to Bethany Kleverlaan, who participated in the conference for the first time this year, representing Bangladesh.
Beth, a first-year arts global student from Monash University, explained what really goes on in a model UN situation and why the conference was an amazing experience.
How exactly did the committees work each day?
Each day we went in to the committee and worked on resolutions, treaties and possible agreements that could fix certain issues. Throughout the week you're with the same group of people on the same committee, and then during the nights we had socials where we could mingle and get allies and support for our positions, so it was a very real experience.
How much is it like the real United Nations?
The conference is run in exactly the same way that the United Nation functions: there were NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) sitting in on the committees, media crew from all the international newspapers, and delegates there to represents each country. It's a very accurate replica of what the UN is actually like, and it definitely gives you a taste of what it's like to work in those areas.
What did you have to do to prepare prior to attending the conference?
It was actually a lot of preparation! Monash had training approximately 1-2 times a week for over a month prior to the conference. Once we got assigned our country we had to spend quite a while researching its foreign policy, so if we were ever posed a question about our country's past, we wouldn't be surprised and we would know how to respond.
Was there anything during the committees that you found difficult?
The thing is that during the debates you can't give your personal views on issues, so, for example, I might think that we need to save environmental refugees, but you have to act in accordance with your country's foreign policy - not your personal views. That was very hard.
My country, Bangladesh, doesn't want to commit to objectives such as these because it is already inundated with regular refugees, so, while personally I was in favour of making changes, I had to hold back my feelings and remain within my foreign policy.
Did any of the debates get really heated?
Well one of the issues was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which became really heated because it has religious elements to it. You've got Israel sitting on one side and Palestine on the other, and things did get very heated between those two. Often they'd have to be excused from the room by the chair if they got too out of hand, so that was quite interesting.
Were there social events as well as the debates?
Yeah, we had about four nights out of the week that had major socials, which were all really great. Every year, depending on where the conference is held, the socials represent the culture of the host city. For Melbourne this year, we had a bohemian, masquerade ball to show Melbourne's quirky side, and then there was a big grand ball at the Melbourne Museum at the end of the week. That was really well put on, with lovely food and an after party, so it was all a lot of fun.
How did the conference end? Did the delegates agree on any big issues?
A representative from each committee put forward their resolution at the General Assembly on the last night, and then each group of countries would vote on it to determine if it passes.
The committee that I was on did manage to pass a resolution, so that was really good, and my country, Bangladesh, was a signatory, so getting my name on that was pretty great.
Also, I heard from other delegates that sometimes the resolutions actually get sent to the United Nations for review because they sometimes like to see what the youth come up with and what we think of these world issues.
Do you want to do something like this in the future as a career path?
I'm not 100% sure what I want to pursue yet, but what's great about AMUNC is that it's designed to give you a taste of diplomacy and international affairs, which I really liked. In terms of the future, I could possibly see myself working with an international organisation, an NGO, or even potentially in a government position within the UN.
Would you recommend being a part of this program to other students?
I would definitely recommend the program to others. It's open to anyone and I think it would suit students who have an interest in international relations or who just enjoy debating and meeting interesting people. The people I did meet were from all around the world with different backgrounds and I really loved getting to know them.
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Articles Written by Jessica
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