How is the procedure of this UN simulation, in which language is this event, how do the delegations prepare for it, what is the purpose and from where does the concept actually originate?
The term Model United Nations (also Model UN or MUN) refers to simulations for high school and university students where the work of the United Nations (UN) is reenacted. For that, conferences are organized all over the world, mostly at high schools and universities, whose structure is based on that of the UN. The participants are accordingly high school and university students, who take the role of a delegate of one of the UN member states and will have to defend this country’s point of view, which is usually not the same as their personal opinion. The delegates then represent the position of “their” countries in the simulated committees (for example in the UN General Assembly or Human Rights Council). There, according to an agreed agenda, current international topics are discussed and draft resolutions are written. The delegates then try to find signatories (supporters) for their draft resolutions or try, through compromising (but always from the view of the country they are representing!), to get the support of other delegates/countries.
The participants of the MUN-conference should be able to inform themselves about complex political topics and to subsequently discuss it with others. They should be able to put themselves in the role of a representative of one for them foreign country and thus better understand the problems and current situations of other peoples and cultures.
Furthermore, rhetorical skills, negotiation tactics, diplomacy, also according to the type of the conference, foreign language competence, should be improved and expanded. Last but not least, the fair engagement with people who have a different point of view and the open-minded approach towards their positions play a very important role.
Formation of the MUNs
Already around 1920, clearly before the founding of the UN, the first simulations comparable to the MUN conferences today took place. They were called the “Model League of Nations”. In American colleges different organs of the League of Nations were simulated. After the League of Nations dissolved after the Second World War, the UN was founded in 1945. Already a few months later, again in the USA, the first MUN seminars and conferences were held. Among them is also the National Model United Nations (NMUN) that was founded in 1920 and later again in 1946 in New York. Step by step, the MUN concept started spreading itself in countries out of the USA. Thus, in 1969 “The Hague International Model United Nations” (THIMUN) was founded in Denmark, which in comparison with NMUN is orientated for high school students.
Nowadays, MUN conferences for high school and university students take place in countries all over the world. The biggest are NMUN, the annual THIMUN conference, which takes place in The Hague with more than 3000 participants, and WorldMUN organized by Harvard University. The TU Munich´s delegation participates foremost in the WorldMUN.
Numerous conferences in German and English for high school and university students are also found in the German-speaking area. Some other of the internationally famous universities organize MUN conferences too. Besides Harvard University, we can also find Oxford University, Sciences Po Paris and the University of London.
The working language of most of the MUN conferences is English, as it is at the Harvard WorldMUN. But there are also conferences that are held in other official languages of the UN. In Germany there are conferences that are held in a not for the UN official language – German. Partially in some committees, two or more languages are permitted, whereas a simultaneous translation is offered for the participants. “Bonn International Model United Nations / Simulation Internationale des Nations Unies de Bonn” (BIMUN/SINUB) that takes place in Bonn since 2002 for example allows its delegates in the General Assembly to negotiate in English and French. Some conferences in Canada (English/French), Mexico (English/Spanish) or Russia (English/Russian) also offer bilingual committees. The annual simulation of the General Assembly of the UN in Genf, the “Students’ United Nations” (SUN), happens thanks to simultaneous translation trilingual (French/English/German)!