Model UN: BaMUN – Diplomacy First Hand

by: Hosea S. Handoyo

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God you do learn.”

CS Lewis, 1898 – 1963

Honorable chairs and distinguished delegates,

It was a cold and windy Friday morning on 6 December 2012. I woke up early with a bit of cold, got my suits and suitcase ready for the most anticipated event of the month. I was both nervous and excited. It was all started couple of months back when a friend of mine persuaded me to join ‘Model United Nations‘ (MUN) course. I was pretty much skeptical and discouraged with the ‘placement test’ as part of the requirements. Though I had come unprepared, I managed to pass the written and oral exam. Class by class I attended, things are getting very interesting. I am getting more and more excited after an internal simulation of UN General Assembly in Erfurt and words of wisdom from Ronny Heintze, the General Secretary of MUN couple of years back. From University of Erfurt, we have about 20 delegates who are planning to go to New York in March 2013 for much bigger meeting. That weekend, we are heading to Bad Kissingen to join tripartite Model United Nations Simulation of Bamberg MUN or BaMUN in short. Organized by University of Bamberg, University of Erfurt was accompanied by University of Erlangen. I chose to participate as The delegate from The Republic of Indonesia in Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development with two topics on the table: 1) Improved Access to Renewable Energy Technologies as a Means for Achieving Sustainable Development; 2) The Exploitation of Natural Resources and its Effect on the Outbreak, Escalation, or Continuation of Armed Conflict. Both topics were equally interesting. I came well-dressed  as Indonesian delegate with batik and, of course, songkok or peci (which I borrowed from the Springboard program).

After 3 hours on the train and a 30 minute hike to the conference location, I met many other delegates from different universities and was greeted warmly during the opening ceremony. The simulation started after dinner and all of the other delegates were so eager to be on time and began to occupy the conference room. We started to look for our ‘allies’ and our regional groups. ASEAN delegations started to mingle with each other. The Security Council also started to identify who were the P5 countries and analyze strategies to draft resolutions together. The Rio+20 committee was fun and we had many fruitful discussions both in formal and informal caucuses. The topics in Rio+20 is less political, therefore many of us took the whole simulation with a bit of ‘fun’ added to the equation. Compared to other committees, as I heard that on Security Council or General Assembly, the discussion were much more heated. Two hours meeting was not enough, we continued the meeting after we had had breakfast on Saturday morning. The negotiation, speeches, informal caucuses, drafting working papers, motions, and voting to pass resolutions continued until 10pm on Saturday – of course with several coffee breaks, lunch and dinner.

On Sunday with blizzard raging outside and -5′C, we continued with the second topics and managed to pass another resolution just 15 minutes before the closing of the meeting. It was tough and a lot of hard work. Nevertheless, we did have fun. The satisfaction of being able to pass ‘a resolution’ which fulfills my country’s agenda is very indescribable. I can only imagine in real world, how much more satisfying it can be. We had some informal caucuses with other Erfurt delegates and other new friends from other universities in the evening with pizza, sekt, and beer. These were very important to un-edge the nerves after passionately debating and giving speeches all day. By Sunday morning, I was already exhausted and almost lost my voice. At 4pm on a really snowy Sunday afternoon, we rushed through to train station to catch our train back to Erfurt. Everyone was half-asleep and drained on the way back. I can only thank the head delegates of Erfurt MUN (EfMUN) for organizing the weekend.

Personally, I found BaMUN satisfying – mentally and academically. I have to admit that I am very bad in office politics. I am very impatient and outspoken. Many times, I doubt myself doing diplomacy, mediation, or negotiation. I simply do not have the patience to do so. With MUN, I was surprised that I managed to get through the meeting in a very calm way. I let it flow and enjoyed the interaction with other people, new friends from different places, while at the same time, strengthen the bond with other EfMUN delegates.  Through BaMUN, I learnt in a very practical way how to mediate conflicts, negotiate, compromise, and how to work together; plus drafting a speech in 5 minutes. And also, that politics are done in informal caucuses – during coffee break and around the water cooler. Realizing that each delegation has their own agenda and interests, I had to be careful in choosing the right words while giving speeches and drafting a resolution (working paper) together with other 15  other delegates under time constraints and pressure. One inappropriate word  or raised intonation can destroy any working coalition. At times,  I feel like being in an opera with professional actor and actresses who are very much into playing their roles as official delegates from certain countries. I also enjoyed the structured debate very much. It may well be very rigid and at times frustrating but the structure of the meeting does a great deal of justice to give everyone a chance to speak and express their opinions.

Sure that it was not perfect. I was slightly saddened that many took BaMUN for granted. Some completely ignored the ‘fun’ factor in MUN. To enjoy the new friendship. To relax with good friends around. To mingle around similar-minded people. The setup of BaMUN itself hardly left a chance for a proper networking session.  In most cases, I could not remember their names – aside from the countries they are representing. 3 days and 2 nights brought me to the brink of exhaustion, both mentally and physically. Now, I am looking forward to a weekend of Erfurt MUN in January, 4 days 3 nights MainMUN, and of course, 5 days New York MUN at the UN Headquarters. I do hope I will have the stamina to handle it. Honorable chairs and distinguished delegates, this phrase kept on my head for the next couple of days after BaMUN. I had a slip of tongue when I gave a presentation during my Monday class.

MUN shows politics in practice. An insight to real politics. A very practical way to diplomacy. Though without decision power, it does speak much about leadership. UN General Secretary, Mr. Ban Ki Moon once said to a MUN Simulation in New York on 2012, “You are here to step into the shoes of UN ambassadors — to draft resolutions, to plot strategy, to negotiate with your allies as well as your adversaries. Your goal may be to resolve a conflict, to cope with a natural disaster or to bring nations together on an issue like climate change. You may be playing a role, but you are also preparing for life. You are acting as global citizens.” It is about acting as global citizens and creating future leaders. One should be able to handle small things before taking over bigger responsibilities.

 

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