Wednesday 14 October 2020

Model United Nations Conference

As part of the School’s Global Citizenship program, Ivanhoe Grammar School ran the first Model UN simulation of the General Assembly in Australia in collaboration with United Nations Association of Australia Victorian Division (UNAAV) on Friday 9 October.

Year 10 – 11 students from across the School, engaged in a simulation of debate and resolution-making using the same protocols and techniques employed by the actual United Nations. The day was full of debate, diplomacy, discussion, negotiation, teamwork and leadership. Teams represent the position of their appointed country which requires research into their particular stance on the issue being debated. The resolution was in line with Sustainable Development Goal 11 of Sustainable Cities: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

In preparation, the teams researched their countries and created a position statement which they recorded via Zoom and then shared with all of the teams, allowing particular countries to identify who they could align themselves with in negotiations.  The day was conducted by the Secretary-General Ian Howie who is a former UN worker and now Associate Professor, Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor in International Studies at RMIT University. He was like the conductor of a sometimes excitable choir and deftly managed debate and final resolution-making by the end of the day.

Logistically the event was run over a special Zoom platform and had both moderated discussion in the general assembly and unmoderated negotiation chambers where teams could meet to lobby other teams, these spaces were ably supported by representatives from UNAAV and active MUN delegates. These negotiation chambers became hotbeds of discussion and lobbying which often continued in lively backchannel chat during General Assembly. Ultimately the students learnt how difficult the art of diplomacy is and how much effort and backroom conversations go into making any new resolution in the United Nations. The MUN is something that students can continue to involve themselves in throughout their lives, with many universities running MUN events, giving great opportunities to develop skills and networks.

Student Reflections

My recent involvement with Model United Nations was a thoroughly enjoyable one. It was the collaborative efforts from Ivanhoe teachers and students across multiple year levels and campuses, as well as the team from UNAA Victoria, which culminated into a terrific day of debate and global engagement. Each country’s team prepared well in advance to the day, writing and filming position statements and researching their country’s sustainable policies. The enthusiasm with which each team participated was evident from the confidence and ease new ideas were presented to the Secretary-General and other delegates throughout the caucus and amendment sessions. It was exciting to see and participate in the lively debates between teams firmly expressing their countries stance, with each student as immersed as the next. All in all, the day was a unique success that I absolutely recommend to anyone who finds enjoyment in diplomatic and international affairs and having fun with friends.

Isabella, Year 11 The Ridgeway  Campus

The MUN Conference held virtually on 9 October has been a very unique co-curricular experience in my eyes. The Model United Nations is a distinctive simulation for school students, of what a United Nation’s Hearing would look like. This accurate representation includes taking the stance of a country and identifying social, historical, economical, environmental, political and technological factors and dilemmas that may be present. After obtaining this knowledge, countries have to support, or in other cases, suggest manipulations of clauses that are imperative to the UN development of Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Through this event, my knowledge of the UN, their international role and their work have widely grown. I have also developed a more intimate level of understanding of global politics and current affairs, as well as the simulated heated relationship between Canada and India! Likewise, I have learnt a lot about my chosen country, Singapore, and where their priorities for environmental recuperation are.  But more importantly, through countless lively negotiations and debates with other counties, I have learnt to look through their eyes to sympathise with them, allowing for more cohesion and improvements in collaboration and conflict resolution skills.

Despite the many challenges posed through virtual conferences, I was still able to easily communicate, and it felt as if I were in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York! Overall, this whole experience has been incredibly entertaining, whilst equally informative. I encourage those who are curious to give it a go. You will be pleasantly surprised! 

Kavin, Year 10 Plenty Campus

On Friday 9 October myself and my team (which comprised of Emme and Eva) took part in Model United Nations. However, the program did not begin there. It took months of both preparation, as well as, delay, (due to the covid-19 pandemic), in order to finally participate in the conference. I got to engage in an intellectual debate with others who exhibit the same passion as I do. I enjoyed being able to hold a position of power and to be treated as a leader. All teams were given the same amount of respect by the officials of the day and through this everyone benefited favourably. We were bestowed with the opportunity to showcase our opinions and how they can shift when influenced by the country we represent. The day had proven to be a great success for myself and my team as we had been granted access to amend a clause within the draft resolution that we did not believe in. It was an advantageous experience, providing us with a glimpse into what our future could be like and I am very grateful to have been a participant.

Lucy, Year 10 The Ridgeway Campus

On Friday  9 October around 60 Ivanhoe students participated in the Ivanhoe Grammar School Model United Nations, which was centred around the topic of ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’. Weeks prior to the conference date, students formed teams and were assigned a member state to represent in the conference. Before the conference, these teams had to conduct research regarding their countries and their current sustainability levels and future ecological goals. During the conference, member states would present their current sustainability model and future position to the UN delegates, who would assess these claims and amend particular clauses, just as the UN themselves would.

This experience allowed participants to gain a greater understanding of the international effort to achieve sustainability and the constant work being done by the UN to better the global community. Over the course of the program, I learnt new information regarding not only my representative state but also the current and future goals of a number of member states, many of which I previously had little knowledge of. The program also allowed us, students, to interact with and debate over current pressing global issues surrounding the theme of sustainability. The discourse between member states was extremely constructive in allowing us to understand not only the nature of international sustainability but to also voice our nation’s aims and concerns for the future. By addressing such global issues, we were able to obtain a broader outlook on the global effort to achieve sustainability and the work in such an area done by the UN.

Archie, Year 11 The Ridgeway Campus

Our Model United Nations event, which occurred on the ninth of October, provided nothing short of an engaging, collaborative space for informed debate and discussion amongst participants, whereby we could explore the intricacies of global politics and machinations. The objective of our work, culminating in a simulation of the famed General Assembly in New York City, was to pass resolutions in line with a member-state we, in groups, had each been assigned. Whether or not the beliefs or professions of our given state was in tow with our own moral or political convictions was irrelevant- our purpose was to diplomatically represent and negotiate the interests of the nation. We began the proceedings by presenting affidavits outlining our positions- pre-recorded, given circumstances. Then the contest began. Each member-state had to appeal to others to carry motions through a system of democratic voting, determined by the positions each held on specific issues. The broad focus, on sustainability, led to varying levels of input from the players; opinions were rooted in the present and emerging policies, allowing for a voracious critique that highlighted the boundaries of justice and injustice. Ultimately, the work conducted by students for the Model United Nations event offered a greater understanding of the abstract and big-picture concepts that are so prevalent when confronting the ideas and issues of this calibre as we progress further into the century.

Luke, Year 10 Plenty Campus