Model United Nations (MUN) Conferences — Our Experience

Model United Nations (MUN) is an umbrella term for simulation games in which different bodies and organs of the United Nations are simulated. The participants, as delegates of states, take on the task of discussing world-political issues from the perspective of the state they are representing with the other delegates and seeking solutions to global problems in negotiations. In doing so, it is always a matter of ensuring that the position of their own state is taken into account in the final documents such as resolutions — in other words, this is not an academic debate, but diplomacy. [1]

What are the biggest differences between MUN-Conferences in Europe, Asia and the USA? What can be learned from such a conference, personally and academically?

I reached out to Dominique Virgil Tuapetel from Indonesia in order to talk about our MUN experiences.

Dominique and I, Christina Pletowski, met at Paris International Model United Nations (PIMUN) in 2019. We both participated as chairs in different committees, leading and guiding the respective committee during the four days of this conference.

Dominique, living in Indonesia, graduated from the Faculty of Law in Indonesia in 2019 and is working as a temporary researcher in Amnesty International Indonesia as well as leading and managing non-profit organization, Sandya Institute, on the rights of minority groups.

Dominique attended her first Model United Nations Conference back in 2014 in Jakarta during her last year of High School. She represented Denmark in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD).

I started participating in MUN-Conferences during my exchange year in the United States of America at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). My first MUN-Conference has been the Midwest Model United Nations Conference (MMUN) in St. Louis, Missouri. Now, I am a member of the MUN-Club in Munich, Germany at the Ludwig-Maxmilians-Universität (LMU).

Difference between MUN-Conferences in the USA and Europe

In the United States of America MUN-Conferences are usually very huge when looking at the number of students attending. Oftentimes, there are between 800 and 1500 students at one single conference, wherefore most of the time double delegation is required. MUN-Conferences in the USA have a very high standpoint and are beloved by students as an external project inter alia to put it on their CV in order to receive or continue having a scholarship or to get credits for a university class. Especially the awards are highly loved, which is why these conferences turn out to be a very competitive event.

In Germany, at least the MUN-Delegation Project I attended, MUN is completely on a voluntary basis. You will not get credit for a university class (with a few exceptions). Certainly, there are projects offered within a university degree but that is not the usual case. However, receiving an award is a nice addition and that accomplishment can definitely be put on the CV as well. Still, compared to other countries, MUN in Germany has not such a wide recognition yet.

It seems to me that students in Germany or Europe in general are on a higher academic level when it comes to preparedness, the correct representation of a country. In the USA the focus is more on story telling and presentation style, kind of theatric and less about substance and content. I am not saying that this is the case at every MUN-Conference in the USA. This is simply what I have noticed and experienced.

MUN-Conferences in Indonesia

In Indonesia, according to Dominique, MUN-Conferences gained their popularity approximately in 2010. A conference there seems to be very comparable to a conference in the USA — highly competitive, and very good to put on your CV. However, similarly to my experience in the USA, the level of substance in Indonesian conferences is not as good as in Europe. Students are not really well equipped with public speaking skills, often lack in profound English language. The delegates in Indonesia also strive for awards immensely.

When Dominique attended the Den Hague MUN, she noticed the high level of substance of the delegates. She experienced deep and logical substantial talks and debates. Delegates have been very informed about their countries’ standpoints, aims and visions and they have been very keen on establishing cooperations with other countries.

What we have learned from MUN-Conferences

Personally, we learned how to cross people in an unbiased way from different backgrounds and countries and how to adjust to them. By meeting students from all over the world, we understood the importance of questioning views from various standpoints and accepting the fact that there actually is more than one opinion and option to a question or issue.

Going out of our comfort-zones has been the best thing we could do in order to improve our public speaking and leadership skills, to learn how to present an issue in a very concise and straightforward manner as well as how to position ourselves in the best way possible.

We understood the concepts of cooperation, interconnectivity and diplomacy and how to use, especially diplomacy, during negotiations not only in the context of international or national politics but also in private life.

Although MUN at the end is just a game, we hope that MUN-Conferences will be more recognized on a higher political level as there is so much potential in such a conference, so many great solutions and out of the box ideas.

The views in these piece are solely those of Christina Pletowski and Dominique Virgil Tuapetel. Numbers, facts and statistics are taken from the sources listed below.

[1] No author, “Model United Nations”, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, varwick.politik.uni-halle.de, https://varwick.politik.uni-halle.de/studium/model_united_nations/ (accessed November 11, 2020).

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Christina Pletowski

Christina Pletowski

B.A. at LMU/NKU — Law student based in Germany, interested in global politics and economy. Exploring the future, trying to understand what’s going to be next.