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Model United Nations Conference

Picture2On the first weekend in February the Redcliffe 6th Form Debating Society went on our annual pilgrimage to the Model United Nations Conference at Kingswood School in Bath. This was Kingswood's 23rd conference and the fourth year that we have attended. It attracts over 600 students from mostly private schools across the UK as well as schools from the United States, Germany, Russia and The Czech Republic.

Model United Nations (known as MUN) provides students with an exciting opportunity to learn about the challenges facing the world today. Participants organise themselves into delegations, before being assigned a country to represent at the conference. They must then seek to reflect accurately the view of that country in a series of debates on international issues. The students who take part not only become more aware about the issues confronting the wider world, but they also develop important skills, such as how to communicate effectively to a large audience, how to think on their feet when confronted with the unexpected, and how to work collaboratively with others.

This year we took 21 students, who represented the countries of Egypt, Panama, Thailand and Lithuania. They each participated in one of the committees (Human Rights, Political, Economic, Health, Environment, Disarmament, Africa and Middle East) and then participated in a 'General Assembly' disaster scenario which they had to resolve. The committee agendas included the situations in Somalia, Burma, China, Syria, Iran and Palestine; combating international terrorism; fair trade and the global economic crisis; combating obesity and AIDS; climate change and sustainable farming; nuclear proliferation and child soldiers; education and clean water in Africa; religious freedom, torture, internet freedom, the death penalty and the rights of women.

This was our most successful year in terms of awards. Huge congratulations are due to Alice Thomson for being the best delegate in the Environment Committee and to the Egypt delegation as a whole (Ana, Jo, Alice, James, Ally and Leonie) for their commendation. Alice managed to be voted most likely to become a dictator and start WW3, as became a master of weaving various Egyptian proverbs into speeches. AlsoPicture1 commended as delegates were Henry Atkinson, James Nash, Naomi Wilkins and Chris Flossman; and Jeremy Budd was voted the most passionate delegate in his committee. A number of students wrote resolutions to be debated and some of them were passed. One of the highlights of the whole event was Chris Flossman, with a crown on his head, having been voted by the committee to take over the chair for a period, speaking from the podium in a fake Lithiuanian accent and selling the charity wrist-bands he had brought with him to a queue of delegates!

James Nash narrowly avoided being ejected from his committee on a number of occasions for being so awkward, but said “I feel I have learned quite a lot about Egypt, and also had to think quite a lot about the problems with the internet to write a resolution on it; I feel I have a much better understanding of them now.”

Dominic Dee said that “For me, the emergency crisis situation within the Health committee itself was the most enjoyable part of the debating, not least some people began to realise that the weekend was drawing to a close and decided to take things slightly less seriously. The time spent outside of because the school was obviously very enjoyable too, spending time with people who I haven't done much before.” We went out for a meal on both nights and games of Empire and Mafia were played fairly late into the night.

Richard Cheng highlighted the value of meeting new people that you usually wouldn't meet, the serious nature of the topics involved in the debates but also the light hearted moments with joke amendments or resolutions proposed which then receive a debate too (the Africa committee debated a resolution to send in the A Team and the Order of the Phoenix to solve a particular crisis situation). “Speaking in front of hundreds of people and proposing my resolution which got passed was really satisfying, although the research required to write a resolution is really immense”.

Ollie Norman said that “The whole weekend was a really interesting and worthwhile experience. I particularly enjoyed lobbying, and coercing people into signing my resolution. The debates, especially ones about subjects with which I was more familiar with, were great, and having my resolution selected for debate was a real achievement, albeit sparking a frantic 5 minutes in which I garbled a speech, and sent copious amounts of notes to other delegates, attempting, not without result, to get a delegate to support me. It wasn't all serious however, and the ensuing debate about the logistics of a forced labour camp in the Antarctic was fun. Probably what I learnt most of all was that international relations (if this model UN was at all realistic) can be a real barrier to addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the world.”

If their passion and moral commitments are anything to go by maybe this generation of students can do a better job of solving them than the current people in control.