Here at UBC we have our very own MUN (Model United Nations) conference every year in January. Basically it is an opportunity for a whole bunch of super nerdy high school and university students to converge and pretend that they are really important people. They represent a variety of nations, and get to discuss the issues that are affecting those nations and the world in general.
I planned and attended the conference this year as Director of Recruitment, and the numerous hours I spent sitting at the front desk left me ample opportunity to think about the purpose and value of MUN.
Basically, at its simplest, MUN is about gaining valuable diplomatic experience and coming up with some possible solutions to the many problems that plague us. Unfortunately it seems to me that these two aims are often at odds. That is, in attempting to stay in character and practice our diplomacy, we simply perpetuate the status quo. We act exactly the way the nations of the world act–we disagree, we argue and we settle on the lowest common denominator. Which, frankly, hasn’t been working out too well for the world!
Now I’m not suggesting that North Korea, Cuba and Switzerland should start making resolutions together (that actually happened at a conference I attended–it was a bit unexpected to say the least), but wouldn’t it be awesome if someone could come up with a design for a conference that would incorporate both reality and innovation? An opportunity to think crazy thoughts and dream crazy dreams, and in the end come up with plausible solutions.
I guess to a certain extent that was what Terry Talks and Ted Talks were about. But they lack the collabrative element of MUN. I wish there was a way to combine the two.
I’ve been offered the position of Under Secretary General at next years MUN, and I’m seriously considering taking it. And I’m wondering if there is a way to make MUN more innovative. Because practising our diplomacy skills is great–but coming up with real solutions to real problems, that are more than just the lowsest common denominator, would be even greater.
More thoughts to come.