MUNPlanet: We’re looking forward to meeting you! Please, introduce yourself and your conference to our community.
My name is Vitor Hugo Dahlstrøm Mendes from Brazil, I am a master student of Political Science here at Aarhus University and the Secretary-General of the first edition of AarhusMUN. After having participated in a total of 38 MUNs around the world, and having founded four of them, the other three General secretaries and I found it was about time to bring Model UN to Aarhus, this year’s European Capital of Culture. Our institution wishes to promote cultural empathy, understanding of international affairs, and knowledge of the United Nations among young people. We currently have a staff of 75 people who organise the conference that is going to take place from June 26 to 30.
MUNPlanet: This will be the first edition of AarhusMUN. How did you decide to organize the conference? Where do you hope to see it in the next 3, 5 and 10 years?
I definitely hope that our work pays off and that we can pass AarhusMUN on to future delegates. I would want AarhusMUN to become a solid institution throughout the next years. Eventually, and that may be in 5, or even in 10 years - AarhusMUN should become a reference in Scandinavia for future MUN conferences that attracts participants from all over the world.
MUNPlanet: The conference is held in the European Capital of Culture and the City of Smiles. What are some things that all delegates should do in Aarhus to get the authentic Danish experience?
Aarhus is lovely place to be. Right now, there is so much music, art, and theatre going on. Many events are free, so just do and explore the city. Like most Danes, you best do so by cycling - regardless the weather! Plus, in Denmark the sea is never more than three hours away and Aarhus also has some very nice beaches. What better place is there for delegates to relax after a hard day of world politics and diplomacy than relaxing to the sound of the sea?
MUNPlanet: The conference is for both high school and university students. Will the committees be mixed or are there specific ones depending on their level?
It is important for us that the the committees are all mixed. Many high school students have already participated in other MUNs, whereas for many university students it is the first time to ever participate in a MUN. There’s a lot to learn from each other and this will help to create a friendly atmosphere.
MUNPlanet: Although this is the first ever edition, you’ve managed to provide an impressive number of seven committees. What tips do you have for our aspiring organizers? What were some of the obstacles that you’ve had to overcome?
The first steps are always the hardest, which is why our greatest challenge was without a doubt to launch this first edition of AarhusMUN. It is not only about motivating people and trying to make them engage with the project, but also about creating an identity and a network. It takes time and energy. So if you want to organise a MUN, make sure you’re passionate about it, because it’s a lot of work and you really shouldn’t underestimate the workload and the responsibility you have.
MUNPlanet: The conference theme is Rethinking the World. How did you come up with this? From where do we start rethinking the world?
Aarhus chose “Let’s Rethink” as its theme for this year’s European Capital of Culture. It’s an imperative, a call for action to come together, to think of the future, and to find new solutions. Our conference theme connects to this idea and we will see that “Rethinking the World”, as big as it sounds, actually begins with the individual. The conference gives you the opportunity to understand where different political opinions are coming from. This empathy is indispensable when you want to rethink our so very intertwined globalised world we live in.
MUNPlanet: There’s a huge debate on formal vs. nonformal education. What are the advantages of Model UN compared to formal education?
Clearly, nonformal education outside of the classroom provides skills that formal does not. Model UN is a practical training where you learn to negotiate, working and groups, and most importantly, increase your empathy towards other people’s opinion. There is no better opportunity for learning to understand people and the reasons for their acting.
MUNPlanet: Since AarhusMUN is opened to high school students, there’s a big chance that some of your participants will be first-time MUNers. How do you suggest that they best prepare for the conference?
First of all: Don’t be afraid to speak out in the conference! Debating will make you feel more comfortable and give you a powerful position in order to negotiate your assigned country’s interest. To achieve this, it is also elementary to prepare with the study guide you have been provided with. Try to engage with the topic and get a maximum of information beforehand.
MUNPlanet: How can the role of technology and new communities such as MUNPlanet affect the future of student conferences?
I think that technology and the possibility to connect various MUNs, to share our experiences and to learn from each other in communities like MUNPlanet only fosters what the idea of Model United Nations already stands for: a sense of togetherness, and that we are all interconnected. Our generation nowadays travels around the world while talking to friends and family back home on Skype, Whatsapp and the like. We feel like global citizens and I’m sure this experience will have an even bigger impact on future student conferences.
MUNPlanet: What is the most important lesson that you hope all the delegates learn at AarhusMUN?
That besides all our different origins, cultures, and realities of life, we can be together in one room and celebrate our similarities while embracing the diversity of our world.
Vitor, thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you, and your conference. MUNPlanet strongly advises all MUNers to check it out. Good luck and we wish you all the best!