MUNPlanet: Onur, how would you introduce yourself to the MUN community?
Onur: I am a Turk, living in Istanbul and running a company
called Sonat Foods Marketing and Agency which is active in food trading. I've been living in Turkey, but I also lived abroad shortly to study, work
and leisure in France, Germany and the Netherlands. I have been traveling to
various countries, upon my entry to Galatasaray University, which has been
a leading institution for many famous individuals in public and private sector
since the Ottoman era. At that time, my travels were mainly related to MUN conferences abroad. The most pleasant experience for me was to attend Harvard World MUN, TEIMUN, GIMUN, OxIMUN, EuroMUN and other regional conferences year after year. During
this period, I was also a team member organizing a conference at Galatasaray
University, called EUROFORUM, which was focusing on the European Union instead of
the United Nations. All these years, I acted as organizer, chair, delegate, and
adviser in many conferences. At the same time, I was one of the best known
MUNers in my community.
Those experiences enriched my skill-set, improving competitiveness, empathy, negotiation, time management, multidimensional thinking, and others, which turned out to be very useful in my everyday life. My work career has lifted up more easily thanks to those skills. However, possessing great knowledge about world economic and diplomatic affairs also brings big responsibility... Therefore, your expectations on possible new ways become your own challenges.
MUNPlanet: Onur, tell us something about your life path and how you dived into the world of MUNs.
Onur: It is not useful to observe events of the past life, since our
understanding usually cannot grasp all reality with all dimensions at the time
being. Therefore, past events became a part of our memories that can rarely help us during our current endeavors. Knowing my life path will not explain to you why I am here today, but it may give some hints about the road ahead. It is
better to answer this question by providing information about my so-called life plans.
moment, my future path looks like a bridge, the one connecting two parts of Istanbul, the one between East and
West, the one in between rich and poor, known and unknown, peace and war. Let me explain this by drawing on my backgroun in MUN conferences. I happened to find myself in
those meetings thanks to Galatasaray University and its talented student
associations. However, that was not the only reason. To attend such conferences
abroad with the scholarship of our school, one has to stand in front of jury questioning candidates about their views on world affairs. The very first time I was before the jury was in the winter of 2002. Following that selection, I was appointed to attend Harvard WorldMUN in March / April 2003. The jury asked me to defend
my own position about the US attack on Iraq. My defense [argument] was that Saddam
Hussein was a non-legitimate leader, and the Americans had the right to intervene
for the sake of the Iraqi people. The jury approved my position on the basis of my
logic, language and persuasion; and so I was one of the team members to travel
to Harvard World MUN conference in Heidelberg, in March 2003. The coincidence of
fate was that during the very same week my
friends and I were watching the American troops heading towards Baghdad on our hotel TV screens in Germany. I was now part of a process in which I take
a position and experience the results on a daily basis together with all
individuals from around the world. For the record, my committee in Harvard World
MUN was DISEC, and it was the most populated committee of that conference.
To connect these examples to my current life path, I must acknowledge that I cannot play The Three Monkeysand with active involvement in economic, diplomatic and social affairs around the world, I am able to witness my own effect in all events around myself now and in the future. Therefore, when one acts like a bridge, it becomes truly important to know the essence of events, players and dynamics of life around themselves. I see this as my own achievement in this life.
MUNPlanet: How would you define MUN?
Onur: I define
MUN as a place where you see your competitors and your associates, where you
have to know a lot about world economic, diplomatic and social affairs,
where you find yourself without much solution. This last aspect of MUN is
critically important, because mainly those conference organizers and their
experienced participating friends usually tend to favor their positions (and
proposals) before the others, and in the end you realize that resolutions
repeat each other while the problems remain unchanged.
Much like in music, there are different sounds and combinations, and it takes courage to accept new musicians and rhymes into your own tunes. This is what current MUN conferences failed to achieve. And unfortunately any organization which cannot solve the problems is doomed to disappear.
MUNPlanet: You studied in Istanbul and Paris – in what regard the
experience of learning in those two big cities influenced your MUN and career
Onur: It is mainly the effect of history, which one observes while studying in Istanbul and Paris. Somehow you feel sympathy to share that history, which people look over and over to feel great and amazed. However there is a point which those two cities share as their failure. There is no reason to remain on hold at your own history. It becomes then very difficult to become as great as you once were. Of course there is tremendous wealth in those cities, however this position does not remain sustainable as long as you choose to remain in the past. While studying in Paris, I applied to St. Gallen Symposium with a paper on French position in world economic, diplomatic and social affairs. It was kind of review on which points the French society was behind the others. My paper was not chosen by the jury as an applicable proposal. Can you imagine that. And more ironically, a few years later, Jacques Attali proposed a report to Elysee on a big number of reforms to apply immediately by the French Government. So I can conclude that these two cities bring people nostalgia, which makes it more difficult to accept daily life.
MUNPlanet: Given your rich experience as delegate, organizer and advisor – what would be your most important takeaways from MUNs?
Onur: MUNs provided me with the belief that people under well functioning organizations tend to move towards equilibrium. Therefore it is very important that those organizations are free in their own nature, which resembles like physic laws that are applied to our daily life. One can say the gavel is a strong tool which should be in the hands of those with legitimate rights. Then it is another question on how you define the legitimate rights. Second outcome of MUNs in my view is that we are bound by our problems, and since we are the very first reason of our problems, it is very difficult to feel our responsibility for the favor of solutions to our problems. It is as if our dreams are the reason of our thoughts, the reason of our words, the reason of our behaviors and so the fate becomes inescapable.
MUNPlanet: From all the conferences you attended, which ones you still keep in mind, and why?
Onur: I still remember TEIMUN, because the sense of entertainment is
the best in Netherlands. So I keep this remark as a student, while forgetting
all other aspects. I also remember EUROMUN, because the organizational skills
of the host university was perfect and I am proud of them. And finally I continue to
remember EUROFORUM, since it was a real leading event in Turkey which was then
a very good example to many other organizers.
MUNPlanet: In your opinion, what is the state of MUNing in Turkey and in Europe at the moment?
Onur: I think MUNs, in terms of quality, are in decline. The real issue here could be the current state of world economic and social affairs. I think people may not have much time to spend.
MUNPlanet: In the past ten years the number of MUNs has increased manifold. How do you see the future of MUNs as a concept, and can they really serve as a platform for change and become a transformative force in this interdependent world?
Onur: I see this increase as a bubble. It is true that we need transformative force for the sake of all. However, the approach of MUN organizers is very critical. In this sense, I favor the European approach more because it seems to me more equitable for the delegates. Also, the concept needs adjustments, because delegates should feel more responsible while in session. I see that much like real-life UN; those MUN conferences end up with unrealistic solutions to problems. While it is true that the world has become interdependent, the gavel should remain independent. That’s where we fail.
MUNPlanet: Are MUNs conducive to entrepreneurial spirit and business-minded people? How did you integrate your MUN experience into running a business of your own?
Onur: MUNs are very helpful in everyday life. Because we are bound to solve problems as organizations, and this requires complete participation as well as sound functioning. The key relation between MUNs and work spirit, is that one feels and knows himself connected to the results of his own actions. Therefore you create tools and ways that people choose to take for their own sake.
MUNPlanet: What are the greatest strengths and limitations of the MUN as a concept?
Onur: The strengths of MUNs are actually the many problems that we face today around the world. I believe those problems were created on purpose, as if good luck brings people the notion of hope. On the other hand, the limitation of MUNs is, again, the possibility that those problems are never going to be solved, because they feed the people in the very first place. So, there seem to be two sides, and MUNs cover the stage only for the sake of our understanding of things.
MUNPlanet: One of the goals of MUNPlanet is to get the brightest members of the community as well as Alumni together to take part in a meaningful dialogue and interaction. Do you believe that MUNers can step forward and bring about the change as a transnational leadership force?
Onur: They may realize this function successfully. However, it depends very much on the time that individual MUNers have left to spend. I think we are in an age, where both competition and cooperation is coming to an end. The leadership force lies mainly in the hands of those who may keep the gavel safe.
MUNPlanet: There must be something you would like to add in the
end, beyond the initial questions…
Onur: I think our role here could be very limited. For if any
individual decides to join the world community in its own economic,
diplomatic and social affairs, there are no borders today
that stop him. So, the question is not the choice the individuals made. However, there is ever more limited number of paths that are available for use while
bringing solutions to our problems (which I believe we were the creators in
the very first place ). This is the part which worries me.
In the end, music is not a property of anyone and, yet, it is enough to feed all of us. Thus MUNs or other meetings should create environments where new rhythms and melodies are born naturally. Otherwise, we lose our energy, which is bound in total value by its very physical laws.
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