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This is how Finn introduces himself:
I was born in Hamburg, Germany and lived there for most of my life. I was an exchange student to the United States in 2009 (Montana) and moved to The Hague, The Netherlands, in August 2012, after I graduated from high school. I currently study International Studies, focusing on the Middle East, at Leiden University. I am rather active in student life and co-founded the Model United Nations of The Hague, the first Model UN conference of Leiden University, in the summer of 2013. In general, MUN is a big passion of mine and always has been since I started in September 2010 and I look forward to many more MUN related challenges in the upcoming years.
MUNPlanet: Does living in The Hague bear any special significance for MUNers?
Finn: Living in one of the most important cities with regards to international affairs obviously has an impact on everybody who is involved in the field: be it in real life or in simulations. Having many international institutions, such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, or the OPCW, just around the corner makes living in The Hague very exciting. The entire city has a very international flair with many expats living here. This obviously benefits any MUN related activities as you can easily make use of some incredible resources and opportunities. In March, The Hague hosted the 3rd NSS, for which more than 50 Heads of State and other international leaders came to the city, including Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon, Angela Merkel, and Xi Jinping. Having such a large scale international event happen right in front of your door is one of the most interesting encounters a MUNer can have.
Furthermore, The Hague is also home to the Dutch parliament, wherefore you have not only an international layer but also a national layer of politics, which makes the living situation even more rewarding.
Finn: Most definitely! While other people might take drugs, I attend MUNs and simply cannot stop. I have attended 20 MUN conferences so far, if I am not mistaken, and I will definitely continue. What makes MUN so addictive is the overall package between academic learning and socializing. I love the fact that you get to put the theories you encounter while studying into practice and get to negotiate and lobby just like a real diplomat. Besides that you meet some of the best people you will ever meet and you build long-lasting friendships even when you only see each other twice a year for a MUN conference. In the times of modern technology it is much easier to keep in touch so your MUN connections really start to matter and you grow very close with the people you meet.
Finn: There are a lot of things one can take away from MUN and it is hard to single out just a few. On the one hand you have the vast amount of personal skills which you acquire; reaching from public speaking and negotiating to lobbying and getting used to short nights of sleep. Furthermore, you learn a lot about the world of international relations, how international organizations function, and which flaws and challenges such organizations are facing. Obviously, the social aspect, which I mentioned in the last question, can be seen as a major takeaway too. Not only do you make new friends but you also learn how to be more outgoing, approachable and how to adapt in a very international environment.
For me, personally, a very important lesson is that it pays off to be more calm. I used to be a delegate, and also chair, who was very dominant – in a slightly negative way. Over the course of my MUN life I have learned that you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you sometimes take a step back and not try to be the center of attention the whole time. This allows you to get a more objective view on any issue and you are able to channel your efforts into the correct streams.
MUNPlanet: In one of the discussions at MUNPlanet you pointed to the importance of knowing the rules of procedure, because MUNs are “learning by doing”. How that experience applies to other spheres of life?
Finn: “Learning by doing”, as much as that sounds like a cliché, is an outstanding technique for acquiring new knowledge. Obviously, you cannot apply the concept to everything but a variety of fields allow you to do so. You can, for example, use the technique when you study for a particular subject of your studies. It often helps people to actively engage with a matter when they are trying to become an expert, or even just somebody who knows a bit, about a particular matter. I have learned a great amount of things just by doing them. Not only did I learn how MUNs work, but I also learned how to organize or lead a team just by trying it.
Finn: MUNOTH topped all my expectations. As already mentioned throughout the interview, it was our first edition and, in my opinion, we got MUNOTH off on a very good note. We had more than 200 participants from 53 different nations join in The Hague over the Easter weekend, which I did not expect whatsoever. We received a lot of good feedback during the conference and we definitely want to expand on the success of this year. This year we took the absolute basics of MUNing and tried to make the best out of it. A great challenge was fundraising but our treasurer worked his “magic” and got us into safe waters in those regards. Even though MUNOTH 2014 was not perfect, I still believe that it was a great first conference.
"Not only do we have a vast amount of think tanks and experts in The Hague but our Campus is also one of the newest and most innovative ones in all of the Netherlands. If future MUNOTH teams manage to link these two aspects, the conference can be one of the cornerstones of what I like to call “MUN 2.0”."
Finn: I think MUNs have been very traditional in the past years. Many conferences look alike and barely differentiate themselves from one another. Most conferences have gained an increasing amount of international participants, which has further boosted the MUN portfolio all around the world. I think it is important now that we look ahead and start changing things in the MUN world. I am not calling for a revolution but gradual changes with some conferences would be great, especially if they want to attract a larger number of participants. We have, somewhat, seen that in past years where conferences have started to introduce Star Wars and Game of Thrones Committees. While I am not a fan of committees which are based on such fantasy, I still appreciate the trend. By introducing such committees MUNs can often attract people who are not necessarily interested in International Politics but still want to debate and meet people. Personally, I am more of a fan of Crisis and Historical Committees to change things up from your traditional GA/UNSC simulations. I would like it if I saw such forums at more conferences around the globe.
Other than that, I think the general trend of MUNs becoming more and more popular will continue. I think conferences will need to be able to meet greater demands from participants if they are already well established. Furthermore, the trend of MUNs being globalized will continue as well. As the world becomes ever more connected, the MUN world can only follow up on that. Besides, social media makes it incredibly easy to target MUNers all around the world.
Finn: I can see MUNers in transnational leadership positions if they manage to successfully transfer from simulations to real life; so that part of the question is a yes.
What I question though is if a “transnational leadership force” will ever be able to make substantial change. Most decisions are still made on a country level and most nations are unwilling to give up their sovereignty in that regard. Maybe that will change in the future but I honestly do not see that coming anytime soon. Most people who follow international politics are aware that supranational institutions such as the UN are often more of symbolic value than of actual impact. That is, in my opinion the sad, reality. I would much rather see a more liberalist world where nations cooperate more effectively. As said: I got my doubts that will happen anytime soon, though.
P.S. I also want to congratulate you on the success of MUNPlanet up until here. The launch seemed to have worked out very well and MUNPlanet is well-known amongst MUNers already. Especially now that people can join more freely, I think MUNPlanet will really take off. I look forward to continuing to contribute and share my personal experience with other MUNers and I am eager to see how MUNPlanet will develop.