It all started in the terrace of a hotel room in Salamanca, Spain. I was Chairing the Iberoamerican Summit at MUNUSAL 2012 and my dear friend, Johannes, who was the Secretary General (and a great one at that), joined me for a cigarette outside and we started chatting about our upcoming projects. It was the 3rd day of the conference, and I was exhausted. Trying to keep up with the Spanish schedule, the vast amounts of tapas, wine, and shots we had during our social events, and the outstanding academic level of my Committee, the last thing I was thinking about was doing another MUN in the near future. I was looking forward to being able to sleep for more than 4 hours each night, and I had to once and for all focus on my Law degree. Then, Johannes said the magic words: “A group of people from the Humboldt University in Berlin are organizing the first BerlinMUN, you should think about it”. (see photo of Johannes, Irina Botea, and me)
I had never been to Berlin, and back then, Berlin’s hype was at its peak. One
of the coolest cities in Europe, I heard. Long story short: I knew I had to
apply to the Secretariat.
Johannes told me that the Secretary General chosen for the conference would be Maria Haferkorn. Now, I know that most of the people who will read this will have no idea who Ms. Haferkorn is, but trust me, in the social circle of European MUN Dinosaurs, Maria Haferkorn’s reputation is mind-blowing. I had never met her before, but I had heard that she had SG’ed SOFIMUN and MOSTIMUN and rocked everyone’s socks. She was tough, smart, and she could handle an all-nighter and be Crisis-ready the next morning. Kind of intimidating, because since I like to consider myself one of those ‘tough woman’, I was, admittedly, a bit nervous that we might clash (I found out after the Closing Ceremony that she can, in fact, smile and look cute, see photo of her below!). I applied anyway, and I was selected to be the Chair of the International Court of Justice. When I read the names of the rest of the Secretariat, I was sure that this conference would be remarkable. I was more than right. BerlinMUN is one of those conferences that changed the MUN game for me, and here’s why:
Intense Chair training = Intensely prepared Chairs = Amazing Secretariat
Maria had organized two Chairtraining sessions for the
Secretariat. After a 20 hour flight from Caracas, Venezuela, I made it to Berlin
and was picked up at the airport and taken to the Hostel were the Chairs were
staying for the first two nights. I only had about 20 minutes to shower and get
ready to roll.
In most of my MUN experiences as Chairperson, the way that Chair training goes is like this: First, we talk about the Rules of Procedure extensively, then we do a sort of Q&A to resolve any doubts that we might have, and lastly, we do a Mock Debate amongst the Chairs in order to test each other’s skills and perfect our weak points. (some of the Chair training and team building took place at night, in the park, with some beer, as you can see below)
I cannot really remember the topics that we chose to debate, or the names we wrote down in our placards, but trust me, it was probably something hilarious and sarcastic enough to make everyone red-faced from holding in laughter. Imagine being in a Committee with 15 people who have on average 10-20 MUNs in the pocket. Most of them very experienced Chairs, and probably all of them have been Best Delegates several times. The result? INTENSITY. We made sure everyone knew the RoP to the T, and we had a blast in the process.
I can say in all honesty that this was probably one of the best prepared Secretariats I had seen in a long time. I was proud to be a part of it. Maria Haferkorn, you nailed it!
My Co-Chair Brendan
Brendan Niall Guildea was appointed as the other Chairperson
for the ICJ. He was an Irish Barrister who, back then, was expecting his first
child with his wife, Rebecca. At first, I was not sure what to expect. Brendan
was experienced in the field of Law but he was not very familiar with MUNs,
however, when I met him, it all clicked for me. Brendan is one of those guys
who, always smiling, is thirsty for knowledge. He is an incredibly quick
learner and by the second hour of our Chair training I knew we would be a great
couple to head the ICJ. Brendan immediately made me feel comfortable, and he
always said to me “I trust your judgment, you take control if you think it’s necessary”.
What else can someone ask for in a Co-Chair? He knew the substance better than
me, and he was very nice and patient with our delegates, who sometimes seemed
lost in so much Public International Law blah-blah. He made sure that they were
engaging in what we were doing and he always did it with a friendly smile on
his face, something that I am not very good at doing (the smiling part, I mean,
Brendan is someone who people never forget. I certainly won’t. I remember that when my suitcase broke in the middle of the streets in Berlin, he simply lifted it off the floor and carried it on his back all the way to our Hotel, where we would be staying for the duration of the Conference (mind you, it was a 40 kg suitcase). That certainly made my day!
He was, all in all, an amazing person to work with.
Julia Uznanski, or as I liked to call her, ‘Julia the Dictator’ was the head organizer of the conference. Watching her work was a bliss. Although I am a Latina with a chill-out attitude towards organisation and deadlines, I have to admit that without her amazing willingness to make BerlinMUN’s first conference a success, we would have not been able to pull it off. My hat goes off for the rest of the organizing team that year, they were efficient, helpful, fast, and very friendly.
Simulating the ICJ
This, to me, is probably the most important aspect of why I
loved BerlinMUN. This was the very first time that I was so academically
challenged by an MUN committee. I had been doing an LLB on International Law
for two years, but to actually put that knowledge to practice and expect all
the delegates to do the same, is extremely stimulating. I know for a fact that
my Committee was not the most “fun” in MUN standards, but I am happy we were
not. I am positive that the delegates in the ICJ were faced with the biggest
academic challenge. The ICJ is not like the SC, where the delegate of North
Korea can take the floor for a minute to rant about how the United States is a
capitalist monster, or the Delegate of Russia can ruin everything by pretending
they will abstain from voting and Vetoes a resolution instead. No. The ICJ can
only work successfully by using real legal arguments based on the facts that
you are given. The ICJ expects its judges to draft a complete,
as-close-as-reality judgment, sometimes these can be over 20 pages long.
Sometimes finding the legal arguments takes a long time, and delegates MUST
work together to make it happen. Even if they disagree on what the end result
ought to be.
Nothing tops this, trust me. Watching the delegates work and being involved in producing this final documents is very rewarding.
Social Events & My Good Old FriendsThe nightlife in Berlin is incredible. Probably more so if you are not from Berlin. We went to clubs, karaoke, dinners, and self-organized parties that turned into the happiest memories. I have never had such a variety of things to do on a night out. I must add, though, that I had the pleasure to be in the company of great friends. People I have met throughout my MUN career whom I have connected on higher levels than that of MUNs. It was just a blast.
I retired ‘for real’ from the MUN world in 2014. I went through a bit of an existential crisis in which my career had to be at the forefront. I decided to focus on other things rather than drafting study guides and travelling around (does not sound so bad, does it?). However, in the early days of January of this year, as I was being nostalgic about my MUN days, I was scrolling through MUNPlanet and came across a post advertising the Application for Committee Directors at TGIMUNC 2016. It sounded too good to be true. The biggest MUN in the world so far? Taking place in India? Based on my use of Quora and MUNPlanet, I have realized that India is an MUN country by definition. It is popular in High School and they have conferences in almost every province. I told myself: “Well, one more couldn’t hurt”
TGIMUNC will mark my 10th Chairing Experience! I will be Chairing the Security Council at the High School level. I cannot begin to explain how excited I am about this opportunity, as I am always and forever going to be an MUN addict, and so will YOU!
Come and join me and many others at TGIMUNC 2016!
More information and application: tgimunc.com/apply/