I am Prashant Khurana, a graduate in History from Hansraj College, University of Delhi. I am currently pursuing a LLB from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University. I have been associated with Model United Nations and Parliamentary Debating for the last 8 years and have participated as a delegate, a judge, or advisor in about 35 MUN conferences and 45 Parliamentary Debates at both national and international level. I will be the chief advisor for INMUN 2017.
INMUN is one of the oldest Model United Nations Conference in this country. It is the pioneer of the concept in north of India and was the first of its kind debating platform. Model United Nations are unique in that they test a student for a multitude of activities, from public speaking to spontaneous decision making to lobbying and strategizing. All these while placing students in the shoes of diplomats with responsibility and limitations of their country’s strengths and weaknesses. This was brought to the fore by INMUN. I had the opportunity to participate at INMUN thrice during my school days, between 2010-12, once as a delegate representing China and twice as Chairperson of GA2. The thing that separates INMUN from the rest of the conferences, is its emphasis of certain time honored traditions- an unrelenting focus on high quality debate, research and a complete renunciation of senseless sensationalism. This is perhaps the only conference, among the many that I have seen, that has a single minded focus on educating its participants, by both providing them an atmosphere to learn from their peers, as well as by ensuring interactions with very senior decision makers at the national and international level. This dogged drive for learning is what differentiates INMUN from any conference that you will ever visit, and that is evidenced by its long standing reputation (not many conferences have had the honor of hosting their 16th edition).
MUNPlanet: This will be the 16th edition of INMUN. When was INMUN conceived and what were its aims? Where does it stand now? Where do you hope to see it in the future?
INMUN was the brainchild of our founder Dr. A.F. Pinto and Managing Director Madam Grace Pinto. They had conceived a conference that would allow students to learn more than conventional debating, which was usually the only form of public speaking activity in vogue at the time. INMUN was a pioneering concept back then and we are proud to say that it was the only conference of its kind in North India. Post its introduction, the concept proliferated so rapidly that today one can encounter a MUN conference being organized almost on a weekly basis in schools and colleges across the country.
Yet among the recent entrants, INMUN has continued to stand out primarily due to the administrative acumen of the two people who had first brought this conference into existence. It continues to boast of high standards of organizational excellence, dynamic evolution of agendas, carefully selected executive boards and a very high level of debate. It’s USP, as well as a manifestation of its quality as a conference, is the fact that it hosts a large number of townhall sessions. Speakers from all walks of life, who are leading their respective fields of work share their experience and thoughts on policy with our students. We have, in the past, hosted very senior union cabinet ministers such as Dr. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Dr. Shashi Tharoor; civil servants such as India’s first woman police officer- Dr. Kiran Bedi; National Spokespersons of leading political parties like Dr. Sambit Patra (BJP). We have also had the privilege of hosting ambassadors and other diplomats from a large number of countries such as USA, Canada, Afghanistan, Netherland, Spain , Tunisia, Canada, Australia, Israel, Australia, Estonia, among others.
INMUN is a testament to the high watermark that MUN conferences can attain and the entire credit behind its success goes to the team of organizers led by Dr. A.F. Pinto and Madam Grace Pinto. Our aim for the future is just to outdo our previous year’s achievements and ensure the spread of this wonderful activity to greater number of students around the world.
MUNPlanet: INMUN is organized by Ryan International School which has grown into one of India's leading group of institutions, providing academic excellence to our students. Please, tell us a little bit about the school and its history.
We as the Ryan International Group have widespread interest in the sphere of quality education with a commitment to excellence. Our first school in Mumbai that was started in 1976 has grown and branched over a span of 40 years.
We have grown into one of India's leading group of institutions, providing academic excellence to our students. This is facilitated by dedicated educators who are trained to channelize their energy and resources towards child-centered qualitative learning. We have also ventured into International boundaries by establishing friendship institutions all across the globe.
We owe the group's success to Almighty God and our dedicated Management team developed by our Founder Chairman Dr. Augustine F. Pinto, ably supported by the Managing Director Madam Grace Pinto.
Today, the Group Management has evolved into a cohesive and well-knit network of academicians, researchers and professionals.
MUNPlanet: You say that the most important part about a conference that claims to provide students with practical experience of negotiations is its ability to induce realism in the activity. How do you accomplish this?
There is clearly no point of a MUN conference that is crafted out of thin air and allows for discussion outside the bounds of geopolitical realities. The grounding in reality is what separates a MUN conference from discussions that are solely based on principles and end up in theoretical solutions with a complete disregard for ground realities. For example - a discussion on feminist theories is incomplete without an approach for furthering women’s equality by means of legislation or executive action.
At INMUN we establish this realism through a process which ingrains within students the responsibility to operate within the constraints placed upon them by external factors. The foremost among these is our repeated emphasis on foreign policy, which is placed very high on the pecking order. This is reinforced by a rigorous selection process that ensures only the best make it to the Executive Board and are thus able to enforce this properly within the committee. We also ensure our committees reflect contemporary issues, so as to ensure relatability to the discussion which arouses interest in the participants. Contemporaneous issues also ease the burden of research as more material is readily available, this allows for a broader understanding of the subject and reduces the room for guesswork or grey areas that often lead to detachment from realism. Even crisis situations presented to the participants obey these rules and are crafted so as to provide a great amount of information which systemically reduces the room for hypothetical hyperbole. All of this is capped by the constant stream of speakers from a variety of fields who are always there to provide relevant insights and practical experience. Thus the introduction of realism in the conference is an exercise in building an atmosphere of grounded scholarship by the participants at all levels.
As I pointed out earlier, the primary motive behind inviting speakers is to provide our participants a chance to learn from real experience and understand what diplomacy and politics looks like, first hand. INMUN is unique in that the guests don’t just visit opening and closing ceremonies for photo ops, instead, our guests go to specific committees (based on their interest and field of work) and are interviewed in town hall format by students on various aspects of their work and their stance on issues.
These discussions are sharp, insightful and ensure a two-way flow of thought among students and the speaker. This also separates these sessions from normal speaker sessions or lectures. At each session what I am personally amazed by is the manner of questions the participants put to our guests. Any observer unaware of the demographic would not be able to say that the questions are put up by school students. The questions are not just impressive because of the content, but also because there is an absolute lack of hesitation in asking hard hitting questions as well. It is a heartening reminder of the dynamism of our democracy and its progressive ideals and to see it in action is just enthralling and deeply satisfying to all of us in the organization team.
As far as the list of speakers for this year is concerned, we would like to continue to keep you in an animated suspense for a while. We will, however, be declaring our speakers one by one at opportune moments and until then, we would ask you to see our track record at ryaninmun I would personally recommend watching last year’s town hall sessions, which are available in their entirety at our YouTube channel- MUN TV.
MUNPlanet: With the goal of promoting international participation you’ll provide 20 scholarships for students traveling from Africa, Europe, Australia North America and South America. What are the eligibility requirements for the scholarships? How do you apply for a scholarship?
Free meals, sightseeing and local transportation. Students have to pay for flight tickets, visa and conference fees of 50 euros. Students are requested to send us a CV and Statement of purpose, why do they want to attend the conference, what influences them, professional interests and plan for the future. We will evaluate their application and contact them.
They are requested to fill this online application.
The Global Dream is an informal extension of the American Dream. It is based on the same principles of upward mobility - the notion that if one works hard, they can be assured of a structure that will reward the fruits of their labour and ensure that they have an incrementally better standard of living than previous generations. In other words, the old structures of concentration of wealth will be broken for a more equitable free market capitalism. The American Dream, especially in the decades of 50's and 60's was an immense success as it created the richest economy ever known to humanity (far larger than even if the British Empire at its zenith strength of 1921 were to be reunited today). The conceptual Global Dream, however, has not lived up to those standards. Although this concept is of a much more recent origin, coming into play post the free trade regime under the aegis of WTO i.e. during the 90's, its progress has been rather moderate and immensely concentrated in a few areas. The American progress during the 50's and 60's is attested by various scholars, such as Piketty and Chomsky, to have been rather well spread out among income groups. It is this inequality that is today becoming the root of our problems globally, the economic powerhouses of Shanghai and Mumbai which house the super-rich of the emerging economies, live in the shadows of abject poverty manifested by the slums on their outskirts.
Severe wealth inequality in our modern societies is not just bad for long term economic growth and stability, it is also an affront to our moral principles of liberalism. It flies in the face of upward mobility and can be cited as the reason for the political instability that we see across the world. The Arab Spring, the Uyghurs dispute, conflicts in Africa, Venezuela and almost every other conflict has an underlying cause of economic neglect and inequality. It is this problem that we want our participants to conceptualize, understand and remind themselves of as they move forward in their lives and this is the inspiration behind this theme - the reorientation of this failing, albeit novel concept.
It would be incorrect to assume that High School students are somehow at a disadvantage while participating at such conferences and therefore require special attention and training. This is an assumption that I have also made at times, but at each of those instances, I have been proven wrong. What we often forget is that High School students are incredibly dedicated at the tasks assigned to them. This allows them to pursue it to its logical end. The same is true for MUNs, in fact, it has been my personal experience that college level conferences are often more imperfectly organized, and provide a more repetitive and lethargic debating experience compared to those involving school students. I have found, almost without exception that MUNs organized at the school level boast of higher debating standards and more innovative agendas. So my advice to our participants would only be that they should approach this conference with the same grit and determination that they apply to other tasks and not get intimidated by the jargon surrounding the activity.
MUNPlanet: One of your seven committees is the Historic Committee which is set in 1929, and dealing with the modalities of the nature and state, and a constitution for Independent India. We all know what happened, but is there something you would have done differently? Was this the inspiration behind this?
It is not often that someone is asked to come up with something to best the combined aptitude of Gandhi, Nehru, Azad and a host of other luminaries of the Indian National Congress, and I must admit I am slightly intimidated at the prospect of getting into that domain. What I can say, however, is with the benefit of hindsight only. I believe that at the crucial juncture of the 1929 session, when the Civil Disobedience movement was approved, the British panic which led them to approve the Round Table Conferences (RTC) was a development initially ignored by the Congress in the larger political cacophony. An important development in the RTC was the steadily increasing and disproportionate influence given by them to religious fringe on both sides of the communal divide. Till this point, every election carried out under the various Government of India Acts had proved that the Congress party had a majority support in all parts of the country apart from, perhaps Madras, where the Justice Party was powerful on the back of local caste issues. Despite the proven and apparent popularity, the British gave massive influence to the parties and individuals of the religious fringe at the RTCs (including the second one, which the Congress did not boycott). This was obviously a part of the British strategy of balance and counter-poise (better known as divide and rule) and came with the quid-pro-quo of these groups thwarting any real constitutional progress. This should’ve been latched on to and better publicized by the Congress to expose the real motives of such groups and discredit them further in public opinion. I believe such a course of action would’ve certainly led to reduced influence for these groups when the Congress leadership was carried away from the scenes and put behind bars post 1932, because such groups used this government influence to further fan communal tensions in the country.
MUNPlanet: One of the topic Internet of Things to Sustainable Development. How do you think IoT can contribute to SDGs?
The interlinkages offered by Internet of Things and the associated data generation is one of the most fascinating developments of our times. This technology has the potential to not just make our lives more convenient but also reduce our carbon footprints and reduce resource wastage, thereby allowing them to be used by those in need. The potential is practically limitless, a hyper-connected house can generate enormous quantities of data, a large number of such houses can help understand patterns which can lead to better customizations of usage patterns thereby saving scarce resources and allocating them to the rest of the population. Imagine a scenario where thousands of houses in a particular colony are generating data through IoT connected air-conditioning systems about when they are switched on, what is the optimal and preferred temperature of the user, etc. the aggregates of such data can be used to operate these systems in very precise ways. This would involve switching the AC on and off automatically at the most optimal times, running it on the exact temperature settings. The greater the precision, the greater would be the electricity savings. All these savings can be multiplied several hundred times when we imagine these systems operating at the scale of cities. Similar systems would be operating for water supply, cabs etc. All the saved resources can be channeled for use in villages and other cities which face scarcity. In this way we can achieve a number of SDGs and while the technology is still nascent, the prospects it offers are enthralling.
At the same time, there is the question of ensuring the security of all that data for reasons of privacy of users. This trade-off makes this an interesting subject of study, thereby giving it a spot on the list of our agendas.
MUNPlanet: How can the role of technology and new communities such as MUNPlanet affect the future of conferences?
The biggest role that communities such as MUNPlanet play is one of enhancing the reach of MUN conferences to a larger audience. An MUN conference isn’t just an apparatus of agendas and committees cobbled together as a spectacle for a few days, it is an experience at the heart of which lies people to people interactions. By connecting MUNners from across the world, your community allows for the circle of this peer to peer understanding to grow beyond borders. It helps foster a very different kind of scholarship, one that is based on an exchange of ideas and perspectives from a very large sample set. I would consider this to be your most valuable contribution to the activity, and indeed to the future lives of a large number of its participants.
MUNPlanet: What do you hope your delegates walk away with once the conference is over?