This is a topic that has been and will be one of the most stressed topic during every single Model United Nations. As the aim of a Model United Nations is to simulate how the delegations would represent their countries in a real council of the United Nations, it is a continuous learning experience for all the participants and even to the organizers.
If you are attending a Model UN for the first time, it is understandable that you might feel fear of making yourself look like a real fool. At least that was how I felt when I first time participated in a simulation game called Model European Council. The idea behind it is similar to a Model UN. The aim is to represent your country in the Council meeting.
However, having a low profile can be very damaging for the whole simulation if the country you are delegating is one of the key countries for the whole simulation. A good example of this are the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, China, France, United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Russian Federation as they all have veto power.
I admit for being more of a person who prefers to stay in her own comfort zone in new situations surrounded by a bunch of new people. So you can imagine how awful it felt to read the “Gossip Newspaper” during the conference where your neighbour at the roundtable is trash talking you and your decisions. So I did not end up only trying to convince the other delegates of the same committee of my professional approach to the discussed topics, but to a much wider audience.
The thing is that all of us tend to feel insecure at times. MUNs are a good place to practise getting over insecurities and to learn from others. The aim of any simulation game is to be a fun, interactive and a memorable learning experience. Even though there is also the competitive side in every simulation game, the actual challenge is to compete with yourself - not with others.
To explain what I am aiming with the previous sentence is that too often we tend to compete with others which leads to neglecting ourselves and affects our performances. A good example of this was when two delegates in a Security Council were competing for over 10 minutes which one of them was going to give the closing speech. Obviously only one of them could give the last speech – which was entirely based on praising the excellent taste of the famous Chinese delicacy Beijing Duck - one can imagine how annoyed the other one was. However, how pleasing it is to compete with others even about the last speech or any other reasons can get you out of focus.
What Model United Nations can teach us?
Most MUN’s last one weekend and during this weekend you will be able to meet a lot of different people with different backgrounds. Meeting new people, getting to a new environment can be a lot of fun but can also be very stressful for both participants and organizers. The most stressful part for the organizers next to keeping the whole MUN running is making a proper country assignment. When the participants are elected and assigned a country, there always lies a certain risk that the person representing a key country could underperform in session.
There are some good examples I can give from my own experience. In my first MUN we were discussing the Gaza Strip. Neither the participants nor the organizers were aware of the fact that the representative of a Muslim country was from Israel, which made the whole session very tough going. The simulation game became very real to her. However, she remained in her role until the end and did a great job representing the views of a government with an entirely different opinion.
I could go on with more examples, but this one is enough to illustrate the point. The most common mistake that many MUN beginners do is that they represent their own opinion rather than the country they were assigned. It is understandable that someone who has always lived, for example, in the UK might have different opinions of certain issues than what the government of Gabon has. It is very likely that most governments, even from your own home country, have different opinion on some issues than what you personally have.
It is always important to have your own personal opinions, to be able to justify and reason them. However, sometimes the time and the place for it is not the right one. This is why it is important to learn to recognize when it is the right time to be the person with strong, own opinions and when it is important to practise diplomacy and also to be able to represent opinions that might not be in line with your own opinions. This is what we can learn from Model United Nations. How to represent a country and views that might differ from our own.