MUNPlanet: MUNPlanet has already crossed roads with MUNSC Salient, but for the forgetful ones, could you introduce yourself and your conference to our community?
MUNSC Salient is a youth conference organized by the MUN Slovenia Club (MUNSC), which is part of the UN Association of Slovenia (UNAS). In addition to typical committee simulations, we provide our participants with supplementary activities in the form of interactive lectures, roundtables, workshops, and group exercises. These address various dimensions of an otherwise single overarching topic, which is also one of those key elements that set us apart from the majority of other MUN events. Our goal is thus to create an immersive educational experience that would help young people from around the world to understand issues and challenges defining the 21st century in all their complexity. Oh, and there’s also no participation fee.
MUNPlanet: MUN conferences are everywhere recently. Tell us shortly why we should pick MUNSC Salient over some other conferences in the region.
In addition to the unique format of the conference it is a combination of two elements that in our view sets us apart from the rest.
First, remaining a relatively small event with 60–80 participants gives MUNSC Salient an air of coziness and spontaneity that allow people to really get to know each other and form lasting ties. The fact that it takes place in a charming city like Ljubljana just adds to the relaxed and amiable atmosphere.
Second, an absolutely kickass organizing team. Apart from being MUN enthusiasts, all of us are in it for the excellent company. Since MUNSC is a club that in addition to MUNSC Salient organizes a series of smaller events aimed primarily at our members, we have with time developed really close ties to one another. This fills us with a sense of camaraderie that is not only reflected in the organizational quality but also makes everyone participating at our events feel right at home.
MUNPlanet: This will be the third year that MUNSC Salient is being held, making it a veteran in the MUN world. How was it created?
MUNSC Salient was created by a small yet very enthusiastic and passionate group of MUN-ers, who believed that MUNs could also be an excellent learning opportunity. However, to achieve that the traditional MUN model in their view needed some tinkering, so they decided to expand the scope of activities to include roundtables, workshops and interactive lectures. The first conference, under the provisional moniker of Youth Conference on Energy Security, was held in 2014, and then a year later it reemerged as MUNSC Salient. Looking back, it was above all the expertise and collegiality of the organising team, which consisted of seasoned MUN veterans, that paved the way for the event’s success.
MUNPlanet: MUNSC Salient’s organization is impeccable. Could you share some tips with our aspiring organizers?
Organizing an event on an exclusively voluntary basis is a balancing act between maintaining constant pressure while simultaneously remaining receptive to other people’s needs and limitations. Since on the part of the event managers striking just the right balance often remains an unattainable feat due to the myriad of unpredictable variables, a lot also depends on the ability of everyone involved in preparing the event to carry out their tasks with a sense of responsibility and respect for their co-organizers and the project as such. Furthermore, it is paramount to be able to detach the working relationship from your personal relationship with those involved. Because make no mistake, at some point feces will make contact with the ventilator – and when that happens you should be ready to exchange some pretty heavy words and still be able to go for a drink afterwards.
MUNPlanet: MUNPlanet worked with MUNSC Salient last year. How did the conference go?
Judging by the feedback we got from the participants, last year’s conference turned out to be better than we could have ever imagined. The sessions were riveting, challenging and full of unexpected turns; the lectures and roundtables produced some heated, yet well-grounded debates; the workshops were thought-provoking while still entertaining; and our evening escapades replete with mystical oddities. All in all, it was an immensely engrossing experience and we are truly grateful to each and every one who made it possible.
MUNPlanet: MUNSC Salient was created with the idea of reshaping the MUN world. What do you see in its future?
For us, MUNSC Salient always represented a peculiar combination of a clear vision and simultaneous experimentation. With that in mind our aim for the future is twofold. First, we shall work on retaining and improving the overall quality of the conference. From the multifaceted engagement with content to the numerous organizational bits and pieces we shall continue to strive towards making MUNSC Salient a truly seamless whole. Second, we are intent on further exploring the possibilities of MUN conferences beyond the traditional MUN framework. Interestingly, supplementary activities in the form of interactive lectures, roundtables and workshops, through which our participants are given a chance to critically reflect upon their role as delegates, also create a conceptually and practically stimulating space for us to reflect upon our own work as organizers. By continuing to experiment with new ways of engaging with content we in time hope to develop a truly immersive educational experience that will make people reconsider their view of practice and theory as two separate fields.
MUNPlanet: MUNSC Salient prides itself on the fact that it completes the MUN experience with educational content in the form of interactive lectures, roundtables, workshops and group exercises. Tell us more about this interesting concept.
As already mentioned, by combining the traditional MUN experience of committee simulations with educational content that is more dynamic both in content and form, we hope to create an environment conducive to critical engagement with contemporary and future issues shaping world politics. Educational activities in the form of interactive lectures, roundtables, workshops and group exercises are meant to enrichen one’s view on issues at hand, and in turn make him critically reassess his role as a state-representative within a given council. In that sense students attending MUNSC Salient are encouraged to move beyond discourses grounded in power politics and perpetuated through narrowly framed mainstream discussions. We aspire to offer ground for our participants to see the problem through different lenses and then motivate them to search for solutions that would be feasible for all - not just states present in the committees.
MUNPlanet: Many people believe that to attend MUNs you have to be a student of international relations, or something politics related. What would you say to debunk this myth?
We have a hunch this myth is being propagated by MA students still reeling from the dreadful experience of having had their behinds handed to them by some molecular biology sophomore =P
MUNPlanet: One of the main reasons students attend MUN conferences is that they get to improve their skills or develop new ones. What are some skills they will improve or develop after MUNS Salient 2016?
In addition to the usual set of skills one can expect to improve on MUN conferences, which include public speaking, systematic reasoning, negotiation, and clear communication of ideas, MUNSC Salient offers above all two distinct perks. First, as already expounded on above, we offer our participants an opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge of a particular topic, drawing on the perspectives of various state and non-state actors. Apart from that, our conference is characterized by a spirit of openness and inclusivity, which enable people to form truly lasting ties with other participants. While not a skill per se, we believe that having a strong network of friends and colleagues is key to realizing our full potential and bringing about positive change in whatever field it is we are working in.
MUNPlanet: MUNSC Salient is once again free of charge. How do you manage this?
One of our founding commitments has been to make the conference accessible to as many people as possible. Soon enough one runs up against the financial and material limitations of preparing such an event and it is our generous patrons who at that point enabled us to remain true to our commitment. A shout out, therefore, to our partners and all of our sponsors without whom this conference would never have seen the light of day.
MUNPlanet: This year’s theme is deconstructing contemporary inequalities. Have you ever personally experienced inequality?
We actually thought about this as we started working on this year’s overarching topic. While each of has experienced wrongdoing in one form or another at some point in her or his life, we soon realized as we began researching the topic that these pale in comparison to what we will be addressing at this year’s conference. The worst thing about it is that many forms of inequality are so deeply embedded in contemporary social structures that many of us remain oblivious to them. One of the main goals of MUNSC Salient 2016 shall therefore be to bring these forms of inequality into the light and try to untangle the underlying constellations of power in which they are rooted.
MUNPlanet: In Slovenia, there is a vineyard or a winery for every 70 people. Will you be preparing some for your participants?
Now Ms Interviewer, what kind of a question is that? Of course we will, for there is more than enough for everyone!
MUNPlanet: It is widely known that MUNers love to socialize. What do you have prepared in this department after conference hours?
Suffice it to say that between the nocturnal skills of our most seasoned revellers, tasked with making all the necessary arrangements, and the mystical charms of Ljubljana in summertime, there is not much standing in the way of some serious mid-July magic.
MUNPlanet: Once the conference is over, what is one sentence that you would like every student to leave with? ‘MUNSC Salient 2016 was … (complete the thought)MUNSC Salient team, thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you and your conference. MUNPlanet is looking forward to your event and strongly advises all MUNers to check it out. Good luck and we wish you all the best!