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My name is Thomas Pangaribuan, currently I'm the co-founder and secretary general for SEAMUN 2015. Project Diplomat started 2 years ago when myself and along with other International Relations students joined WorldMUN 2013 in Melbourne, as one delegation from Universitas Pelita Harapan. From that point on our interests towards MUN grew even larger, taking us to Harvard MUN and Paris Model United Nations.
Project Diplomat is an Model United Nations (MUN) society that is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, our passion and goal is not only to increase the awareness of the Indonesian Youth about diplomacy and global issues but also creates a platform in which we can teach those values and motivates them to solve global issues critically, to encourage them to become “diplomats” as well as a global citizen. we conduct MUN trainings, MUN Camps, and MUN conferences all around Indonesia.
MUNPlanet: SEAMUN is going to be your first ever Model United Nations. What took you so long and are you planning something special to make the opening memorable?
SEAMUN will be the first international MUN conference that we will host. Previously, we’ve only hosted local conferences. Although, it’s true that we’ve been taking our time in preparing for this SEAMUN, because the idea of hosting an international MUN conference first came up about three years ago. We knew that we would do it, but at the same time we also wanted to produce a quality conference, so for the last three years, we’ve been improving our capacity and experience, so that we can conduct an MUN conference that provides great experience for the delegates. We believe that this year is the right time and we’re finally ready to do so. Delegates who will attend SEAMUN should expect to have an engaging and impactful conference, and also an opportunity to discover the untapped potential of the Southeast Asia region, through our off-conference events that we are preparing right now.
MUNPlanet:You said that this conference is going to be the first of its kind as well. What will make you different from any other?
First of all this is the very first Model United Nations to take the theme of Southeast Asia. We realize the growing importance of Southeast Asia as a region and in particular ASEAN as an organization. With the imminent implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community, we believe that it is the utmost importance to raise people’s awareness of ASEAN especially among the youth. Which is why we took the name Southeast Asia Model United Nations for our event. Second of all, our committee’s will have a different feel to it compared to the other MUN out there. As not only do we have the UN GA on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, we also have the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting where it will simulate the ASEAN ministerial level meeting. The most unique committee is the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Indonesia (or DPR-RI) which will simulate MUNPlanet Spotlight Form Indonesia’s legislative body meeting, this one will be conducted in Bahasa Indonesia however.
MUNPlanet: Tell us more about MUN culture in Indonesia. What is typical for MUN in Indonesia, which we might not find elsewhere?
I think one thing that sets MUN in Indonesia apart from the other MUN around the world, is the warmth of the people. You feel a certain warmth when you join MUN’s here. Don’t get me wrong, the fierce competition is there yet when you’re out of the conference room you’ll certainly feel the warmth of the people. It’s something you don’t get so much of when you go to other MUN’s around the world.
MUNPlanet: As we have heard, this year’s SEAMUN theme is going to be "Bridging Differences" in order to welcome a new era of regional integration in ASEAN. What are your main goals and do you expect that you can make a difference?
One unique thing about SEAMUN is that it coincides with the beginning of economic integration in Southeast Asia, called the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). If this economic integration is done right, it is going to provide a bigger opportunity for the people in Southeast Asia to improve their prosperity. We believe that bringing people together in a forum like SEAMUN will foster collaboration to achieve such goal. That is the idea behind “Bridging Differences”. The way SEAMUN can make a difference is that it provides a forum for people-to-people diplomacy. When the people are connected in such way, cooperation will be more impactful.
MUNPlanet: On your very first SEAMUN, there is going to be three committees. Please tell us which ones and something more about each of their topics.
There will be three committees--General Assembly, ASEAN, and DPR RI. For GA, what is MUN without a UN body represents? So, it is as important as making new ideas (ASEAN and DPR RI), but we cannot neglect a long line of tradition in MUN by presenting the biggest-largest UN Body--GA. The topics we chose are Mainstreaming peace education to counter violent extremism and Promoting responsible freedom of expression. We deliberately chose such topics in correlation to world immediate situation of war against terrorism across the globe. Also, the pending discussion on how to utilize right or freedom, in this case freedom of speech, in a responsible manner. This is also important, recalling the past view on Charlie Hebdo.
Second committee is ASEAN, the topics--Strengthening regional efforts for protection of the environment; and Developing measures to increase prosperity in SEA, as a celebration and raise youth awareness on AEC. Also, we seek to see through historic perspective of each ASEAN economies that are diverse, thus, raising the second topic of prosperity seems appropriate. ASEAN itself is one of the regional organization in a robust development, so it is important for young people to know and contribute to the issues faced in our own region. MUNPlanet Spotlight Form
Lastly, DPR RI is the Indonesian Parliamentary, which represents the voice of the people. Indonesia adopts presidential system brings a democratic sphere, that is why we would like to introduce how the mechanism of the system works in DPR RI on discussing national issues to pass new laws. The topic is a hot issues discussed nation- wide, that is the Bill on Governor, Regent, and Mayor Election Alteration.
MUNPlanet:Tell us something about Universitas Pelita Harapan, the university where SEAMUN 2015 is going to take place?
Universitas Pelita Harapan or UPH, in short, is one of the best private university in Indonesia. It is located in Tangerang, which is a suburb a little bit outside of Jakarta. For SEAMUN 2015, we are collaborating with the student body and the faculty of the School of Government and Global Affairs of UPH. We are very happy to be hosting the first SEAMUN in UPH’s beautiful campus. In addition, UPH is also home to many international students studying in Jakarta, which demonstrates just how proper this campus is as the venue of an international conference such as SEAMUN. I am so proud to welcome all the delegates in my campus.
MUNPlanet: Your MUN society has already participated in such conferences all over the world so you surely have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. How do you want to use your experiences when organizing SEAMUN?
Members of our MUN society have participated in several international MUN conferences such as the Harvard National MUN and World MUN. So, that is the bar that we are using in organizing our own MUN conference. The standard of those MUN conferences are very high, indeed, but we are always aiming for the best.
MUNPlanet: What has been the biggest challenge in organizing the conference so far?
The biggest challenge has perhaps been acquiring partnerships or endorsements from the local government here. We’ve been trying to make contact with the Ministries here in particular the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Tourism to help support this event, however they have not shown great interest and in my opinion it is down to their perhaps lack of awareness regarding MUN. But hopefully that is something that is going to change after we conduct the first ever SEAMUN. We hope that this event can make MUNers in Indonesia stand up and be noticed by the local government.
MUNPlanet: Is this conference more suited for already experienced MUNers with strong International Relations background, or is it open to all sorts of MUNers from different backgrounds?
This is very much open to MUNers of all backgrounds. We would very much hope that our delegates will be a mixture of experienced MUNers as well as rookies. For the experienced MUNers we hope that they will experience a new kind of MUN and be able to share their experiences to the rookies. MUNPlanet Spotlight Form
MUNPlanet: Indonesia's society embraces diversity, with over 300 ethnic groups that are spread all across the archipelago living and integrating in harmony among one and the other. This spirit of embracing diversity is parallel with Model United Nations. Does that give you bigger expectations when it comes to the conference’s outcome?
Another thing that we are really proud of our conference is that it will be held in Indonesia. As you said, Indonesia is unbelievably diverse. We think that Indonesia is a perfect embodiment of the spirit of cooperation among diversity. With this in mind, we are determined to also deliver an excellent outcome from the conference, especially in terms of the diversity of participation and the quality of the conference.
MUNPlanet: As you said before, you are preparing a special social event that will make your SEAMUN experience even more memorable. Tell us some more details on that.
One important part of attending an MUN is its social event, because MUN is the place where delegates have the chance to make friends from all over the world. That is a really underrated thing about MUN. So, we are preparing a social event that will definitely be so much fun that it will melt all the hesitation of getting to know new people and break any cultural barriers that might exist. Our social event will be a place where delegates can showcase their culture, through their performances; start friendly relations, by dancing the night away; and getting to know each other, through Tinder! I am not going to explain any further, because you just have to be there to find out!
MUNPlanet: Can you break down the costs of the things in the city? MUNers are very often traveling on budget. Can you give us some tips on how to get the most out of the experience in Tangerang? Tell us about the cheapest ways to commute, eat, explore, etc.
A great news for delegates from abroad traveling to Indonesia is that most probably you will find that it is very cheap to buy our currency, which is the Indonesian Rupiah. Per October 22, 2015 the exchange rate is 1 USD = 13,560 IDR. So, even if you are on a budget, it is still possible to travel ‘lavishly’ in Indonesia. The best way to commute in short distance is with the motorcycle taxis (Ojek in Indonesian), which will cost around 1- 1.5 USD per trip. A Big Mac burger costs around 3 USD, while a meal in a mid-range restaurant costs around 5-6 USD. There are so many things to explore in and around Jakarta! It’s almost impossible to describe in one paragraph. So, our team is preparing a section in our website, where you can find out about places or things that you can explore while you are here.
MUNPlanet: What is your (not so secret anymore) recipe for a great MUN conference?
A great MUN conference should be one that stays true to the nature of the UN. Although the MUN is only a simulation, the MUN conference should be a stage for harmonizing the ideas and actions of nations to reach the goals of the UN. Another thing that makes a great MUN conference is the diversity of the delegates, it allows people to meet new people and make new friends as well as learning about new cultures and creating a MUNPlanet Spotlight Form greater understanding between one another. Hopefully delegates can remain true to the theme of our conference which is “bridging differences”.
MUNPlanet: What’s the biggest advantage of attending MUN Conferences in general, in your opinion?
All experienced MUN delegates know that attending MUN conference exposes us to global issues and makes us more aware of the interconnectedness that we all have, no matter where we are from. I believe that is a really good thing. But for us, the biggest advantage has been how MUN shaped us to be proactive young leaders in our community and country. MUN helped us develop our communication skills, analytical skills, and leadership skills. Those were the skills that would not have been nurtured in ourselves, if we were never involved in MUN in the first place.
MUNPlanet: How do you see new technologies, especially communities such as MUNPlanet, changing Model United Nations landscape in the coming years?
I think MUN would be much more progressive in the following years to come. I believe MUNPlanet is a terrific platform for MUNers from around the world to share their thoughts and ideas and more importantly to connect with each other in a way perhaps they could never have done before. It will also help raise awareness about what is MUN and the benefits that MUN brings to the delegates who have experienced it before. We’ll definitely see a growth in MUNers around the world with the development of technologies and vibrant communities such as MUNPlanet.
MUNPlanet: There must be something you would like to add in the end. What would be your message to the MUNers around the world?
The message I want to share is that although this is the very first edition of the SEAMUN, I and my team truly believe that this is going to be a very successful conference and it will have a lasting effect to the delegates who participate. You will be astonished by the warm hospitality of the people here, the fascinating culture and the amazing food you will all enjoy. We look forward to meeting you here!