Rory is a
second-year undergraduate studying law at Girton College, University of
Cambridge. He attended his first Model United Nations conference seven years
ago at the tender age of twelve, and has never been the same since. He views
MUN as a unique and innovative tool for educating young, global citizens, and
hopes he can use his position as Secretary-General of Cambridge University
International MUN to do this. Rory likes to escape MUN and Law reading by
singing, swimming and causing trouble – often simultaneously (imagine the River
Cam at 4am on a Sunday morning).
MUNPlanet: Please, tell us something about the history of Cambridge University International Model United Nations (CUIMUN).
Rory: CUIMUN is in its 21st Session, which makes it quite old by Model United Nations standards. When my predecessors held the first conference in 1994, they greeted a small group of aspiring young diplomats and leaders from Cambridge and a few nearby universities. In 1998, CUIMUN hosted Harvard’s WorldMUN, flinging us for the first time onto the global circuit which was dominated by US conferences at the time. Since then, the conference has grown year on year into today’s gathering of 500 students from all over the world.
MUNPlanet: What makes Cambridge University different from any other university in Europe, and how this plays into MUN setting?
Rory: As an undergraduate who has never studied at another university, this is difficult to say. What I can say for sure is that Cambridge is a university in which people love what they study. We push ourselves extremely hard to master our subjects; we pursue knowledge even when there appears to be nothing worth knowing. More than the opportunities to advance our knowledge of our own fields – and in a small university overflowing with world-leading thinkers, there are plenty of such opportunities – students at Cambridge love the chance to learn from each other about things they would never have dreamt of wanting to know. Like at any great Model UN conference, we value above all else the ability to learn from those embarking on the same intellectual journey. As a result, CUIMUN is a conference at which we aim to challenge delegates to think very critically about their views, the view of others and about how these views can change the world.
MUNPlanet: Tell us more about the team behind this year’s edition
of CUIMUN; what are the main obstacles that you were facing during the
Rory: Ironically, the main obstacle we face every year in organizing CUIMUN is Cambridge itself. It’s a very small place, with a limited number of large venues, almost all of which are expensive and all of which are difficult to book! Fortunately, I am lucky enough to have a brilliant Secretariat behind me, who have thrown themselves into tackling every challenge that has been set for them. The Secretariat is made up both of MUNers with far more experience than I have and of students with almost no knowledge of MUN but very specific and brilliant skills. This is a powerful combination which I would highly recommend.
As chance would have it, one problem arose this year for which neither experience nor genius could have prepared us: the Greek Credit Controls! Being unable to transfer money abroad is a significant obstacle to attending an overseas MUN conference, but it would be a tragedy if these delegates could not attend. Imagination, therefore, won the day.
MUNPlanet: You’ve promised this conference to be one of the most exciting and challenging conferences we could possibly attend. What makes you think so?
Rory:The conference will be challenging because we would hate to give delegates anything less than the most impenetrable problems to solve. The topics chosen will not make for easy conclusions of a happy consensus, so delegates will have to use all their skills of debate, negotiation and innovation to pass each resolution. In light of what I said about Cambridge as a University, you will be unsurprised to learn that we don’t want delegates to engage only in the topics being discussed in their own committees. We hope that, inspired by our new CUIMUN online community, delegates will share ideas and exchange knowledge across all their specialisms. That will make an exciting conference.
MUNPlanet: What can you tell us about CUIMUN 2015 committees? Are there any changes since last year?
Rory:There are three big changes. Firstly, the Economic Community of West African States has been introduced as a specialized committee. It will give a very realistic simulation of the organization which has such a huge influence in one of the most important developing regions of the world. Secondly, we have introduced the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. It’s something of a wildcard in the pack of committees, but we’d like to see how delegates approach one of the least developed, but potentially most important, areas of international relations. Finally, we host out first foreign-language committee this year: INTERPOL in French. This will be a small and highly challenging committee addressing the problems facing the world’s second largest political organization (after the United Nations).
MUNPlanet: What is your advice on the
preparation process? What should delegates do prior to the conference in order
to take the best from this experience?
Rory:If it isn’t a trite proposition, start by
reading your study guide! The topic you will be debating will be a problem that
has probably developed through various stages, so think carefully about how it
will evolve in future, and how you can shape that evolution. Secondly, know how
to represent your country! There’s no point giving your own opinions if
representatives of your country wouldn’t agree. Analyse not only what your
country’s stance on your topic is today, but how it has changed over time.
Further, find out how other countries view the situation – only then can you
target allies and rebut opponents.
MUNPlanet: Which committees would you suggest
for beginners and which for experienced delegates?
Rory:DISEC, SOCHUM and COPUOS are committees
designed for those with less MUN experience, but don’t expect to have an easy
run on any of them. The question of where to put experienced delegates is
tricky, because several of our committees have very specific Rules of
Procedure. General MUN experience will give you the skills, but not necessarily
the required knowledge to excel on a committee such as the European Council. In
short, no delegate should feel comfortable!
MUNPlanet: There is no more inspiring places in the world to organize
Model United Nations than Cambridge, the city that is home to one of the most
prestigious universities in the world. Apart from daily sessions, what other
activities will the participants experience during their stay?
Rory:The Conference itself will take delegates to
many of the most important places in Cambridge. The iconic Cambridge Union is
the venue of our Opening Ceremony, and delegates will walk through the
picturesque cloisters of the historic colleges on their way to committee
sessions. Delegates will attend an International Diplomatic Drinks Reception in
the University Centre on Friday evening, and a Cambridge Formal Hall on
Saturday evening. These events will be followed by an authentic experience of
Cambridge nightlife – it can be described only as ‘cheesy’!
MUNPlanet: Cambridge, being among the most
beautiful cities in the world according to Forbes, has much to offer to its
visitors. What delegates should not miss during their stay?
Rory:Sadly, we don’t have time during the day to
organize tours and other activities – there is simply too much to do in
committees! We do, however, encourage delegates to arrive a day early or leave
a day later in order to explore the city themselves. The chance to visit the
many beautiful colleges of the University is one not to be missed. The many
museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, are all essential stopping points.
In the evenings, the city is heaving with lovely restaurants in which delegates
can have a very nice meal.
MUNPlanet: What is the biggest advantage of attending
MUN conferences in general, in your opinion?
Rory:MUN conferences are a unique learning
experience. MUN creates global citizens; people who have an educated and
realistic view of the world. We need people like this in society in order to
counter propaganda and expose injustice. MUN gives these global citizens
important skills. MUNers are problem-solvers, leaders and dreamers in whatever
field they enter – they are people how change the world.
But, as strange as it may be for a conference Secretary-General to admit, the contents of the conference is not its biggest advantage. The most important aspect of CUIMUN is the opportunity to meet with, debate with and learn from other young, global citizens.
MUNPlanet: In the past ten years the number of MUNs has increased manifold. How do you see the future of MUNs?
Rory:MUN is flourishing at a university level in the Western world, and some would argue that the UK, European and US circuits are saturated. But MUN has hardly touched many parts of the world. There is huge potential for MUN in Africa, the Middle East, India and South-Eat Asia. It should be the grand ambition of MUN leaders in established regions to ensure that MUN is accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live and from which socio-economic background they come. The United Nations is an organization about which every school-kid, university student and young adult should know.
MUNPlanet: There must be something you would like to add in the end.
What would be your message to the MUNers around the world?
Rory:The worst thing about MUN is that it isn’t real – the resolutions you work so hard to pass will not change anything. It’s easy, therefore, to think of MUN as an empty academic exercise. But the skills you gain, the views you hear and the worldview you form are gifts you can pass on to others. You can spread the message of global citizenship and of the UN itself: that We, the Peoples, can work together to make the world a better place for all of us. Only by making a world of MUNers can we hope to achieve this goal.
MUNPlanet: Thank you for devoting your time toMUN Spotlight and telling us more about CUIMUN. We wish you a successful conference. Until our next chat.