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My name is Mak (Selimović) and I am honored to be serving as the Secretary-General at Sarajevo Model UN for the second time.
My passion for international affairs began exactly 8 years ago when I attended Georgetown University MUN conference for high school students. This conference made me expand my horizons, reevaluate my dreams and to set the bar higher. After the conference I decided to apply for the very same university and as a young and motivated student my experience was profoundly shaped by participating in various activities, clubs and conferences.
Today, the Organizing Board and myself are determined to develop Sarajevo Model UN into a valuable event in the Balkans that offers young individuals an opportunity to develop their skills, enchant their knowledge in international affairs and meet other inspiring individuals from all over the globe. In other words, to make Sarajevo Model UN a regional youth hotspot for global affairs knowledge-sharing.
MUNPlanet: Sarajevo Model UN offers a truly unique experience for participants with a passion for international affairs. What are some things that make your conference stand out among other conference in the region?
We think we have differentiated our conference in many key aspects leveraging our advantages to the best of our abilities. First, we were blessed with the location. Sarajevo is packed with history that influenced global events, and Bosnia and Herzegovina itself is poster child of hard work of the international community, the UN and NATO. For better or worse our country is unique in this regard among our European neighbors. We saw that as an advantage we wanted to leverage.
It also doesn’t hurt that Bosnia and Herzegovina is very affordable and this enabled us to offer more of the product for less money than many other conferences in Europe.
Also, Sarajevo is a very compact city, great for short-term stays and with a lot of different cultural influences that our international guests might find exciting. It’s mix of oriental and western gives it a unique charm and exotic allure.
As for the conference itself - Sarajevo Model UN stands out among other conferences in the region by serving as a platform for a vertical exchange of knowledge between decision makers, experts and aspiring diplomats. This offers a rare opportunity for participants to engage in discussions with leading academics. Last year, the Conference hosted a series of lectures delivered by former professor at Georgetown and Harvard and addressed by former president of the Republic of Croatia, among others.
On top of that we have envisioned Sarajevo Model UN with certain expectations regarding the level of comfort, convenience and a good dose of fun -- which up so far we have managed to achieve at a very competitive price point.
Thus I am confident that our participants will be very excited and satisfied with our conference not only this year but also in years to come.
We have big hopes and big dreams for our future.
MUNPlanet: The theme of the conference is “Future together - Fostering international cooperation to secure a more prosperous tomorrow”. What inspired you to pick precisely this as the theme?
We live in troubled and challenging times on the global scale and with a rise in isolationism and protectionism, we thought it would be important to accentuate the aspects of togetherness, unity and optimism, in securing the freedoms we have and often take for granted. We, in Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular, are very well aware of the fact that peace is very fragile and that Pax Europeana that our continent was blessed with in the past 70 years is worthy of preservation.
MUNPlanet: Not only will your participants further their understanding of multilateral organizations by participating in the sessions, but also by attending a series of academic lectures from experts and decision makers. Would it be too much to ask for some names, and what will they get the chance to learn?
This year we are looking to host at least 4 round tables. One of the round tables is titled “Fostering International Cooperation” with Ambassadors as panel speakers. At this round table, panelists will seek to deepen the understanding and importance of international cooperation among states and multilateral organizations for maintaining the global peace, stability and prosperity. This panel discussion will be attended by the Ambassador of Switzerland, H.E. Ms. Andrea Rauber Saxer, representatives from the Embassy of the United States of America, the Republic of Austria and others.
Other round tables will be tailored specifically and closely to topics that will be discussed in other councils. We also have an ingenious concept for the round table scheduled for the last day of the conference and we would like to keep our delegates in suspense.
MUNPlanet: Sarajevo Model UN is a place of vertical exchange of knowledge and ideas between the members of Academia and perspective youth, but how did it all start. What is the story of Sarajevo Model UN?
It started as a side project upon my return from Georgetown University. It survived all the belts and hoops, we’ve learned a lot and worked a lot, and now it is slowly shaping into a happy story. We are not quite where we want to be yet, there’s still so much we have to learn and do, but I think we are going in the right direction and that the future is bright.
As it was the case in previous year, the UN Security Council seems to be the most popular choice and is found as the first choice on the preference list among many applications. However, and to our surprise, the other three councils have so far received an even number of applications. The European Council was one of the biggest successes of last year’s conference, so we have decided to continue the practice. Additionally, as Bosnia and Herzegovina is expecting to ‘upgrade’ its status in the EU to a Candidate Country as of early 2018, we believe that the youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina will find this committee particularly interesting. We are especially happy about the number of applications received for the North Atlantic Council (NATO), since we felt we are taking a slight risk with it. This committee is not a common council in the region, but fears have proven to be in vain. And finally, UN Women, which we choose, as we believe the role of the women in the region is still undermined and gender equality requires a jump-start and a profound rapprochement of the public opinion.
We have gathered a strongly experienced Secretariat mixed with beginner Chairs, who are capable of guiding through the process both, highly experienced, as well as beginner delegates in all four councils (see more here: www.sarajevomun.com/secretariat/). What we would suggest as an additional criterion for those who have trouble deciding the committee, is to check out topics in each Council before applying. We strongly believe that delegates should end up in a Council where they will be immersing into discussions, leaving them intrigued by the topic. This will, indubitably, serve as an incentive for good preparation and active involvement during working sessions at the Conference.
MUNPlanet: For the first-timers in “Jerusalem of Europe”, what are some things that they should see and do to get the authentic experience?
Relax. Sarajevo has a very unique approach to life, and we stop to smell the roses (and drink coffee) a lot. It is one of those places where the western work obsession still hasn’t left its mark and for better or worse, our guests can enjoy the relaxed pace of life and the fact that Sarajevo is so compact that it is easily traversed on foot. Throughout the history, the city of Sarajevo was at the crossroads of civilizations, always at the border of conflicting interests and influences, so the locals developed peculiar ways to handle this burden. Sarajevans can be the starriest of idealists and the bitterest of cynics, which in combination, I think, makes them charming, genuine and loveable. Home to various religious and ethnic groups, Sarajevans lived and coexisted in peace and harmony. These groups of peoples left a blueprint that resonates widely around the globe in the contemporary world of identity politics. To a surprise of many first-timers in Sarajevo, in the radius of 300 meters you can find a Catholic Cathedral, Orthodox Church, Mosque and a Synagogue.
The architecture of the city is quite dazzling as it reflects the spirit of various time periods in the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina including: the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and the Yugoslav time-period. Hence, Sebilj, Town Hall building and the Ars Aevi Museum of contemporary arts are three must see objects that will leave first-timers with an authentic experience.
That and also ćevapi, local beer and a healthy dose of Bosnian humor, that we are renowned for in the region. In Bosnia we say: if you can’t laugh about it, you’re not over it. We joke about anything and everything, nothing is off limits, including, most importantly- ourselves.
MUNPlanet: There’s a huge debate on formal vs. nonformal education. What are the advantages of Model UN compared to formal education?
As a person who was brought up in Jesuit values based on educating the whole person, I believe formal education is very important. However, while obtaining formal is important and certainly, a step in the right direction, it often shows that formal education by itself is simply not enough. Formal education needs to be supplemented by various extracurricular activities, initiatives and clubs that reflect one’s ambitions and driving force. These activities shape one’s character and produce agents of change and leaders of tomorrow.
MUNPlanet: How can the role of technology and new communities such as MUNPlanet affect the future of student conferences?
The role of technology has a substantial potential for personal development. Reading your favorite book is now just a click away and with the rise of new communities such as MUN:Planet offer readily available insightful information. Aside from that it is a platform for devoted MUNers to engage in virtual discussions and share their thoughts on important issues.
MUNPlanet: Finally, what is a sentence that you want your participants to leave the conference with?
Whatever you do, do it passionately because sooner or later your work will be recognized.
Mak, thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you and your conference. MUNPlanet strongly advises all MUNers to check it out. Good luck and we wish you all the best!