Do you think that during a session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is possible to yield your speaking time to another country? Would you expect nothing to happen if the same resolution passes in different conferences? If answered positively to any of my questions without a doubt, then you may want to reconsider your UN knowledge in general. But for the ones, who understood the purpose of this article, allow me to reiterate it: this is a brief explanation of the benefits and questions around the UN4MUN approach.
Firstly, the approach itself: Created by Mr. William Yotive for the UN Department of Public Information, an American educator, and researcher who worked for the UN Department of Public Information and realized that simulations had little to no connection with the actual UN procedures. Over the years and as the approach gained more popularity a lot of so-called “un4mun experts” occurred, especially in Europe! To the end of avoiding further confusion, any conference/society wishing to have at least a first touch with this style, in theory, should contact UNDPI directly, but WFUNA and its partners can also be of valuable assistance if contacted as well. In the case of any potential expert approaching them for workshops/seminars etc. valid credentials should be presented before any activity happens.
How it works: At the moment is limited to the procedures of the UNGA, UNSC and UN staff. This means that we are trying to adopt a resolution without a vote (a.k.a consensus). It is gradually expanding but already answers many of the problems that traditional simulations have regardless of the committee/organ we are talking about. Particularly, the structure of leadership is different and focused on cooperation via tasks division horizontally and not a vertical hierarchy with delegating of work according to the opinion of the higher ranked officials. The UNSC has an active connection with media representatives (a.k.a the press team literally acts as journalists and not only as correspondents of MUN fashion & gossip) and the UNGA works as a mini session of the actual UNGA annual session.
It is interesting because: It provides a useful answer to many of the ongoing simulation problems. For example, delegates in un4mun conferences cannot afford to be out of policy (no resolutions where the sponsors form a very paradoxical combination) because they are assigned to a respective political group and they need to know their policy, their bloc’s policy and the connection of their bloc’s to the others. (With pre-assigned research steps muning becomes easier than expected!).
Another interesting element is the amendment procedure since the line-by-line review (literally, you read the draft recommendation line-by-line until it is commonly accepted and should there are disagreements you have the chance to soft on any tensions) saves many anxious chairs the problem of fitting all of the amendments in less than needed time for that stage.
My attention was also captured by the negotiations procedure, since a structured unmoderated caucus where no people would scream and bully each other was finally in front of my eyes to enjoy! This clarification is given because un4mun conferences have almost NO traditional Rules of Procedure to follow apart from a right of reply for certain cases. It is as challenging as a crisis committee where again the game is set differently to the GA committees with the difference that you already know the limits and you have to be very good with words and manners to convince in a polite way the room that the term which better serves your interests, serves the majority’s interests as well (sorry, no “will nuke your capital if you do not vote for my draft” notes can happen here). Even in our daily lives, we negotiate more than we debate. With regards to the existence of UN staff in conferences, it saves the organizers the anxiety of inappropriate chairing methods and sets all the committees in almost auto-mode since the secretary is already given clear instructions and the chair has the chance to a mini electoral campaign since elected chairs, moderate the discussions. Worry not for rearranging the staff order, since in terms of numbers and applications procedure it probably requires less than the ones of a traditional conference.
If I wanted to give it a try, I would: go for a un4mun version of the UNSC additionally to the original MUN one, since it is easy to include at any conference and would make the press team very happy. Also, a live comparison would help on many levels. Based on data that came to my attention (mostly personal reviews) the promotion difficulties are almost equal in any simulation platform used. There are also informative workshops happening on a regular basis presenting this approach way better than yours truly. To put it simply, look around for Bill Yotive, since there are many sub-approaches , but he created the original (and made it interesting enough to survive almost a decade)
Additionally, I would consider signing up for a WIMUN edition, for example, the one in India. Why may you ask? Firstly, it has the original godfather of the concept, Mr. Yotive. Regardless of any other un4mun/consensus-based simulations happening out there, if the original is still available, why not try it first? Then, given the fact that my personal experience with it is limited a further explanation would help me better understand the notion and perhaps decide that I am no longer a multi practicing traditional but instead a "consensus child". The most challenging element for me though is India. With a number of conferences challenging equally the number of general population, Indian MUNers have quite different views compared to European ones on several issues and the dialogue with them is always refreshing for me! Lastly, there is a quite generous stipend so the whole package remains very tempting. Of course, there's always the possibility that you will end up disliking it but if you don't have a facts-based opinion how will you decide?
I am still confused though: To begin with, we will have to wait for at least ten years before the first generation of un4muners reaches adulthood and can be compared to traditional MUNers. (not all MUNers start/continue to mun at university time) This means that for the time being the procedure is practiced by former traditional or multi practicing MUNers with whatever behavioral results this may bring along! For example, how can we ensure that the un4mun mentality will not result to replicating existing bad behaviors within the UN (if you need me to expand on this, google “UN reform”) and instead strengthen cooperation? What if delegates, aware of their country’s role will not try harder and instead consent to the bloc’s will? Consensus as a decision-making method is applicable to the traditional format as well and the debate around it is always ongoing. The traditional MUN although it currently has been shifted to boosting elements needed for employment in a multinational company (competition, strict criteria, strong personal connections to name a few) allows us to examine the UN structure and propose differences (theoretical level, happens only when people actually know what they are talking about) and sometimes there are conferences (fewer as the years pass by) that clarify their differences with the actual procedure and the reasons for differentiating.
How is it possible to completely avoid debating which is a huge part of the traditional one? Also, the benefits of debating as an educational practice have long been analyzed by educators and not MUNers alone. Moving on, this approach could easily fit in a class curriculum but when we are talking about an extracurricular activity,(where everyone could simulate starting on from a different motive) it is very difficult to ask for the equivalent preparation that three conferences may require just having one where negotiations will be conducted properly but speaking time will be reduced significantly. Again, I respect the fact that there is finally a clear line between all the stages of treaty making, but Model UN has expanded through the years as much as the UN itself and before trying to modify anything attention could be given to the problems that the traditional version has and try on solving them instead of creating a new one. Yes, traditional MUN has a huge list of problems to work on but still ensures speaking time, liberty to practice foreign languages, challenging interaction (if un4mun is all about cooperation it should not have awards in my opinion) and many skills that do not appear possible in a un4mun format.
Lastly, there are several claims that this is a thriving procedure. Personally, I'd keep in mind that anything "real UN" like does not guarantee effective results. Also, yes the UN brand is very appealing but in many training activities around this set of RoP many of the participants involved have little to no knowledge of the other procedures so, creative doubts are still in order. On the exact point of creative doubts, I appear to be one of the few attempting to steer a discussion about this and I have no idea why people are either not interested to learn more or start a discussion about it?
To conclude, we do have greater things to focus on and this approach appears to be having some internal conflicts, so I would either choose carefully or wait until the dust has finally settled down.
Any comments welcomed and special thanks to two unicorns whose unexpected help was greater than they could think: Jared Theodore Yeo and Sang Yeop An!
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