Hey! I’m doing fantastic and hopefully all the MUNers following MUNPlanet are as well. My name is Lucija Kundid, Director General of this year’s ZAGiMUN Conference on Shared Responsibility: “Preventing Crises and Attaining Sustainable Peace” taking place in Zagreb, Croatia 4-7 October 2017. I’m a law student at the University of Zagreb and Head of the Model UN club of the Croatian United Nations Association.
ZAGiMUN Conference on Shared Responsibility is not your every day MUN conference. Apart from being MUN enthusiasts, we are firmly dedicated to educating young people on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development – SDGs or Agenda 2030 through debate and interaction not only with their peers but officials and experts as well. Debates we organize always have a hidden lesson to be learned and our crisis team does a superb job in guiding participants towards a discovery which will bring them closer to understanding the importance of SDGs. This is the second edition of ZAGiMUN in this format and based on the feedback from last year’s participants, this conference proved to be a unique opportunity to gain knowledge and skills needed to tackle issues of today and face the challenges of tomorrow.
MUNPlanet: ZAGiMUN seems to be the full package - both university and high school student are welcome and both Model UN and Model EU will be simulated, in addition to workshops and panel discussions. How did it all start? Tell us the story of ZAGiMUN.
ZAGiMUN started in 2008 when a group of students from the Faculty of Law (University of Zagreb) recognized the need of young people in Croatia to actively learn about global topics. The project was started under the supervision of Mr Ivan Šimonović, current Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York and Special Adviser on Responsibility to Protect. It enabled for the Croatian United Nations Association, the organizer of the conference to grow to what it is today, the main NGO in Croatia when it comes to UN-related activities.
The ZAGiMUN Conference on Shared Responsibility was started in 2016 as a result of fruitful cooperation between Croatian, Danish and Slovenian UNAs on several Erasmus+ and Model UN projects dealing with Sustainable Development Goals. It came as a logical conclusion that SDGs need to be our guiding principle when it comes to identifying topics for the conference and needs of our participants while finding a way to better ourselves and our communities.
There are plenty of high school MUN enthusiasts in Croatia but unfortunately they have nowhere to go seeing ZAGiMUN is the only Model UN conference in Croatia and that is why we decided to enable high schoolers over 18 years old to participate in the conference.
MUNPlanet: The aim of ZAGiMUN is to foster cooperation between participants by developing negotiating and public-speaking skills, familiarize participants with guiding principles of UN and EU institutions and international relations. How is it going so far? How do you see ZAGiMUN in the future?
We are really happy to see that 7 of 11 members of the Secretariat have taken part in last year’s ZAGiMUN in some capacity showing the sustainability and general attractiveness of the project. There is always a number of reasons why people enjoy a certain conference but I personally believe it has a lot to do with choosing challenging topics, enabling exchange of opinions and doing it all in one of the most beautiful continental cities in Europe.
The future of ZAGiMUN depends on the young people putting forth their best effort to provide this enjoyable experience. Judging from this year’s organizing team and the support of senior members of the Croatian UNA, I have no doubt the conference will grow in numbers and quality in years to come.
MUNPlanet: An amazing aspect of ZAGiMUN are the panel discussion that the participants will have the privilege of witnessing. What will the panel discussions be dealing with? What will the participants have the chance to learn? How did you come up with the idea to hold panel discussions at a Model UN conference?
We will be organizing two panel discussions under Chatham House Rules exclusively for our participants in order to enable full disclosure and exchange of opinions with officials and experts so participants can see why it is important to develop certain skills and obtain knowledge on topics they will be debating in their respective committees. The Croatian UNA has several programmes, one which is the UN Academy which started in 2010, through which we enable this type of open interaction between young people and those who possess first-hand experience. Panel discussions at ZAGiMUN 2017 will provide EU and UN perspectives on sustainable development, security and human rights issues.
MUNPlanet: This year, the topic is “Preventing Crises and Attaining Sustainable Peace”. What inspired you to pick this as the topic? What was the motivation behind the choice?
The Croatian United Nations Association dedicated year 2017 to SDG no. 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions so we were looking for a theme which would encompass EU and UN values on security, human rights, environmental and other issues. The motivation for the main theme came from the address by the UN Secretary-General Mr António Guterres at the opening of the high-level debate on conflict prevention and sustaining peace in which he stated that “The international community could avoid conflicts by restoring trust between Governments and their citizens on the one hand, and amongst Member States on the other.” Removing conflict from the equation is the first step in achieving SDGs and this statement describes perfectly what Shared Responsibility is about and the interconnected nature of today’s crises requires the international community to connect global efforts for peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, not just in words, but in practice. In order for young people to be the driving force in these efforts on both the EU and the UN level, they need to be well educated and think ahead.
It really depends on what their interests are. We put considerable effort into selecting committees which differ from one another and from year to year. This year we wanted to enable high level debate on security issues in the UN Security Council and the European Council for those interested in conflict prevention and provide opportunities to really learn about human rights violations, education and culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development in the UN HRC and UNESCO.
Each committee will be challenging in its own right and have two topics which will be debated on but from what I have learned from our Crisis team, I would not recommend the UN Security Council to the fainthearted and inexperienced!
MUNPlanet: While the MDGs have been accomplished to some extent, the progress made has been uneven, particularly in the least developed countries which is why the UN recommitted itself to the full realization of the goals. How would you say that we are doing? What do you predict will happen by 2030?
It is true that MDGs have been accomplished to some extent, especially when it comes to extreme poverty which was cut in half but it became evident that much more needed to be done on a global level. SDGs are far better equipped to make a difference in each country across the world because they are universal and interconnected. The unfortunate thing is not many people know about them and not many countries pay attention to including them in their policies. If we are to reach objectives by 2030, the EU, and Croatia as its member state, need to lead efforts in promoting them and showing how to incorporate them to transform existing policies. I expect SDGs to enjoy success in certain areas and fail in others because you cannot predict crises which will occur in the future. Development and especially sustainable development is a never ending process and that is why we want to nurture an approach based on prevention so we would have well-equipped experts in the prime of their careers when 2030 comes around and the UN decides on the next step to improve development goals.
MUNPlanet: In addition to university students, ZAGiMUN also welcomes high school students. There is a high chance that this will be their first time at the conference. How would you advise them to prepare?
The Secretariat is preparing a comprehensive study guide for all participants and my first advice would be to read it carefully because it was prepared by a group of highly experienced MUNers. It is never shameful not to know but it is shameful not to ask so my second advice would be to contact the Secretariat should they have any questions. My third and last advice would be to come relaxed and be who they are because it is our role to teach them once they get here and only the open minded can be taught.
MUNPlanet: How can the role of technology and new communities such as MUNPlanet affect the future of conferences?
MUNPlanet: The Balkan region is famous for its lively nightlife. What have you prepared for the participants in the social department?
MUNPlanet: Finally, what do you hope that the participants will take with them when the conference ends?