This article is published as part of MUN Spotlight, a special series dedicated to Model UNs from around the globe. The aim of this series is to introduce MUNs and their organizers to our MUNPlanet audience and beyond. Today we're taking you to the heart of Europe, Zurich, the home to ZuMUN 2016!
MUNPlanet: Please introduce yourself to our community and tell us something about your MUN path.
Matija: I'm a PhD student in physics at ETH from Croatia. As Croatia has had quite a complicated history with its neighbors, the topic of international relations has been a constant in my life since I was young. It drew me in, but my passion for science overcame it until I came to ETH where I saw that I could do both through MUN. I'm a regular at our sessions for over a year and a half now and this interest only continues to grow.
Marika: I’m in my third semester of Law at the University of Zurich and with that also in my third semester of my MUN career. Coming from an international family and having a passion for discussions, I have been interested in MUN since I’ve learned about it in high school. Since then, I have been to several conferences and one could really say that the MUN bug bit me.
MUNPlanet: How would you define MUNs and what makes them relevant to the way world politics work in practice?
Matija: MUNs are the best practice arena for someone who will continue in the path of a diplomat. It provides a sandbox environment for all the things that you think can work in real life and you get to see how it would play out – who will accept your proposals, how can you convince people to follow you in your efforts. It is so good because of the dedication of the delegates to make their positions as close as possible to the positions of the country they’re representing. You don’t need to ask Barack Obama, ask your fellow delegate in the committee and convince him as if though he was Barack Obama.
Marika: I believe that MUN shapes you in many ways that might affect the small things in your life and, with that, the life in your community. You learn how to speak in front of people, you learn how to negotiate, you learn how to cooperate and find solutions. With that you might not make changes in world politics but you certainly will make changes in your local community, maybe also local and national politics. These innovations add up, and that is what forms world politics.
MUNPlanet: You’re young! The first ZuMUN last April was a huge success considering the tremendous amount of positive feedback that you got. What have you improved this year?
Matija: Yeah, we’re quite young but already quite mature in our approach. We are dedicated to bringing the best possible experience to our delegates. It is work done with pleasure and at Swiss levels of quality. We have broadened the outreach of our high school committee, expanded our social media presence through a LinkedIn group, and became more efficient in our inner workings due to experiences from last year. We offer more for the same price.
MUNPlanet: What does the MUNing scene in Switzerland look like? We know that you have another strong conference and a lot of quality delegates coming from your country.
Matija: Thank you for the compliment. We want to be prepared for every challenge and we do our best to succeed in that. The MUN scene in Switzerland is quite diversified and strong. The national umbrella organization – JUNES – not only organizes the annual national conference, JUNESMUN, where participants from all over Switzerland meet and debate, but also takes care that we are all connected and that we work on common goals of promoting MUN, strengthening the bonds between teams and making sure that we get the best support.
MUNPlanet: What were the main challenges and what the biggest rewards for the organizing team over the course of several months while you were prepping the conference?
Matija: The biggest challenge for us was to bring together people from two different universities with very different backgrounds to work together because they have very different approaches. Remember the lengths of the meetings and the discussions that took place?
Marika: Yes, some topics were heated sources of debate, but we found compromises and worked together to create something we can be proud of. When we think about it, the best reward for us was when we saw it all fitting together, the total work from different people becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
MUNPlanet: Migrations seem to be the ultimate topic among all major European MUNs this year and for the right reasons. ZuMUN followed the example with “Middle East: Going Beyond Borders”. Tell us more about rationale behind choosing this topic and whether you had any alternative topics as runner-ups.
Matija: When we were thinking of a topic, we wanted it to be general enough so that we can think more freely about the possible committees, but also current and focused at a specific region. Unfortunately, one of the biggest focal points for crises this year is the Middle East, with ISIS, conflicts in Israel, and a huge refugee crisis. We felt this needed to be addressed.
Marika: It’s a topic on two levels – physical borders and borders in our minds. The tagline “Going beyond borders” allows us to address at the same time the migration of refugees, but also the borders in our minds which have to be crossed so that we can think of new methods that we have to use to solve the crises which have sprung up there. The current policies aren’t proving to be effective. We need to find new ways.
MUNPlanet: Assuming that there will be a lot of first time delegates, can you give them some advice on preparing better for the conference and improving the overall experience?
Matija: ZuMUN is oriented more towards beginners, so we welcome all first-time delegates with open arms. When you prepare for this conference, start from the study guides written by our chairs which are compiled with great care. Read more carefully through the resolutions mentioned there and look up different news sources for your country’s policy. As many different sources you have, the more confident you can be in your information. Talk to your fellow delegates and get to know them. If you want to push your ideas ahead, you must know the competition.
Marika: One thing I’ve found to be best for preparation is to talk about the topic with anyone that crosses your way. It helps you find new perspectives on your country’s position, which you then need to research more thoroughly. That way, you get into the MUN spirit even before the conference by debating and learning more about the whole problem.
MUNPlanet: Moving to this year’s committees: will you guys be featuring any special and rare ones or you decided to go with the standard committees for ZuMUN 2016?
Matija: Our committees are fairly standard, but we’ve brought a new twist by going into the past with a historical crisis, into the future with a future Security Council crisis committee, while simultaneously tackling current issues in the Arab League, DISEC, UNESCO, and the HRC in the present time.
Marika: We also have another ace hidden in our sleeve which we will use if we have a lot of delegates, so we encourage people to apply as we are eager to do it!
MUNPlanet: Zurich is one of the most beautiful and popular cities in Switzerland and therefore provides so many exciting things to see. Can you share a few suggestions on what we should not miss?
Matija: When I’ve moved here two and
a half years ago, I was most impressed by the view from the bridge connecting
the train station to the eastern side of the city across the Limmat. From the
other side, you can take a special funicular, the Polybahn, to go directly to
the Polyterrasse in front of ETH for a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Zurich and
then stroll two minutes down the street to the impressive building of the University.
Zurich has beautiful churches, the most famous one being Grossmunster, from where the Reformation in Switzerland started. It is located in the oldest part of the city called the Niederdorf, which you shouldn’t miss.
Marika: On the other side of the river is the most luxurious shopping street in Europe – the Bahnhofstrasse – in which you can find the most famous brands and many jewelers and watchmakers. Further down behind the main train station comes the old industrial part of Zurich, which has now developed into a great party and nightlife district. Everything around the Prime Tower at Hardbrücke is quite cool and worth being explored!
The city itself isn’t huge but the possibilities are endless! Check out our website for more information: Things to do in Zurich | Zurich Model United Nations
MUNPlanet: How do you see the future of MUN?
Matija: MUN will continue to exist as long as the United Nations, but will continue in some form afterwards as well. It is more than just an assembly of people who emulate the UN, it is a community of friends who will continue to meet and have fun together. In the near future, I predict that this community will grow faster with the addition of modern technologies and the connectivity that we all experience.
MUNPlanet: How do you see modern technologies, such as MUNPlanet, changing the landscape of MUNs in this future we talked about?
Matija: What modern technology brings is connectivity and greater access to information. This is what everyone should capitalize on. Information is more easily accessible than ever and we get to know about conferences and resources for MUN.
MUNPlanet: What is one thought that you would like ZuMUN delegates to leave the conference with?
Matija: “I want to come back! I haven’t had enough of ZuMUN.”
MUNPlanet: Thank you for devoting your time to MUN Spotlight and telling us more about you and your MUN. MUNPlanet is looking forward to your conference and strongly advises all MUNers to check it out. Good luck on your conference!