The Model UN: Learning about Diplomacy

Article excerpt

Every year, some 60,000 young people across the United States, as well as in many other places in the world, gather in gymnasiums, auditoriums and classrooms to participate in a unique international programme.

The Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations General Assembly, in which high school and college students assume the role of "ambassadors" to the UN and debate current issues on the UN agenda.

The UN Association of the United States (UNA-USA) provides a Model UN "Survival Kit" to teachers, students and organizations involved in this exciting project. The kit contains background material on UN issues and a guide to delegate preparation.

Beyond these materials, UNA-USA also conducts an annual Model UN seminar in Ney York each fall for faculty advisers and student leaders. The event attracts representatives from most major Model UN programmes worldwide.

For many participants, it heightens their appreciation of the complexities of international politics, with a chance to understand foreign countries better and to become aware of how political, economic and cultural misunderstandings cause war. It also helps broaden general knowledge of other nations. "They experience the thrill of accomplishment and the common frustration of politics", said James Muldoon, Jr., UNA-USA Director of Model UN Youth Programs.

The concept for the programme originated in the 1920s when a small group of Harvard University students organized a Model League of Nations.

The MOdel UN is based on two basic elements. First, students undergo an intensive preparation process, researching the countries they will represent, organizing positions, preparing policy papers and draft resolutions, and practising rules of procedure. In this way, participants obtain the information and have the skills needed for the second stage--the actual Model UN Conference.

In order to persuade representatives of other Member States, the student "ambassadors" must know intimately their country's policies. …