On Friday 1st April (the last day of the spring term) SMS held its first-ever Model United Nations Conference. This event was organised and realised by a very capable and accomplished team of students. Leyya and Marlena in Yr 11 wanted to take their debating to the next level and they petitioned to set up a Model United Nations and International Relations Club. They wanted to be able to discuss world issues and learn how to make a difference. Leyya and Marlena began by writing a club proposal and figuring out how the parliamentary language and rules of procedure work. Now, as a club, we discuss world issues including; climate change, conflict, international responsibilities and sovereignty, whilst also preparing for conferences.
The first conference the IR and MUN Club attended was the London International Model UN Conference in November. It was an incredible first experience of MUN and a lot of the students involved had a lot of fun! It showed participants how debating in conferences work, as it is different from any other forms of debate or public speaking they had participated in before. Since then the IR and MUN Club attended two more conferences and have two more lined up for this school year!
As the students got to January they decided they wanted to take the next step, and they began to plan their own SMS MUN. This took a lot of work and effort over the two events that needed to be organised. The whole club helped out, and the group effort really made a difference to the outstanding outcome.
Students first needed to organise a workshop, about a week earlier than the actual event, to help new debaters from all of the schools who were going to attend on the day. The IR and MUN Club sent out all the invitations and the whole club helped set up the school. It really helped a lot of people learn the ropes, and the mock debates which were held in committees were a great opportunity to meet people from different schools. That’s what a lot of people love about MUN, it’s a great place to meet new people and create connections.
The IR and MUN Club then had to create all the background reading materials, rules of procedure booklets and delegate packs. This took a large amount of work and coordination to ensure everyone had all the research material they needed so that all participants could have a fruitful debate.
On the day, everyone got to Blandford Street early and started to set up. They made the country packs for each committee, made flags, set up chairs, and prepped committee rooms ready for use. When people started to arrive, it was slightly overwhelming, as they had to work fast and efficiently with a bunch of people. But after the first few schools arrived, they started to get the hang of it and soon enough they were all seated in the hall. We had 7 different schools and over 120 students who attended and participated!
The secretary generals, Marlena and Leyya, gave a wonderful opening speech and we got a special speaker that day, Lana Harper, who is a negotiator for the department of international trade and also does the UK’s free trade agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand. She specialises in Technical Barriers to Trade. They try to stop countries’ different regulations and procedures making it hard for UK businesses to export their products. Her speech was inspiring, and she also gave us tips and tricks on being good delegates and using diplomacy to our advantage. Then our Secretary Generals opened the conference and we made our way to the conference rooms
There were 6 committees which were chaired by UCL students and experienced MUNers, and 6 different topics were debated: The Distribution of COVID Vaccinations, Providing Grants to Lower-Income Countries for Sustainable development, Nuclear Non-proliferation, Gender Equality, Sanctions for Human Rights Violations and the Security Council which discussed the Russia Ukraine conflict and military involvement in Afghanistan.
Over the day, students participated in both formal and informal debates with the aim of writing and passing a resolution. A resolution is the proposed solution given to the problem each committee was debating. This meant there had to be a majority of delegates voting in favour of a resolution in all committees except the Security Council. Like in the UN, there are 5 permanent members of the Security Council: the UK, the United States, Russia, China and France. In this council, these members have a “veto”, which overrules votes, so if any one of these members votes against a resolution, no matter if everyone else votes for it, it won’t pass.
By the end of the day, all committees except the Security Council ended up passing a resolution. As one of the permanent members had used their veto. We wrapped up the day with awards for each committee: Best Delegate, Most Diplomatic and Honourable Mentions. There were speeches from the Chairs and the awards were presented by Ms Pugh. Both us and the students from other schools had a really enjoyable day, meeting new people and learning more about the world! Thank you Mr V, Ms Pugh and all the other teachers who helped out, making this all possible!
The IR and MUN Club would like to encourage all of you to get involved in debating and MUN next year. There are so many opportunities available, and it is time to reach for the stars and make a difference not just for yourself but also for others.
For many of us, having the opportunity to discuss world issues helps us to think about how we can help the world and to think of solutions to global issues. In trying to maintain peace in committee discussions we have learnt how hard it is for countries to negotiate and reach an agreement on how to best solve these problems. We want our leaders to be able to reach for the stars and find ways to promote peace and avoid conflict, care for our environment and to eradicate poverty, illness and to ensure that everyone has access to education, basic necessities and opportunities for the future.
However, this is not just the responsibility of our world leaders. We can also play our part. There are many examples of young people helping to solve world issues. Greta Thurburg helped to raise awareness about climate change and challenged governments to act. Malala Yousafsi promoted the rights of women and campaigned for girls around the world to be able to go to school. Maybe you can also reach for the stars and find ways in which you can help make the world a better place.