We will not dwell on or re-assert what has already been addressed by Humnah Faarooqui in her article on the Point of Pointless Debating. We will not even trouble ourselves with unnecessary questions like, why is it so impressive that people from ‘privileged’ backgrounds gather at universities to debate issues of the less than privileged factions of society. Debate about people they know nothing about, countries they could not care less about, events that are not only hypothetical but so far off in the future so, that they elude our comprehension.
It is rather obvious to those of us who observe these conferences from the periphery that there is little to no real involvement or interest in the political affairs of the global world. Even if there is, the question of what real effect will the interest have, nullifies the yearning to change the world entirely.
Today, we know that the dynamics of the social world are constructed on the virtues of competitiveness and mutual usefulness. Undeniably, our species has evolved into one that instrumentalizes human instincts in the most notorious way possible. Today this very act is preposterously known as the art of diplomacy. Is it really diplomacy? Or is it manipulating someone into compromising and surrendering their own free will to one who has assumed a self-legitimizing school of thought? That is what an MUN translates into its rhetoric, unbeknownst to most.
It may be legitimate to say that MUNs largely focus on creating social cohesiveness during not just the intense debates in the simulated committees – they also aim to create that environment through the promotion of social events which are a means to achieve that end. While the idea in itself might be unproblematic, it is the implementation which problematizes it and largely raises questions on the purpose of an MUN itself.
Rather than investing towards social cohesion and collaboration, what happens under the pretext of “multilateral ties” is paradoxically not even remotely close to assimilation and collective understanding among fellow participants.
Delegates in every forum vie for one thing, and one thing alone, the much coveted Best Delegate award. If the same energy was directed towards achieving something concrete these conferences would not be half as superficial as they are. That being said, one has to come to terms with the kind of mindsets our youngsters have, so perhaps any solution otherwise proposed will also achieve less than nothing. In any case it is incumbent to find a solution.
When the success of a supposedly “sophisticated” conference depends on the number of registrations achieved, be it just 2 days prior to it, the essence is lost somewhere in the wilderness of the commercial realm. The commercial element has become as a matter of fact the “innuendo” of an MUN conference and thus the purpose for participation has entirely changed over the course of time.
It could not matter less how much is wasted on dressing up in suits, people can indulge in it all they like. The real cause for concern is the fact that students have lost sight of what a Model UN is. If you ask a “MUN-ner” to explain to you what good an MUN is they will give you various benefits ranging from better communication skills to the very important ability of being able to ‘stand firm to your opinion”, some may even perhaps dialectically reiterate, “MUN, is an educational simulation and academic competition in which students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations” (Source: MUN basic info). But not often will you hear them say it’s a forum to do something worthwhile in our otherwise worthless teenage years. One can attend leadership conferences to hone their leadership skills, participate in elections to learn diplomacy, intern at companies to learn to call the shots and the list goes on. Why must Model UNs be focused more on everything but problem solving for the nation? There is nothing impressive about turning Model UNs into replicas of the corporate arena. If we are to follow every wrong trend that has been set then we might as well lay down our armors of pretense and call Model UNs what they really have become – a well fashioned corporate conference to make important connections. We can’t problematize the UN body for its bias and then follow in its footsteps.
Sometimes, it is more fashionable to break free from what is all the rage.
So lets’ go one step further and propose an alternative. In very simple words, instead of simulating an entire conference that lacks in quality it would be smarter and perhaps more viable to hold a conference that is a simulation of one particular UN body. Universities can select particular UN bodies like United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or any other organization that caters to Pakistan’s’ various crises. This conference should ideally focus on one issue or perhaps an agenda of issues that fall under one category; education, urbanization, industrialization, pollution etc. Something that is very real, something that needs our attention. Take an example; operations like Zarb-e-Azb pose a real problem of refugees, displacing thousands from their hometowns. Students can work in collaboration with, or seek help from, UNHCR to look for a workable solution to this crisis.
The conference should be pre-planned and announced a few months in advance, leaving enough time and space for students to conduct proper socio-economic research both on-field and online, to prepare a plan or a workable solution based on the setup of the city. Students should take into account the social structure, cultural values, economic system and power structures of the country. “Delegates” of our country hailing from different colleges/universities, after having produced different solutions to problems falling under the same category can then “debate” the best way to implement a final resolution.
The work does not stop here, the success of the event would thereafter be based on the substantiality of the resolution and its successful implementation, not the number of participants that show up. This is one way of actively involving the youth in problem solving for the nation, giving them a shared sense of responsibility. An event such as an MUN should thus be reformed, rather revamped into a structure which is academically profound in terms of constructive and futuristic goals of instilling selfless devotion towards a better tomorrow rather than individual aspirations.