Speaking up in the AUBG Model United Nations 2017
The first Model United Nations took place at St. Lawrence University, USA from Feb. 11 to Feb. 13, 1949. Today, 70 years later, AUBG continues to follow the steps of this initiative. From Feb.17 to Feb. 19, the Balkanski Academic Center was brimming with young people who took the role of delegates for the 9th Edition of the AUBG Model United Nations conference and presented their innovative ideas and perspectives on pressing global issues. The organizers distinguished Lea Fanko, Steven London and Anatoly Prekrasnyy with the honorable titles of best delegates. In addition to the awardees, delegate Nino Avreyski, a third-year student, was chosen to participate in the upcoming Rome MUN.
The simulation, organized by students from the AUBG MUN club, consisted of discussions between the participants, who were representing certain states from the United Nations and were later divided in different committees –Security Council, Human Rights Council and UNESCO.
When asked about the organization of the event, Nicoleta Paladi, the president of the AUBG MUN club, shared that organizers managed to prepare everything in time.
“We started in September with the Open House, where we promoted the club to the first-year students that were coming in,” said Paladi. “We did not go as fast as planned with the organization, because the conference is late.” Paladi also added that the organizers had a little task every week, which kept them busy and provided them with management exercises.
This year first-year students had the additional opportunity to participate in Professor Robert Phillips’ Model United Nations course. AUBG MUN also partnered up with Rome MUN.
Even though the preparation started early, the process did not go smooth. Paladi noted that the biggest challenge they faced was “to keep the spirit alive in the team and to keep everybody motivated to do their tasks”.
“The biggest difficulty was the process of coordinating the work of the departments within the organizing team,” said Simona Tarpova, a first-year student, who was part of the organizing team. “I would say the week before the event was the hardest one,” commented Natalia Chicu, a first-year student, and another member of the organizers.
“Although, we had to face some difficulties and misunderstandings within the process of organization, I am glad to say that the team managed to overcome these obstacles and to provide many young people with the opportunity to participate in the event and improve their skills in public speaking, debating and critical thinking,” stated Tarpova.
The event was launched with an opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 17 in BAC Auditorium. AUBG MUN welcomed Brian Stimmler, Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Sofia, as an official guest, who talked about his personal experiences in the sphere of diplomacy.
“Diplomacy is communication, resolution of differences between different people and nations. Everything connected to diplomacy has one common element – the human element, the human interaction,” he said.
He shared his stories from Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Turkmenistan, the difficulties he faced while negotiating and his advice for successful diplomacy.
“The first rule of diplomacy is that sometimes saying nothing is the most diplomatic thing to do,” commented Stimmler. As a second rule he mentioned that delegates should be very well prepared and aware of the perspective of the other side, which can be achieved through discussions. “The third rule is to separate professional from personal interest,” added Stimmler.
He emphasized the importance of staying objective and not letting emotions cloud your judgement. When asked about his expectations of the conference, he confessed his already high opinion of the participants and organizers.
“I have never actually taken part myself in a Model UN conference and I came here not knowing what it would look like, but expect some really substantive discussions over the coming two days,” said Stimmler. After hearing some discussions of the students and seeing the work of the moderators, he commented: “I was so impressed by their professionalism, by their ability to manage the group,
the questions that they asked and the detail with which the people were discussing these issues.”
The ceremony continued with a Q&A session where Stimmler answered questions from the students, stating the importance of both observing the other country and representing your own. “You need to have a feel on what to compromise on and what is not negotiable. Usually one side wants something more than the other side. You need to find a way to attract them to your idea.“
After Stimmler provided the students with substantial information, Paladi took the lead and emphasized the significance of young people stepping forward, expressing their ideas and uniting in order to achieve their mutual goals.
She presented another motivational speaker – Safaath Ahmed Zahir, a 25-year old girl from Maldives, Women’s Rights Activist, Advocate for Gender Equality & Democracy and one of the Queen’s Young Leaders for 2016. Zahir distributed her message through an inspirational video. She shared her personal experience and gave insight on her work in the NGO “Women On Boards” and in her own NGO “Women and Democracy”, both striving for the empowerment of women in leadership. Her video served as a reminder that “You will see what we can create when we all together are driving change, all together we are going to make the world a better place.”
Philips, the Faculty Advisor of AUBG MUN, also expressed his opinion about the simulation in the end of the ceremony: “This is real-life training. You are not just playing a role. This is not just in a simulation, but you are actually developing life skills.” He noted that these practical skills would be needed for many professional fields and it is helpful to learn to listen, talk with people and engage in formal presentations. “The work that you do here can go places. I expect amazing things from you,” concluded Phillips.
Stimmler supported Philips’ words, when asked about the advice he can give to the young delegates: “The skills participants use and develop here over the next coming days will be skills that they would use throughout their life, regardless of what career they are going for.”
The evening continued with a reception in the ABF Student Center, where participants, guests and organizers enjoyed food and beverages and engaged in conversation.
Saturday marked the first day of the debates between the countries. This year the simulation consisted of three committees with their specific issue topics – the Security Council and the topic of “Hot Waters – The South China Sea Crisis”, the Human Rights Council with the topic of “Contribution of Firearms Regulation to the Protection of Human Rights”, and the UNESCO committee with the topic ”Educating Marginalized Communities: Women”. The committees were distributed around the rooms in Balkanski Academic Center for the debates.
“Initially we wanted to have four committees including EESC (European Economic and Social Committee). The topic for that one was international trade barriers, but apparently it was not really attractive for the students, so we cancelled it,” clarified Paladi. This year’s UNESCO committee was new for the conference. “We decided to include UNESCO, because we never had just a social topic. We always focused on security issues and really global fixed-point issues,” said Paladi.
“We believe that it is the committee that spreads some of the most valuable messages today, concerning the importance of education, development, human dignity, and cultural heritage,” commented Tarpova on the UNESCO committee.
Each council had a chair and the respective countries, represented by the participants, had to follow the rules and policies, drafted by the United Nations Charter. While the discussions were modest in the beginning, as the day progressed, the delegates became more open to state the positions of their countries and to express their opinions. The debates spanned throughout the whole day and the participants were drafting out ideas and possible solutions to the problems.
In the Security Council, the delegates were trying to resolve a crisis of both regional and global depth between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines, consisting of claims of islands and access to natural resources. “The delegates discussed the freedom of navigation in the region that is a contentious issue, especially between the United States and China arguing over the right of U.S. military vessels to operate in China’s two-hundred-mile exclusive economic zone,” shared Chicu.
The Human Rights Council had to develop strategies for effective national and international firearm regulation, because people continuously lose their lives or suffer injuries and psychological harm due to the misuse of guns by civilians. In that sense, this council had to protect the right to life and security. UNESCO was addressing the issue of the lacking education for women and the connected economic, political, and social discrimination.
When dealing with these relevant and pressing issues, the delegates had to think and decide from the perspective of the country they represented and to learn to think critically, and create precise solutions for these problems.
“Most of the delegates were involved in the discussions, trying to find out the main problem and to come up with a solution. As the participating countries were from all over the world, it was hard to agree on a solution,” said Chicu.
Stoyan Gechkov, a first-year student in AUBG and representative of Saudi Arabia in the Human Rights Council, commented: “I defended the position that we should have a more liberal approach and there should be less restrictions for the possession of firearms.”
The participants had to settle the issues peacefully and recommend different ways of managing or various adjustments, however many times they faced difficulties during the debates.
Ognian Trendafilov, a first-year student, representing Germany in the Human Rights Council, shared that “Several times I didn’t know how to respond to the other delegates or how I should behave. It was a bit unnerving experience at times. It was extremely fast-paced.”
“It was challenging to represent Saudi Arabia as most of the times this country has an opposite position from the others, and therefore it was difficult to reach consensus,” confided Gechkov. “There was even a point of escalation when I had to use the fact that my country has one of the biggest petroleum supplies to threaten my opponents with this,” he added.
The organizers also noticed the challenges that the delegates had to overcome.
“I think the biggest problem is always speaking up, because they [the participants] may have some ideas, but there is this fear inside of you telling you that maybe your idea is not valid,” said Paladi about the struggles of the participants. “MUN is really hard in terms of organizational structure and the rules of procedure,” confessed Paladi. She mentioned that some delegates were shy in speaking up out of fear of not knowing how the policies work or how to raise a motion.
“It is also a problem for the delegates to start separating the fact that they have their personal opinion and they have their country’s opinion,” she added. As an example she gave a case in the UNESCO debates, where women were judging based on the perspective of a woman, not so much from the opinion of the country they are representing.“This is why some delegates face so much adversity in making a decision,” she said. “Yes, it is their personality in the simulation, but most importantly is their country representation,” continued Paladi.
Whereas the Security Council drafted the resolutions during the first day of debates, the other councils continued on the second day, Feb. 19.
“It is always difficult to find the opinion, which is acceptable for every single delegate,” said Ketevan Chincharadze, a second-year student, participating in MUN and representing Iran in UNESCO. “To discuss and realize at this stage that the western European countries are different and that the Western liberalism is not the best solution for every single county. That’s why we debated a lot and came up with an unique and general decision, that can be adapted to every country, in our perception,” she clarified.
The discussions became more heated with each passing hour and it was challenging for the delegates to reach one decision. Their coffee breaks and lunches were still open for exchange of ideas and filled with conversations about possible solutions.
“All of the delegates were well prepared and did a great job defending the positions of their countries,” noted Tarpova.
Although it was the most challenging part, the debates were also the favorite aspect for a lot of the participants.
“Debates really helped all of us to represent the interests of our countries and what we wanted to get. We were also finding out something new about the countries. That is how we understand each other,” shared Chincharadze.
By the middle of the day on Feb. 19, all councils were ready with their solutions and prepared to present them to the General Assembly Meeting, which served as a closing ceremony of the conference.
The BAC Auditorium embraced once more the participants and the organizers. The chairs of the different committees started by introducing the work done over the two days and asked honorable delegates to present the resolutions. The sponsors – delegates representing USA, Mongolia, Japan in the different committees, stated the resolutions.
“The resolution was emphasizing the security of school children – the security of their education, bullying, sexual violence in the schools,” commented Chincharadze on the solution, created by UNESCO. “We analyzed how important it is to fund schools, to train people in presenting new democratic values and to raise public fund,” she explained. Chincharadze pointed out that they tried to be really diplomatic and to consider all possible positive and negative results and economic complications.
This council aimed to integrate and empower women, to increase the amount of sanitation facilities for schools, humanitarian aid, qualified teachers and security within school communities for women worldwide, to introduce healthcare in the primary education and to put more focus on the public fund of each government.
“In the end, we came up with two resolutions – one was about the educational, and the other about the psychological requirements which people should meet in order to legally have a weapon,” said Gechkov about the results of the Human Rights Council debates.
This committee created the guidelines that applicants for firearm possession should go through theoretical, practical and psychological tests and international criminal record check. In addition they will be licensed according to the law if their firearms were irregularly obtained. An education on firearms and a give-back policy were also suggested for implementation.
The Security Council established the ideas of a forum for negotiations with the purpose to settle the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, banned military presence in the disputed area and emphasized the importance of the Freedom of Navigation principle for trade and movement of civilian vessels and planes. It also halted the current level of extraction of natural resources and the investments in the infrastructure of the islands until the problem is resolved.
The chairs shared also their impressions of the debates and expressed their observations about the professionalism and insight with which the delegates were working. The event continued with a ceremony, recognizing the best delegates with awards. The chairs gave the outstanding participants certificates and presented the best delegate and the runner-up for each committee. The USA delegates – Lea Fanko, Steven London and Anatoly Prekrasny were awarded as best participants.
Paladi thanked the organizing team, the chairs, the journalists and the photographers for the work and effort. The organizing team also announced the participant, who would represent AUBG in the Rome MUN, which is part of the Rome International Careers Festival and Europe’s largest diplomatic simulation of the United Nations. The chosen delegate was Nino Avreyski, a third-year student at AUBG, who will go to Rome on Mar. 11. That marked the end of AUBG MUN 2017, but students had a lot more to share about this experience.
“From MUN I can learn a lot of interesting and important facts and issues regarding different countries from all around the world,” shared Gechkov about the conference. “AUBG MUN is one of the most beneficial and interesting events happening on our campus,” he noted.
“I found out more about my abilities, my knowledge and I know what to improve and what is my strong side. I met amazing people and the simulation helped me to grow personally and professionally,
” said Chincharadze. “The conference matched my expectations, because it was a big competition and there was a variety of opinions in one room. It helped me reveal the knowledge I have accumulated for two years in AUBG,” she continued.
The organizers further encouraged the students to participate in such events, because of the positive effects MUN has on the abilities and their persuasion, diplomatic negotiation, responsibility, political speeches, leadership and teamwork.
“Public speaking is one of the barriers that most people are afraid of, but we should try to overcome such fears,” shared Chicu and added “AUBG MUN is a great opportunity for students to feel with proper skin how real delegates are working and how they proceed with resolutions and agreements.”
When answering what the participants gained the most from the experience, Paladi stated the benefits of speaking up.
“It is not being afraid to say something, making sure that your opinion is valid and someone will always take your opinion into account,” she said. “In my experience that made me challenge myself and go out of my comfort zone. It is important for young adults to form opinions.”
AUBG Model United Nations 2017 finished with a lot of new friendships, acquired skills and higher self-confidence. It gathered young adults, who are awake and persistent to learn, defend their opinion and make a change. And for those, afraid to participate and speak up, Paladi shared: “20 seconds of courage can really be decisive for you.”