Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Model United Nations
A Model United Nations (also known as a "Model UN" or "MUN") is a simulation education activity focusing on civics, communications, globalization and multilateral diplomacy. In MUN students take on roles as foreign diplomats and participate in a simulated session of an intergovernmental organization (IGO). Participants research a country, take on a role as a diplomat, investigate international issues, debate, deliberate, consult, and then develop solutions to world problems. During a simulation they must employ a variety of communications and critical thinking skills to defend and advance the policies of their country. Most MUNs are simulations of a body in the United Nations system, like the Economic and Social Council, the Economic and Finance Committee of the General Assembly or the Executive Committee of UNICEF. Many conferences simulate other IGOs including the summit meeting of the African Union, the military committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Arab League. Even though not all simulate the United Nations, this type of simulation education conference and simulations is generically called “Model UN” or “MUN” and the participants are often called “MUNers".
Reasons for participation
The MUN simulation is a “social science laboratory.” Just as scientific laboratories allow students to experience, practice and experiment with the theories and ideas in biology, chemistry and physics, MUN allows students to do the same with social science, civics, communications, sociology and psychology. As they debate and deliberate, they experience, practice and experiment with conflict resolution, public speaking, small group dynamics, and negotiation. This interactive format can be very empowering. Students also organize and run conferences taking on various leadership roles including Secretary General, chairperson and treasurer. These are all empowering roles, allowing students to make their own decisions and forge their own success.
The MUN simulation aims at being academically rigorous. It requires research that includes current affairs, economics, geography, government, history and politics. Students must do in-depth research, write foreign policy principles and position papers , and learn parliamentary procedure. They must formulate prepared presentations as well as give extemporaneous speeches. They must grasp foreign policy and culture norms. They must do technical writing as they craft properly formatted United Nations resolutions. Students practice listening, decision making, and strategic thinking skills as well. MUN requires a full complement of skill proficiencies that will serve them well in all future endeavors.
MUN groups are usually organized as clubs, conferences or classes. A club is an extra curricular activity in a school or university. A class can be a full semester class called "Model UN" or just one class period devoted to a short simulation. A conference is a school-wide, local, regional or international gathering of MUN students who come together over one day or even one week for a simulation.
In the early days of MUN, participants were mostly students at select colleges in the United States of America (USA). Today, MUN has greatly matured and expanded. It is now practiced all over the world in classes, clubs, or conferences on every continent (except for Antarctica). MUNers are elementary, secondary, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students…and recently even university alumni and professionals; they come from public and private schools and universities; and they live in city, suburban and rural areas.
MUN International estimates that over 400,000 students annually participate in a simulation education activity (class, club or conference) in over 70 countries and territories with over 500 conferences and a myriad number of classroom simulations. United Nations Association of the USA publishes the most comprehensive calendar of MUN conferences: the 2003-2004 (on-line) edition lists 400+ conferences in 48 countries. Today, MUN is one of the fastest growing and most popular extra-curricular programs and an estimated 30-50 new classes, clubs or conferences are created annually. It also is interesting to note that South Africa and Dominican Republic have both initiated national Model UN programs.
Some simulations are small, including only members of a single class. For example, 20 students can do a one-hour simulation of the (15-member) United Nations Security Council in their classroom. On the opposite end, the Hague International Model United Nations Conference (THIMUN) in the Netherlands regularly hosts over 3,300 high school students from around the world at its annual conference. THIMUN is the largest simulation education activity in the world and they simulate the Security Council and many other bodies in the UN system as well as other IGOs. The majority of conferences are between 70 and 300 students and the students come from one regional area. Each simulation and conference varies greatly in number of participants.
Model and civic simulation education is older than the United Nations. Records indicate that as early as the 1920s students in the USA were participating in collegiate simulations of the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. The modern day National Model United Nations (New York City) started as a model League of Nations in the early twenties as did the Harvard National Model UN (Boston, Massachusetts). Other early models in the 1930s included the New England Model League of Nations, the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Model League of Nations (Geneva, New York) and the Model League of Nations of Macalester College (Northfield, Minnesota), alma mater of Secretary General Kofi Annan. As the League of Nations was dismantled and the United Nations was born in 1945, Model League of Nations was transformed into Model United Nations.
Organizers and supporters
Main article: Regional organizers and events of Model United Nations.
Although universities and colleges organize the majority of MUNs, high schools also organize them. Professors or teachers and students work together in these situations. Some conferences are also run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on international education. Some are sponsored or supported by civic organizations. United Nations Associations (UNAs) have been the groups that have done the most work in sponsoring, supporting and promoting Model UN around the world.
Many MUN Conferences are incorporated as NGOs themselves and help sponsor other simulations. The aforementioned THIMUN is a good example as it has a network of “affiliated” MUN conferences originally throughout Europe, but now throughout the world.
The list of supporters and regional organizers is in the article Regional organizers and events of Model United Nations.
Simulations are conducted in many languages, including the six official languages of the UN. Discussions are usually conducted in the language of the host country of the simulation or conference. Because MUN was created in the USA, and a majority still take place in the USA, the majority of simulations are in English, although most conferences will offer at least one bi-lingual committee, usually in English and Spanish. Some places have conferences in two or three languages. In Mexico you will find simulations in Spanish and English, in Canada ones in French and English, in Germany ones in German and English, and in Brazil ones in Portuguese and English. Bi-lingual conferences are slowly becoming more popular while both the US and Mexico have recently had tri-lingual conferences.
The United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) supports MUN in four key ways: 1) the Model UN Discussion Area on the UN Cyber School Bus, 2) the Public Inquiries Section in New York, 3) the United Nations Information Centers (UNIC) and 4) hosting large MUN conferences. The CyberSchoolBus is the on-line education program for the UN. It features a MUN Discussion Area and a list of MUN Experts who answer inquiries as well as excellent research tools for country research. The Public Inquiries Section at UNHQ assists by helping MUN groups to find speakers and it arranges briefings in its New York offices. UNICs in Argentina, Mexico, Panama, and the UK have been extremely involved in MUN activities helping with research, MUN support, and sometimes with facilities. UNIMUN was the MUN conference co-sponsored by UNDPI and hosted at the UN New York Headquarters. It first took place in August 2000 as the official youth component of the United Nations Millennium Assembly. It attracted the most experienced and international staff to date for a MUN activity. UN offices in The Hague, Netherlands; Nairobi, Kenya and Geneva, Switzerland also support MUN and serve as hosts for at least one conference annually.
The Organization of American States has been involved from the very beginning in the creation and growth of the Model OAS in the Americas. It has sponsored annual conferences and helps participants to understand OAS functions, international issues and foreign policy. Other regional organizations have provided information and basic support to international civic simulations. North Atlantic Treaty Organization annually supports the Model NATO conference in Washington, DC with speakers, consultations and advisors. Other IGOs provide research assistance to simulations, conferences and students. Additionally, many UN Missions and Embassies support MUN activities. Many mission and embassy websites have recently added sections created specifically for MUN. Embassies and Consulates will often invite groups to discuss country positions or send a speaker out to speak to MUN club, class or conference. The overall support of simulation education activities by the international community is increasing rapidly every year.
Adapted from "Questions and Answers about Model UN" by MUN International (The international network for Model UN and Simulation Education)
- Model UN Headquarters at the UN Cyberschoolbus
- TEIMUN, The European International Model United Nations
- THIMUN, The Hague International Model United Nations (The Netherlands)
- IMUNA, International Model United Nations af Alkmaar (The Netherlands)
- SANMUN, Skagerak and Nesbru Model United Nations (Norway)
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