For nearly 30 years, NIS has participated in some form of a Model United Nations, and despite the COVID conundrum, this year was no exception. Instead of jumping on a plane and jetting off to Singapore, however, our students put on their best business attire and settled into their seats in the Kawanabe Room for a week-long virtual event hosted by the THIMUN (The Hague Model United Nations) organization. This culminated after months of preparation as a club team, researching and practicing their debate and negotiation skills.
In a Model United Nations, club students conduct a simulation of how the United Nations and its member states solve real-world international problems through a formal process. An important element of MUN is that each delegation (school) represents a country different from the one in which they live. This year NIS debated a range of issues in various committees from the perspective of Saudi Arabia. As one participant put it, "Representing Saudi Arabia was such a unique and interesting experience because it is a country that holds values very different to other nations, and some of my personal values." This sentiment captured what many of the delegates expressed as they endeavored to step into their gulf country's perspective.
Separated into committees such as the Environmental Committee, Economic Committee, and Legal and Finance Committee, the student delegates researched specific issues. They debated that from the position of Saudi Arabia, with the purpose of creating meaningful and realistic UN resolutions. One participant explained one of her experiences as a part of that process. "The most memorable resolution was one made to tackle climate change while prioritizing economic benefits. This was a memorable yet very challenging resolution to create because I had to think from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and put my personal opinions aside. Even when an amendment was added to the resolution, and I personally agreed with it, I had to think from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and so voted against the resolution."
Throughout the week, student delegates gained a more robust understanding of how the process works and were very active in the lobbying and debating stages. Learning to represent other perspectives helps us be more empathetic and mindful of how others (and nations) think and feel. One of our students had the following experience. "One resolution that Saudi Arabia contributed to was probably the most well-written one I saw throughout the conference, primarily because the delegates engaged in heated debates regarding the topic at hand. In this conference, nations were forced into groups based on the area of the issue they were interested in, not their perspective on the issue, hence the need for all delegates to compromise and come to a middle ground."
The week was filled with NIS firsts for our club. The online MUN conference, for one, another was outreach to our Middle School students. Hoping to grow MUN at NIS in the 2019-2020 academic year as a CAS Project, three senior MUN student delegates planned a full week of Middle School MUN as a CAS project until COVID-19 thwarted it. Being the creative thinkers that they are, they turned a setback into an opportunity. On Thursday and Friday of the conference, they set up an MUN orientation program for our Grade 7 and Grade 8 students. They came to observe our high schoolers in a real conference setting while explaining the MUN process. Based on their questions and comments, this clearly sparked curiosity and interest and will undoubtedly impact the enthusiasm for, and growth of our club.
All in all, the skills and dispositions practiced - such as research, analysis, collaboration, and public speaking - are "real world" and will serve our students in any future context. We are very proud of our student delegates' enthusiasm, and effort put into their preparation and the process. They have been thoughtful, caring, empathetic, collaborative, and courageous. It was indeed an exciting week of energy, enthusiasm, learning, and fun!
One of our delegates summed it up perfectly, "THIMUN isn't just a stressful debating week. It is a week of intensity, excitement, experience, and great memories. It is a week that allows you to open up your eyes, understand global issues, and tackle them for a better future."