What's the deal with Model United Nations?
Updated: May 19
Model United Nations. You've probably heard of them, and you probably love them, or maybe you don't.
There's a lot of hate around Model United Nations, it's seen as an overly competitive system but to me, Model United Nations were pretty monumental and honestly changed the course of my career, and dare I say it... life.
Let's go back to the beginning though.
What is the deal with Model United Nations?
Well, Model United Nations conferences (which we’ll start calling MUNs because Model United Nations is a bit of a mouthful) are a simulation of a United Nations session where students act as diplomats of countries and find solutions to global issues. It's a great way to learn about the world and other countries and meet new people.
MUNs aren't a new phenomenon. Back when the League of Nations was the poster child for international cooperation, peace, and diplomacy, the University of Oxford held what was called International Assemblies. Then, 3 years later, the American International Assemblies was established by the Harvard Liberal Club.
But it was after the creation of The Hague International Model United Nations in 1968 that MUNs spread like wildfire. Now, there are a number of conferences all around the world and virtually. Convenings of young people acting as diplomats of countries and solving issues they may otherwise have never given a second thought became popular. Soon, some universities turned these sessions into classes and a way to earn extra credit.
In my opinion, everyone should do an MUN at least once in their life (and this is coming from someone who has been a delegate, chair, operations team member, and Deputy Secretary General of over 7 MUN conferences, so you know I'm an expert).
Not convinced? Let me tell you why MUNs are so important.
As a relatively quiet/reserved person, MUNs really built my confidence. From being someone who could hardly speak in a room of five people...
... to someone who spoke to over a hundred students at the United Nations General Assembly, MUNs were a pathway for me to practice speaking to a global audience (it was a very short speech, but 2019 Zulu could NEVER, so I'm proud of myself.)
Research, Writing and Editing
The triple threat.
MUNs have taught me about restorative justice, gender mainstreaming, climate fragility risks and the protection of the human rights of women and children within the African Continental Free Trade Area. A mixed bag of knowledge is better than a one-track mind and some of the stuff I've learnt, I really have been able to apply in my jobs, applications and conversations with all sorts of people.
There's also a lot of writing in MUNs; position paper writing, speech writing, working paper writing and resolution writing.
If you're looking for a great opportunity to enhance these skills at the same time, MUNs are a great avenue!
Through MUNs, I have written 2 award-winning position papers, two Background guides that have been read by over a hundred students, and edited over 10 policy documents. It's amazing how much stuff there is to learn in the world!
Okay, okay. Hear me out. I know MUNs are said to be extremely competitive, and I agree, they can be. But they do grow the spirit of cooperation. Working with people to find the proper wording for an operative clause without stepping on another country's toes or beliefs can definitely get your collaborative juices flowing. If you do commit to the process and understand that the purpose of MUNs is healthy collaboration, you definitely can build your diplomacy skills!
You get to meet new people
I have met some of the most amazing people and connections from Model UN. These people have been my references, application reviewers and most importantly great friends. Through MUNs, I've made friends in the US, Switzerland, India, Germany, Brazil etcetera.
MUNs = Extra Points on your CV/Application
Because MUNs cover a wide range of skills, it's definitely a plus if you have it on your CV. My MUN experience has been brought up during interviews and definitely gave me a step up in my applications.
The parties are great too
There's just something about MUN parties, it might be the fact that you're celebrating your working paper becoming a resolution after 3-5 gruelling days of work or the fact that you can finally shed the cloak of diplomat and let your hair down. Whatever, it is, they hit differently. Plus, it's definitely interesting seeing another side of your very professional chair or that too-stoic delegate dancing to 'Empire State of Mind' by Alicia Keys.
You either hate Model United Nations or you love it, I've hardly ever seen an in-between. But the verdict is the same for me, MUNs are definitely worth the hype!
Sign up for the Youth International Model United Nations Conference, an online MUN and a safe space for beginners and experts alike to simulate MUNs!
WRITTEN & EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
Want to connect with Zulu?