By Harsh Mahaseth:
The legitimacy of the United Nations lies in its capacity to change the viewpoint of people globally – making them aware about current affairs, policy developments, etc. Thus, the United Nations is an important part of international politics where governmental/non-governmental, domestic as well as international players try to legitimise their policies through representation.
Model United Nations (MUNs) is a simulation for students to understand international relations, law and diplomacy through research, discussions and action, learning to appreciate the roles played by actual delegates working every day trying to find a cohesive solution to persistent issues such as the current Iranian nuclear deal or the Syrian refugee crisis.
Model UN committees give students the chance to develop their deliberation and negotiation skills. As a law student, it has helped me understand international law better which has also helped my academic performance. It also keeps the students up to date with current affairs. The purpose of MUNs is to bring students from across the world together to help come up with cohesive solutions amicably. The MUN culture has taken over India in the past few years as we see an MUN happening every week in one state or the other!
However, the objective of MUNs seems to stand defeated as the intelligent debate, and camaraderie has been replaced by a desire to prove everyone else wrong and stand out in the committee. The entire purpose of the UN is to work together and bring about a solution that is acceptable to everyone; however, this is not being followed in many of the MUNs organised in India.
In this era of globalisation where it is imperative to understand the world and the events that occur in it, people have started to think of MUNs as an ultra-competitive platform which focuses more on social events. From the MUNs that I have taken part in it has been evident that the participants are attracted more towards the partying, which is in itself a problem due to the underage drinking, and because they look at it as a place to ‘hang out’ rather than the true meaning of MUNs: to step into the shoes of the delegates who actually work day in and day out trying to find a solution to present-day issues.
The participants have been seen to flirt with other participants during the committees rather than actually listening to other delegates who actually work hard and try to find effective and efficient methods to bring in a resolution. Furthermore, MUNs have started to advertise with a focus on the prize money that the best delegate will win rather than focusing on the issues that will be dealt with or the brilliant guest speakers or the exciting agendas that the participants can deliberate upon during the conference. MUNs are not supposed to be entirely focused on the parties or the cash prizes.
MUNs in India have branched out in a separate direction than what was originally intended. MUNs being conducted in India have started to host committees such as the Harry Potter Committee or the Dragon Ball Z Committee, which may make the committee proceedings more fun but, in relation to the objective with which MUNs were first held, it also sends out a misleading message to those participating in such conferences.
MUNs are a powerful educational tool that offers a lot of benefits to those participating in this activity. However, there needs to be a sense of understanding and direction to conduct a Model United Nations. There is a need for people who can guide the delegates in the correct path of deliberation and negotiation while still acting in the capacity of a delegate. There needs to be a change in the way MUNs are conducted in India. These conferences need to become more professional in nature and foster similar qualities in the delegates as well. It is only then that the students can truly understand what it means to be a delegate!