Five Sixth Formers have headed to Berlin to take part in an international MUN conference.
MUN, or Model United Nations, has been a well-established part of The Queen’s School’s extracurricular programme for many years. MUN conferences simulate what happens at the UN – each school participating is allocated a country and despatches a ‘delegation’ to represent that country’s interests in committees ranging from Environment, Economic and Technology to Human Rights, Disarmament and Politics, with the specific topics for debate set by the host school. Being almost entirely student-led, MUN is a challenging activity that demands a variety of skills from the ‘delegates’: preparation involves extensive research, writing policy statements and draft resolutions; participation in the debates hones public speaking skills and the ability to construct arguments; developing resolutions requires collaboration with others and balancing a diverse range of viewpoints; and defending the views of the country you are allocated can be challenging especially if they are controversial or differ from the student’s own views. MUN requires and fosters self-motivation and independence, intellectual curiosity and tenacity, and team-working as well as debating and public speaking skills.
After many years of successful participation in regional and national conferences, this year Queen’s sixth formers wanted to take their skills to the next level by taking part in an international conference. BerMUN – the conference hosted annually by the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin, Germany – attracts participants of the highest calibre from around the world, from Saudi Arabia to North America, Israel to Sweden, and Belarus to Turkey, France and the Netherlands. Competition for places is intense, and Queen’s were thrilled to be one of only two UK schools to be selected. The theme of this year’s BerMUN conference was “Women’s Empowerment: A Key to Good Governance and Socio-Economic Prosperity” – a theme that obviously resonated strongly with everyone at Queen’s.
Tasked with representing Jamaica, five sixth-formers took on the challenge: head girl Sinchana (Year 13) sat on the Disarmament Committee, Felicity (Year 13) on the Political Committee, Ella (Year 13) on Environment, Alexandra (Year 12) on Human Rights, and Ffion (Year 13) was a member of the Special Conference. After several months of preparation involving both independent research and weekly team-meetings at which the girls delivered short talks and quizzed each other to deepen their understanding of the issues, the delegation were ready to set off.
What turned out to be a thumping success started off with Sinchana, in her role as the ambassador of the Jamaican delegation, delivering her address at the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. From Thursday to Saturday, the girls were immersed in proceedings in their respective committees. They played pro-active roles in debates that were of a very high standard, forming alliances with other countries to promote shared interests, collaborating with them to develop resolutions, and hammering out the detail of clauses and sub-clauses before voting on them. Each committee was visited by an external guest speaker of pre-eminence in the relevant area who helped to place the issues in a wider context; with teachers being invited to attend these talks as well, everybody got an opportunity to stretch and challenge themselves.
Taking part in BerMUN 2017 has been a demanding and strenuous, but immensely rewarding experience, enriched further by visits to some of Berlin’s key sights such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. While our immediate focus is now on preparing for the regional conferences scheduled for this academic year, BerMUN has given us all a new vision of what it means to be involved in MUN.