Engaging the World Model UN in Beijing

Maria Carvalho and Dave Grant stop for a photo as they climb the Great Wall of China.
Maria Carvalho and Dave Grant stop for a photo as they climb the Great Wall of China.
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Maria Carvalho, ArtSci '06
Maria Carvalho, ArtSci '06

Unlike most graduating fourth-year students who were frantically trying to complete papers and year projects last week, my friend Dave Grant, Sci ’06, and I opted to spend the week of March 25 to 31 in Beijing, China to attend the fifteenth annual World Model United Nations (MUN) Conference. World MUN is a week-long conference that attempts to simulate the United Nations. What makes World MUN unique from other MUN conferences is that though it is organized by Harvard University, it is held in a different location each year. Previous conferences have been hosted in countries such as the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Egypt.

The international scope of the conference attracts university students from a diverse range of countries, providing them with a forum to showcase their respective cultures and be exposed to other cultures as well. Where else would students have the combined opportunity to learn how to salsa with the Venezuelans, drink sake with the Japanese, learn to dance in a Scottish ceilidh, or listen to the captivating beat of the Turkish darbuka?

It all started when I was on exchange last year at the University of Edinburgh. While there, I had the opportunity to participate as a host team member and assistant director for World MUN 2005 (World MUN was held in Edinburgh that year). Though the experience of helping execute World MUN 2005 was both challenging and rewarding, I was quite dismayed to realize that out of the 1,200 delegates who came from over 40 different countries—with five universities coming from Canada—not one delegate from Queen’s was in attendance. Such a case was disturbing because Dave and I realized that by not attending World MUN, Queen’s was missing two very lucrative opportunities. First, Queen’s students would miss the opportunity to “engage the world” by debating and creating resolutions with other international students on pertinent global issues. Why wait until we graduate to test whether we truly were the “global leaders of tomorrow” when we could flex our muscles while we were still in University? Second, the university was missing an opportunity to promote its reputation on an international scale.

Both Dave and I were exchange students in third year (Dave was on exchange at the University of Melbourne), and we soon grew rather tired of explaining to students from our host universities that Queen’s was not a university in New York or England. On returning to Queen’s in September, Dave and I were determined not to let this opportunity slip through our fingers. We registered as the first Queen’s delegation to attend a World MUN Conference. Since we were a small delegation, we were paired with the Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla-Mexico to represent the country of Brunei Darussalam. I represented Brunei on the UN Committee for Special Political and Decolonization (SpecPol) and my committee debated reforms to Official Development Assistance. Dave represented Brunei in the specialized agency of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and debated methods to promote economic development in the Islamic world. Being a delegate in World MUN debates provided both of us with unique challenges. As a development studies student with hard-line liberal views, I learned that negotiation did not necessarily signify the bending of a country’s principles, but could provide innovative and constructive solutions. As an engineering student, Dave didn’t merely dip his toe into the political maelstrom but took a very gutsy plunge.

World MUN was not just all-work-and-no-play. The conference hosted several social events that showcased some of the entertainment highlights of Beijing. We witnessed the mind-boggling feats of Chinese acrobats and partied in Beijing’s largest club. But the most memorable experiences included taking the exhaustive climb of the Great Wall of China and walking around Tiananmen Square while the portrait of Mao Zedong gazed down on us from the gates of the Forbidden Palace. At the beginning of the year, Principal Hitchcock challenged Queen’s students to “engage the world.” World MUN is not only a great avenue for doing so, but it allows Queen’s students to be ambassadors for the University. Dave and I have “introduced” Queen’s to World MUN, and now we hope upcoming Queen’s students will stamp our University’s presence at future conferences.

Are you ready for the challenge? If you are interested in learning more about the World MUN, contact Maria Carvalho at maria.d.carvalho@gmail.com.

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