Model UN: Breeding awareness, leadership

MUN promotes awareness, tolerance and a softer image of Pakistan - all good reasons for its continued existence.

Mian Taimoor November 19, 2010
This is in response to the blog titled 'Model UN: Breeding pointless Leadership'. The writer has made many generalisations in this article and  I’ll try to use my limited knowledge to counter the opinions expressed by the author.

Firstly, as the scope of Model United Nations (MUN) is global and not national, issues like Kashmir and Palestine are not the sole issues being discussed, rather they form a small segment of the 10-15 topics being discussed in different committees. As far as the practicality of the concept is concerned, delegates at such MUN conferences engage in extensive research on the topic before coming to the conference, take the role of a diplomat and discuss the probable solutions and negotiate with all stakeholders involved and pass a resolution which is agreeable by majority.

So, students who participate in such activities at this stage of their lives are able to make better leaders in the future roles they take up, where they take decisions that actually affect the nation or the world.

I would divide the concept of MUN culture in Pakistan into three distinct categories:
i) It breeds a class of youth who are well aware of international issues and take interest in knowing more about them and solving the issues once they occupy important portfolios in the coming years;

ii) it provides a networking platform for students coming from across the country; and

iii) it promotes a softer image of Pakistan abroad when our students participate in international MUN Conferences.

Breeding well aware leadership and tolerance

To take the debate a step ahead, once we are breeding a class of youth well aware of international issues, having had the experience of demonstrating the viewpoint of other countries and understanding their concerns, we will be able to have leaders who in the future prevent embarrassment in the international arena and instead prove more rational when taking decision on behalf of our country.

Moreover, the strong bond of friendship built between students coming from different cities of the country at MUN conferences helps breed greater tolerance, inculcate the habit of listening to others viewpoints and accommodate differences in opinion - all characteristics lacking in our community today.

The networking of different schools for the promotion of MUN in Pakistan and the effort of the students will prove to be an invaluable asset for realising the shared responsibility of solving national/international issues. The network of MUN delegates spread across the country will prove to be one united class of similar thinkers who will vow to change the future of the country.

Promoting a softer image of Pakistan

Now, coming to the third aspect of the MUN culture in Pakistan of promoting softer image of Pakistan abroad. Every year, many students from different institutes of Pakistan take part in International MUN Conferences. LUMS, LSE, Headstart Isb, PAF-KIET Khi, SZABIST Khi, are just a few of those who take part in various MUN conferences around the world and have achieved marvels in the filed of diplomacy and helped promote a positive image of Pakistan.

These delegates have been successful in changing the opinion of conference participants from various countries of the world about Pakistan, and inculcating in them an interest to get to know more about Pakistan and to visit Pakistan. There have been many instances where international delegates have come to Pakistan to attend MUN conferences only after getting to know our fellow MUN participants in other countries and obviously this helps spread a positive image which is a need of the hour for our country.

To quote an example, in LUMS alone, there have been four German students coming on exchange to Pakistan in the last two years only after they got to meet Pakistani students in international MUN conferences. So, such a trend is obviously promoting Pakistan in the international arena, let alone the obvious benefits of a MUN conference for a delegate.

Achievements of MUNs

Also, just to briefly highlight the achievements of MUN in Pakistan, it is the LUMUN (LUMS Model UN) team which has won the last five Harvard WorldMUN titles in the last five years, which is attended by around 2, 000 delegates from all around the world. Besides this, EurasiaMUN conference co-hosted by LUMUN in Geneva, Switzerland in 2008 and Passau, Germany in 2010 is yet another platform where people from Europe and Asia meet to discuss issues of international importance. It is only because of the influx of MUN culture in Pakistan, that in WorldMUN 2010 there were teams from Pakistan apart from LUMUN, therefore increasing the representation of Pakistan at the International Youth Forum.

It is only because of the MUN, that LUMUN Social Responsibility Programme (LUMUN SRP) started two years ago is helping under-privileged children in some schools of Lahore are being taught English and public speaking.

Taking it further, at this year's LUMUN conference students from across the country will get a chance to engage themselves in discussing solutions for the rehabilitation of flood victims in Pakistan. Thus, it is the MUN conference which is engaging our youth in such a discussion which they will take back to their schools and friends, and thus help fight the issues of flood IDPs in Pakistan. (Most of the achievements quoted are from LUMUN, as being a LUMUN participant, I have detailed knowledge about it, but the achievements are in no way only restricted to LUMUN; other MUNs also have their achievements.)

MUN nurtured world leaders

MUN over the years has produced many notable leaders like the present Secretary General of UN Ban Ki Moon, Hilary Clinton and many others who have been ardent supporters of Model UN around the world. MUN is a practice which is conducted the world over, and has contributed its part in making people more aware of international issues. In some cases it has created interest amongst many students of high school level to pursue further studies in International Relations, diplomacy, conflict resolution etc.

Therefore, MUN is breeding a class of leaders who will be well aware in the years to come and would be equipped to take rational decisions for the interest of all. No doubt it is equipped with its share of ills, which for some is the social events and its impracticality for others, but it should not discourage us from envisioning the long term benefits of MUN conferences for our youth, society and country at large.

Even if it does not fulfill its purpose completely, just inculcating an interest of international issues amongst our youth will pave the way towards a more aware society capable of achieving more than our predecessors. The decision is upon us: either to portray the negative side of MUN culture or to take the positive side of MUN and portray and develop it in a way which helps overcome the negative aspects which will prove more beneficial.

Happy Munning!
Mian Taimoor A Social Science Graduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences, who holds great interest in International Relations and Model UN.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.