McMUN, one of North America’s foremost Model UN conferences, brings together thousands of international students once a year to create solutions to world issues under the procedural rules of the UN. This year, the conference celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, boasting the largest number of delegates and staffers, most innovative committees, and wildest McParté to date.
And, like most large-scale conferences, delegates and staffers of McGill Model United Nations (McMUN) let loose after a day of impassioned debate for one of the biggest highlights – a night of drinking and debauchery. Is this conference truly an effective platform for discussing pressing issues or merely an excuse to debate, drink, rave and repeat?
The typical day at a Model UN conference is as follows: morning to night, delegates slave away, their minds focused solely on creating and passing their Draft Resolution that delineates solutions to one of many global issues. Come nightfall, however, delegates and staffers alike shed their inhibitions (and sometimes clothing) as they down copious amounts of alcohol and get a little too friendly with “rival” countries. As the weekend progresses, the importance of addressing these critical issues slowly dwindles as the alcohol consumption increases. Solving global issues, one drink at a time?
What’s more, thousands of dollars are poured into a conference based on mimicking the workings of an institution largely considered ineffectual on global issues. Numerous criticisms of the UN have been highlighted: its inefficiency, the inordinate amounts of bureaucracy involved in its operations, and the sheer power imbalance that favours our neighbours down south.
The real kicker is that the entire institution of Model UN is based in a world of pretend with apparently little real benefit. Kids representing countries, participating in fake committees, passing around pretend notes and drafting up solutions that will ultimately end up in the trash (or, if you got anything out of the conference at all, the recycling bin). At first glance, it seems that such vasts amounts of money could be spent for far more immediately beneficial causes.
Yet one encounter with the committees suggests something a little different. More recently, the new generation of delegates are recognizing the inherent problems in the UN, and are actively working to reconcile political conflicts and the like given those constraints, something the real UN could learn to do. From the high calibre of debate to knowledge sharing on current-day crises, the conference delivers applied problem solving and accounts for real-world constraints, unlike most simulations.
The intrinsic value in Model UN lies with its participants and planners. Some of the best young public speakers and debaters flock to the Model UN scene, enlightening their fellow delegates with their intellectual minds and sharp wit.
McMUN also enhances the experience with notable speakers who talk on important and relevant issues. In fact, this year McMUN held its first ever Global Leadership Forum, which hosted speakers from various professions to inspire and inform students. Much like the notion of a TEDx conference, what comes out of McMUN are ideas worth spreading.
Whether it be professionals, academics or students, the brightest minds come together to create innovative solutions that foreign diplomats may often overlook, all while forging bonds that will last well beyond the end of the weekend. Naturally, these bonds are strengthened over a night of celebratory beverages, preferably of an alcoholic nature, of course. However, the merrymaking that follows a laborious day of committee session is inevitable. And rightfully deserved, if truth be told.
There are certainly students that participate for the pure purpose of “social interactions.” However, for the majority of us, Model UN represents something more. It symbolizes potential for the future of the real UN. And away we walk, feeling proud, inspired, and just a little hungover.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.