Playing international politics in Singapore
In March, thirteen students from International and European Studies went to Singapore to represent AU at the Harvard World Model United Nations, the largest political role-play on the planet – and a student conference out of the ordinary.
By Niels Brix Hornbek
lMA student, International Studies
”We are now in formal session,” declares Harvard undergraduate Richard Hunter, as he bangs his hammer twice to mark the opening of negotiations. All around Suntec City, a massive conference centre towering above one of Singapore’s busy shopping districts, 2,600 students, staff and alumni hailing from more than 65 countries have suited up and begun five days of intense political discussion and cultural exchange. This took place in March at the 20th edition of WorldMUN, the largest travelling collegiate-level UN simulation conference in the world; and for the third year in a row, a delegation from European and International Studies in Aarhus was part of the action.
Ally Zeifman, a Canadian master student at IS, was among those who left the chilly Danish spring behind and headed off to warmer temperatures and even more heated debates.
“It was an amazing academic and social experience,” she says.
“I signed up to experience things related to the UN first hand and to gain some more practical experience with public speaking and diplomacy.” Along with the rest of the delegation she had to step into the shoes of a diplomat as she debated and negotiated with peers from around the world in the Disarmament and International Security Committee.
“Although it was a simulation, the conference really embodied how difficult it can be to come to multilateral agreements,” she explains.
Experiences like these make Hagen Schulz-Forberg, programme coordinator at IS, supportive of participation.
“While International Studies firmly believes in high academic standards, the programme also – and crucially – embraces a vocational element,” he explains.
“Participating in a top-quality simulation game gives students another valuable hands-on experience in line with the goals of our programme.”
WorldMUN, which is run every year by Harvard University in cooperation with selected universities around the world, is an academic simulation of the UN involving thorough research and tightly organised sessions. In addition, the conference aims more generally to deliver a platform for international debate and cultural exchange. To this end, the many social events are just as important as the formal sessions, as they “allow students to exchange perspectives and ideas outside the committee rooms and topics,” explains Mr. Hunter, who was part of the organising team at Harvard, but found plenty of time for loosening his tie at night. Ally Zeifman agrees:
“The social events really contribute to the overall “spirit” of the MUN in that it is about meeting international friends for positive cooperation.” She hopes to represent AU again next year when the WorldMUN is likely to be held in Vancouver.