SMU Model UN

Ten students in SMU’s Model United Nations program participated in the World Model U.N. 2009 Conference in March in The Hague, Netherlands. The SMU delegation was assigned to represent the Vatican at the conference, where students from more than 40 countries debated and discussed world issues facing the U.N. system.

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An exercise in compromise

candid.jpgAn update from Katie, a Spanish major who served on the Model U.N. Legal Committee:

On Day Four, the delegates of the legal committee continued to debate a resolution about criminal accountability of UN officials on peacekeeping missions abroad. Today I spent most of my committee time in the back of the auditorium for unmoderated caucusing and tried to help merge existing blocs of nations into one larger coalition.

Whereas the beginning of the week went by at a fairly slow pace (discussing ideas and concerns of particular countries), today blocs scrambled to merge ideas with other groups so as to create one larger draft resolution for all delegates to consider.

Our group merged with Asian/EU nations, but unfortunately we lost many of the creative and innovative policy details specific to our coalition in the process of negotiation and accommodation. Consequently, the new resolution that was created looked strikingly similar to a resolution created by the actual UN in 2006.

Though I was disappointed at first, many bloc members from my original coalition fought to incorporate some of our inventive policies that address jurisdictional gaps and encourage justice-promoting policies in host nations.

The resulting product was not quite what we wanted, but I think the process was instructive. Like the real UN, our actions are constrained by the policy goals of a number of countries, and enacting moderate, incremental changes to the legal structure of the UN is a realistic objective. The solution is imperfect, but it is a decisive action that promotes a stronger international legal framework.

By the end of the morning, our working resolution, which now had the support of assorted Latin American, African, and Asian states, was up against two other major blocs. In the end, our resolution was tabled, probably because it was submitted later than the other two and we had little time for debating any of the resolutions, let alone the last to come up in moderate caucus.

Again, this is likely a more realistic simulation of how policies are passed in UN bodies. Ideally, groups would have ample time to craft comprehensive resolutions that address concerns more fully. Practically speaking, other factors come into play – relative power of nations, time constraints, public policy disputes, tiredness after debating an issue for so long, and the eventual desire for any kind of resolution that provides a satisfactory, if not exemplary, solution to an international issue.

Katie.jpegAfternoon in Amsterdam

After committee, we ventured to Amsterdam with the other delegates. Everyone dressed in orange to commemorate Queen’s Day (even though it’s actually not for another month); needless to say, the image of a couple thousand tourists in orange proved quite amusing.

Because we spent Saturday in Amsterdam visiting cultural sites and museums, we spent the (rainy) afternoon meandering around town. Initially, we boarded a boat that snaked through the city’s canals and let us tour the major sections of the city on water and observe classic Dutch architecture.

Although Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is home to various architectural influences, it still retains the charm of small Dutch cities. The winding waterways, flowerbeds and greenbelts, and red roof buildings and narrow buildings from the 17th-century co-exist with Renaissance and Gothic-inspired architecture, and modern influences and design.

We got off the boat at the city center and decided to spend the afternoon walking the main streets, doing a bit of window shopping and people watching, and chatting in a Dutch cafe while sampling local specialties (pancakes and baked goods). This excursion provided us the opportunity to unwind in typical Dutch fashion by sitting with locals and drinking coffee. People go to read, write, talk with friends – similar to the US tradition, but here the atmosphere is more relaxed and people spend hours relaxing, working, or escaping the rain and chilly weather.

Club night

Later we visited the flower market as we made our way to Melkweg (Milky Way), the location of the WorldMUN club/dance night. Melkweg is a Dutch cultural center run by a nonprofit organization that houses various spaces for film, theater, and music. This venue served as the location of our dance, but in a section directly next door, Peter, Bjorn and John (a famous Swedish band) were giving a concert.

Nightlife in Europe is quite different than the typical SMU scene. More techno is played, and the DJs were careful to play a lot of international music to cater to the diverse audience. Also the delegates, though they are formal and serious in committee, are quite a lively group after hours and not at all inhibited when it comes to moving on the dance floor. Tonight’s social event was also a great way to solidify the alliances and bonds made with different delegates so that we can still influence the vote to take place in the morning, which is quickly approaching …

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