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.

World Model UN begins

An update from Brittany, a political science major who served on the Model U.N. Legal Committee:

Today the World MUN 2009 Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, officially opened its doors to thousands of eager delegates representing 190 countries. There was a feeling of anticipation and excitement in the air as we rode the #17 tram to the World Forum Conference Center. We arrived at the building, and I was astonished at the size and grandiose nature of the building.

As we went inside I was then struck, and honestly a bit overwhelmed, by the sheer numbers of delegates who had traveled all the way to Den Haag to simulate the United Nations process.

Opening speeches

We filed into the auditorium, where we would get to hear speeches and see what the conference held in store. We heard from Jozias van Aartsen, who is the mayor of The Hague. He told us that he held high hopes for the conference and was excited that it was being held in The Hague, the home of the Peace Palace and many international courts.

Then Ruud Lubbers, former Netherlands prime minister, gave an exciting speech about how to bring about change. At the end of his speech he held up a sign reading, “Yes you can!”

The Secretary General, who was from the host team of Harvard University, gave a speech about uniting all the countries of the world by remembering that we are all humans, and while we may have different lifestyles, we all together make up humanity.

Waving the flags

However, my absolute favorite part of the ceremony was when every country’s flag was brought out by delegates. The flags were waved around to music. It was such a symbol of hope and the anticipation of the cooperation of tomorrow that my breath caught and my eyes stung a bit. Maybe you had to be there, but it was quite a sight to behold.

The conference was then officially opened. Everyone began to talk to everyone else, and we met many people from many different countries. We also began to find people from our respective committees, and we discussed topic choices and our expectations for the coming days. This ceremony truly fostered a sense of comradeship, and I hope it lasts throughout the duration of the conference.

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After a long journey, we’re here

Nicola.jpgAn update from head delegate Nicola, a junior majoring in political science who served on the Model U.N. Special Political Committee:

After months of preparation and research, many late-night meetings, and hours of fundraising, the trip is finally here! I honestly couldn’t be more excited!

Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN) is the largest and most diverse international university-level Model UN conference in which participants engage in a simulation of the practices, actions and debates on topics of the actual United Nations. The SMU Model UN team will be participating in this prestigious global event for the first time, representing the Holy See (Vatican). About 2,451 students, from 275 universities of 53 countries and five continents, will gather in this 18th session of Harvard WorldMUN in The Hague, or “international city of peace and justice” to tackle some of the most pressing issues in the world today.

Arrival in The Netherlands

After a quick flight from D/FW to Houston and then a hop over the Atlantic, we arrived in Amsterdam this morning, where we took a train from Amsterdam to The Hague. The Hague is the third largest city in The Netherlands and home to many important places, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), Intentional Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and even the Peace Palace.

After arriving in The Hague we had to figure out how to get to our hotel. Thanks to some helpful Dutch people we managed to find our hotel and check in without any problems. As head delegate, I had been a little nervous about everything going smoothly and was relieved that we all made it in one piece without any major mishaps or luggage problems.

A beautiful day in The Hague

After settling in, we took time to explore The Hague. It was a beautiful afternoon, which made the city come to life. People were out shopping, walking, picnicking, and it was very easy to get a feel for the slower lifestyle in The Netherlands.

I was extremely surprised by the number of bicycles. Honestly, I can’t explain to you how many bikes there are here! Literally, everywhere you look there is someone riding a bike or there is a bike parked. A fellow delegate told me that The Netherlands is home to more bikes than anywhere in the world, apart from China. That fact is very easy to believe!

I was also surprised by how kind the people are. They were so interested in making sure that you found your way and knew where you were going. It was nice to see such kindhearted people, who honestly weren’t too busy to go out of their way and help a stranger.

After an afternoon of touring, shopping, and relaxing, we all went to dinner. We hoped to find a traditional Dutch restaurant but unfortunately learned that there isn’t a distinct Dutch style of cooking. We settled on a nice little Italian place instead, where we enjoyed group dinner as a team.

Preparing for the week

It was a long day and I’m energized to see where this week goes. I have really high expectations about the conference and can’t wait to spend time with people educated and passionate about the same things I love.

My committee topics are on Refugees, Immigrants, and Racism in South Africa and The Individual Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. I am hopeful that the committee chooses to discuss the second, as I had the opportunity through the Human Rights Department to speak with Nicholas Kristof about this issue when he came as a Tate lecturer a couple of weeks ago. The committee Facebook group’s debate however, currently looks like the first topic is favored to be discussed. This would not be a bad alternative, though, as it is another major world issue that is increasingly growing in importance as the World Cup and elections near.

This trip has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to see how the week unfolds. Goodnight for now, but tomorrow will be an amazing day in Amsterdam that will include trips to the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House.

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