The middle of March saw the amassing of over one thousand students from around the world. The middle of March saw the passing of BEIMUN XX. One would imagine that students flying into China from all corners of the globe every year for twenty years in a row would signify an important event. Yet, many international students barely know what MUN is, and those that do wonder why participate in MUN at all.
Of course there are the common answers: “Oh, it’s good for developing leadership” or “MUN will help with your public speaking.” Of course, there’s also the old adage, “MUN is great for CAS hours!” However, if you put all these relatively unimaginative and mundane reasons aside, you’re not left with very much at all. To understand why MUN can be useful, we must first understand what MUN is.
MUN, or Model United Nations, is exactly as the name suggests: a model of the United Nations. Its goal is to “reflect the ideas and principles of a peaceful post-Cold War world.” Put simply, MUN is where a student represents a country and meets with other delegations of different countries, so as to solve pressing world issues. Some may dismiss this as an excessively simple task, but the converse of this is generally the case. To truly excel in a MUN forum, one must know their assigned country better than, perhaps, their own.
One must know the state of the country’s economy, political affairs, social welfare and financials. That student must also know what the country’s people want or don’t want, and how any resolutions passed could influence culture and religion.
The question still remains, “So what? It’s not like the solutions and resolutions they come up with are going to be of any use, let alone be put into action.” To that, all I have to say is, yes, you would be completely right, and no, you’d be looking at it completely wrong. If we turn to the opening ceremony speeches of the Executive Student-Officers, we see a recurring message: we’re developing ourselves, we’re laying foundations.
Ferris Wang, the Secretary General, said in his speech that MUN “is a test” to discover more about himself, and urged delegates to “choose to take on a role [they’re] not used to.” He also reminded delegates, “The possibilities for you to discover yourself through your choices at BEIMUN are endless” and stressed that if BEIMUN was a play, there would be “no restrictions to who you can be and how you can contribute to the production.”
Deputy Secretary General Heather Budimulia was once a cynic who believed MUN was all talk and no action. In her speech, she warned delegates against making the same mistakes that she did: “It’s easy to fall into a trap and focus on the things we can see immediately, while writing off actions that take months, years, decades, even, to have observable effects.” She described conferences of BEIMUN’s scale as a “crazy collision of ideas” and likened MUN to a long-term solution.
MUN then, is not about producing tangible results, nor about actually helping the people the resolutions cater for. MUN is about creating globally minded citizens with the ability to problem solve, and then share their solution. Wang encouraged delegates to “push the boundaries” of BEIMUN, while Budimulia hoped that delegates would leave the conference empowered, “feeling that their heads were able and their hearts were willing” to achieve change.
Over the course of the conference, voices spoke out, suggestions were made, compromise reached and the world represented. Most importantly, global citizenship was fostered, and a new generation of leaders took the floor. As Joseph Liu of the Youth Assembly said at the BEIMUN closing ceremony, “We may be the leaders of tomorrow, but we should not wait till tomorrow to start leading.”
Beijingers at BEIMUN
Host school The International School of Beijing (ISB) sent a big delegation and represented Indonesia, Serbia, Austria, Uruguay, Human Rights Watch and the United Kingdom.
Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA) represented Fiji, Jamaica and Israel at this year’s BEIMUN conference.
Dulwich College Beijing (DCB) represented Central Africa Republic and Iceland.
Beijing City International School (BCIS) debated on behalf of Ukraine.
Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) delegates represented Canada, Cuba and Sudan.
Tsinghua International School (THIS) students represented Cyprus and Senegal.
Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) students were also at BEIMUN and made up the delegation of Switzerland.
British School of Beijing (BSB) students assumed the roles of delegates from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahrain and Rwanda.
BEIMUN: What People Are Talking About
“BEIMUN is so different from normal debates or speech competitions. Some people think it’s a waste or time or that it’s just for smart people, but BEIMUN actually offers a wide range of committees that could suit anyone joining. It was such an exciting experience and I look forward to the next one.”
– Mandy Chung, YCIS, Delegate of Switzerland, Human Rights Council
“BEIMUN XX is the best MUN conference I’ve been to yet. The people were all friendly, the chairs were helpful, and the atmosphere had just the right balance between seriousness and messing-around-ness. BEIMUN is definitely a worthwhile experience, and a place to "make facebook friends, friends, and ‘more than friends,’" a quote from the Secretary General.”
– Guohao Sun, WAB, Delegate of Canada, Special Conference Sub-Committee 2
"Being in the Advisory Panel this year allowed me to see BEIMUN in a different light. The small committee allows more interaction and communication between the members and each individual advisor had more opportunities to speak. This again reflects how the variety of committees in the BEIMUN conference offers a range of possible debating experiences as well as numerous opportunities for meeting new people and forming new acquaintances."
– Lily Zhao, WAB, Delegate of Sudan, Advisory Panel
“You’d think wearing a bright red t-shirt over a long-sleeved dress shirt would make me feel stupid, but with a stack of BEIWATCH copies in my hand, I couldn’t have felt prouder."
– Kevin Zhao, ISB, Reporter, BEIWATCH
“BEIMUN is the best conference that I have ever participated in. What makes BEIMUN special is that everyone who participates is friendly and supportive. I feel it is one of the only conferences that people are satisfied with and want to return to. I also look forward to returning to BEIMUN next year and enjoying the warmth of the conference!"
– Ji Hwan (Danny) Kim, DCB, Deputy Assistant President, Special Conference Sub-Committee 2
My experience in BEIMUN has been invaluable and worthwhile. It not only gave me a chance to expand my knowledge and understand world issues from different perspectives, it also taught me leadership like no other program. Most importantly, I have learned a great deal about how to work in a professional environment with others to reach a common goal.
– Anny Park, ISB, Deputy Assistant President, Special Conference Sub-Committee 1
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Gavin Tan, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.
Photo courtesy of UNIT-E