“Honourable directorate, esteemed fellow delegates, the delegation of the Republic of Seychelles would like to raise a motion to set the agenda…” Thus began a week of debate, of diplomacy, late-night merger talks and very little sleep. National Model United Nations (NMUN) New York had opened its doors once more to hundreds of universities from 190 UN Member States that came together to simulate the day to day workings of the United Nations, each delegation representing a separate Member State and their interests.
This year, the University of St.Gallen’s team of 18 students had the honour to play the part of the Portuguese Republic in nine different committees. Together with thousands of other students, they were given the opportunity to debate global issues in depth and attempt to reach consensus across national interests and cultural peculiarities of their respective assigned member states. In trying to strike a balance between raison d’état and the multilateralist spirit, they experienced what it means to work in an international environment like no other and cooperate intensely with people from all corners of the earth.
Topics ranging from cyber security to urban development or sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping forces were thoroughly discussed and fought over, with each delegation attempting to find a deal most suitable to their position. Alliances were forged (and broken), e-mail addresses and business cards exchanged, hundreds of pages written and miles upon miles of carpeted conference room floor hurried across, desperately attempting to be first to reserve tables for the many working groups that formed during the simulation.
The end result of this endeavour was the creation of working papers, draft resolutions and finally fully fledged, consensus-driven and widely backed UN resolutions, written in dozens of working groups spanning hundreds of delegates and comprised of thousands of lines of preambulatory and operative clauses.
Yet the week of 26th of April saw more than politics in the Hilton and Sheraton conference rooms of Midtown New York. Social events, both official and unofficial, complemented heated debates with casual meetups and dance parties, offering delegations a chance to get to meet each other outside diplomatic decorum and suit-and-tie attire. An opportunity fair and expert panels on various topics, organised by NMUN, neatly tied simulation into reality, giving students, staff and faculty more insight into the challenges the international community faces today, as well as presenting employment options to those wishing to pursue a career in the international field.
These events and debates gave delegates many an occasion to find not only diplomatic partners, but new and lasting friends, letting them come in contact with an immensely diverse group from many fields of study and countries of origin in a very short period of time. In this regard, NMUN offered a unique opportunity for cultural exchange and experience that was equally challenging as it was exhilarating.
On the last day all of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) delegations voted on some of their resolutions in the grand halls of their respective committees in the actual UN headquarters by the Hudson river. The grand finale consisted of all delegations meeting in the General Assembly Hall, sitting where normally only the most distinguished of emissaries did, and reviewing their achievements. His Excellency Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations, as well as members of the organising team and representatives of other NMUNs, held closing speeches and made final remarks, congratulating all delegations on the work they’ve done and empathising their role as creators and leaders of tomorrow.
As the event came to a close, delegates began to realise the toll the past days had taken on them, with many taking the very next opportunity to have a long awaited nap after an intense week of debate, work and socialising. In the end, the delegation from the University of St.Gallen brought home a whopping six awards for the category of “Outstanding Position Paper”, as well as the title of “Honourable Mention Delegation” which brought many a smile on the otherwise weary faces of a delegation that had left it all on the field.
We would like to thank our kind sponsors, the Mercator Foundation, the University of St. Gallen and HSG Alumni for their generous donations. A warm thank-you also to the Mission of Switzerland to the UN in New York for granting us insight into their work, as well as the BIA programme for offering the NMUN course. Of course, no expression of gratitude would be complete without thanking Mrs. Brühwiler and her assistant, Mr. Linggi, for their tireless efforts for the course, before, during and after the trip.