This will be third edition of the Model United Nations (MUN) Preparatory Conference, and the third time I will be leading a team of Student Officers and Administrative Committee (a more substantial team, certainly). The idea of doing a preparatory event of sorts had always been at the back of my mind (early on), especially after little training stints in different schools, and the many conversations I’ve had with teacher representatives and their students.
Participation in the MUN programme in Singapore has traditionally been limited to a small community of institutions. Furthermore, the new schools (who might be considering possible registration) are often confronted by seemingly insurmountable barriers: the perception that their students might be overwhelmed by the discussion issues; the concern that teachers might not have the time or resources to prepare participants adequately; or the perspective that there is no real value associated with the MUN enterprise, compared to other academic endeavours on offer.
Those are fair criticisms (views that are oft-articulated), and many well-established conferences in Singapore – and probably around the world – are guilty of taking laissez-faire approaches over the years. How many times have you seen poorly-trained Student Officers, confused about debate rules and procedures? What about committees were inaccuracies or misrepresentations are glossed over? Some organisers wax lyrical about how position papers and resolutions should never be plagiarised, but research reports are sometimes done haphazardly, or copied-and-pasted. One can, sadly, go into sessions with little preparation, and fluff his or her way through.
In essence, why bother with MUN? The Preparatory Conference can provide a beneficial starting point, but the remaining MUN journey must be one that is well-worth treading upon.
Becoming more selective about the conferences is crucial. That means greater levels of scrutiny, and the providence or availability of evaluative feedback. The accessibility of the MUN framework should not be construed as a convenient opportunity to lower expectations, but instead used to first maximise participation, before raising quality collectively. Demand more of and from the organisers. As clichéd as it may sound (to the veterans, no less), well-executed events do allow individuals to hone a variety of skills, and enhance their comprehension of global affairs and conflicts.
So on we go with a third edition. My MUN journey started way back in 2006, and I’m not sure how long we’d be able to keep this – training, organising, planning, chairing – going. The Preparatory Conference has unlocked doors to many, for many (check us out at http://www.prepmun.sg/), but I’m hoping it has the potential to do a lot more in the future.
For now, register; and spread the word!