On my hundredth day in Finland I was seated as a Chair in front of a Security Council of 15, engaged in a discussion over a fictitious scenario of cyber-attacks against the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. My final examinations had ended. In some sense I was in my element: keeping track of proceedings, entertaining points and motions, and listening to the United Kingdom and United States of America locked in fierce debate.
It was the Finnish Model UN. Months before my arrival at Helsinki I contacted the Board, requesting to be a part of the Secretariat, and when my exchange semester started I had the privilege of sitting in on the administrative meetings. I co-authored the aforementioned scenario, but my contributions were minimal vis-à-vis the members of the organising team, who had to confirm sponsorships, procure logistics, and coordinate the programmes. Planning an event is hard, and the work is – unfortunately – often overlooked.
Like we did with preparatory conference back in Singapore – to go beyond committee debate simulation per se – the FINMUN Board invited prominent guest speakers and arranged visits to venues of diplomacy. The delegates went to the American and British embassies, and after the opening ceremony we were hosted by the deputy mayor of Helsinki at the City Hall Building. She spoke about the merits of Finland’s education system and its universities, and how youths have been involved at the official graffiti walls and during Restaurant Day.
I thought the trip to Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided the most insights. In line with the issues on the agenda of the Model UN exercise the guest speakers focused on mediation, the role of women in peace and security, as well as strategies for cyber-security. For instance Mr. Vesa Virtanen, the Secretary-General of Finland’s Security Committee, seemed to allude to Mr. Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous conception of unknown unknowns – speaking about perpetual threats, actors, and goals especially through cyber-operations – as he gave an overview of the country’s comprehensive security strategy.
Throughout the presentation there were parallels to Singapore’s model of total defence, premised upon the five aspects of military, civil, economic, social, as well as psychological defence.
Despite the slight differences in rules and procedures Model UN conferences are largely the same. And beyond the cognisance of debate rules and procedures the role of the Chair is a dispensable one. At FINMUN the Secretariat was a large reason why the event is so special. Between suspensions of meetings they brew fresh coffee and prepare snacks, and after adjournments they stay back late to clean up and ensure everything is in proper order. Very crucial roles and responsibilities.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from the event was the many conversations I had with the delegates and participants, many of whom are destined to do wonderful things in the future. I spoke with an American college lecturer who had spent months in Malaysia. The Finnish undergraduates and postgraduates shared more about their schooling experience, and their own commitments. We heard more about other Model UN conferences in the region, and received invitations to be a part of them soon.
For many, and after the different conferences I have been a part of, I am probably too old to still be involved in all these. So this should be my last Model UN – until the next #prepmun, of course.
Check out The Finland Chapter, from start to finnish.