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Big Thinkers

April, 2008
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  A total of 870 students from 62 international schools in about 20 countries worldwide gathered in Beijing from March 14 and 16 to talk about worldwide issues at the 15th Beijing International Model United Nations (BEIMUN).IMG_0904

  Divided into 10 groups like the General Assembly and Security Council, the students talked about issues including the situation in Kashmir, measures to strengthen international co-operation in protection against biological and chemical terrorism, the illicit trade of cultural artifacts, combating the persecution of individuals for the free practice of religious beliefs, the effects of dumping toxic waste on the environment, etc.

  “From what I saw, the BEIMUN this year was very successful, I enjoyed my experience immensely,” said Arthur Holland, a Grade 12 student at Benjamin Franklin International School, Barcelona, Spain, who was in the Youth Assembly.

  Arthur enjoyed the Youth Assembly a lot because it was so inspiring to see a group of like-minded youths converging and discussing the issues of the contemporary world, and developing realistic youth-based solutions to the issue.

IMG_9931   “We can learn from MUN that actions speak louder than resolutions, that we must extend our concerns beyond the forums of debate and into our lives and actions, and act accordingly. The world is mired by injustice, and it is not enough to leave it up to ‘the adults’ to fix them, we must strive to act selflessly ourselves…”

  The primary source of the topics AT BEIMUN is the UN and the world of today, said this year’s MUN Director Ean Burchell, of the International School of Beijing (ISB), which hosted the conference. “We take the real action. It is what is happening in the world, in the UN.”

  He holds that such a practice teaches students a lot about all the issues that are important in the world today.

  In addition, the MUN conference helps students obtain important skills - research, writing, critical thinking, debating, taking a position and defending it logically, analyzing someone else’s position and debating, and then coming to some sort of solution. IMG_9927

  “Those are really good skills for students to use, at university, in their careers. There is leadership opportunity for some students. It is good  when they apply for universities. That’s a bonus for some students… There is a place for every different type of student,” Burchell said.

  As BEIMUN is attended mainly by high school students, ACAMIS MUN (ACAMMUN) targets the younger middle school students. On April 11 and 12, the Second ACAMMUN was hosted by Beijing BISS International School. It attracted about 280 participants from 17 schools in mainland China, Hong Kong (one school) and India (one school).

  “I think middle school students are really capable of confronting these issues and looking into the future and coming up with some very creative solutions to problems,” said Allison White, ACAMMUN organizer and a BISS English teacher.

  To White’s mind, Model United Nations highlights the important points of school curricula by making connections with what is learnt in the classroom to what’s really happening in the world.

  “MUN is one of the most valuable educational experiences you can have,” she said.

IMG_9939   Belinda Zhang, a 13-year-old from Concordia International School Shanghai, said she liked the debating at ACAMMUN. This was her second MUN experience. She was representing the Philippines at the Human Rights Commission.

  She would like to continue her MUN involvement when entering high school. “I believe that MUN is a great opportunity for all students, and you really do get a lot out of it. I didn’t just learn about my country- the Philippines, but I also learned about writing resolutions, many current events, and [how to] compromise with fellow delegates.”

  For Amin Ghadimi, a 16-year-old frequent MUNer from the Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan, MUN is the most valuable and worthwhile High School extracurricular activity. Amin was Panama’s delegate on the Security Council this year.

  By advocating an opinion that is not necessarily his own, Amin has learned how difficult it is to come to a consensus when individuals are “in it for themselves” and not willing to look towards the common good. Amin has so far attended three BEIMUNs.IMG_0913

  “Most importantly, by often being the most bellicose and uncooperative delegate at MUN conferences, I have learned how important it is not to be that way in real life,” he stated.

  As this is his last year of High School, Amin will not be continuing BEIMUN or MUN in a High School setting anymore. But he does hope that he can be involved with MUN in university in some way. He especially hopes that he can help organize High School conferences and possibly visit the real United Nations and do some internship work there.

  Fox Buchele, a Grade 11 student at Lincoln Community School at Accra, Ghana, who was Afghanistan’s delegate in the Human Rights Commission in this year’s BEIMUN, realized that MUN is not a debate club.

  “I think that sometimes people forget that the point is not to prove the other delegates wrong, but to win friends and compromise to pass a bill that can benefit the majority of the countries without harming the remaining,” Fox argued.

  To new comers for MUN, Fox’s advice is: “Make as many friends as possible during lobbying and merging, (because) they will help support resolutions you support… Speak up! Let people know what you think! Too many delegates participate in MUN but don’t speak more than once or twice.”

IMG_0071   Some former MUNers this year chose to act in a different role. ISB student Yileen Ang was one of them.

  A delegate on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last year, she picked up her camera and shot pictures for BEIWatch, the student-run newspaper which covered the whole event. She also helped lay out the newspaper.

  “It is a new experience… Last year I only got stuck to one room. But this year I got to go around and see what everyone else is doing and try something new.” Having found shooting pictures is more interesting for her, Yileen has decided to continue doing photography, one of her hobbies, next year.IMG_0835

  The intellect shown by those students in the BEIMUN discussions deeply impressed Andrea Morrison, a secondary school teacher of Utahloy International School Guangzhou, who led the school’s 10-member student team to the conference.

  “It is really good to hear [they are) just able to come up with proposals and talk about them,” said Ms. Morrison. This was her first ever MUN  experience. She and her group started in September to prepare for the conference: looking at the resolutions, conducting research on countries and gathering information.

  “Once we finished preparing, we listen to them. We step back and watch. (Sometimes we help), correct wording of the resolutions,” she spoke of the role that teachers were playing in the event. 

  “My students are really enjoying it. I could see their confidence growing in the last few days,” she said. Only one of the 10 Utahloy students has had MUN experience before.

  Morrison said Utahloy would definitely look at working with other schools in the Guangzhou area to hold smaller MUN conferences as currently there is no MUN in Guangzhou.

  Just as this year’s BEIMUN was going on, Burchell had to think about next year.

  In the week after the conference, Burchell would start to appoint the executive officers for next year. Those are students who will be secretary general, deputy secretary general, and under secretary general. With them, they will look at the ISB students who are officers now and are not graduating, and consider what positions will be given to them.

  Burchell thinks the conference should be designed so that each student could make the best out of it. “Some of the forums [I think) are a bit too big. For example, our General Assembly has 195 students. When it is too big, that gives each student less opportunities to participate.” IMG_0871

   However, that does not mean the total number of students should be smaller. “What I would like to do, is to have more committees, more groups, with smaller numbers…then each one has more opportunity to participate.”

  According to White, next year’s ACAMMUN will be held by Western Academy of Beijing because, in principle, ACAMIS schools are supposed to take turns hosting different events. However, she will definitely be involved in next year’s event.

  She hopes the ACAMMUN conference could grow a little bit next year as there is still room for more students to participate.

  For students who want to attend such events, they should have the will, try to learn about the country they represent, be willing to spend a lot of time and energy to prepare, said White.

  “I encourage as many students as possible [to participate],” she said. 

 

By Qin Chuan

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