Reported by Fajar binti Benjamin
Edited by Supriya Sivabalan
Photo Credits: Sunway Model United Nations 2019 committee
Model United Nations! What is Model United Nations? Maybe you’ve seen that viral video of some school kid flexing his intelligence as he chats on about HMUN and THIMUN formats (whatever that means), maybe your over-ambitious friend has casually let you know they’ll be unavailable for a weekend due to MUN, maybe someone has asked you to join and you rejected the offer because ‘you have something else’ (chicken!). Well it’s time you know exactly what goes down in a Model United Councils classroom.
For the three days from Friday 12th of July to Sunday 14th of July, Sunway Model United Nations hosted SUNMUN, their annual conference, with around 150 delegates from around Malaysia showing up to give their all over the weekend and pass some resolutions!
Online registration for SUNMUN was open approximately two months before the event itself. The price for Malaysia-based ‘individual’ and ‘group’ delegates was RM55 up until 2 weeks before the event wherein the price increased to RM65. The price actually being on the cheaper end of the scale as other universities usually set their prices above RM75 per delegate. While registering, delegates were required to choose which council they would like to join as well as their second choice. You can see the details of the available councils here .
Model United Nations is exactly what it says in the name. It is a simulation of how the real United Nations conducts meetings in their councils. Famous councils that you’ve definitely heard of are the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Human Development Program (UNHDP) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In these councils is one representative from each country who comes to voice their opinion on what resolutions should be taken when faced with a problem. The delegates work together to write a resolution which is then presented to the entire council who can ask questions or disagree with certain points up until the point where a simple majority vote is achieved to pass the resolution. The entire thing is also preceded by a chairman.
When choosing your council, you must first see which council will be discussing an issue you are interested in. For example, this SUNMUN the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was tasked with discussing ‘the issue of cultural assimilation’ while the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) discussed ‘the obesity epidemic’. Then you must choose which country you would like to represent, basing your choice on what view you’d like to express. Some countries are known for being more conservative than others.
This writer chose to opt for a special council offered by SUNMUN, Dewan Rakyat which was a simulation of our very own Malaysian upper house parliament where we tried to pass a bill regarding the issue of Sabah and Sarawak’s rights in the 1963 Malaysian Agreement.
After registration, we were provided with a research report on the topic at hand with a list of resources to study up on. We were also put in contact with the rest of the delegates in our ‘correlation’ and given up until the event day itself to write an official position paper, which is a statement of our stance on the matter at hand.
The event started at 4pm with an opening ceremony. JC2 was filled with students ranging from as young as 12 to well into their 20s, all in smart casual clothing. Ms Cheng Mien Wee gave her opening speech, passing on greetings from Dr Elizabeth Lee, congratulating us on giving up our weekend so that we can have a go at “making a difference” and then explaining the tagline of this SUNMUN. “All that I know is I know nothing”. There’s always something more to learn.
The Secretary-generals gave their speech and then hit the gavel, officiating the beginning of SUNMUN 2019. Delegates were brought to their council rooms at the classrooms of the 6th floor of the university. The participants of Dewan Rakyat found the tables and chairs arranged across from each other, placards at each place denoting the character they were to play. The government on one side, the opposition across and the independents completing the U shape. At the head of the class sat the Tuan Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, in other councils, simply known as the chairmen.
As per usual, the session started with the Tuan Speaker going over the rules and procedures for the following three days. (Note: this is where you, the newbie must pay a lot of attention because following the format of making speeches or interruptions is very important). Once we were sufficiently prepared, debate (otherwise known as the fun stuff) officially began.
For the next three days we battled it out. In each council room, delegates passionately argued their points, pushing for their team agendas. In the Dewan Rakyat council, the government fought to restore ‘equal status’ to Sabah and Sarawak instead of them just being normal states of Malaysia while the opposition poked holes in their logic, quietly taking aside members and getting them to change their loyalties.
Tempers rose in the second session of the second day. The government and opposition were locked in a battle of “who messed up the worst” as the independents and GPS watched their hope for a mutual understanding slip further and further away. It all came to a head in the last hour wherein a vote of no confidence was called, the opposition was one vote short of overturning the government but that was still enough for everything to become switched up. BN returned to power, doing their best to pass a bill on the final day but ultimately failing due to the overly idealist terms set in their bills.
Meanwhile in House of Commons, 4 parties fought over the terms of Brexit, trying to come up with a deal they could all agree on. And again, by the second day, Parliament was overturned and a new government had to be elected. To ensure true democracy was enforced, the heads of each party went around to all the classrooms, taking five minutes to give their election speech before delegates voted on which party inspired the most confidence.
In the Crisis in Cuba Council, things really went down. A missile was launched but went missing, delegates back-stabbed each other with no remorse and the three big superpowers of the world were undermined by smaller craftier countries, quietly sabotaging plans to come up on top.
At 7pm on the second day, socials were held at the college extended foyer. Good food and an open mic accompanied delegates as they mingled between the different councils, exchanging social medias and getting to know each other without the stress of their allegiances within the councils to pressure them. Some chose to sing and the secondary school students could be seen conducting some kind of cheer at their table.
All the councils wrapped things up by 1pm on the last day. Certificates of participation were handed out and hands were shaken after three long days of tension and some amount of playfully raised voices. The Tuan Speaker gave us an inspiring speech, urging us to take what we had learned about expressing ourselves and doing research to apply it in real life. He reminded us of the Undi 18, at that time a day before it’s passing and wished us all the best of luck.
There was a break for lunch and then the closing ceremony began back at JC3. A video showcasing photos from the past two days was played. Then the Chairpersons of each council gave speeches, thanking delegates for their hard work before awarding the best delegates (in their opinion) with certificates of appreciation. A prize for the best group delegation was awarded to IIUM who had by far, contributed the most active and enthusiastic delegates. The gavel was then banged and SUNMUN 2019 was officially over.
On a personal note, this was only my second time ever going for Model United Nations. The experience was tiring, intimidating and at times, confusing. However, it was also educational, extremely fun and the atmosphere of dedicated young people all giving their all to come up with solutions for a better future was really good to be part of. If you want to build your confidence and learn to express your opinions and think on your feet, these conferences are a great place to start. You will never be alone as a first timer and everyone will do their best to accommodate you. So what are you waiting for? Find out where and when the next MUN conference is here