By Margianta S.J.D.
I was a debater for quite a long time.
I participated in debate competitions during high school and joined a debate club on my campus. The thrill of arguing and teamwork had me very excited in a debate. Nevertheless, the more competitions that I joined, the more familiar I got with the pattern of debates and felt incompatible with it.
I realized that I did not belong to such a competitive nature of debating. I felt discomfort for having to be highly defensive in protecting my arguments by taking down the ones from the other side. My mentor scolded me for appearing less-adamant and too persuasive, making me more compatible in speech competitions rather than debates.
Soon after that, I decided to do make my shot in Model United Nations (MUN). My seniors said that it was the combination of debate, speech, and even writing skills in one single event. The event itself is a simulation led by 3 directors, where the participants will act as delegates of countries in a UN council assigned to find the best resolution for a global issue.
The concept intrigued me, and after an introduction and a short practice, I had my first MUN in my freshman year. I was a German diplomat in the General Assembly, and we discussed about the unrest in Syria. With business attires, papers, and placards, I spent 3 days with about 30 other delegates debating, lobbying, and drafting the best resolution for the issue.
Being a delegate was always a pleasure, but once I started to involve myself to be the committee of MUNs, I began to see MUN in an even more enriching perspective.
My experience led me to think that organizing an MUN is like organizing a big soap opera. The venue of the conference is the ‘shooting location’, the study guide is the ‘script’, and the Chairpersons are the ‘directors.’
MUN has everything that a soap opera has. The adventurous journey, the corny dramas, the surprises, the backstabbing, the seductions, the wonder-struck, etc. But the difference is the fact that in an MUN, nobody is going to merely use the ‘shooting location’ you provided, following the ‘script’, or obeying the ‘directors’.
Therefore, unlike any ordinary soap opera, the plot and the ending of an MUN will depend on the ability of every delegate to improvise creatively and neatly according to the dynamic development of the conference.
At a glance, MUN might look like a quite rigid event. But when we take a look closer, there’s actually more unorthodox things that we could find. For example, during coffee breaks, at the toilet, or even after prayers we can find some cunning delegates who are still practicing ulterior diplomacy in those ‘unofficial’ times of the conference.
One of the most interesting thing about MUN is that as delegates, we are challenged to see what the others could not see.
As delegates, we are challenged to seize every opportunity that may approach us. Whether it’s an opportunity to cooperate, time to mingle around, ideas, solutions, or anything supportive for our country’s interest.
With great improvisations, MUN will have a great plot and ending, which means great dynamics and resolution of the conference. All of these can be achieved only if the delegates are not the only ones who improvise greatly, but also the Chairpersons, and the committee as a whole must be as versatile as the delegates are.
Furthermore, all of these actions must be conducted with a prominent, collective principle. The delegates must be good at conveying their opinions, but they also have to be able to accommodate the opinions of the others. A collective resolution from various interests of the other delegates will teach the delegates the art of being selfless and respectful.
We will all eventually learn something important from MUN that is relevant to our professional or personal lives: the secret to speaking is listening.
Some MUN enthusiasts believe that MUN is a place to seek prestigious recognition, fulfill self-ambitions, and demean other ‘weaker’ and ‘inexperienced’ people. All of these are the results of individualistic perspectives.
Some others perceive MUNs as a goal-oriented competition, making them so easy to be disappointed and so hard to accept rejections. They become those self-centrist people that you will not be able to stand for a five minutes coffee talk because they only talk about themselves. But that’s not what MUNs are all about.
When I was a Secretary General in Paramadina MUN Club — an MUN Club in my campus — I tried to convey a message to my fellow members that MUN is not a competition. This might be an unpopular opinion contrary to many ambitious and driven delegates, but for me, MUN is never about the awards. Awards are just a bonus, and we will earn it when we deserve it. But there is one revelation that I can say about MUN:
MUN is a simulation of our real life. Therefore, we should see it as our learning process, not a competition.
We learn new knowledge and practical skills, hoping that it would help us to face the real world. We learn to improvise so then we can anticipate the real world when things differ with our expectations. If we perceive MUN this way, it would be an ideal training ground before we face the real world. In short, MUN is a simulation that helps us to realize not only there are so many things we can learn from other people, but there are also so many opportunities we can get from learning new things.
As for myself, I got some of my best friends from engaging in MUNs. I am also very grateful to meet such wonderful people in Paramadina MUN Club. Hardworking and incredible people that I have always treated like my own little family. With them, it was not always about the MUN. It was about the people who managed to spare a little space in their routines to share some profound relations with each other.
Everything we did in the past led to collective progress, rather than an individual one. Even though now Paramadina MUN Club is filled with different people and different perspectives, I can only hope that the idealism and principles that made our MUN greater than a mere competition or a superficial celebration will be kept as our legacy for many years to come.
The original article was written on August 31, 2017, and could be read through here.
This article is a featured article written by Margianta Surahman Juhanda Dinata from Indonesia. Since 2010, aside from being a national children facilitator for 6 years, Margianta has been actively engaged with various national and international youth networks and work experiences. Margianta is now working for Lentera Anak Foundation, as the Project Coordinator of Young Health Programme. He is also currently serving as the Spokesperson of Youth Movement for FCTC, Executive Director of Emancipate Indonesia, and member of UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel. These experiences have reflected Margianta’s passion as an International Relations scholar in development and political economy issues, especially regarding youth participation, tobacco control, and modern slavery.
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