• Ken Baeza

East African MUN: A Week to Remember

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the annual East African Model United Nations Conference of 2020. MUN is "an extra-curricular activity in which students typically roleplay delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees." The conference took place in the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya.

We had been preparing for this conference for months, every Thursday we would sit for an hour, practicing the parliamentary procedure, repeating phrases such as "point of information", "I yield the floor to the chair", "may I approach", and debating many resolutions. Basically, in MUN conferences, students from many different countries gather to sit in different committees, and discuss resolutions. Resolutions are are formal expressions of the opinion or will of United Nations organs, which have two very clear sections: the preambulatory clauses (that state the problem to be addressed and its importance) and the operative clauses (the ones involving action that is going to be taken).

I was chosen to represent UWC East Africa in EAMUN 2020 as the delegate of Austria in the Human Rights Committee. We were a group of 11 students and 2 teachers, and we went to Nairobi by bus. I wasn't sure if I was going to survive the "10 hour ride"... but it ended up being a very fun trip of around 7 hours. I got to interact with some people whom I usually don't talk to that much, which was a great opportunity to get to know them better. Now, one of my main fears was that the hotel would be not so nice... but it ended up surprising me: it had wood floor, and VERY nice beds.

My week at Nairobi was extremely fun, I got not to only debate with thousands of delegates from schools all over East Africa, but I also got to explore Nairobi. After almost two months, I was finally able to go shopping to a proper mall again. I had the chance to once again get into an elevator, to walk on sidewalks, to have more than two choices when browsing for a product, and to eat food from restaurants that I missed a lot.

But the main aim of the week wasn't to have fun. The main aim of the week was to represent Austria in MUN. English is not my first language, so I was very nervous. There were hundreds of delegates in the Human Rights Committee, and when I finally got picked to speak in the podium, I almost died. The chair said "delegate of Austria, you have the floor", and in that moment, I slowly stood up, feeling my sweaty hands going cold, and my knees shaking while my legs weakened. I anxiously walked towards the podium, trying to look as confident as possible. I started with my speech, trying to pronounce every single word in the most passionate way possible. The fear suddenly disappeared, it was a success. I was able to answer the points of information (questions) that came afterwards, and I went back to my seat, with a smile on my face.

Even though I couldn't get any of the awards I was aiming for (#hrcommitteewasbiased), I was one of the delegates in the committee who got to speak the most. I spoke a total of 9 times, while the average delegate had only 3 chances to speak (yes, in a week-long conference, some people didn't even get the chance to speak). I learned a lot of this experience. I learned about many very intersting issues that affect different groups of people all over the world. For instance, I got to know that 4.5 million people in the Philippines are homeless, 98% of Somalia thinks FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is morally right, and non-citizens in Oman don't have any rights. These are problems that I would have never known if I didn't attend MUN, and that's something that I'm grateful for. But I'm also greateful with MUN because it gave me the chance to practice my public speaking abilities and my handwriting (I had to write speeches for and against resolutions while the resolution was being read, which is less than 2 minutes).

Overall, I must say that MUN was a very enjoyable experience. I had a nice time in Nairobi with very nice people (who had to stand me practicing my speeches 24/7), I enjoyed the place, the weather, the food, and the chance to debate in the UN. Standing there, speaking passionately about Human Rights, with a huge UN logo behind me, and hundreds of delegates in front of me, is an experience that I am never going to forget. It was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.