Feb. 20, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 10

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    15th anniversary of MUNUC: Young ‘diplomats’ resolve crises and debate policies at Model United Nations

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Student delegates from 105 high schools participated in the 15th anniversary conference of the Model United Nations of the University of Chicago. The conference was held at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton. The four-day event was MUNUC’s largest conference to date.

    Just a day after Defense Secretary Colin Powell laid out his case for military action in Iraq to the UN Security Council, more than 2,000 “diplomats,” representing 80 states, convened at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton.

    These representatives met in Chicago for four days as part of the 15th, and largest ever, meeting of the Model United Nations of the University of Chicago.

    The budding diplomats came from 105 high schools–as near as the Laboratory Schools and Kenwood Academy, and as far away as Puebla, Mexico and Vancouver, Canada–and were supported by more than 200 University undergraduate and graduate students, administrators and professors, who participated as conference staff.

    With its most sophisticated infrastructure to date, the Model UN had a computer lab for composing and printing resolutions, a reference department, where students could check last-minute facts on their national position, and a daily newspaper, The Phoenix, which covered the proceedings of the Model and published late-breaking news from around the world.

    Delegates, assigned to 18 different committees, negotiated resolutions on dozens of topics, ranging from General Assembly debates on the future of the UN’s terrorism policy and the use of peacekeeping troops in Ethiopia, to meetings in regional and specialized agencies, on such topics as the refugee crisis in Africa, deforestation in Latin America, and the League of Arab States’ response to the United States’ war on terror.

    “It went phenomenally,” said Hassan Malik, the Model’s Secretary General and a fourth-year in the College. Malik–who has been involved in the Model UN each of his four years–and a core group of roughly 150 Chicago students have been meeting each Tuesday and Thursday night in the Biological Sciences Learning Center to prepare for the conference. In spite of the conference’s size, Malik said, this year’s event went smoothly. “I had a much easier job than previous secretaries general.”

    This year’s event focused heavily on current events. Both the keynote speech, given by Syed Shahed Husain, former Senior Vice President of the World Bank, and a special panel session, were devoted to political unrest in the Middle East and a potential war in Iraq.

    In a special commemoration of MUNUC’s 15th anniversary, Michael Volchok (A.B., ’91; A.M.,’91), the organization’s founder, talked about the founding of the organization in 1988, and the conference’s goals.

    In addition to enabling students to practice the arts of debate, negotiation and public speaking, MUNUC aims to introduce students to the complexities of international relations, and the potentials and limitations of the United Nations in resolving international problems.

    The big surprise for this year’s participants came at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, the conference’s last day. Conference officials woke up members of both security councils to respond to a Shiite rebellion in Bahrain. The crisis kept young diplomats debating until 11:30 a.m. “The executive committee and myself averaged about three hours of sleep a night,” said Malik.