American Model United Nations (AMUN) is one of the nation’s largest model UN conferences. Played out over four days in Chicago, the conference is going on its 21st year. Over 1,400 students from across the nation and the world converge on the Chicago Hilton and Towers to debate the most pressing issues facing the world today. They also have the opportunity to listen to a prestigious guest speaker, explore the city for an afternoon, and dance ‘til they drop at the delegate ball. Basically, it’s a blast.
The four days are jam-packed and intense, a crash course in how real-life delegates carry out their important jobs day by day. As might be guessed, an intense conference requires intense preparation. At the conference, students participate in caucuses, resolution writing, reporting writing and more, all while keeping in the character of their country and following parliamentary procedure (which can seem like a whole new language at first). None of this comes easily.
The University of Iowa is up for the challenge and has participated for a number of years. The University of Iowa’s Model United Nations team has a recent history of representing Middle Eastern countries. A few years ago we were Qatar, last year we were Syria, and this November we will be representing the delegation from Lebanon at the American Model United Nations Conference.
The model UN team meets bi-weekly, covering new topics each week. Teams usually start by researching the basic information about their country. How much land does it have? What’s its recent history? What type of government runs the country? (An interesting fact: Lebanon is run under the system of confessionalism, meaning that each religion in the country has its own party, its own leader, its own seats in government. Pretty handy for a country split mainly among Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites.)
Once that research is done, the students then have to break up into their individual committees and tackle the topics unique to those committees. For example, this year a student on the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) not only has to research general information about such topics as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but she also has to research Lebanon’s stance on the treaty. It’s a lot to remember, but this type of research is essential to building a strong, unified Lebanese viewpoint at the conference.
Once research is done, it’s on to the logistics of the conference. Students learn how to write resolutions and reports. The former is a document created in the General Assembly, the purpose of which is to suggest ways to remedy international issues. The reports are simply large documents written in special committees outside the GA; when presented to the GA, they provide a basis for resolutions.
Finally, students must learn how to navigate the diplomatic setting of a UN committee. They must not only learn how to caucus—aka discuss issues—with their allies, they must also learn parliamentary procedure, a special body of rules and customs used in many political settings (such as Congress, parliament, and of course, the United Nations).
After all this is covered, the conference is usually looming over the heads of the students, and all that’s left to do is practice, practice, practice. When you step foot in the conference, it’s as if a switch has been turned on and everything you’ve been taught has become less of a lesson and more of a way of life. It’s time to get down to business. Oh, and to have a blast as well.