New York, N.Y. – On March 29th 15 Marist students anxiously awaited in crisp, early spring weather to depart from the Poughkeepsie train station.
Where were they going? Grand Central Station. Why? For the National Model United Nations conference in New York City.
From late March into April Dr. Juris Pupcenoks, the class professor and conference advisor, accompanied his class, POSC 280, Model United Nations in an international competition at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square.
National Model United Nations, otherwise referred to as NMUN, is an organization that holds competitions throughout the world. Aside from New York (NMUN-NY), there are annual conferences in Washington D.C. (NMUN-DC), Olomouc, Czech Rep. (NMUN-Europe), and Kobe, Japan (NMUN-Japan).
Over the course of 5 days those involved exhibited negotiation skills and practiced diplomacy at NMUN, Conference B with over 5,000 university students from Germany, Australia, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates and other countries around the globe.
NMUN, Conference A was held the week prior to Marist’s arrival; the event’s popularity requires those who run it to organize the occasion into two conferences, each of which occupy an entire business week.
As you can tell POSC 280, Model United Nations is far from your typical college class. Students of all majors go through an application process, which sophomores, juniors and seniors were encouraged to submit by October 20th this year.
After NMUN 2016 this coming spring, Marist will not be offering the class until spring 2018 because of the Conference’s expenses in relation to the selective nature of the course.
This year Marist was assigned to the Republic of Tajikistan, a noncoastal country situated between Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China that declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. You can find further country assignments for this year’s competition here.
Participants are expected to know the countries given to them inside-and-out to facilitate a strong grounding in their country’s specific policies and activities in the inter-governmental organization known as the United Nations (UN).
Countries are assigned to schools in mid-October. In 2015, Marist students embodied Liechtenstein, a small, tube-shaped country between Austria and Switzerland, in a simulated delegation interacting with other representatives to the UN.
Even though students don’t start attending class until the spring semester begins, much preparation is required as the fall semester winds down. The iLearn site is up and running by winter break and reading materials are posted so those enrolled can understand how the United Nations functions more thoroughly.
Further, after the class does in fact begin students must complete extensive independent research to develop key documents required for the Conference – a position paper, which will mirror the Republic of Tajikistan’s stances on issues concerning the state. The other document is a report paper designed to develop a policy in regards to the mandate provided at the Conference.
At the NMUN conference there were 21 replicated committees such as UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34), UN-Women, and Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT RevCon), among others.
During the Conference earlier this year students had the opportunity to meet with Liechtenstein’s Mission to the UN. There they were able to ask questions regarding specific policies pertaining to Liechtenstein to reassure their reproductions of diplomatic practices reflect the true ideals held by legitimate delegations.
Current Marist senior Jackson Rockefeller worked as Liechtenstein with NPT RevCon, which seeks to prevent the expansion of nuclear weapons in the world, which presented a unique challenge.
“Liechtenstein does not have a nuclear energy program whatsoever.” Rockefeller explains, “Instead I had to look into other countries that were allied with Liechtenstein and observe what their stance on nuclear energy was.”
This exhibits the globalized world we live in today as well as the intricacies of the UN. While a country, Liechtenstein is not invested in a nuclear energy programs it still has a say in the matter as an international concern.
Liechtenstein’s C-34, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations was represented by Danielle Villa, who graduated in 2015. The subject she sought to resolve at the Conference was strengthening regional arrangements in Africa “to help stabilize the continent and increase political capacity, transparency and legitimacy of government organizations like the African Union.”
She worked closely with Laura Paludan-Müller, a Danish student from Copenhagen Business School who contemplates her experience in New York and crafts a response in English, which is the official language of NMUN even though it is a secondary language for many participants.
“It [the Conference] gave me the opportunity to really understand different cultures, but writing resolutions to international conflicts was very stressful at times – especially proposing ideas that everybody could agree on,” says Müller.
Since 2015 was the first year Marist competed in NMUN, much of the knowledge and technique learned about diplomatic relations on the international level was found in practice conference simulations with the Hudson River Group, a coalition of Vassar College and Dutchess Community College students looking to partake in the Conference.
The Hudson River Group, which has more experience in NMUN-NY, offered suggestions as to the rules and methodology of behind the Conference, negotiations, and crafting positions and statements appropriate to the country’s view. This year, the Hudson River Group will attend NMUN-NY to represent Cuba.
Marist anticipates further collaboration with the Hudson River Group in the weeks leading up to this year’s Conference to produce the best results at NMUN-NY for both groups.
As a result of all the preparation and outside research students must put into NMUN, it has been said to have a lasting experience on those who partake. Some recent Marist alumni have been quoted on the immense amount of skills the Conference helped them develop, such as public speaking, diplomacy, writing and research.
At the closing ceremony awards are presented; while Marist did not take any accolades back to Poughkeepsie, it did not inhibit the classmates of POSC 280, Model United Nations from the overwhelming feeling of success emanating from everyone involved in NMUN-NY.