Students Tackle Global Issues at Vienna International Model UN
More than 200 students from around the world practised their diplomatic skills at the 17th Vienna International Model United Nations (VIMUN) at the Vienna International Centre from 1 to 4 August 2011.
"Conferences like VIMUN represent a step towards a better understanding among nations," said Austrian student Marc E. Melich, Secretary-General of the 17th VIMUN.
As an organizer of this year's VIMUN he said VIMUN offered a great opportunity for students to get acquainted with the UN principles, learn to adopt different perspectives and respect people of different national, cultural and social backgrounds .
The four-day event, organized by the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria - Academic Forum for Foreign Affairs (UNYSA-AUSTRIA-AFA) and hosted by the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), gathered over 200 students from a wide range of countries including Germany, Austria, China and the United States.
With discussions and debates seated in real UN conference rooms, students learnt hands-on diplomacy in simulated UN conferences and committee meetings, discussing global issues from political crisis situations in Africa, nuclear safety to sustainable energy development.
Arwa El Sanosi, a student from Qatar that represented Nigeria at the Human Rights Committee said VIMUN enabled students to challenge themselves and engage in critical thinking about international issues. Motivated by an interest in human rights issues she believes the most rewarding part at VIMUN was to discuss global issues with students from all over the world and learn from each other.
Like Arwa, all the students acted as delegates of a foreign country (or a non-governmental organization (NGO)) and negotiated on behalf of their chosen country in six committees on chosen topics. The themes included "Human Rights of Asylum Seeking Persons" (Human Rights Council), "Solar Energy for Less Developed Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa" (UNIDO), "Current Nuclear Safety Issues" (IAEA), "Genetic Engineering for Nutrition to Reduce the Hunger in the World" (FAO), "Decision on an Urgent Political Crisis" (Security Council - Committee 1) and "Crisis Committee" (Security Council - Committee 2).
The rules of procedure were similar to those used in real UN conferences and those who had outstanding performance in representing "their" countries were awarded "Best Delegate".
As secretary of the FAO committee, Diego Heatherman, who studies Economics at the University of Vienna, said: "All the participants represent their countries with so much passion and enthusiasm. It is not all about language and rhetoric. It is more about the content you are negotiating about, just like what you've seen in a real UN debate."
In addition to getting an insight in the workings and activities of the UN, participants also enjoyed the chance to explore the city of Vienna and to attend a reception at the City Hall hosted by the Mayor of Vienna.
This is what students say about VIMUN 2011
Marc E. Melich is Secretary General of the 17 th VIMUN and an Austrian student: "This year VIMUN gathered about 250 students from a dozen countries from almost every continent. With each delegate representing one country, students have got acquainted with the principles of the United Nations, learned how to assert their own positions, and at the same time how to respect the positions of other parties since this is the key to reaching peaceful solutions. I hope VIMUN had been a pleasant experience for everyone."
Yue Chen is a Chinese student who studies German at the Beijing Institute of Technology: "I have attended Model UN events before, but VIMUN offers us a real sitting of diplomacy as we debated in real UN conference rooms." For the young girl who represented Indonesia at the FAO committee, "it was also a great learning process to explore the topic on genetically modified food which I knew little about before and talked with students from other countries, especially those from the country that I represented, so I knew more about how to better represent 'my' national interests."
Diego Heatherman studies Economics at the University of Vienna: "As secretary of the FAO Committee, I did not really participate in the debates but acted as supporting staff. But the conference was so interesting. All the delegates represented their countries with so much passion and enthusiasm that I am now thinking about participating as a delegate in a future event on behalf of a country." As a member of a university debating society, he also enjoyed that at VIMUN "it is not all about language and rhetoric. It is more about the content you are negotiating about."
Lukas Schleritzko is an Austrian student in History and Political Science who represented Brazil: "VIMUN was absolutely interesting. At the 'Security Council' which I attended, we got a lot of 'surprises' as the information provided to us were updated constantly or just fictional. We had to adjust our strategies accordingly. It is very challenging and we have learned a lot."