"Honorable delegate, do you accept the yield?"
"Yes", nods the young representative and the lively discussion on the regulations concerning the storage of nuclear waste continues in the "International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors" session. The other participants are trying to listen very carefully and seem to be busy with preparing their responses. The delegates, all of them in their twenties, coming from all over the world, are sitting at a round table in the Vienna International Centre, only a few steps away from the shores of the Danube river.
The difference to the regular meetings of the Vienna based organizations is that here all delegates are students, most of them travelled great distances to come to Vienna, Austria to participate in a very authentic United Nations simulation exercise, the so-called VIMUN. The VIMUN, Vienna International Model United Nations, is a yearly conference that simulates sessions of specific committees and organs of the UN. More than 240 students came together to discuss the most timely global challenges and attempted to come up with solutions in just four days. Every student represented a state other than his/her native one, and tried to act in the interest of that particular state. At the same time, participants were obliged to play by the Rules of Procedure of a real UN conference. By the end of the sessions, resolution were drafted and presented to the "General Assembly".
"Have fun and negotiate hard" recommended János Tisovszky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) inVienna and Honorary Speaker of this year's VIMUN in his opening ceremony speech. After thanking the participants for their commitment in the middle of their summer holidays, he pointed out how important youth are for the United Nations and gave an overview on the job opportunities within the organization.
The VIMUN project, that was started in 1995, hosted about 4000 students up to now and is a great success every year. Participants are always welcomed in the Vienna City Hall by the Mayor and besides the official programme, some fun is also on the agenda. A visit to an intimate 'Heurige' (traditional Austrian restaurant), or a party in one of the city's trendiest bars is guaranteed by the organizers.
During a short break in the intense negotiations, Moritz Schöllauf, the Co-chairperson of this year's "Human Rights Committee", a law student and regular participant of the VIMUN found some time to answer a few questions about the conference.
How did you first hear about VIMUN?
My first contact with VIMUN was when I got involved with the Academic Forum for Foreign Affairs (AFA) Austria, the organizer of the Vienna conference. But the very first time I participated in a Model United Nations was four years ago in Barcelona. Every year, the elected "Secretary-Generals" of the conferences put together a team of coordinators, and this year I was asked to be the Co-chairmen in the Human Rights Committee at the VIMUN, a position I gladly accepted.
What do you think is most impressive about the VIMUN?
Well, first of all, it offers you a lot of opportunities and it is of course a lot of fun. Secondly, you get to know people from all over the world and thirdly, you get an insight into how the UN really works. And also, the realistic atmosphere -we have the opportunity to sit in a real UN environment - makes the whole event even more unique. Additionally, VIMUN also played an important role in my personal development. I had some problems with speaking in public before but I had to overcome this at the conferences, which I managed with success.
What do you think is the most challenging part of the VIMUN?
The most challenging part is certainly the preparation that takes up to a year time. Once the VIMUN is over, we have to start organizing the next one. There are a lot of people engaged in this work and it certainly demands a lot of effort from each and every one of us.
The conference was officially closed by Stefan Weinhofer, who held the position of the "Secretary General" at this year's VIMUN. After the best delegates were rewarded with a prestigious certificate and a trophy, Weinhofer thanked everyone for their hard work and their enthusiasm, above all the team from the the United Nations Youth and Student Association of Austria - Academic Forum for Foreign Affairs (UNYSA-AUSTRIA-AFA) who spent one year organizing the VIMUN.
He asked the participants to stay in touch with each other and to use the collected experiences in the future.
Indeed, for one of them this will soon prove true. Melissa Ofoedu, the Austrian Youth Delegate is holding a speech in front of the actual General Assembly in New York in September. "The VIMUN", she says," gave me an idea about the process and was a good preparation".