Model United Nations: Students practise Diplomacy at the Vienna International Centre
In cooperation with the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna, the Department of International Development at the University of Vienna organized a Model United Nations conference in the Vienna International Centre (VIC) on 19 January 2012.
Students took on the roles of UN delegates representing countries, non-governmental organizations and international institutions such as the World Bank and simulating a meeting of the UN General Assembly.
In her welcome speech Sonja Wintersberger, UNIS Vienna Officer-in-Charge, highlighted the timeliness of the theme "Land Grabbing" of the Model UN conference: "Food security and the management of resources are not just major global challenges of our time, they are also priorities the United Nations are currently dealing with. This year's UN-Conference Rio+20 on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro will focused on these issues as well."
To Wolfgang Gruber, lecturer of the course "International development in its historic context", it was particularly important that different groups of states, NGOs and institutions were represented in the General Assembly realistically. The overall aim was to put into practice theoretical knowledge gained during the semester .
Even though the students were negotiating for hours to draft a joint resolution, they also enjoyed their roles and the duties that came with them: "Although we were dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of the groups of countries and institutions that we represented during the last semester, we could still not imagine what the Model UN conference would be like in the end. Soon it became quite obvious, that groups of states and organizations with just small budgets do almost not have much influence. Negotiations to gain just a few supporters for our proposed resolution were lengthy and quite demanding. And in the end it did not even get through the General Assembly. That was frustrating. Nevertheless we learned more about international relations than we could have in theoretical lectures."
Finally, the spokespersons from the groups of countries and organizations debated "Land Grabbing" at a panel discussion with experts such as Matthias Jurek from the United Nations Environment Programme in Vienna, Hartwig Kirner, Manager of Fairtrade Austria and Bulayumi Espérance Francois from the Afro-Asian Institute in Vienna.
Model United Nations conferences give their participants the great possibility to gain first hand experience in debating and public speaking as well as in developing negotiation skills in a simulated environment with many negotiation partners. Further to that, they offer extraordinary opportunities to learn more about the work of the United Nations and major global issues.