By Claire Fraiser
The delegates of Yale Model United Nations represent myriad opinions, cultures, and points of views. If there is one thing they share, it is a desire for peace.
A popular extracurricular activity, Model UN places students in simulated UN committees in which they play the role of delegates and discuss issues relevant to their committee. It fosters skills in debate, writing, and critical thinking. Success requires diplomacy. Students hone their leadership abilities by taking charge and learning when not to. But possibly the most overlooked skill Model UN teaches is activism.
With all of the fear plaguing today’s political climate, it is easy to want peace, but it is far harder to bring about. World hunger, E. coli-ridden drinking water, and the lack of free public education—these problems require global mobilization. The world needs activists. It needs many.
To foster them, Model UN:
It removes taboos from subjects. Students discuss topics like sexism and racism openly; they are forced to examine points of view that differ from their own. By arguing both positions that they do not personally agree and those that they do, students put themselves in the shoes of others.
By discussing global affairs with people from around the world, students learn to think beyond the confines of the communities they live in.
Along with the hard skills discussed above, delegates gain soft skills like confidence, self-advocacy, and self-reliance.
Provides an understanding of the UN
Model UN lets students experience first-hand what it is like to fight for reform in bodies such as the world’s largest humanitarian organization UNICEF.
Gives students a voice
Committees show students that their voice is important and that they are, indeed, capable of actuating change.
At my first Model UN conference, I did not speak. To a brutally shy introvert, the idea of giving an extemporaneous speech to a slew of suit-clad, legal pad toting peers was the intellectual equivalent of repeatedly bashing my head against a table. The more committees I was a part of and the more I forced myself to speak, the more comfortable I became voicing my opinions. Not only did I learn to find enjoyment in the inimitable rush of down-to-the-wire revisions of resolutions, but I also learned the importance of diplomacy. The worst of the world’s problems are too big to be solved alone.
At YMUN, delegates in the UNIAO are discussing the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president. They are working together to ideate short-term solutions to the corruption in the country’s government.
The Roman Senate is debating whether the military should be used while collecting taxes. They are asking each other questions such as, “If you had the power to change history, would you?”
Advocates in the International Court of Justice are representing both Australia and Japan in the case pertaining whaling in the Antarctic. Delegates, according to justice Haven Hunt, “learn the importance of evidence, and how to present a strong case.”
In the words of our keynote speaker Noah McColl, “everybody is an activist,” whether they think it or not. A student is an activist whether he or she will go on to be a lawyer, actor, software engineer, or nonprofit founder. A warrior of the heart lies within each and every delegate.
So I urge you: find the activist within yourself. Takes your voice and embark into the world; use it to demand real change.