National Model United Nations 2019: A Throwback to being Head Delegate for Lao P.D.R.
Frankfurt, 06:00 in the morning, 13 April 2019. I am standing at Frankfurt Airport waiting to board the plane that will take me directly to New York City. At the same time it is my 24th birthday and I can hardly wait to get to know the vibrant city of New York City.
In my last post, I described our Model United Nations’ group preparation for the big event. We had the unique opportunity to participate in the largest simulation of the United Nations in New York in April 2019 to represent the country of Lao P.D.R. After 8 long months of preparation in rhetorical and thematic fields as well as argumentative exercises and a visit to the Lao Embassy in Berlin, we could finally show what we had learned.
The National Model United Nations is about working with a group of young political enthusiasts to represent a country of their choice in one week. You prepare for a long time before the simulation to learn how to debate properly and to get to know “your” country down to the smallest detail. When the simulation starts, you meet people from 120 countries of the world, who also represent a country, and you then discuss with them the problems of the world to finally reach a consensus by the end of the week.
After about 8 hours’ flying time, I finally arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 3 p.m. local time. I walked to the immigration counter in the best of moods, hoping to leave the airport quickly, so I could check into the hotel and enjoy my birthday in New York. However, fate thwarted my plans.
Immigration took longer than expected, as every person entering the country was thoroughly checked, even a police dog sniffed every single piece of hand luggage. After three long hours, I finally got a stamp in my passport and took the train to Lower Manhattan (downtown). From downtown I took a taxi to my hotel, which was right on Times Square, and I enjoyed the view of the skyscrapers to my left and right. Arriving at the hotel, I quickly freshened up to meet the other delegates from my group for a nice dinner and to celebrate my birthday finally.
The next day it was supposed to start. We had the morning off to spend some time sightseeing. At 2 p.m. we started with the “Opening Ceremony”, where all delegations were welcomed by Her Excellency Ms María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. After the ceremony we received our placards and identity cards. We also received special passes for the entrance to the United Nations Hall for the end of the week.
After the Opening Ceremony we were allowed to join our committees. For this we were always divided into different committees. We were represented in the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Assembly, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, Commission of the Parties to the United Nations Framework, Economic and Social Comission for Asia and the Pacific and in all of the General Assembly Committees.¹
Meeting with the Lao Representative Mr Vilatsone Visonnavong
Before the conference started at noon on Monday, 15 April 2020, we had a self-organised meeting with the First Secretary Mr Vilatsone Visonnavong from the Lao Permanent Mission to the United States in a meeting room in our hotel, to get his input on current issues in the United Nations. Mr Visonnavong acts in the “General Assembly Third Committee” for his country Lao P.D.R . and represents their views by writing the statements.
Procedure of National Model United Nations
On Monday noon we finally started. Together with 200 delegates from all over the world, the meeting was opened by the chairs. Together with my partner Yasmina Alaoui, we “delegated” to the General Assembly Third Committee, which dealt with three core issues:
1. Inclusive Development for Persons with Disabilities
2. Combating Human Trafficking
3. Strenghtening Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance
We had received those topics already three months before the simulation in order to be able to prepare for them as best as possible. We had to write a two-page position paper on the topics, in which we described the country’s view of the problems involved in these areas and presented initial approaches to solving them. Here is my position paper: GA3_LaoPDR_B
First of all, it had to be debated which of the three topics would be dealt with first. For this purpose, each country could register via placard. The chairs, who always chair the sessions, ranked who was allowed to speak. The maximum speaking time is one minute for each country. While the countries present their opinions, one can already think about whether one has the same opinion or not, in order to consider a cooperation. As soon as the speaking time, which is usually set at 15 minutes in total, is over, a vote is taken on which topic will be dealt with first.
Only then can the real work begin. After a majority vote the first topic was voted for: Inclusive Development for Persons with Disabilities. Afterwards, opinions on the chosen topic could be presented again. In this phase each country listens carefully, because now it is all about finding partners for an alliance. For this purpose, small slips of paper are sent to potential cooperation partners via a postman.
After the speaking time, one actively approaches the delegates and talks to them again about the topic and the opinions in order to finally build alliances. In this process many countries come together and write another big position paper on the topic because the topic is of relevance for several countries.
So we spent the rest of the week writing our resolution paper together with our alliances in the hope that it would be adopted as a resolution paper by the chairs at the end. Countries we cooperated with were mainly Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand, but also African countries like Eswatina, The Gambia, and the Ivory Coast, but Germany, too. Unfortunately there was no time for the other two topics during the week. We worked from morning until very late in the evening – so you can imagine that the conference was quite exhausting.
As I also was the Head Delegate of my delegation, I had a Head Delegate Meeting for one hour every day in addition to the sessions. This was about discussing problems which occurred during the simulations – for instance unfairness, rude behaviour, or perception of discrimination – and finding ways to solve them.
Results of the conference
On the last day of the simulation we were allowed to visit the “sacred halls” of the United Nations. After an extensive security check we were taken to the original seats of the countries, where we were allowed to take a seat. As I delegated in the General Assembly Third Committee, which is one of the largest committees of the United Nations, I was lucky that the decision of the resolutions was also made directly in the United Nations hall, while other committees continued to discuss their results in the conference rooms of the hotel.
For us, this meant that we were also allowed to speak at the United Nations and the resolution was adopted there. Together with our cooperation partners, we were able to push through our resolution with great success.
Visit of the United Nations Hall and Closing Ceremony
Once all the resolutions were adopted, all the delegates gathered in the United Nations hall for the adoption. Part of the ceremony included the presentation of awards to outstanding position papers, resolutions, and special commitment.
Fortunately, we also received two awards for outstanding achievements in the areas of position papers in the Committee of United Nations Development Program and the resolutions of the General Assembly Third Committee, which we were very pleased about. Here is the the position paper which won an award, written by Simon Rahause and Simon Gehrmann, delegates of the Lao delegation: UNDP_LaoPDR_B
The grand finale was a ball for the delegates to celebrate their achievements. The next day we parted ways. A few of my delegates flew back to Germany, and a few travelled on. I had taken another week off to see New York in all its facets – because there is no time for sightseeing during the simulation.
I can only recommend to anyone who is interested in politics and also in the work of the United Nations to take part in a national simulation of the United Nations. These are available in every country, at a small and large scale. You can join a NMUN group in every major city.
This experience was unique for me and I will always look back on it with great pleasure. I have never been politically active, but I have always been interested in politics. The Model United Nations gives you a great insight into its work with all member states, as well as the opportunity to deal with global problems.
I enjoyed working with delegates from all over the world very much. This experience showed me once again that English is a world language – it was the language of communication during the conference. I also got the feeling that we could actually make a difference with our work, and this feeling confirmed my original conviction that that it was worth participating in the National Model United Nations.
After one-and-a-half years I met His Excellency Mr Phomma Boutthavong again at the 6th annual Lao-German Friendship Feast on 10 July 2020 in Karlsruhe-Durlach. It was such a pleasure to meet him again and to tell him about our experience in New York, which he was very interested in.
At the feast, I met a lot of old friends, old and new team members, and also made some new friends, for example the two Lao students Mr Phongsavang Xaikhongkham and Mr Chanthalakone Souydalay, who are spending the summer term here with us at the University of Education Karlsruhe in the Erasmus+ Mobilities Programme.
I already met them during the pandemic, when the lockdown lifted and we could meet people outside to go for a walk again. Due to my two previous stays in the “Bi-directional teaching and learning” project in Lao P.D.R. and my subsequent deep political engagement with the country, there were many interesting topics to talk about with both the Ambassador and the Lao students. They are bound to continue.
Text by S. Ud-Din
Photos by S. Ud-Din, Y. Alaoui & I. Martin
¹ All these committees are explained on the website of the United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/ga/about/subsidiary/committees.shtml