What is Model United Nations?



Some people may have heard of Model United Nations before, but perhaps not everyone knows what it really is all about.  MUN is usually offered as an extracurricular activity in schools or universities, which sometimes allows its participants to compete abroad.  It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it seems that there’s something for one to enjoy/learn, from meeting new people through competitions or even honing one’s communication skills.  Interested yet?  Read Azira’s story below as she shared her own personal MUN experience with Indonesia Mengglobal.  Azira was awarded Best Delegate for Human Rights Council at The European International Model United Nations (TEIMUN) 2013, The Hague and she also served as an Assistant Chair for Social-Humanitarian-Cultural Committee (SOCHUM) at Harvard World Model United Nations 2015, Seoul.

Sarah (S): Hi Azira!  Could you please start out by introducing yourself to everyone?

Hi, Sarah! Thank you for taking the time to interview me. My name is Cazadira Fediva Tamzil, but people usually call me Azira. I currently read Global Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

S: You seem to be a Model United Nations (MUN) junkie, judging from your wealth of experience in that field.  Do you mind telling us what MUN actually is?

Well I would not say I am a complete junkie, many of my friends have more MUN experiences than me! Haha.  I am grateful for all of my MUN experiences – they were the highlights of my Undergraduate days!

Model United Nations is an academic simulation in which participants act as diplomats (formal representatives of countries). As ‘diplomats’, participants have to make speeches, debate, negotiate with other ‘diplomats’ and write resolutions which are in line with their country stance on various global issues. MUNs are usually designed as competitions, but unlike varsity debates where the emphasis is on the strength of your verbal arguments, MUN participants are expected to show off kick-ass speech, negotiation and resolution-writing skills all the while projecting a diplomatic mannerism and willingness to collaborate genuinely with others! So it matters a great deal what you say and how you say it, and also whether or not you have the ability to be an engaging leader who inspires other delegates to work with you and support the solutions that your country proposes.

S: Wow, it sounds like there’s so much to be done in one go!  You mentioned that MUN is one of the highlights of your college days, but how did you first get started? 

I was lucky to have amazing seniors back in college, who were ambitious and accomplished, yet open to sharing their knowledge and experiences with their juniors! When I first started college, the MUN trend was still in its nascent stage.  However, my seniors’ stories of MUN trainings and victories abroad really inspired me to join my university’s MUN club and MUN delegations. During our orientation period, my seniors ran this MUN conference in an actual conference hall – complete with the study guides, placards, country flags, banners, etc. which truly made me fall in love with MUN!


S: From your own experience, what lessons have your learned from your involvement in MUN?  Are there any transferable skills that one could potentially use outside MUN?

Not only does MUN mold you into a full-fledged diplomat who has public speaking, negotiations, resolution-writing and networking skills, but joining your university’s official MUN delegations also enables you to form strong friendships with your teammates and engage in intellectual discussions on a weekly basis with them! And remember, ‘diplomat’ in this globalization era has a broad meaning, not just ‘diplomat’ as in foreign service officer in the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Everyone can be a diplomat, you can be a member of a local Indonesian NGO for instance, but you may get a chance to join Indonesia’s formal delegations to environmental negotiations. You can also represent Indonesia in competitions or universities abroad, and in a way introducing Indonesia to the outside world!

You also get to develop your organizational skills, either from preparing your travels to join MUN competitions abroad or run MUN conferences in your local communities. I think joining MUN also allows you to develop good listening and teamwork skills too, as MUN is both about you shining in your own personal capacity and also collaborating with others.

Not only that, by conducting research on your country stance and other countries’ perspectives on various global issues, you get to know more about the dynamics of global politics.  The world needs creative minds, and through MUN you will practice solving real world problems.  The intercultural communications skills you hone throughout MUN practices or competitions are also valuable, considering the world is increasingly becoming interconnected.  Chances are you will find interconnections with other countries, even if you work for Indonesian firms.

Personally, I find that my MUN skills also came in handy for my Postgraduate studies! Each week, we have seminars in which we have to engage in debates with our peers on a number of global issues.  Thanks to my MUN practices, I was already used to that kind of learning method by now.

S: From my short-lived MUN experience in high school, MUN may sound slightly intimidating at first because of the element of public speaking.  Did you have any MUN mishaps/rookie mistakes when you first started out?

It is normal to feel intimidated whenever we try out something new, but remember that there is a good chance that we would end up falling in love with that new thing and be very good at it too.  Don’t miss out just because we are afraid! There’s this good quote from a movie called The Cinderella Story: “Do not let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”.

I once completely blacked out in front of my coaches and peers in the middle of my speech in an MUN simulation! I literally froze for 20 seconds, no word could come out of my mouth. Many more mistakes were made after that, but my teammates and coach never made me feel judged or stupid! They definitely taught me a lot about patience, and on accepting how everyone’s growth trajectories and paths to glory are always different.


S:  Now, as a seasoned MUN delegate, what’s your advice/tips to newbies in starting out their MUN journey?

Some people find the most enjoyment out of being MUN delegates, but for me I actually prefer coaching MUN delegations and chairing MUN conferences better! I really like getting behind the scenes, especially because I can see delegates thrive from newbies or semi-newbies into the best version of themselves. Do remember, all MUN experts were at one point newbies! You just need motivation, proper trainings and also a mentor or at least a peer that you can brainstorm with or ask advice from. 

S: Thank you so much Azira for your sharing your experience!  Is there any way for someone to get in touch with you to ask further questions? 

You’re welcome! It’s such a pleasure, hope the information I shared could be useful for IndonesiaMengglobal readers. Yes sure, you can contact me through email cazadira.fediva@gmail.com.


Photos provided by Azira Tamzil



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