A Weekend at the North American Model United Nations Conference
This Feb., Skidmore’s Model United Nations club sent thirteen delegates to the North American Model United Nations Conference (NAMUN) at the University of Toronto. The group included both upperclassmen with extensive model UN experience, and first-timers that were equally excited as they were terrified at the prospect of their first conference. For this year’s conference, NAMUN featured a variety of committees, from General Assemblies focused on topics including decolonization and humanitarian aid, to integrated crisis committees covering the Colombian conflict and the Malayan emergency, to specialized agencies like the International Court of Justice.
My committee, a symposium of Colombia’s myriad leftist guerrilla groups — including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — spent the weekend attempting to secure both ideological and military control over Colombia, while simultaneously working to transition the nation into a communist state. To achieve these ends, we had to pass both committee-wide public directives and strategize as a unified collective, while also working covertly to build private alliances and sabotage our enemies. These behind the scenes operations involved secretly negotiating with members of the drug cartel committee, kidnapping wealthy hacienda owners and holding them for ransom, and hiring spies to privately investigate members of our own committee.
In other committee rooms, members of Skidmore’s delegation worked towards repairing post World War II Japan, staged revolutions against the Malayan government, and strove to condemn Croatia for human rights abuses committed in the Serbian conflict. Admittedly, many of these committees covered extreme, heightened scenarios that none of us will likely encounter during our own post-graduation work; in fact, while some members of our club major in political science, others primarily study another subject (I myself am an English major) and will probably end up in a field that bears no resemblance to the floor of the United Nations or the war-torn countryside of Colombia. Yet the negotiations, nonstop public speaking, collaborative writing, and networking that take place at NAMUN offered students a chance to practice skills which can apply to any area of study.
As a comparatively small delegation, hailing from a tiny liberal arts college, Skidmore’s model UN approaches conferences with something of an underdog status. Many of the delegates we met throughout the weekend attend massive universities and take classes specifically designed to prepare them for conferences, in which they spend entire semesters studying resolutions and drafting practice position papers. Often, these delegates receive formal grades based on their successes or failures at conferences, and as a result, they approach their committees ruthlessly, determined to make a lasting impression and more than willing to double-cross anyone who stands in their way.
But while other schools bring extreme competitiveness, Skidmore’s delegation delivers resourcefulness and genuine passion. Most of our delegates teach themselves the skills they need to succeed at the conference; and every year throughout my time in Model UN, I have been consistently impressed by the resourcefulness and scrappiness of our club’s members. Despite our small size and relative lack of formality, the hard work our delegates put in always pays off. This year, our delegation took home two awards – former club president Jason Sutherland ‘18 earned an Outstanding Delegate award, and I received a book award for my pre-conference position paper. But more importantly, the thirteen of us came together and shared an exhausting, yet indescribably rewarding four days of diplomacy and community.
This article is also published in the Skidmore College Political Science Department's Newsletter