Model UN conference provides rigorous, but rewarding, experience for ICS high schoolers
- High School
On February 11-13, a cohort of eleven High School students from the Model UN (MUN) Club at International Community School (Singapore) attended the virtual Stamford American International School Model UN (SAISMUN) Conference 2022, the fourth annual event of its kind.
The ICS MUN students, coordinated by Suzy Maben (HS Social Studies), were assigned to represent the interests of Afghanistan and Venezuela. Those from Grade 10 were: Kyra Hartono, Shaurya Narang, and Noah Yi; from G11: Brian Chung, Jack Fraser, Aiden Fung, Risako Hasegawa, Josie Hwang, Jamie Lee, and Grace Phisanuwongrak; and G12: Ho Jung Kim. They joined the host school, Stamford American, and six other international schools in Singapore, working together to address the theme of “Collaborating at Times of Crises to Enforce the Unification of a Common Humanity."1
The first Model UN conference ever held can be traced back to 1921 at the University of Oxford, when students modeled League of Nations countries prior to the founding of the United Nations in1945.2 Today, MUN is a widespread educational practice at schools around the globe.
At conferences, students act as delegates representing the interests of specific nations. They tackle difficult real-world issues by voting on policy, debating on topics, and proposing and drafting resolutions, all of which are presided over by various committees. In doing so, they hone their diplomatic chops and understanding of international relations, as well as their research, writing, and presentation skills.
For SAISMUN 2022, ten committees were featured, consisting of United Nations agencies like the Human Rights Council and World Health Organization.3 Topics were wide-ranging and substantive, covering relevant, hard-hitting issues like: illicit organ trafficking, rights and protections for internationally displaced persons, the ethics of AI technology, urban disease spread, and more.
Not only did the ICS Model UN students have to wrestle with these myriad complex subjects, but they had to do so as delegates of Afghanistan and Venezuela—two countries burdened by decades of geopolitical conflict and hardline political and cultural values. This assignment made the conference a rigorous, but rewarding, time of reflection and engagement.
For those representing the interests of Afghanistan, for example, debating LGBTQ+ rights for refugees with the country’s cultural and legal framework in mind required them to take difficult stances on the topic—Afghanistan criminalizes LGBTQ+ practices, barring many healthcare services and offering very little job security support for those who are part of the community.
Likewise, the delegates from Venezuela found it hard to establish a position of legitimacy in discussions on criminal justice system reform, as their own system regularly incurs a swathe of human rights violations. After three days of intense discourse, Suzy Maben was proud of the club’s members for confronting these challenging topics, reporting that they “were on a roll and had lots of resolutions passed and debated on.”
The conference was also helpful for many of the students, like Jamie Lee (G11), for gaining a broader understanding of other nations’ political and cultural contexts. His experience as the Afghan delegate for the High Commissioner for Refugees committee helped him “connect why the Taliban behaved the way that they have, since Islam is the basis for all laws and traditions in Afghanistan, and the country is resistant to any type of change that might affect their culture.”
Grace Phisanuwongrak (G11), the Venezuelan representative for the Office of Drugs & Crime, urged other students to get involved with Model UN, stating, “[The club] is a great outlet to learn more about relevant issues in different countries through research and debate. The perspectives of different countries on those issues are presented clearly and debated civilly. However, the workload is heavy prior to the conference—you need a solid work ethic and decent time management to excel in MUN.”
- high school
- model united nations
- stamford american international school
- suzy maben