Diplomatic experience at the Model UN
04 Jul 2013
Twelve La Trobe students are about to put their budding diplomacy skills to good use this month when they head to Wellington to participate in the Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference (AMUNC).
Local student Samantha Newton, who lives in Bundoora and is studying International Relations and Law, has been involved with Model United Nations (MUN) conferences over the past two years, and says that World MUN, held earlier this year in New York was an incredible experience.
‘Students from all over the world come together and engage in debate that is really high level and also quite spontaneous,’ says Samantha.
‘Students have to respond to the arguments of the other delegations and so there’s not much room for pre-prepared arguments.’
Model UN conferences are an academic simulation of the United Nations, in which students role-play as diplomats representing a particular country or NGO. For students studying politics, international relations, international development and other humanities degrees at La Trobe, participation in MUN conferences provides valuable experience.
Leading the delegation to AMUNC in Wellington is third-year International Development student Rebecca Gaskin, who has returned to university as a mature-age student after several years of traveling overseas.
Rebecca says that the students attending MUN conferences might be future leaders and decision makers, so the experience that they gain in teamwork, public speaking and collaboration across cultural or ideological barriers is really important.
‘There is a lot of criticism of the United Nations in international relations circles, and to see a simulation of the UN underway is certainly an eye-opener to some of the challenges of international diplomacy,’ says Rebecca.
‘Ultimately it is incredibly inspiring to see young people from a range of backgrounds and cultures coming together with great ideas, ready to change the world that they will inherit.’
Also attending AMUNC in Wellington is Veronica Holt, of Wallan, who is in the second year of a postgraduate Law degree.
Samantha, Rebecca and Veronica are all studying in different fields and bring varied perspectives to the United Nations process, and to particular problems that their delegation might need to help solve as part of the Model UN process.
‘As an International Development student, I tend to be more interested in looking at people first – approaching international problems from the bottom up, instead of the more top-down approach of international relations, which seeks to create change within the system that we already have,’ says Rebecca.
‘In contrast, students with a law background, like Veronica, tend to be very conscious of the legal limits within which any change has to take place.’
‘For those of us that do go on to careers in diplomacy, politics or international relations, the experience of taking on board others’ perspectives in a simulation setting is valuable experience.’
Rebecca, Samantha and Veronica, along with the other nine students who are part of La Trobe University’s delegation to AMUNC, leave for Wellington in the beginning of July.
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