Today the University of York will see its 9th YorkMUN conference, where students from university United Nations Associations societies all over the globe gather in York to debate, socialise and gain skills towards their future. I spoke with Secretary General and head of the conference Bennett Nightingale, 3rd Year Politics student and member of Constantine College, about his role within the conference and what to expect from this year’s YorkMUN.
Could you explain to someone uninvolved what MUN is?
Model United Nations (MUN), a branch of the university’s United Nations Association York (UNA), is an extra-curricular activity, available in many schools and universities, which incorporates a style of debating that simulates the proceedings and debates of the United Nations (UN).
How does it differ from typical debating society?
Unlike in a typical debating society, in which each member represents a position (proposition or opposition), in MUN each delegate represents a country and that country’s opinions on the topic given. This requires delegates to research a country’s position on the given topic within the context of a UN debate, regardless of their personal opinions towards the topic, allowing them to use and hone their skills in research and compromise to find the best flex on the topic. Essentially, the name of the game is to form alliances with other country representatives with the aim to win a majority of votes on your position on the topic.
MUN serves as an effective and entertaining way of improving your interpersonal skills. As a representative of a country, a delegate must also manage blocs of other countries harbouring opposing views on the topic. This particular style of debating requires additional immersive skills than those found in other debating societies as debates are not solely based on argumentation. Instead, delegates rely on their inter-personal skills in order to compromise and win favour amongst other countries as well as their ability to argue their point; all of which affords a more realistic insight into real-life political processes.
Can you tell us a bit about the society at University of York?
The University of York’s UNA has around 100 members and 30-40 active members who regularly attend the two-hour weekly debates on Wednesdays. For these weekly sessions, participants can choose a country beforehand and research it in time for the debate under prescribed guidelines. Unlike the conferences, which run all-day for a weekend, these weekly sessions are informal and are a great way to meet new like-minded people. Bennett met friends from MUN as a Fresher who he has kept throughout his time at university, affirming his philosophy that, as a Fresher, you can find societies which shape your time at university.
What is YorkMUN?
YorkMUN is similar in format of other MUN conferences whilst embracing its own agenda and style. Without giving too much away, Bennett promises an exciting weekend of not only debating, but different socials, a 3-course meal, and surprise entertainment. Of course, the bulk of the conference is the debates, which Bennett says will offer new and interesting topics to delegates, steering away from typical topics and introducing original ideas to the debate.
What position do you hold within YorkMUN?
Bennett made the transition from representing countries at delegate-level to chairing debates. This exciting, albeit nerve-wracking experience, helped Bennett to become better acquainted with the rules and regulations of UN debating. In his third year as an active member of the university’s MUN society, Bennett is now running York’s annual conference as its Secretary General. He decided to run for his position last year in the hopes of reshaping the conference which he has achieved through his creativity in designing and overseeing changes in debate titles, topics, and marketing materials as well as organising social events for the conference.
What was your first experience of MUN?
Bennett’s first experience of an MUN conference was in Hamburg during his first year at university which he explains was a great way to combine his love of travel with his love of politics. He was the delegate of the Netherlands in the NATO committee. It was here that he realised how immersive MUN can be, with delegates truly feeling as if they played a role in a real international debate. Like with many extra-curricular activities, the more effort you put into MUN debating the more you gain in confidence, interpersonal relations, and public-speaking skills. As a Politics student, Bennett believes that there is nothing better than MUN for students interested in being on an international politic stage. MUN welcomes participants of all views and styles of debating; for example, those who opt for a diplomatic approach to debating can be just as successful and effective as those who are aggressive in their argument. Many members start their MUN career with little experience in public-speaking and gain those skills through debating and socialising within MUN.
Your best experience with MUN.
Bennet’s best experience with MUN was also his first: the Hamburg conference. It was here that Bennett won his first debating award as Best Delegate after being challenged by his housemate and fellow MUN member to win an award; a rite of passage for many delegates. This recognition of Bennett’s skills and hard work at the conference gave Bennett the confidence to continue with MUN as a hobby at university.
What does the future hold for you regarding MUN?
After YorkMUN, Bennett will relinquish his role as Secretary General of the conference. He hopes to establish a legacy for YorkMUN as being the conference that provides a new experience for new and existed members of MUN, and that it will encourage people to continue with the society and return to future YorkMUN conferences.
How does MUN benefit its members? (what skills can you learn?)
The global reach of MUN is impressive and not found in many other university societies. Delegates from universities internationally are attending YorkMUN 2019, exemplifying the possibilities MUN offers in travel, insight into other cultures and making friends from all around the world. MUN puts into practise the true sense of international co-operation in the spirit of debate.