Diplomacy: Better than British Boys on Polo Ponies

SG remarks
Kate Koett, the 2017 Secretary-General, gives a speech before the AMUN 2017 plenary body

Closing Plenary Remarks, 2017 American Model United Nations Conference

Welcome to Tuesday! Congratulations—on making it here and for all you accomplished. Over the course of your deliberations, the Contemporary Security Council strengthened the UN Mission in South Sudan, despite corruption in the region, and strengthened the role of regional partners. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons bolstered regulatory measures for dangerous chemicals crossing borders to combat terrorism. World Summit on the Information Society + 10 passed multiple resolutions dealing with infrastructure to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing countries. The Historical Security Council 1956 reached an agreement on a ceasefire in the Suez Crisis, and both parties are willing to come to the table for negotiations. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific adopted everything this weekend by consensus! GA First made a serious effort to combine working papers into draft resolutions in order to strengthen the positions of the body. The International Court of Justice had extensive deliberations on all three of its cases, tackling maritime border disputes and the question of nuclear war.

These tidbits reflect only a portion of what you’ve done these last four days and of why you are here. They don’t begin to scratch the surface of your experiences and of why you continue to return to Model UN.

The first exposure I had to Model UN was a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movie—Winning London. While the humor and cute British boys on polo ponies were great, it turns out that I was truly interested in diplomacy and tackling global challenges.

Other Olsen twins movies came and went, and I forgot about Model UN for a while—until I got to Aquinas College. Dr. Roger Durham bragged about how great AMUN is—and I can assure you, he wasn’t wrong. But joining the Model UN team would put me at 18 credits as a first-semester freshman. So I did what I always do. I called my mother, the eternal giver of advice, and told her my dilemma. And she reminded me of Winning London and of how badly fifth-grade Kate had wanted to do Model UN.

I was in.

At Aquinas, I represented Croatia, the Russian Federation and the Republic of France. I had the opportunity to witness walkouts in IAEA—and no, that probably wasn’t diplomatically courteous or appropriate—crises in Security Council, and endless cooperation in GA Third. I didn’t find any cute British boys along the way, but what I actually found was better: how satisfying and yet how complex diplomacy can be.

As I noted on Saturday and as I’m sure you found over the last four days, diplomacy is messy. It is hard and gritty and emotional—and, sometimes, it fails. But this does not mean we should stop trying. Failure challenges us to find creative solutions and to appreciate new perspectives.

Diplomacy also teaches us to dialogue and to do so respectfully. You must listen and hear, and you must make the other person feel heard. Exchanging ideas, even when you’re on the same side, is important: you can always learn something new. Exchanging ideas when you’re diametrically opposed to someone’s ideology is much more difficult, but all the more important. But it is in those moments you should be the most thoughtful and the most engaging. Communication is key, and approaching issues with openness and honesty is crucial. According to some, Western liberalism, and perhaps even the liberal world order, is in retreat. And if this is the case, which I think endangers the relatively pacifistic world order built after the Second World War, we must all realize that the ability to engage in real dialogue is critical to moving forward and finding common ground.

Finally, diplomacy teaches us the importance of alliances. How many of you advanced your position this weekend because of alliances? Whether it was through your regional or substantive voting blocs, or through caucusing with other Member States, you leveraged these relationships to pass resolutions, reports and amendments. You also realized that there is strength in numbers; from meeting signature requirements to bring a resolution to the floor to adopting friendly amendments, a collection of Member States reinforces the significance of your position. Diplomacy values quality over quantity, but quantity has a quality of its own. Alliances are exponential in their impact.

Through your experience at AMUN, we hope that you have, in some small measure, discovered these lessons for yourself. We hope this has been an opportunity for growth and expansion; our goal is for you to learn as much about international relations and working with others as you do about yourselves.

Because diplomacy is about you, and about me, and about what we can do together—as the Olsen twins knew, we are stronger together than we ever are apart.

Thank you.

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