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Model UN: Reflections on Education and Diplomacy

Nia Indelicato
AMUN 2018 Secretary-General, Nia Indelicato

[This post is a transcript of remarks delivered by the Secretary-General of the 2018 American Model United Nations Conference during the Closing Plenary Session.]

Welcome to Tuesday! Congratulations—on making it here and for all you have accomplished. Over the course of your deliberations, the World Health Organization worked hard to ensure that the voices of migrants were sought out and acknowledged. To promote women in development, the Second Committee chose to enhance access to micro-lending programs by calling on the Food and Agriculture Organization to create new lending opportunities. The Sixth Committee took steps to ensure impartiality while processing criminal complaints against U.N. personnel. The United Nations Environmental Assembly proposed the expansion of saltwater waste management protections to fresh water bodies, to better ensure the health of all of the world’s water systems. And the Contemporary Security Council dealt successfully with a fast evolving ebola epidemic in their overnight crisis session by consulting with the World Health Organization to rapidly deploy quarantine zones and provide support for doctors on the ground.

These tidbits reflect only a portion of what you’ve done these last four days and of why you are here. And if we focus only on the resolutions your committees passed, we will only begin to scratch the surface of your experiences and of why you return to Model UN.

In her opening remarks, our Executive Director, Shannon Dunn asked you to think about your Model UN elevator pitch.  What will you tell people about Model UN – what will you say about why you participate and what you’ve learned?

I’ve been thinking about this question some over the past few days, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you, although I confess my remarks may last a little longer than an elevator ride.

Ask any member of AMUN’s Secretariat, and they can probably tell you two things about me: one- I have a slight obsession with owls, and two- I really like AMUN’s philosophy. You probably don’t realize this, but AMUN is an organization grounded in a core set of philosophies. Everything from the way we design our simulations and rules to the way we train our staff is grounded in a set of principles that hasn’t changed much over the last three decades .Our philosophy serves to help us accomplish a singular goal: to provide the best possible educational experience for our representatives.

I have been an AMUN staff member for fourteen years now, and I can personally attest that AMUN cares deeply about the educational experience it provides. It really is why we do what we do. And, for me, it’s why I’ve stayed so long.

The truth is, I don’t have to imagine what my elevator speech is. I’ve given it countless times, especially over the last year as I have served as the Secretary-General. “What is the Model UN thing that you do?” a coworker may ask. “Why do you spend so much of your free-time and vacation days doing this AMUN thing?” My answer always centers around the people. It’s the students who participate; the staff who volunteer; my friends and colleagues who work so hard to make this conference work. The people are at the center of my best Model UN memories, and it is the educational experience that keeps me coming back.

I confess that I am a pedagogue at heart; I love to teach. I love to see others learn new things. My day job, though, isn’t one that is grounded in teaching. I love what I do for a living, but it it doesn’t provide an outlet for my love of teaching. But I have AMUN.

“For me, hearing about your learning experiences and seeing your positive energy in simulations over the past few days reminds me of my past educational experiences. While AMUN is brief, we cover a large amount of material. The four days we spend in simulations often seem like a lifetime. The immersive experience of AMUN allows for intense and engaging learning.

Chances are you learned new things about Member States, the world, and diplomacy. Hopefully, your understanding of topics expanded and new perspectives were considered and you saw first hand how negotiations and compromise go hand-in-hand. Your problem solving, writing, and public speaking skills were put to the test. Your lessons might have been delivered in positive and encouraging ways, but maybe also through frustration and failure. Learning isn’t always pretty or easy, but the results can be wonderful.”

I revel in the education that AMUN provides. The world we live in today can seem very bleak. There are some days when the news seems to be nothing but bad, frustrating, and even heartbreaking. Conflict continues to threaten the wellbeing of the most vulnerable. Natural disasters set countries and regions back by years or even decades. The ever increasing effects of climate change continue to multiply and ripple out into the world. But you all give me hope.

I believe, just as education is key to personal development, it is also key to our future as a global community. The more informed the world is, the better decisions it can make. The more we can understand the points of views of others, the easier it is to work together to bring change where it is needed. The more we are exposed to different people and cultures, the more common ground and compassion we can find.

Most of you won’t go on to work for the UN or be diplomats, but that doesn’t matter. Whether your personal futures are in medicine, law, mathematics, computers, sales, teaching, caregiving, politics, or another field, you have the power to create the world you want, not just accept it as it is.

Representatives, as I look out at you today, I can say without a doubt that the future looks bright.

Thank you.

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