Why Realism Is Important: The Goals Of AMUN’s Security Council Simulations

Students participate in Security Council Simulations (AMUN)
Students participate in Security Council Simulations (AMUN)

What is the goal of AMUN’s Security Council simulations?

While this may seem like an odd question, the answer is often a common point of confusion for representatives. I have been involved in AMUN’s Security Council simulations for the last decade, and, each year, I encounter confusion regarding the point of our simulations. Representatives often approach Security Council simulations with the goal of changing history, or, in the case of the Contemporary simulation, steering events down different paths. It’s easy to understand the confusion. Our SC simulations operate in the hypothetical world of alternate realities. As representatives make decisions, situations and facts change, sometimes drastically. So it’s easy to understand why someone might mistake changing history or trying to prevent crises from happening as the point of the simulation.

If changing history (or the current paths of international peace and security) isn’t the goal, then what is? The answer is rooted in the mission, goals and philosophies of AMUN. First and foremost, AMUN is an educational organization. We strive to help our participants learn and grow in a variety of ways. We dedicate ourselves to simulating the actual United Nations as much as we can, so our participants can learn about the United Nations, how it is structured and how it operates. We look to actual United Nations topics when deciding our content, so our participants can gain knowledge on the myriad of important topics facing the world today. We provide Rapporteurs in our General Assembly and special simulations to help our participants craft quality resolutions. We craft our rules to enhance the flow of debate and make the work of the body achievable in our tight simulation timeframe. We emphasize consensus in deliberations, so our participants can hone their diplomatic skills and learn the arts of compromise and teamwork.

This same educational philosophy is present in the Security Council simulations. The goal of these simulations is to teach participants about the capabilities and limitations of the Security Council, as well as the art of diplomacy, when dealing with matters of international peace and security. The alternate realities created are not the point of the simulation; they are the tools your Simulations Directors use to impart these lessons.

Why is it important to understand this?

As I mentioned earlier, I often encounter representatives that are confused about the goal of the Security Council simulations. This confusion is usually exhibited in the form of frustration, particularly frustration directed at their Simulations Directors for not letting them do something they wanted to do.

A Simulations Director’s responsibility is to maintain the realism of the simulation. So, on the rare occasion that a Sim Director tells you that you cannot do something, it is most likely because the action or decision is not a realistic one. For example, if it is HSC 1973 and representatives from the United Kingdom tell their Sim Director that they want to blow up the Suez Canal, the Sim Director is likely to tell the Representatives that they cannot do this, as it would not be realistic for the United Kingdom to want to destroy the Suez Canal.

Maintaining realism can be tricky, though. As the Security Councils operate in an alternate reality, there are times when what is unrealistic in the real world becomes realistic in the new, altered, timeline. It is the Sim Director’s job to determine where to draw the line. Sim Directors always discuss operational decisions with representatives. If there is any question as to the realism of the proposed operational decision, the Sim Directors will talk with you about your reasoning. Then, with your reasoning in mind and weighed against other factors (What is happening with the other Council members? What is happening with the Parties to the Dispute? Would this decision negatively impact the learning experience of the participants?), the Sim Director will determine if the proposed action is realistic and allowable.

It is also important to note that Sim Directors will only intervene with a “no” when something is unrealistic. They will not disallow bad decisions. They may try to talk to you and help you to better understand the full implications of your decisions, but, ultimately, if you are proposing something that is unwise, Sim Directors will allow you to make mistakes with the goal to find a way to help you learn from them.

So, why do we care so much about realism? Essentially it comes down to ensuring that everyone participating in the simulation is having a good time and is getting something from the experience. When simulations are sidetracked by too many unrealistic decisions and actions, it negatively impacts the learning experience. Imagine you have prepared for your role on the Council by putting in hours of research. You know the issues and you know your State’s objectives, but then, in the middle of the simulation, something unrealistic happens and all of your research and planning is disrupted by the new reality. You might be understandably upset, and your frustration may end up negatively affecting your experiences, or even the experiences of others. Navigating the diplomatic challenges of the Security Council can be frustrating enough within the bounds of realism; we don’t want unrealistic actions further complicating matters and threatening the learning experience.

This commitment to realism does not mean strictly repeating history or maintaining current policies and decisions. In the Historical Security Councils, there will certainly be many deviations from historical timelines and re-thinking the way diplomacy played out in the past is encouraged. The same is encouraged in the Contemporary Council. As situations change, so do the options and attitudes of the Council Members and other countries. There are near-infinite possibilities within the bounds of realism, and our Simulation Staff will help representatives work through their options.

The bottom line is that we at AMUN create and manage our Security Council Simulations to be educational and fun. This sometimes means we have to intervene in the decisions you are making. But, rest assured, your Sim Directors are always there to talk to you if you have questions. They want you to enjoy yourself, learn and grow from your experience as a Council member. So, if you are ever confused or frustrated by a decision, talk to your Sim Directors.

I look forward to seeing you at AMUN and watching you tackle the issues brought before your Councils.


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