McGill Model United Nations conference celebrates twenty years

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This past week, McGill hosted the 20th annual McGill Model United Nations conference, a series of simulations where delegates debate and draft proposals to deal with past, present, and future international issues. The four-day event opened with Canadian Member of Parliament and McGill alumnus Justin Trudeau’s keynote address, in which he encouraged students to be politically involved.

McMUN, the largest mock UN event hosted by a Canadian university, attracted 1,400 delegates from over 80 schools across Canada and the United States. Working with a budget of under $100,000, Secretary-General Sarah Quinn was confident that this year’s secretariat and 250 McGill student-staff members upheld McMUN’s tradition of holding high-profile conferences.

“McMUN looks big budget and that’s the result of our secretariat working day and night to make this conference a success,” said Quinn. “We’re keeping it together with string and personality.”

Trudeau, like past keynote speakers – including former UN Deputy Secretary-General and McGill Law Professor Payam Akhavan, and Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan – engaged the audience during McMUN’s opening ceremonies.

“We were definitely lucky to book Justin Trudeau,” said Quinn. “Trudeau was very charismatic and his speech was well-received. He’s a captivating and high-profile speaker.”

This year’s conference featured 26 committees, ranging from mainstays like the United Nations Security Council to novel ideas such as the Paris Peace Talks 1919 committee, which challenged delegates to rewrite the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.

“We wanted to mix in historical topics as well as have committees that reflect modern problems,” said Molly Krishtalka, undersecretary-general, committee affairs. “We also introduced future scenarios, such as the Olympic Selection Committee 2020, where delegates decide which city hosts the 2020 Olympics.”

By the end of the weekend, committees had completed drafting their resolutions – five- to 10-page documents that provide plausible solutions to proposed situations.

Registration was open to all Canadian and US schools with model UN clubs, although there were exceptions, including the University of Montreal’s political science and law student unions. Quinn explained that Model UN events are popular on American campuses. She pointed to delegates from Michigan State, Georgetown, and the US Military Academy at West Point as being particularly notable.

Katie Amey, director of public relations, believes students learn invaluable skills at Model UN events, “such as improving their abilities for public speaking, expressing viewpoints clearly, cooperating and compromising, and critical thinking. Model UN can be for everyone.”