The decline of Model United Nations
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M. Usama Khawar |

A Model United Nations conference based in Karachi is boasting of keeping a prize of 100,000 rupees along with a motorcycle for the winners of their tournament. Let me repeat that, a conference which is supposed to be educational in nature is trying to boost their registrations by running a marketing campaign which will provide money and a motorcycle to the winners.

the ground realities show that they are becoming increasingly intellectually dishonest, promoting insensitivity

Model UN conferences have begun popping up all around the country and an increased amount of children are becoming attracted towards them. While such an endeavor is honorable on paper, the ground realities show that they are becoming increasingly intellectually dishonest, promoting insensitivity, and merely garner an illusion of productivity.

Opportunists saw that rich kids studying mostly in private schools would be willing to pay thousands of rupees just to sit in event halls and talk a bit about issues that are assigned to them and attend a long awaited party at night

As capitalism goes, where there is a possible market to be exploited, it will be exploited by a budding entrepreneur soon enough. That’s exactly what happened with Model UN conferences. Opportunists saw that rich kids studying mostly in private schools would be willing to pay thousands of rupees to dress up in expensive suits just to sit in event halls and talk a bit about issues that are assigned to them and then go to parties in the evening.

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By using family businesses and vendors, kids are able to embezzle money out of the conferences that they themselves are organizing.

Where there is a business, there is a possibility of corruption. Students tend to organize these events on their own, under the pretense that school will be able to boast of teaching their students event and project management. But this lack of oversight often results in certain forms of corruption within the organizing committees. By using family businesses and vendors, kids are able to embezzle money out of the conferences that they themselves are organizing. It may not be illegal, but it is unethical for sure. This profit motive results in the attraction of organizing committees which are based less on academic or intellectual capability, thereby leaving those students who are more meritorious ignored.

public speakers lose the quality of debate and speaking ability because they attended conferences which are academically terrible.

The intellectual dishonesty these conferences have begun to produce is rampant. When there is a lack of intellectually competent people organizing the events, the overall quality of debate suffers. Due to this reason, the students that come to the conference to learn to end up leaving without learning anything new or useful. I have seen public speakers lose the quality of debate and speaking ability because they attended conferences which are academically terrible. The new culture of Model UN conferences base awards less upon diplomacy and rational discourse and more on the ability to gather attention which is often by being the loudest. Not only is that intellectually terrible, it also discourages those students that would otherwise have been good pseudo-diplomats.

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A Model UN conference in Islamabad recently came under fire for creating a committee based on a T.V show about suicide. The show, 13 Reasons

The second issue I have with Model UNs these days lies in the insensitive nature of their operation. In the simulation of real world problems, judges and organizers tend to forget the reality aspect of what they are simulating. What arises thus is a simulation which is so disconnected from reality that the solutions which are proposed are truly absurd if brought into the real world. Sometimes these in-sensitivities are based on the framing of the committees and topics themselves. A Model UN conference in Islamabad recently came under fire for creating a committee based on a T.V show about suicide. The show, 13 Reasons Why is problematic on its own for its wrongful depiction of mental health issues already. Even more so, a committee full of teenagers treating the issue of depression and suicide like a game to be played can have disastrous social consequences.

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Thirdly, there’s a major illusion of productivity that is created in conferences nowadays. They conclude usually by congratulating the students of solving an issue within a 4 days’ conference, and the students end up with a spring in their steps thinking they actually made a difference in the world.

the older generations of Model UN attendees need to step back into the circuit and try to re-control and reestablish these conferences so that the quality of debate can once again lead to more cultivated worldviews, better forms of diplomacy, and an increased interest in what is going on around the world.

This is not to say that all hope is lost, some Model UN conferences continue to produce students with high ability in rational discourse. The problem is that these conferences are becoming more and more diluted in the vast flow of new ones. My own public speaking career began from attending a Model UN conference years ago. However, the older generations of Model UN attendees need to step back into the circuit and try to re-control and reestablish these conferences so that the quality of debate can once again lead to more cultivated worldviews, better forms of diplomacy, and an increased interest in what is going on around the world. Educational pursuits cannot be mixed with monetary ones, as one cannot exist with the other.

M. Usama Khawar is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a degree in the Social Sciences from The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. His writing interests are vast, ranging from culture to philosophy to psychology.

M. Usama Khawar is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a degree in the Social Sciences from The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. His writing interests are vast, ranging from culture to philosophy to psychology.

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